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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 4: Addressing Resistance to Change

Addressing Resistance to Change

 

I. Overcoming Resistance to Working on Food Addiction

 

The messages of this chapter about food and your relationship to it may be creating a great deal of intellectual and emotional unrest inside of you. You may be finding yourself having difficulty accepting the concepts about food being promoted by the Tools for Balanced Lifestyle Program. What follows is a possible explanation for why this resistance may be happening in you.

 

This program posits the belief that you are powerless over the fact that you are compulsively driven towards food in an unhealthy way. Accepting this powerlessness and then turning it over to your Higher Power is necessary for you to get on with your balanced lifestyle efforts.

 

You may be hearing these words and saying to yourself one of the following three things.

1." I can't change it. There is nothing I can do to help myself."

2. "It's too hard and I want someone else to do it for me, in the mean time since I can't do anything about it, I am just going to relate to food as I always have."

3. "No matter how much effort I exert, nothing is ever going to change, since I have never been successful in dealing with food before, I will never be able to handle it now or in the future."

 

If you are saying #1, you are thinking, feeling and acting helpless. If you are saying #2, you are thinking, feeling and acting irresponsible. If you are saying #3, you are thinking, feeling and acting hopeless. These three responses to the concept of powerlessness over being a compulsive over eater, foodaholic or food addict are irrational, not based in reality and cop outs. These responses do not understand or accept the concept of powerlessness and do not appreciate the hope available to food addicts or compulsive overeaters in the principal of letting go or handing it over to a Higher Power. The freedom from obsessing over how to rid yourself of the power, food has over you, gets lost by the messages of resistance present in Helplessness, Irresponsibility and Hopelessness. What follows is a rational look at these three resistances.

 

1. Helplessness

"I can't change it. There is nothing I can do to help myself."

 

Helplessness is rooted in poor self-esteem and self-hatred. This concept is full explored in Chapter 13: Overcoming Helplessness in the Tools for Handling Control (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992). Helplessness is based on the belief that "no matter what you do, you will never be able to help yourself, so why try?" This is a manipulative message intended to hook a caring, loving and compassionate person to take on your problem and solve it for you. It is the ultimate self-pity party or pity pot ploy. It is intended to tug at other's sympathy and caretaking. The intention is to get someone else to take on the emotional burden of the problem for you. It is a control mechanism to get the other to do for you what you cannot do for yourself. It also is a sign of your lack of motivation to do the work necessary to solve your problem. In the case of powerlessness over food addiction, it is an indication that you may be lacking in a spirituality or belief in a Higher Power and therefore have no where to LET GO or hand over your powerlessness over food to. You are unwilling to do the work to gain a Higher Power or develop a spirituality and therefore give up and try to "hook" someone else in doing it for you or making it easier for you to do or "understand." The amazing thing is that letting go of powerlessness over food is a "simple" and "easy" task to do, which takes persistence and perseverance to do over and over again, day in and day out for the rest of your life. You may be just too stubborn, bullheaded or unmotivated to hear how simple and easy a task this Letting Go process is. You may be stuck in blaming others, excuse finding and sidetracking to be open to accepting you can do it on your own. You would rather believe that others are responsible for your lack of success in accomplishing your overcoming your powerlessness over food and ultimately in your achieving success in attaining a balanced lifestyle. You probably prefer to point the finger of blame at others for why you are unhappy and dissatisfied with your weight rather than pointing that finger back to yourself and accepting your responsibility to take care of yourself.

 

2. Irresponsibility

"It's too hard and I want someone else to do it for me. So in the mean time since I can't do anything about it, I am just going to relate to food as I always have."

