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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 6:  Impact of Abuse on Problems with Body Image and Weight

Impact of Abuse on Problems with Body Image and Weight

 

I. An ALERT on Abuse Issues


Cavepeople may have experienced abuse in their lives, but the abuse came from the harshness and hardness of their survival existence. The abuse came from nature and not necessarily man. Cavepeople did not have a major concern about their psychological health since they were more obsessed with their physical health and survival. Being born in the twentieth century brings blessings as well as negatives.

 

Unfortunately we are all burdened by the pain of abuse in our lives. This abuse has many faces, it can be done intentionally but more frequently it is done unintentionally. The abuse has a direct impact on the weight and body image problems which prevent you from being successful in fully implementing the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle in your life. How aware are you of the impact of past and present abuse on you? Do you know the many types of abuse which affect your motivation to change your life? Do you recognize that you have messages inside of you which were placed there by the many forms of abuse you have received in your life? Do you recognize that your inability to fully commit to this program of lifestyle change is sabotaged by the abuse in your past against which you are still trying to insulate yourself from? What follows is an ALERT on the issue of abuse and its impact on your life so that you can answer some of these questions raised.


FIRST - ASSESS

In addressing the impact of abuse on your efforts to change your body image and weight

you first need to ASSESS if you are suffering from the impact of abuse in your life. To do this you need to understand the definitions of abuse. Abuse can be either overt or covert.


Overt Abuse: is abuse done to you in the open so that it is obvious to you that it is being done to you. It is intentional abuse where the perpetrator of the abuse knows what he or she is doing to you and does it anyway with no regard for the negative consequences which might follow.

 

Covert Abuse: is abuse done to you in a more subtle and hidden fashion so that it is less obvious to you that it is being done to you. It is unintentional on the part of the perpetrator who is not aware of what he or she is doing and how it may negatively impact you in the future.

 

There are four categories of abuse: verbal, emotional, physical and sexual.

  1. Verbal Abuse: is the use of negative and hurting names, words and statements which create a great deal of psychological pain and leave scars which take years to heal. You may be so hurt by verbal abuse that you chose to insulate yourself from it in the future by putting weight on to protect yourself from the sharp attack you feel when it happens. The more fat on your body the greater defense against the verbal attacks is a self- destructive rationale which frequently results from verbal abuse.
  2. Emotional Abuse: is the criticism, judgements and put downs which create psychological and emotional pain and hurt which last a lifetime. Emotional abuse can also occur by neglect of significant others in your life by what is not said which needs to be said, such as "You are a wonderful person just the way you are and not for how your body looks or how much weight you have lost." Emotional abuse teaches you to not accept yourself unconditionally and puts you on the guard to be sure that you are perfect and "good enough" to avoid future criticism, judgement or put down. To defend yourself from future pain and hurt of emotional abuse you may have worked hard to make yourself invisible by insulating yourself from others. You might not have isolated yourself socially, but you may have used food to medicate and nurture yourself and used the resulting fat to "hide" you from the emotionally abusive comments or the neglectful absence of positive comments from others. 
  3. Physical Abuse: is the use of physical aggression on your body be it: whipping, beatings, punching, pushing, slugging, shoving, spankings, switching or other extreme physical acts such as locking in closest or rooms, tieing you up, placing you in life threatening circumstances such as making you get out of a car into a busy street to punish you. This physical abuse could also be related to your eating and weight control where others, be they family or professional weight control specialists, placed you into severe diet regimens, starvation diets, surgery to staple or block your stomach, or other life threatening forms of weight management. To defend yourself from physical abuse you might have felt the need to become "stronger" or "bigger" than the perpetrator which would lead you to eat and gain weight until you were "big and strong enough" to fight off or control against future aggression. 
  4. Sexual Abuse: is any unwanted sexual look, touch or act which makes you feel uncomfortable in a sexual way. You may have been sexually molested as a child or raped as an adult. This also includes the unwanted "wolf whistles" and leers from members of the opposite sex after you have lost weight and were thinner. As a result of sexual abuse be it overt or covert, you may feel vulnerable and fragile sexually. Somehow you believe that your sexuality has gotten you into trouble and therefore sexuality is bad. You then might proceed to "hide" your sexuality by layers of fat so that no further unwanted sexual advances will occur which cause you emotional, psychological and/or physical pain.

 

Once you have understood the distinctions of abuse: overt and covert and the categories of abuse: verbal, emotional, physical and sexual, you are ready to proceed to the next ALERT step.


SECOND - LESSEN

Your second task is to LESSEN the impact of abuse in your efforts to change your body image and implement the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyles efforts in your life. To LESSEN the impact of the negative messages you received in your abuse you need to identify them and to rewrite them into positive self-affirming language which will encourage you to improve your body image and to increase your willingness to implement strategies to change your lifestyle. Before you LESSEN the impact of abuse you need to take some time to do the following task.

1. Identify each person(s) in your life who abused you overtly or covertly in each of the four abuse categories: verbal, emotional, physical and sexual.

2. For each person(s) identified in each category list what was done to you in each abuse event.

3. For each event of abuse, list the messages you got which still have an impact in your life especially in relationship to your body image and weight management.

As you proceed with this task take each category of abuse and look for the overt and then covert events, for example:

  • Overt Verbal Abuse: Parents, siblings, friends, classmates, neighbors, relatives, teachers or other authorities etc called you "fatty, tons of fun, blubber, slob, pig, cow, horse, etc." Or said things like: "fatty fatty two by four can't fit through the kitchen door."
  • Covert Verbal Abuse: Parents, siblings, friends, classmates, neighbors, relatives, teachers or other authorities etc said things like: "You ought not to try out for that role in the school play." or "You shouldn't waste your time looking at clothes in that size." Or said things like: "You have such a pretty face." or "You look so good in those clothes(implying you usually look awful and clothes help cover up your ugly body)."
  • Overt Emotional Abuse: Parents, siblings, friends, classmates, neighbors, relatives, teachers or other authorities, Diet Industry Advertisements etc.said things like: "You should be ashamed of yourself for how big you have gotten and how your body looks." or "You need to lose weight before I will let you be seen with me." or "You need to lose weight, dress neater and improve the way you present yourself to others so that you will be liked and accepted by others." or "You will never get a member of the opposite sex interested in you if you continue to look the way you look or weigh as much as you do now."
  • Covert Emotional Abuse: This could be the neglectful treatment by your significant others, teachers or other authority figures who never complemented you for anything except for losing weight and changing your looks. This could also be parents, siblings, friends, classmates, neighbors, relatives, Diet Industry Advertisements who talked about thinner, more shapely people as the "Ideal to pursue" and never let you feel that people like you should be emulated. It could also include parents or relatives who bribed you with money or gifts to lose weight.
  • Overt Physical Abuse: Parents, siblings, friends, classmates, neighbors, relatives teachers or other authorities, who slapped, kicked, punched, pushed, slugged, whipped, shoved, or used other physical means to hurt you because you did not please them or were not "good enough" for some reason or another. This could also be Diet professionals who encouraged you to get your stomach stapled, or put a balloon in your stomach.
  • Covert Physical Abuse: Parents, siblings, friends, classmates, neighbors, relatives teachers or other authorities etc. who would place you in physical isolation such as locked closets, locked rooms, tied to a chair or bed, locked out of the house, kicked out of a car on a busy highway etc. This could also include the Diet Industry which encouraged you to do just about anything to lose weight including: drinking animal urine, eating bizarre food combinations, allowing you only to eat pre-packaged expensive diet program meals, admitting you to residential programs which prepared their own food plans and kept you on a regimented program and then set you loose at the end of the program to fend on your own.
  • Overt Sexual Abuse: Any person who touched, fondled or raped you against your will. This includes date rape or date groping.
  • Covert Sexual Abuse: Any person who leered, glanced or looked at you enough to make you feel sexually uncomfortable. This could include Diet and Fashion Industry Advertisements which made you feel that the goal of losing weight was to be sensuous, sexually enticing and sexually active.

 

Once you have identified the abuse perpetrators, description of the abuse events and the messages received from the abuse, you now need to complete the second LESSEN task of rewriting the negative messages into healthier self-affirmations which encourage you to do what is necessary to change your lifestyle into a more balanced one. What follows are some sample messages people have received as a result of abuse in their life. For each negative message a healthier self-affirmation is given.

 

Negative: My body is ugly.

Healthier: My body is beautiful.

 

Negative: I deserve chaos in my life.

Healthier: I deserve peace, love, harmony, acceptance and nurturing in my life.

 

Negative: I don't amount to anything.

Healthier: I have worth, value and dignity.

 

Negative: My body must look pleasing to others if I am to be loved.

Healthier: I am pleasing enough for who I am to be loved.

 

Negative: My body gets me into trouble with others so I should make it unappealing to others.

Healthier: My body is OK just the way it is and it is the others who hurt me who need to change.

 

Negative: I deserve the abuse I get from others.

Healthier: I deserve to be treated with respect, valuing and dignity.

 

Negative: If I want others to accept me, I need to lose weight.

Healthier: I love and accept myself just the way I am and I will do what I need to implement the Balanced Lifestyle system in my life and not concern myself with the acceptance of others.

 

Negative: I deserve to be teased and rudely spoken to because I look awful and I am fat.

Healthier: I deserve to be respectfully treated because I am a human being.

 

Negative: I'm not good enough.

Healthier: I am good enough and I will accept the personal responsibility to implement the balanced lifestyle in my life.

 

Negative: I must be pleasing to others and hide my anger about my abuse from them by stuffing my anger.

Healthier: I will get my anger about my abuse out of my system in a healthy way.

 

Negative: I have no right to defend myself from abuse.

Healthier: I do not deserve abuse and have the right to stop any abuse on me when it happens.

 

Negative: I can never trust the people who "love" me.

Healthier: I will trust myself to take care of myself in a healthy way through the balanced lifestyle system and handle the people who "love" me in a healthier more detached way.

 

Negative: I should risk my health to lose weight.

Healthier: I will protect my health from the unhealthy messages of the Diet Industry and practice the Balanced Lifestyle system and change my lifestyle so that I can experience the 3 Increases of Health, Happiness and Energy.

 

Negative: If I become thin, I will always be subject to unwanted sexual advances.

Healthier: As I become healthier, happier and more full of energy I will handle the unwanted sexual advances of others in a healthier way and not let it deter me from maintaining my new lifestyle.

 

Negative: I am not "good enough" unless I am thin.

Healthier: I am good enough just the way I am and I deserve to implement the Balanced Lifestyle program in my life.

 

Negative: I will do anything to my body if it will mean that I will become thin.

Healthier: I will respect my body and protect its health, happiness and energy by change of lifestyle.

 

Negative: Thin people are better than I am.

Healthier: I am OK just the way I am and I am no better or worse than other humans be they thinner or fatter than me.

 

Negative: Because of my body and weight I am not worthy of other's love.

Healthier: I am worthy of my love no matter how big or heavy I am, and I will take better care of myself by implementing the lifestyle changes in my life.

 

Negative: I am a weak person because I cannot control my eating.

Healthier: I can be strong and do what is necessary to change my lifestyle.

 

Negative: Everybody will like me if I am thin.

Healthier: It is only important that I like and accept myself for me to feel good about myself.

 

Negative: If I get thin I will be open to be loved by another person again but then I will be hurt again.

Healthier: Personal relationships are difficult to work with and I will no longer insulate myself from them by my compulsive overeating and I will maintain my changed lifestyle and not allow the fear of failed relationships in the future to derail my efforts.

 

Negative: If I lose weight and get thin I will be perfect.

Healthier: I am acceptable to myself the way I am and I am good enough to deserve the healthier balanced lifestyle available to me in this program.

 

Negative: I am disgusting to look at and to touch.

Healthier: I am deserving of others' respect, acceptance and love.

 

Negative: Looking like "every one else" who is thin is the "way" to be.

Healthier: Being a person who is following a balanced lifestyle course of life is the way I want to be.

 

Negative: I have to eat weird or be on a diet to feel, look and be OK.

Healthier: I can eat food, exercise and live a balanced lifestyle and experience an increase in health, happiness and energy.

 

Negative: I am deserving of other peoples' hatred because I am fat.

Healthier: I deserve the unconditional acceptance, respect and love of others.

 

Negative: If I am fat I am safe.

Healthier: Being fat is being fat and it does not give me a safety shield from danger so I will protect myself from danger in realistic and healthier ways than by staying fat.

 

Negative: I can take risks if I am fat.

Healthier: Being fat is being fat and it does not give me greater power or strength, so I will take better care of myself and protect myself from future abuse in healthier way.

 

Negative: Fat insulates me from danger of things happening to me which I don't want to happen like: pain, sorrow, grief, negative emotions, other peoples anger and abuse, others sexual advances etc.

Healthier: Fat is fat and it has no magical power to protect me from any danger or abuse so I will take better care of myself to insure that I am protected from abuse to prevent it occurring in the future.

 

Negative: I want to be one of the "in group" and to fit in, which will take being thin for this to happen.

Healthier: I will put myself in the "in group" who live a balanced lifestyle so that my health, happiness and energy will increase.

 

Negative: It was my fault and I deserved the abuse I got.

Healthier: I was an innocent victim and did not deserve the abuse I received.

 

Negative: I need to develop a "hard shell" to handle the "put downs" of others.

Healthier: I will develop a healthier self-esteem, improve my body image and live a balanced lifestyle so as to become detached from the emotional put downs others will give me.

 

Negative: The more weight I have on my body, the stronger I feel.

Healthier: I can be stronger emotionally and intellectually without the need to carry excess weight on my body.

 

Negative: I can never trust others because they will take advantage of me.

Healthier: I will trust in myself to protect my rights when others try to take advantage of me.


THIRD - EASE OUT

Once you have identified all of the messages you have in your head as a result of being abused and rewritten them to be more rational and self-affirming you are then ready to

EASE OUT of your irrational blocks to improving your body image and implementing the Tools for Balanced Lifestyles Program. You EASE OUT by visualizing your successful handling of potentially abusive situations in the future without the necessity of putting weight on so as to insulate yourself from this danger. You need to visually image yourself implementing the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyles Program in your life by: increasing the level of physical activity and exercise in your life; eating balanced and nutritionally sound meals and handling your stress and emotional challenges in healthy non-food ways. You need to visualize your accepting of food is food and fat is fat and that neither food or fat are your problems but that your messages in your head are the real problems which you can solve by staying rational and realistic with your approach to life. Finally you need to visualize yourself experiencing the 3 Increases of Health, Happiness and Energy as a result of your change in lifestyle.

 

For the rest of your life, you will need to use self-affirmations which quiet the negative messages in your head placed there by the abuse you have received because recovery from abuse takes a lifetime to achieve. For this reason it will serve you best to use the EASE OUT visualizations daily like a planned meditation to refresh your commitment to change and grow.


FOURTH - RELAX

As you EASE OUT you are then ready for the next ALERT step which is to RELAX from the stress, anxiety, panic and tension you feel about being successful in accomplishing a fully balanced lifestyle in your life. You need to breath out the old stale air of the negative abuse based messages in your head and breathe in the hope filled self-affirmations of self-respect, self-deservedness and self-worth. As you allow yourself to RELAX with the new messages of hope to accomplish your new lifestyle you will experience an increase in your self-confidence and you will grow stronger in your commitment to achieve your 3 Increases of health, happiness and energy which come from this new lifestyle.


FIFTH - TAKE THE STEPS

As you grow in self-confidence and motivation to accomplish the changes needed to establish a new lifestyle you are finally ready to TAKE THE STEPS needed to begin the process of implementing the Balanced Lifestyles Program. You will be ready to implement an organized program of exercise which increases your physical activity level. You will be ready to change your nutritional intake to a reduced fat model where no more than 1/3 of your caloric intake is in fat. You will be ready to accept your body just the way it is so that you can be more open to accept your "Italian Bank Account" model body which is self-regulated in the Balanced Lifestyle system. You will be ready to deal with your emotional stressors, tension and panic in healthier food free ways and not medicate with food. You will be able to embrace the 12 Steps of the SEA's Program to improve your self-esteem and address your food addiction in a realistically successful way. You will be ready to let go of your old unhealthy ways of dealing with the causes of your poor body image of : conditional self acceptance, shame and guilt for your body, perfectionism that your body is never "good enough", the need to be invisible because of the shame and guilt that your body is not "good enough," and the low-self worth based on the need for your body to be perfect, thin and small. You are ready to take the steps to come off of the shelf and commit yourself to working harder in this program. Your efforts at becoming a caveperson are going to become more real by your efforts to rid yourself of the negative impact of abuse in your life. Best of luck.