 

Irresponsibility is rooted in self-hatred, low self-esteem and a belief that you are a loser who is not worth the effort. This concept is fully explored in Chapter 16: Accepting Personal Responsibility in the Tools for Personal Growth (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1993). Irresponsibility and not taking responsibility for your actions may be due to being lazy, unmotivated to change and looking for a reason or person to blame for why you will never be successful in your dealings with food. This is the rationalizer's, excuse maker's, and blame shifter's modus operandi. It is a sign of your refusal to grow up and accept personal responsibility for your own life. You would rather blame your past life's tragedies for you current misfortune than accept that life is a series of choices which you have made. You would rather obfuscate the message of the LET GO system to overcome powerlessness over food than accept responsibility that you need to take steps to change your life and your relationship with food. You find it easier to complain about how complicated, difficult or obscure the message is than to heed the simplicity and purity of it to Let Go and hand it over to your Higher Power. You would rather complain that this message sounds like religion or pious mumbo jumbo than take the time or effort to explore your concept of spirituality and Higher Power. You are probably so unwilling to accept responsibility for your failure to achieve success in attaining a balanced lifestyle that you would rather blame the lack of entertainment value in the program or lack of motivational charisma of the class leader for your failure. You are not willing to face that you are lazy and unmotivated. You are unwilling to face that you enter programs like this to "look externally" like you are doing something about your problems with food when in fact all the time you are in the program you are concentrated on criticizing, belittling or complaining about the program, the leader and your class members. You probably never are willing to say: "I am not successful in gaining a healthy relationship with food and a balanced lifestyle because I have not made the effort to do so." That would be too responsible an act, too mature and too honest for you to utter at this time. 

 

3. Hopelessness

"No matter how much effort I exert, nothing is ever going to change, since I've never been successful in dealing with food before, I will never be able to handle it now or in the future."

 

Hopelessness is rooted in a lack of self-worth, low self-esteem and self-hatred. It is also based on your belief that "I can only rely on myself to fix my problems." It comes from the absence of a clear identity and concept of a Higher Power in your life. It is the result of a lack of a healthy spirituality. Hopelessness is the message of the person who has the type of pride as explained in Chapter 13: Handling Pride, p. 71, in the Tools for Personal Growth (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992). Hopelessness in dealing with food comes from the unawareness or unwillingness to accept the message that you are powerless over your addictive, compulsive and obsessive relationship with food. Hopelessness ignores that the only way to deal with food is to LET GO of this powerlessness and hand it over to your Higher Power so that you have the energy and motivation to do those things which are in your power to control so that you can attain a balanced lifestyle. Hopelessness comes from a stubborn refusal to listen to or heed messages of recovery which lessen the burden, pain and suffering you go through. Hopelessness comes from being habituated to being miserable. It is based on the belief "I've been miserable all or most of my life so why should I expect any different now or in the future." It is a pessimistic message which only looks at the half empty glass rather than the half full. It is focused on "impossibility thinking" rather than "possibility thinking." It is filled with the "yes...but" syndrome. It tends to be based on the belief that you are "predetermined" to be the way you are and no effort or action that you take will ever change that fact. It lacks the "redemptive vision" that "although life sucks you still can have a reasonably happy life as long as you accept reality the way it is rather than the way you want it to be." If you are suffering from hopelessness at this moment, then you are stuck in your ideals and expectations about life the way it should be. You are probably unable to let go of your fantasy or dream of how life should be for you. You may be stuck in magical thinking which says "it should be easier for me to control my relationship with food than what it is." Hopelessness comes from holding onto the belief that there should be a simple solution to solve your food, eating and weight problems. The truth is that there are no easy answers but the Tools for Balanced Lifestyles Program offers you a program that works as long as you work the program.

 

If you are holding onto helplessness, irresponsibility or hopelessness messages you are being resistant to the new thoughts, emotions and actions available to you if you accept the belief that: "I am powerless over my addictive, compulsive and obsessive relationship with food and I need to LET GO and hand over this powerlessness to my Higher Power so that I can be freed up to do those things necessary which are in my control to attain a balanced lifestyle."