 

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 5: Overcoming Perfectionism in Recovery
  • Unit 6: The Emotional/Behavioral Connection in Recovery
  • Unit 8: Coping with Stress in Recovery
  • Unit 9: Thought Stopping for Recovery
  • Unit 11: Cues for Non-Recovery
  • Unit 12: Behavioral Chains in Recovery
  • Unit 15: Mental Imagery in Recovery
  • Unit 16: Self-Image in Recovery
  • Unit 17: Handling Feedback in Recovery
  • Unit 18: Testing Motivation in Recovery
2. Laying the Foundation-The Roots of Low Self-Esteem
  • All 12 Chapters

3. Tools for Handling Loss

  • All 9 Chapters

II. An ANGER Workout on Self-Destructive Responses to Program

 

Cavepeople were very aware of their anger responses to the abuses of nature which resulted in making their survival a more difficult task to accomplish. They could not afford to ignore their anger over the abuse of mother nature and their response to it, because if they did they would not survive. Ignoring your anger at abuse in you life leads to self-destructive behaviors which sabotage your original goal of survival and an increase of health, happiness and energy. Cavepeople were able to rid themselves of their anger against the abuses of nature so that they could resume their daily battle to survive. So too, you need to rid yourself of your anger against the abuse you have received in your life so that you can resume or fully implement the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program in your life. To do this well you need to do an ANGER Workout on your self-destructive responses to this life enhancing program.

FIRST - ACCEPT

You first need to accept that you are angry about the abuses, which you have experienced in your life, which determine your response to your body image and weight problems. You need to recognize that you are not directly addressing your anger at the people who abused you but rather you have turned the anger inward and grown in self-hatred and exhibit self-destructive behaviors. In Chapter 12: Stop Self-destructive Anger Responses, p. 73 of the Tools for Anger Work-Out (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992) a hundred self-destructive responses are listed. Self-destructive behaviors occur when you hold your anger in instead of expressing it in a healthy way. This holding in or stuffing the anger results in depression, pessimism, resentment, the need for revenge, a chip on your shoulder, holding grudges, masking your real feelings, bitterness, severe disappointment, sense of powerlessness to get what you need out of life and a desire to give up. The self-destructive response results in you becoming self-defeating, sabotaging your growth, the root of your resistance to mature and change, a habit which is resistant to being changed and not always so clearly related to the abuse issues which have angered you. What follows is an inventory of self-destructive behaviors which are specific to the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program. Do this inventory to help you ACCEPT that your anger over the abuse you have received in your life is keeping you currently off track from your goal of changing the way you live your life, eat, exercise and deal with your emotions in food-free ways.

 

Inventory of Self-destructive Behaviors in Balanced Lifestyle Change Efforts

Rate each response to efforts to implement the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program in your life, by circling the degree to which it is true for you.

1 = never 2 = rarely 3 = sometimes 4 = often 5 = almost always

( 1) 1 2 3 4 5 not taking the time to read the material or do the activities contained in the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle manual

( 2) 1 2 3 4 5 going on a starvation diet to lose weight immediately even though you know it is unhealthy for you

( 3) 1 2 3 4 5 compulsively overeating on a daily basis since beginning this program

( 4) 1 2 3 4 5 beating yourself up for not fully implementing the program by now

( 5) 1 2 3 4 5 using food to stuff or medicate your emotions instead of using the ALERT, ANGER, CHILD, and LET GO Systems encouraged in this program

( 6) 1 2 3 4 5 not increasing your level of physical activity or exercise on a daily basis

( 7) 1 2 3 4 5 telling others you are fully implementing the program when you are not and feeling badly about lying about it to others

( 8) 1 2 3 4 5 ignoring the nutritional composition of the meals which you are currently eating

( 9) 1 2 3 4 5 not using positive affirmations of unconditional self-love and acceptance

(10) 1 2 3 4 5 maintaining a "diet mentality" about your relationship with food

(11) 1 2 3 4 5 maintaining a perfectionistic attitude about how you should implement the program and judging your current efforts "never good enough"

(12) 1 2 3 4 5 feeling shame and guilt for not implementing the program fully at this time

(13) 1 2 3 4 5 over exercising or maintaining a compulsive or obsessive level of exercise

(14) 1 2 3 4 5 refusing to believe that you do not need to go on a diet or weigh yourself on a daily basis to maintain a Balanced Lifestyle in your life

(15) 1 2 3 4 5 unwilling to accept your body and you just the way you are right now

(16) 1 2 3 4 5 eating all the food on your plate even if you are no longer hungry

(17) 1 2 3 4 5 holding on to the belief that you need to be perfectly thin in order to gain personal happiness (holding on to the "Swiss Bank Account Body" mentality)

(18) 1 2 3 4 5 not taking time for you and losing yourself in spending time in being over- responsible on your job and in your family

(19) 1 2 3 4 5 not dealing with your anger in healthy ways and expressing your anger and rage on others and then feeling guilt and remorse for doing so

(20) 1 2 3 4 5 putting no effort into meal selection and preparation and disregarding the fat and caloric content

(21) 1 2 3 4 5 making no effort to cut back on unnecessary eating or eating when you are not hungry

(22) 1 2 3 4 5 blaming others for you not being able to maintain the new Balanced Lifestyle model in your life

(23) 1 2 3 4 5 disagreeing with the tenants of the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program and not removing yourself from the program for fear what others will say about you if you do

(24) 1 2 3 4 5 blaming yourself for everything negative which has happened in your life and not forgiving yourself for negative things you actually did do

(25) 1 2 3 4 5 hanging onto the belief that "Things would be better if I were thin."

(26) 1 2 3 4 5 being concerned about what others think of you and being obsessed with the need for others' acceptance, recognition and approval

(27) 1 2 3 4 5 letting the fear of the loss of the gains you have already made in this program paralyze you into inactivity lest you make further gains which you could also lose

(28) 1 2 3 4 5 continuing to use food and fat to insulate you from real or imagined dangers (29) 1 2 3 4 5 allowing the fear of the loss of the safety from being fat to immobilize you

(30) 1 2 3 4 5 allowing the fear of the loss of the "old me" to immobilize you

(31) 1 2 3 4 5 frustrated with yourself for not losing more weight by this point in the program

(32) 1 2 3 4 5 refusal to lose weight, due to the pressure from others to lose weight once they find out you are in this program

(33) 1 2 3 4 5 refusal to accept that your problems with food, weight and body image are based in your psychological view of self than in how much food you eat

(34) 1 2 3 4 5 offering excuses to yourself and others why it is so difficult to change your life

(35) 1 2 3 4 5 lying to yourself and others to hide your resistance to implementing the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program in your life

Interpretation of results

If you have rated a response with a 3 or higher it is a self-destructive response to implementing the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program in your life. It is based on your anger about the abuse you have received in your life due to who you are; what you have done and your body shape, size, looks and weight. You need to ACCEPT you are angry, by identifying the self-destructive responses, which originate from your internal anger about your abuse and your self-hatred stemming from your abuse, which keep you immobilized from doing what you need to do to change the way you live your life in relationship to food, exercise and handling your feelings.

 

SECOND - NAME

Once you have completed this task you are ready for the second ANGER step. You now need to

NAME, for each self-destructive response identified above, the abuse event involved, the person(s) involved and what about the event and person(s) angered you so that it led you to internalize the anger and turn it against yourself in the self-destructive response identified. You need to NAME how the event affected you when it happened and how it affects you to this day. You also need to NAME why this anger over the abuse event has so much power over you to this day. You finally need to NAME how it is that the identified self-destructive response does not seem to be directly related to the abuse you received in the past and how this angers you, that you would take out the abuse your received in the past on yourself today in such a negatively self-hating, self-defeating and self-sabotaging way.

 

THIRD - GET IT OUT

Once you have completed the NAME step you then need to proceed to do your

GET IT OUT step by doing rage, hatred or revenge workouts on all events and persons involved in each of the self-destructive responses identified in the above inventory. You need to do aggressive anger work of Read, Write and Burn; yelling and screaming; hitting inanimate objects and breaking unneeded objects until you feel exhausted in your anger and are ready to forgive the persons involved and forget the events so that they have no more power in your life. You need to recognize that it is only until you have unstuffed and expelled this anger will you be ready to more readily implement this Balanced Lifestyle Program in your life. Once you have expelled your anger you will be ready for the next step of the ANGER System.


FOURTH - ENERGIZE

As your anger is expelled and you are successful in GETTING IT OUT of your system you will begin to experience the next step which is ENERGIZE. You will experience an increase of emotional energy to pursue the tough work of implementing the Balanced Lifestyle Program in your life. You will feel the energy to read and do the activities listed in this manual. You will have the emotional energy and increase love of self to take control of the planning and preparation of your meals so that it is based on the tenants of this Program. You will have the energy to monitor that your meals do not have more than 30% of their caloric content in fat calories. You will have the energy to eat small meals only when you are hungry instead of eating three large meals a day even if you are not hungry. You will have the energy to use tradeoffs of desired foods with less desirable foods to maintain a balanced nutritional intake in each meal. You will have the energy to trade off with increased physical activity and exercise when you have allowed yourself to indulge in your "favorite meals" which are high in fat or calories. You will have the energy to let go of the diet mentality and accept that you do not need to be on a diet to lose weight. You will have the energy to increase your physical activity and exercise and decrease your caloric intake if you want to experience a drop in weight. You will have the energy to increase the amount of physical activity and exercise you do on a daily basis. You will have the energy to select those physical exercise activities which you can do on a daily basis which are not dependent on the weather, nor must be done with others, nor cost a lot of money and time which you cannot budget for on a weekly basis. You will have enough energy to address your emotional issues in food-free healthy ways by use of the ALERT, ANGER, CHILD and LET GO Systems promoted in this book. You will have the energy to be more open to hearing the hope filled messages of the 3 Increases of Health, Happiness and Energy which are promised by this program. You will have more energy to let go of your "thin" obsessions. You will have more energy to work at accepting yourself just the way you are at the present time. You will have the energy to let go of your conditional acceptance, shame and guilt, perfectionism, need for invisibility and self-worth based on externals which are the roots of your self-hatred and poor body image. You will have the energy to accept personal responsibility for yourself and put healthy boundaries between yourself and what others say about you so that the W.G.A.S.(who gives a shit) affirmation will become more operative in your dealing with your body image and weight. You will have the energy to accept yourself as a human being who is subject to making mistakes and failing. You will have the energy to be more self-forgiving and not being so rough on your self. You will have the energy to continue to rid yourself of the idealism which keeps you angry and unable to accept life the way it is rather than how you would like it. You will have the energy to accept that your self-regulated, nutritionally balanced fed body might not be the "thin" which you thought you needed it to be. You will have enough energy to accept that a "healthy" alive body is better than a dead "fat" or "thin" body. Once you have been ENERGIZED you are then ready for the last ANGER step.

 

FIFTH - RESUME

Once you feel ENERGIZED you are ready to RESUME your efforts at implementing the Balanced Lifestyle Program in your life. You need to insure that you do not fall back into the self-destructive pattern which has slowed or derailed your efforts in this program. You need to give the members of your support system permission "to call you on it" when you are falling back into your self-destructive patterns. You need to ask them to watch for your "...Yes ...But" resistance messages when you are talking about or describing any component of the program. You need to ask them to confront you when you fall back into your self-hatred, self-loathing or self-deprecating ways of talking about yourself. You need to ask them to identify for you when your talk with them is reflecting a "diet mentality" rather than the human and hope filled language of the Balanced Lifestyle Program. You need to ask them to confront you when you fall back into self-pity or pessimism about how hard it is to implement this program in your life because of the myriad of excuses you can come up with. You need to ask your support system to remind you that: "The program works only if you work the program." You need to ask your support system to remind you that you already have the tools identified to help you deal with your emotions in healthier food-free ways which are the ALERT, ANGER, CHILD and LET GO systems. You need to have your support system help you to remember that you are OK just the way you are and that you do not need to be "thin" so that you can be seen by others as "good enough." You need to give the support system in your life permission to confront and call you on it when you begin to imply that the 3 Increase of Health, Happiness and Energy are not enough to aim for and that you would prefer to lose weight and be thin as your ultimate goal. You need to give your support system appropriate feedback so that they do not pressure you to lose weight as your ultimate goal in this program.

To continue in your RESUMING your life after letting go of the self-destructive responses to this program you need to begin to use assertive "I feel" messages with people who are pressuring you to revert back to the "diet mentality" and "thin is in" belief systems. You need to use positive assertive confrontation to stand up for your rights when others begin to abuse you verbally, emotionally, physically or sexually in the future. You need to stand up for your rights and let them know how their behaviors are affecting you and ask them to stop them immediately. You need to continue to grow in self-love by use of affirmations and positive healthy visualizations so that you grow in self-confidence and self-deservedness which help you to stand up for yourself when being abused about your body size, shape, looks or weight. You need to grow in self-monitoring skills so that you can more readily identify when you are slipping back into self-destructive modes of dealing with the Balanced Lifestyle model. You need to confront those people in your support system who are also trying to implement this lifestyle change but who are doing so in a negative or self-destructive way which is challenging your own commitment to the program. You need to give yourself permission to take the risk of offending a fellow traveler, on the road to a Balanced Lifestyle, who by words or actions seems to encourage you to get off track. You need to recognize that by hanging out with negative people, who are self-destructing in this program of lifestyle change, you could sabotage your own efforts and fall back into self-destructive responses yourself. You need to give yourself permission to discontinue associating with negative forces in your support system who are not bolstering your courage to take the risk to change and grow in your life. You need to give yourself permission to "take a break" from the negative people who seem to be successful in saying things which tend to "derail" you from working harder on changing your lifestyle. You need to confront the self-destructive people in your support system with their own self-destructiveness and if they are unwilling or not able to hear and respond well to what you have to say, you might need to stay away from them until you are strong enough to handle their negativity and not let it influence your own thinking, feeling or acting.

To RESUME your efforts at implementing the Balanced Lifestyle in your life, you need to look at the TEA system and recognize that you cannot afford to wait to implement the Balanced Lifestyle model in your life until you are fully emotionally ready to do so. There is a good probability, that if you wait for your emotions to catch up with your thinking, that you will never act to begin the change. You are a food addict and as such need to stop your food addiction now, even if you do not feel like you want to. If you do not stop your food addiction you could die and then you would lose all the way around. You need to try to "fake it till you make it" in implementing all of the components in the program. You might think it is "stupid or silly" to do ANGER workouts, but if you do not do the ANGER workouts you will stay stuck emotionally and continue to deal with this program in a self-destructive way. Self-destructive responses are at the root of your inability to mobilize yourself to get going in this program. Get yourself in gear and either do the work of this program at this stage of your participation or drop out of the program until you are more motivated to do what it takes to be successful in it. The choice is yours. Be honest with yourself and face the truth no matter what the choice needs to be.

 

Tools for Coping Related Readings

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

  • Section 2: The SEA's Tools for Recovery
  • The TEA System of Recovery
  • The ANGER System
  • The RELAPSE System
  • Section 3: The SEA's Tools for a Recovery Lifestyle
  • Unit 7: Social Support in Recovery
  • Unit 18: Testing Motivation in Recovery

2. Tools for Anger-Workout

  • Chapter 12: Stop Self-destructive Anger Responses

III. CHILD Work to Release Role of Martyr in Your Life

 

Cavepeople could have felt sorry for themselves because they were victimized by Mother Nature. If they spent a great deal of time in the self-defeating mode of being martyrs about how miserable their lives were, they would have let their guards down and not done the necessary things to insure their survival against the onslaught of Mother Nature. They were not given the leisure time to sit back and moan and groan about how bad a deal life had dealt them. They were too busy struggling for their existence. They would have looked down on individuals who felt sorry for themselves and who sat back wishing that life could be better to them. They would have thought it a waste of emotional and physical energy to complain about how bad it is because they were too focused on being successful in their quest to overcome the odds. In the cavepeople's' culture there was no place for martyrdom. They all knew they were victimized by Mother Nature and they were more concerned in preserving their rights to health, reasonable happiness and energy. So too with you who have been abused both overtly and covertly, you cannot afford to lapse into self-pity and inactivity due to the miserable status you experienced in your past. You cannot afford to fall into a state of "holding on to" your problems of the past which immobilizes you to do something proactive now. You need to recognize when you are falling into the Martyr Role and take the self-nurturing steps to pull yourself out of it. You need to do CHILD work to rid yourself of the negative, toxic force of martyrdom and replace it with the energizing force of self-love, self-deservedness and self-healing. You need to recognize when you are playing the martyr before you can successfully extinguish these behaviors. Before proceeding with the CHILD work, we first need to look at the symptoms of Martyrdom.

 

In Chapter 7: Overcoming the Role of Victim and Martyr, in Tools for a Relationship (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992), the descriptions of Martyrdom are contained. What follows are some symptoms of Martyrdom to assist you to identify when you fall into the Martyr Role as a result of the abuse and neglect you have received in your life. The Martyr role is a self-defeating and self-sabotaging role which keeps you off track from implementing the Balanced Lifestyles Program in your life. It is a role of self-hatred and self-abuse. It sets you up to treat yourself as unkindly as any of your previous abusers.

 

Martyrs

recognize that they have or are being abused and choose to remain in the situation. This is especially true in this program. If you recognize that you are being self-destructive and abusive to yourself and still do nothing to correct this then you have become a full martyr and need to correct this by self-nurturing love for self and solid healthy self-direction.

 

Martyrs

let others know that they have been or are being abused and choose to remain in the abusive situation. You may be very vocal to others how awful your life is or has been. You may have a script. which you freely tell others, to explain why it is so difficult for you to change your lifestyle and that it seems impossible to correct the circumstances so that you can never experience the 3 Increases of this program of health, happiness and energy. You are so busy telling everyone how awful life is that you spend no energy in redirecting yourself to love yourself enough to take the necessary steps to change your relationships with food, exercise and handling your emotions in foodless ways.

 

Martyrs

knowingly set up situations in which they will continue to be abused. This "set up" is a prediction or prophecy of failure which they unwittingly play an active role in making it become real. If you say: "I cannot love myself fully just the way I am," you are setting up failure for yourself in this program. You will never be successful in this program if you cannot eventually look at yourself in the mirror and say: I love you just the way you are." This is not a diet program which promises quick weight loss. It is a program which encourages you to change your relationship with exercise, food and handling emotions and as a result you will not experience a quick weight loss which in the past has made you feel "good enough" about yourself to help motivate you to work harder at losing weight. The focus of the Balanced Lifestyle Program is not on weight loss and getting thinner, it is on learning to love yourself enough so that you will give yourself the gift of increased exercise, decreased fat content in your meals and foodless ways of coping with your emotions. You need to work more on self-nurturing exercises such as CHILD work to help you overcome this martyr role of self-negation and self-hatred.

 

Martyrs

seek sympathy for their plight and seek support, advice and help from others to change their circumstances and yet seem stuck in their current course of action and seem unable to solve their problems. If you are seeking support from your support system in your efforts to change your lifestyle and yet find yourself in a "yes ...but" response to the advice and help they offer you are probably stuck in your Martyr Role. You find it difficult to swallow much of the information contained in this program and yet you continue to attend or read this book. You feel justified in making yourself available to the help and support offered in the program to give you a sense of "I am doing something about my problem" and yet are taking no direct actions to implement the program in your life.

 

Martyrs

resort to badgering, nagging, scolding, threatening, belittling, antagonizing and verbally putting down themselves for not doing the things necessary to turn their lives around so that they can stop their self-abusiveness, self-destructiveness and self-hatred. You cannot motivate yourself to change your lifestyle by negative admonitions. You will only be successful in implementing a change in the level of exercise, decrease in fat content and healthy emotional coping if you are self-loving, self-forgiving and accepting of your personal humanness. To overcome your self-hatred you need to accept that you are "good enough" right now just the way you are and begin to "give yourself some slack" and "get off your own back." You will find it difficult to use the "diet mentality" of humiliation and derision to be successful in this program. You will need to learn to self-nurture and love yourself to become successful in changing your lifestyle.

 

Martyrs

fear taking risks to change their current life situations because they are comfortable, habituated or submissive to the situations and believe that a change would be worse for them than the abusive and self-destructive situations in which they currently exist. You may be so afraid of what your life would be like if you gained the 3 Increases of this program of health, happiness and energy that you would prefer to stay "status quo." You fear the possibility of new relationships once your life gets into balance and you fear that you will be hurt by these new situations. You are afraid that your body will become more attractive to others and are afraid of the sexual implications this has for you. You have become accustomed to being invisible and insulated from others and are fearful of the exposure and attention. You have become used to "being put down" and not accepted by others and are afraid of the possible acceptance and compliments of others. You only know negative about your body image and weight and are not ready to accept a new lifestyle which no longer contains negative comments about body image and weight which have the power to make you feel badly about yourself. You need to alter this and begin to nurture yourself to be open to the promise of healthy changes in your life.

 

Martyrs

have a story line or script about themselves which is stereotypic, habitual and automatic. They rarely change their tales of woe. One can meet a martyr several years later and find them suffering from the same fate they were experiencing years earlier. You have been involved in chronic efforts to control your weight, reduce your food intake, increase your level of exercise, change your body size and cope with your emotions in healthy ways. You have repeated these efforts over and over with little long lasting effect or change in your life. You now have a chance to change your tale and re-write your life script. You can free yourself up from ever going on a diet again. You can let go of the "diet mentality" of deprivation, starvation, negation and humiliation. You can live a life of increased health happiness and energy by changing your relationship with food, increasing your level of exercise and handling your emotions in food-free ways. You can let go of the dwelling over the abuse you have received and focus more on your positive strengths and potential. You can free yourself of the "yoke" of being a "victim" of life into being a "winner." You can get out from behind the insulation and shield of your fat and weight and take on the challenges of life in a new leaner healthier more visible way. This choice is yours. To make this possible however you must grow in self-love.

 

Martyrs

mask their self-defeating martyr behaviors with an aura of willingness and desire for behavioral change however their insincerity is easily perceived by others by the lack of behavioral change which takes place. If you are telling others "how wonderful this program is" and are still not implementing an increase of exercise, changing your style of eating and not dealing with your emotions in healthy self-loving ways, your behaviors and lack of change in your life tell on you. After being in this program or using this book for the last six month, you cannot hide that you are not implementing this program fully in your life. By this time there could be outward signs of change of increase in your health, happiness and energy levels. For some of you there could also be some weight loss. There is a joke appropriate at this time. Question: How many counselors does it take to change a light bulb? The answer is one, but the light bulb has got to want to change. You might be the light bulb who is so stuck in your Martyr Role that you really do not want to change and are afraid you will be "called on it" by others who recognize this as well. You have a choice. You can end the quest for the change of your lifestyle or you can begin the process of learning to love yourself more through CHILD work and work harder at accepting and loving yourself unconditionally just the way you are so that you have the emotional energy to take the steps of increasing your exercise level, reducing the fat content of your meals and coping with your emotions in foodless ways without the sense that your are being punished or suffering deprivation by doing so.

 

Martyrs

are "professional help seekers" who make the rounds of paid and volunteer "helpers." They seek out counselors, consultants, doctors, dieticians, nutritionists, personal trainers, diet programs, health clubs, fat farms, acupuncturists, hypnotists, aroma therapists, massage therapists, self-help books and programs, 12 step programs, eating disorder clinics and treatment programs and anyone else willing to listen to their tale of "woe" and willing to help them. Unfortunately, they ignore the assistance, advice or direction they are given. This results, frequently, in these "helpers" giving up in frustration and discouragement because of the chronic resistance and "yes...but" attitudes of the martyrs. Being "light bulbs unwilling to be changed" makes martyrs difficult people to help and assist. Often it takes time to determine the motivation level of a person before it becomes apparent that they are "unwilling light bulbs." Once identified however, the martyr experiences the helpers backing off and suggesting alternative places for them to get the "help" they are "asking for." Helpers finally do give up on people who have given up on themselves and are not open to accepting the challenge to take a risk. In this program you are a stuck martyr if you are still resistant to taking the risks to: love yourself unconditionally; let go of your shame and guilt for how your body has become; let go of your perfectionism that your body must be "good enough" before you can accept yourself the way you are; allow yourself to be visible and open to the world without the insulation and protection of fat and accept that your worth is based on what is "inside of you" rather than on "what you accomplish" or "how you look." In this program you are a stuck martyr if you are unwilling to: take the responsibility for your own self-acceptance and self-love and put boundaries between you and the people who abused you and upon whom you have been emotionally dependent for their recognition and approval; admit and accept that you are a human and are subject to mistakes, lapses, slips and failure and are not expected to be perfect in your efforts of lifestyle change and get out your anger about your idealistic beliefs about the way life should be rather than the way it really is. If you are not able to try to implement the measures outlined in this program by now, then you must seriously ask yourself if you really want to change your lifestyle at this time. Maybe you need to heed the Chinese Proverb that states: When the mind is ready the Teacher appears. Your mind and heart might not be open at this time to the redeeming, hope filled messages of this program and you might need to take a break for such readiness to happen. Maybe, the "teacher" available in this program is not the one which your mind currently needs. The problem with seeking out a new teacher, for a martyr, is that they often "shop" for the "special healer" who will heal them with the least amount of effort and work on their own part. They want easy answers with easy solutions to implement. They want "quick fixes" to lifelong problems. They want to blame the helpers and programs for their lack of success because: somehow they have been misunderstood; their special needs have not been met or they have been picked on because they questioned or refused to heed the advice or direction given them. Martyrs often believe that their needs are special and distinct from everyone else and for this reason they justify a program not working for them because their problems have not been addressed sufficiently in the program. The truth is that if you are a "willing light bulb" who is fully self-motivated, the "teacher"does appear in this or other programs because you, in your motivated state, are able to individualize the messages offered to your own needs, personality and temperament. The key here is to love yourself enough to give up your Martyr Role and take the steps necessary to change the negative conditions in which you are currently living. Only you can make the decision to change and do the work necessary to effect this change in your lifestyle. What you will need to do if you continue in this program is to work on nurturing yourself enough so that your mind will be a" willing light bulb" which is ready for this " change."

 

Now that you have looked at the Martyr Role and identified the symptoms of this role which are true for you, you are ready to begin the CHILD work necessary to release you from this resistant Martyr Role.


FIRST - CALM

You first need to CALM yourself down and begin to place yourself in a relaxed state. You have already done the ALERT work to recognize that you have been abused verbally, emotionally and possibly physically and/or sexually, overtly or covertly, intentionally or non-intentionally. In the ALERT work you identified new messages for yourself which were intended to lessen the negative impact of abuse on your self-image, body image and self-love. You have already done the ANGER workout over the self-destructive behaviors which you have engaged in both in this program and in your life due to the impact of your being abused. You have identified what you need to do to correct this so that you can proceed with getting on with your efforts to change your lifestyle and seek out the 3 Increases in this program of health, happiness and energy. Now you are aware that your Martyr Role is making you resistant to getting on with the implementing of the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program. You are now ready to address the Martyr Role which is keeping you stuck in self-hatred, self-loathing and self-negating. As you begin to work at relaxing yourself, sit down in a quiet place where you can become reflective and open to new messages. Visualize yourself in a three way dialogue with your inner voice (your inner child), your Higher Power (God as you know it) and your adult voice (you as you are today). Picture this dialogue occurring in a safe place offering you a sense of serenity.


SECOND - HEAL

Once you are calm with your visualization of your three way dialogue, begin to experience the

HEALING which comes from this vision. Realize that you will never be alone in your struggles to: change your relationship with food; increase the amount of exercise in your life and address your emotions in food-free ways. You will always have your inner child and Higher Power there to assist you with staying on track and keeping your focus on the changes needed. Once you realize that you have a real healing team within you at all times you are then ready to proceed with the next step of the child process in which you will let go of your martyr role.


THIRD - INFORM

You are now ready to give yourself the next step by which you will INFORM your inner child, Higher Power and yourself of the promise that you are ready to make to yourself, on a daily basis, to let go of the Martyr Role which impedes your efforts to change your life. Use a script similar to this to INFORM yourself of this promise and use it on a daily basis in mirror work or affirmation work:

 

I promise you to let go of the need to be a martyr in the way I am handling the change of lifestyle I want to make in my life. I will no longer allow my self-pity and "poor me" attitude to block my efforts at fully implementing this program. I will no longer look for other people to solve my problems for me and take the responsibility to solve them myself. I will no longer allow myself to "look like" I want to change, if I really don't want to. I will no longer put the burden on my helpers and support network to motivate me to do the work. I will from this point forward take the responsibility to motivate myself. I promise you that I will be the "willing light bulb" who is "ready" to change. I promise you that I will be open to the "teacher" in this program to do what is necessary to turn my life around. I promise you that I will work everyday at learning how to accept myself unconditionally so that I can grow in self-love and accept myself just the way I am from this day forward. I will no longer allow myself to give the power of my recovery from food addiction and abuse over to my Martyr Role Script. I will write a new script for my life of hope, self-love, self-deservedness and self-determination. I will write a new script for my life of being a "winner" who no longer needs to be invisible and hide from others. I embrace the new changes coming in my life once my lifestyle changes and am excited about the opportunity to grow and adapt to the changes.

 

FOURTH - LOVE

Once you informed yourself of your willingness to let go of your Martyr Role you will experience a sense of self- LOVE and will be able to


FIFTH - DIRECT

DIRECT yourself to take the steps necessary to begin to do what the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program suggests you take to change your lifestyle.

 

You will need to do this Martyr Role Release Work at least once a day for the next month or two until you are finding the power of the martyr script lessening. Maybe at this juncture in the program you are deciding to take a break to allow yourself to increase in "readiness" to hear the "teacher" in the program. If so. Good Luck and come back only when you are ready. If you have decided to look for a new "teacher" at this point, Good Luck also. Remember however, that the onus or burden of proof lies in your own personal motivation to change so examine that before you go back to "shopping" for the answer to your life's problems. This CHILD work will assist you, who are staying in this program, to proceed with the next step in addressing your abuse issues which is to LET GO of the survival behaviors which you have developed over time to cope with the abuse.

 

Tools for Coping Related Readings:

1. Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous

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

2. Tools for a Relationship

  • Chapter 7: Overcoming the Role of Victim or Martyr

IV. LET GO of Survival Behaviors Holding You Back

Cavepeople developed a set of survival skills which enabled them to survive the pressure of Mother Nature. They counted on these behaviors to carry them through. They developed a set of survival skills for the winter season and another set for the summer season. Each set of seasonal survival skills were different and unique from the other. The cavepeople realized that it would be foolhardy to use the summer survival skills in the winter as well as to use the winter ones in the summer. They realized that they needed to accommodate to the context of the season in which they were living if they were to be successful in that season. If they tenaciously held on to the belief that one set of survival skills should be sufficient for the entire year they would not have been successful in their quest for survival. So too, you had developed a set of survival skills to cope with the abuse and neglect you have received during your lifetime. These survival skills were necessary so that you could control other people to deflect away their continued or intended abuse. These skills were tools you used to keep yourself "safe" from the pain, hurt and suffering which abuse gave you. These survival skills have become habits which you have carried with you to this very day. These behaviors were good coping skills during periods in which you were subject to or susceptible to being abused. A complete description with how to deal with these behaviors is contained in Chapter 14: Tempering Survival Behaviors in Tools for Handling Control Issues (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992).

Today your survival behaviors which were once coping skills can now be barriers to your personal growth and recovery from living in an unbalanced way. These survival skills can be the control mechanisms which you are currently exercising which keep you resistant to the messages of the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program. These behaviors can be the reason why you have not fully implemented the balanced lifestyle system in your life at this time. What you need to do is to LET GO of these survival behaviors you have developed because of the abuse you have received in your life so that you can be more open to and ready to implement the principles of the balanced lifestyles system in your life.

 

FIRST - LIGHTEN THE PRESSURE

The first step you need to take is to LIGHTEN THE PRESSURE to control the externals in your life by use of your survival behaviors. To do this you need to do an ALERT and identify if you are currently using survival behaviors to keep you off track from fully implementing the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyles Program in your life by changing your relationship with food, exercise and handling your emotions in food-free ways. To help you identify if you are using survival behaviors to be resistant to the messages of this program you first need to know what a survival behavior is. Survival behaviors are walls or barriers which you have built between yourself and the others whom you perceived to be threatening, abusive, neglecting, ignoring, hurtful or rejecting so that you would not be hurt or subjected to pain. Survival behaviors were a way to put the "locus of control" in your own hands, based on the thinking that you could control your own destiny and avoid being hurt or subjected to more pain or harm at the hands of others. They were the weapons you used to fight off the control and intimidation of others whom you believed were threatening to your emotional or physical health. These behaviors over-controlled your own thinking, feeling or acting so that you became closed in, pulled in and appeared to be "non-feeling," and thus kept people from ever knowing how you "really felt"so that they could not have any power or control over you. With these survival behaviors you had a "power and control" armory to call upon when anyone was "getting too close" to you and you felt the need to "put them off" so that they would "back away" and give you enough "space" to feel comfortable. relaxed and safe. These behaviors are a invisible "guard all shield" which no one can ever break through and result in you keeping everyone in your life at a distance from you. The problem with using your old survival behaviors in addressing the implementing of the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyles Program is that they keep you from being open to its messages and the people involved. These survival behaviors keep you at a distance from getting engaged in the program's support system and make you resistant to being open to its hope-filled and redeeming messages. To help you complete the ALERT phase of the LIGHTEN PRESSURE step take the following Survival Behaviors Inventory to identify which behaviors are impediments to your fully implementing the Balanced Lifestyles System in your life.

 

Survival Behaviors Inventory

Directions: For each survival behavior, rate your level of exhibiting it specifically as you address the implementing of the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyles in your life. Read the description first before you rate the behavior. Use the following rating scale:

1 = Never 2 = Rarely 3 = Sometimes 4 = Frequently 5 = Almost Always

 

( 1) 1 2 3 4 5 Refusal to Grow Up - Being Irresponsible

By your thinking, feelings or actions you let others know that you have no intention to "grow up" and think, feel or act responsibly like an "adult." You have probably never been able to have a real childhood and you feel that it is your time now for others to "take care of you" as if you were a child again and you are waiting for others to do what is necessary for you to implement the principles of this program in your life. You want others to do it for you. By being irresponsible you can avoid being accountable for anything which might go wrong in the implementation of the elements of this program in your life. You can then point the finger of blame at the others who were responsible for the balanced lifestyles processes being put into practice in your life if you are not successful.

( 2) 1 2 3 4 5 Conflict with Authority Figures

By your thinking, feelings or actions you place yourself in direct conflict with authority figures in your life. In this program the "authority figure" could be the author of the book or the leader of your class or the support group in this program. You have been burnt by authority figures in the past and you reason that you are not going to let the perceived authorities in this program overwhelm and control you.

( 3) 1 2 3 4 5 Chip on Your Shoulder

This is the "tough guy" approach of thinking, feeling or acting which challenges others to take the first move to try to get the chip off your shoulder. This is a sign of your unresolved past hurt and pain. You find yourself challenging the tenants of the program. You find yourself challenging the other members of your support group or group leader and you appear ready for a fight at any moment and find it difficult to relax with this program, its tenants, principles and the people associated with it.

( 4) 1 2 3 4 5 Lack of Emotional Empathy

This is a pattern of thinking, feeling and acting based on the inability to be open to the feelings of others so as to prevent getting involved with them at an emotional level. This is a way to protect yourself from being vulnerable to being hurt in relationships if you get too close. This impacts your ability to give and receive support in the support group connected with this program and it makes it difficult for you to "understand" the emotional component of this program. You feel lost when emotional issues are discussed in the book or in your group or class.

( 5) 1 2 3 4 5 Denial of Feelings or Pulling-In Feelings

This is a pattern by which you do not admit to having any positive or negative feeling about your past or current life. This is a way to protect yourself from pain, hurt, shame and upset. It also keeps you from experiencing enjoyment, pleasure and satisfaction in life. It makes it difficult for others, in the support group in this program, to relate to you since they can't get a clear picture of who you are by "pinning you down" on how you feel towards them or the program itself. The most unbalanced people in life often are those who deny that their binge or compulsive over- eating is based on their feelings. They tenaciously hold on to the belief that all they need to do, to lose weight and get thin, is to eat less which will control their binging and compulsive over- eating.

( 6) 1 2 3 4 5 Disassociation from Feelings

This is a pattern of becoming numb or disconnected from the feelings accompanying an event which is unpleasant, threatening, abusive or violent, uncomfortable or challenging to you. This pattern of dealing with your feelings enables you to terminate an association with the event so as to survive the event and get on with your life. In this program many of the issues raised have created for you discomfort and been challenging to you. You find yourself disassociating from the feelings of discomfort or being challenged by the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyles tenants. Many unhealthy food-based responses to emotions are based on disassociation from feelings and you are not even aware of it when it happens.

( 7) 1 2 3 4 5 Invisibility

This is the pattern of thinking, feeling and acting which helps you not to be seen, heard or attended to by others so that they do not focus any negative actions or behaviors your way. This helps you to protect yourself from future real or perceived hurt, pain or abuse by others. In this program when you act invisible your needs are not addressed and you do not experience the growth needed to be successful in changing your lifestyle. Your class or group leader and members of your support group do not know what you are thinking and feeling when you maintain your invisibility and cannot provide you the support needed as you tackle the changes in your relationship with food, exercise and handling emotions in food-less ways.

( 8) 1 2 3 4 5 Self-Medicating Behaviors

This is a pattern by which you medicate or anesthetize the pain, hurt, shame, suffering or emptiness you have experienced in life. In this program we know that compulsive and binge over-eating is a form of self-medicating. The pressure you have experienced as you address the tenants and principles of this program may have been so great that you self-medicated with food or some other form of addictive behavior. Self-medicating with food is an unhealthy way to deal with your emotions.

( 9) 1 2 3 4 5 Inability to Trust

This is a pattern of thinking, feeling and acting by which you do not allow yourself to trust anyone since you have trusted others in the past who eventually hurt and abused you. You are not willing to be taken advantage of nor hurt and abused by others in the future. You listen to the tenants of the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyles and find it difficult to trust that you will never have to diet again. You find it difficult to trust that you only need to change your relationship with food, exercise and dealing with emotions in foodless ways to gain a balanced lifestyle with the 3 Increases of Health, Happiness and Energy. You find it difficult to trust that you are a good person just the way you are and do not need to starve yourself to become thin so that you are "good enough." You find it difficult to accept the rational perspective in this program because it is so unlike the other diet and weight management programs you have tried in the past. You reason: "This program is out of sync with the other weight management and diet programs I have been in and how can I trust what it is telling me since it is so out of the mainstream diet thinking."

(10) 1 2 3 4 5 Playing it Safe - Avoiding Taking Risks

This is a pattern by which you "play it safe" and not take risks so that you are not hurt, abused or taken advantage of by others. Playing it safe keeps you feeling secure in a cocoon sheltered from the hazards and risks of life and hopefully prevents you from making mistakes or failing by the decisions and actions you take in your life. You choose to "play it safe" in this program and do not attempt to implement the changes necessary to develop a new relationship with food, exercise and handling emotions in food-free ways. You are stuck in your "diet mentality" and work at starving yourself so that you can get thin and then be "good enough" to yourself and others. You lack the rational insight to realize and trust that this program, its author, your group or class leader and the members of your support group have nothing to gain and will not take advantage of you if you implement the Balanced Lifestyles system in your life and are successful in your efforts.

(11) 1 2 3 4 5 Self-Containment - False Pride

This is a pattern of thinking, feeling or acting by which you try to convince yourself and others that you do not need anyone else to help you do what you want to do in your life. This keeps you from accepting the support from others in this program. Your attitude of: "I know I can do it on my own" keeps you from being open to support, advice and assistance from the leaders of your class or group, from the author of this program and the members of your support group. This form of pride leaves you open to feeling more alone, abandoned and isolated as you face implementing this program's system in your life.

(12) 1 2 3 4 5 Mask Wearing - People Pleasing

This is a pattern of behaviors which hides from others how you are really feeling to prevent real or imagined abuse, rejection, non-approval or condemnation from those who would be offended by your honest assessment, judgement or reaction. You are wearing masks and pleasing others by keeping silent about how you feel about the tenants and principles of the program. You find them either too hard to accomplish or too simple to be all you need to do, to gain a balance in your life. You shy away from honest statements to yourself or others of how you are reacting to what is being said in this program so as not to offend anyone.

(13) 1 2 3 4 5 Running Away

This is the pattern of thinking, feeling or acting by which you run away in your head or in reality to avoid having to face any hurt, pain, abuse, suffering, anxiety, stress or tension. The unpleasant realities presented in the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyles Program have you so befuddled at this time in the program that you are contemplating running away so that you can get to a safe place from the new, challenging and risky tenants and principles involved. You have your plans ready for a quick exit as soon as the heat gets too unbearable for you.

(14) 1 2 3 4 5 Lying

This is a pattern by which you hide or omit the truth from others so as to avoid real or perceived abuse, hurt or conflict. In this program you find yourself lying about implementing things which you have not wholeheartedly accepted or wanted to do. You find yourself making excuses and using diversionary tactics to keep yourself from being cornered into admitting that it is difficult for you to do the things necessary to implement this program's systems in your life.

(15) 1 2 3 4 5 Overreaction

This is a pattern by which you blow things out of proportion to keep people concerned, confused and upset to gain attention for yourself to insure that you are not forgotten or ignored. You reason that negative attention is better than no attention at all. You are over-reactive to many or all of the tenants and principles of the program and make it a point to make this know to the people in the program, your group leader and to your support system.

(16) 1 2 3 4 5 Escape into Fantasy-Magical Thinking

This is a pattern of thinking, feeling and acting by which you avoid unpleasantness by fantasizing how it could be. You use flights into fantasy and magical thinking to relieve the stress, anxiety or tension which you experience as you face the realities of what it will take to implement the components of this program in your life. You prefer to escape into the belief that it should be easier and faster and more permanent to gain the benefits of a balanced lifestyle by simple solutions which are not presented in this program.

(17) 1 2 3 4 5 Lack of Commitment

This is a pattern of thinking, feeling and acting by which you never commit to anything so as to prevent yourself from being entangled or tied into anything in which you might fail or be hurt. You find it difficult to make a commitment to implementing the Balanced Lifestyle system of dealing with food, exercise and emotions for fear that you will not do it "good enough" or not be successful in your efforts and then be rejected, condemned or ridiculed because of your failure.

(18) 1 2 3 4 5 Antagonism - Hostility

This is a pattern of negativistic thinking, feeling and acting which reflects your self-protectiveness from real or perceived threats to you. This puts others off and maintains physical and emotional distance between you and them. Your antagonism is present in your dealings with this program, the author, the group or class leader and the members of the support group. You find yourself hostile to the principles and tenants of the program and do not hide it.

(19) 1 2 3 4 5 Defensiveness

This is a pattern of thinking, feeling and acting by which you are always "on guard" for real or perceived threats to you. This defensive attitude protects you from "being wronged," hurt, "unwanted" or "unloved." The defensiveness with this program reflects your belief that: "I know it won't work for me anyway so why try it." You find yourself in a "yes...but..." whenever your are reading this book or attending the program's class or group.

(20) 1 2 3 4 5 Indecisiveness - Procrastination

This is a pattern which prevents you from being "tied down" to a decision, lest the decision be a wrong one. You put off making the decision for as long as you can in hopes that you never have to make a decision which could result in your making a mistake or experiencing failure. You find yourself getting stuck in implementing this program due to your putting off your decision to do so.

(21) 1 2 3 4 5 Denial of Reality - Repression

This is a pattern of thinking, feeling or acting which allows you to deny the reality of past hurts, injustices or pain which you have experienced. This denial or repression is based on the belief that if you admitted this negative reality you would go insane from the shame, pain, misery, horror, rage, and shock you would experience from facing it the way it was. This accumulation of "unfinished business" is addressed in this program and you are constantly encouraged to face the reality of the abuse and neglect you have received due to your body image and weight not being "good enough" for others. You are encouraged to do ANGER work to free yourself from the pain of these past injuries but you refuse to face the past and work hard at denying that anything ever was done to you which was hurtful or damaging to your self-esteem or mental health.

 

Survival Behaviors Inventory Interpretation:

If you rated a behavior a 3 or higher this behavior is a survival behavior with which you are trying to control how this program impacts your life. You need to proceed to get rational alternative messages which free you up to be more accepting and open to the messages, tenants and principles of this program so that your thinking, feelings and actions can be committed to implementing them now. These survival behaviors with a 3 or higher rating are preventing you from progressing in this program and might be the reason you need to take a break from the program until you are ready to deal with the program in a honest and sincere way. These survivor behaviors were helpful to cope with the abuse in your past life but they are debilitating your efforts to change your life and relationship with food, exercise and handling your emotions in food-free ways. As you proceed to use the ALERT system to identify new affirmations to encourage your forward momentum in this program do ANGER work over the reality that your survival behaviors which once served you well are now the foundation of the self-sabotage which is keeping you stuck from moving forward in this program. After you do your ALERT and ANGER work be sure to do CHILD work to nurture yourself and to inform yourself that you will protect yourself from any harm, hurt or pain which might come your way from implementing this program in your life. Once you have completed these LIGHTEN THE PRESSURE tasks you are ready for the next LET GO steps.

 

SECOND - EXERCISE YOUR RIGHTS

You are now ready to EXERCISE YOUR RIGHTS to have a chance to be successful in this program by letting go of the need to allow the control mechanisms of survival behaviors to keep you off track.


THIRD - TAKE THE STEPS

Make a commitment to TAKE THE STEPS necessary to insure that your survival behaviors are less of a factor in impeding your progress in this program. You can do this by informing the members of your support system of the existence of these survival behaviors and how to recognize them. You can give them permission to "call you on it" or confront you when these self-sabotaging survival behaviors are apparent to them. You can give them permission to remind you of the need to be vigilant lest these behaviors take over your efforts at changing your lifestyle.


FOURTH - GIVE UP THE NEED

You need to let others know that you are GIVING UP THE NEED to control the components involved in this program. You need to let them know that you will work at being more open to the tenants and principles of the program for what they are rather than how you perceive them to be. You will work hard at accepting the principles of this program not as threats of new pain, hurt or suffering for you but rather as hope-filled, redeeming behaviors which have the promise of the 3 Increase of Health, Happiness and Energy.


FIFTH - ORDER YOUR LIFE

You need to then ORDER YOUR LIFE by handing your survival behaviors over to your Higher Power as old behaviors over which you have been powerless to handle. You need to admit to your Higher Power and to yourself that these survival behaviors have become entrenched habits which are part of your personality make up and which you are powerless to change on your own with out the assistance of your Higher Power. You need to insure that you are able to make an ongoing inventory of how well you are dealing with your survival behaviors and maintain a vigilant watch for when they become more active in your lifestyles change efforts again so that you can LET GO of them when the need arises.

You know that the abuse which you have experienced in your past has been very painful and hurtful to deal with. You have been proud of the power which your survival behaviors have given you to avoid or deflect further abuse in your life. You might be afraid to try to do this LET GO process to lessen the impact of these behaviors now . You might be afraid that if you let your guard down you will be weakened against future efforts to take advantage of or abuse you. This program is only suggesting that you lessen the impact of the survival behaviors in your efforts at implementing this balanced lifestyles program in your life. You are not being asked to eliminate your survivor instincts and intuition to protect yourself from future abuse or neglect from others. You are only being asked to free your energy level to implement this program in your life. This program is not going to take advantage of you nor hurt you. The only way you can be hurt in this program is self-inflicted hurt due to your being too perfectionistic, idealistic, conditional self-accepting, shame and guilt inducing or basing your self-worth on externals. You will need to accept the personal responsibility to establish boundaries between yourself and the perceived or real critical judgement and criticism of others as you pursue this program in your life. You will need to work at accepting that you are a human being after all and that you should not be held to a level of accomplishment which is too perfectionistic or idealistic. Finally you will need to continue to do ANGER work about how you need to accept life the way it is rather than how you would idealistically like it to be. Once you have accepted that you are, by your self-hatred and martyr role, a worse abuser of youself than anyone else before you will be more willing to let go of the survival behaviors so that you can proceed with the task at hand of changing your dealings with food, exercise and emotions.


Tools for Coping Related Readings:

1. Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous

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

2. Tools for Handling Control Issues

  • Chapter 14: Tempering Survival Behaviors
  • Chapter 15: Developing Self-Control