 

The message of this program is "I may be powerless over food, but there are responsible actions I can take to address how I can deal with this reality so that I might effect changes in my life to gain a balanced lifestyle.

 

The only way you will be able to accept the messages of this program is to LET GO of your helplessness, irresponsibility and hopelessness and hand them over to your Higher Power. You will need to face yourself honestly for who you are and who you are not. You will need to accept that you cannot change your relationship with food by having others do it for you nor conversely doing it all on your own. You will need to accept that you will need to let go of the mask or facade you are currently carrying around with you which on the surface says: "See I'm attending classes and reading the materials and I am doing something about my weight, food and eating problems." You are not doing anything about your real problems if you are not making a commitment at the intellectual, emotional and behavioral level to love yourself enough to do what is necessary to LET GO of what you cannot change or control and to take actions to do what you can change and control. This means that you need to be more active in pursuit of learning to love yourself more through self-affirmations and CHILD visualizations. You need to let go of your ANGER and grow in self-forgiveness. You need to be ALERT to when you are becoming irrational, unrealistic or anxious over your food "crazies." You need to increase the amount of exercise you do on a daily basis. You need to start working the 12 Steps of the SEA's Program. You need to accept the message of the Serenity Prayer as your mantra for recovery from your powerlessness over food. You need to accept that there is only one person responsible for your success in this program and that is you. Finally you will have to humble yourself to accept personal responsibility for your own success in attaining a balanced lifestyle by saying daily:

"The Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program works for me only if I work the program."

 

Tools for Coping Related Readings:

1. Tools for Personal Growth

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

2. Tools for Handling Control Issues

  • Chapter 6: Accepting Powerlessness
  • Chapter 13: Overcoming Helplessness

II. Behavioral Patterns of Resistance to Food Addiction

 

Not only do Helplessness, Irresponsibility and Hopelessness contribute to resistance to dealing with food addiction and compulsive overeating, some of the behavioral patterns which come from low self-esteem, as listed in Laying the Foundation: The Roots of Low Self-Esteem (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992), contribute to resistance to dealing with food in a healthy way. The behavioral patterns directly related to resistance to recovery from food addiction are: Looking Good, Acting Out, Pulling In, Entertaining and the Troubled Person. Most food addicts have more than one of these behavioral patterns operating in their current lifestyle. When you begin to look at these patterns remember that you are most probably a combination of two or more of them at one time. What is needed is understanding how these patterns contribute to resistance to dealing with food. You will need to be brutally self-confrontational when these patterns arise in dealing with your food issues. You will need to give your support system permission to "call you on it" and confront you when you are reverting to your old compulsive ways of dealing with your food addiction. The time has come in this program to take off your complacent masks and rid yourself of your intellectualizations, rationalizations and procrastination. The time has come to accept that you are a food addict and that you must change your behavioral script when it comes to food. You will never make strides in developing a balanced lifestyle unless you are willing to face up to the fact that your current food related behavioral patterns are causing you to derail, undermine or destroy your desire and efforts to turn your life around when it comes to dealing with food, exercise and your weight. What follows is a summary of how these behavior patterns are involved in resistance to dealing with food addiction.

 

A. Looking Good

The underlying theme of the Looking Good behavioral pattern is that "I am not good enough." This message gets played out in food addiction by the need to present to the world an image or behavioral style which puts the "best face" forward even if it is a lie. The goal is to get approval from others at all costs. An example is, if you want others to currently think that you are doing well in your efforts to change the way you eat then when you are around them you will be careful what and how much you eat in front of them, but behind their backs you will be less careful. If you never lose weight, do not have an increase in energy or do not feel better about yourself will give this lie away eventually. It would be better to be honest with others and admit that you have not gotten motivated yet to undertake the task of altering your relationship with food yet. The risk is that the others might not approve of this decision on your part. Iif you have been doing the work of self-loving, self-nurturing, self-affirming and self-approving as encouraged in this program and the Tools for Coping Series, you will not care what others think or say about you since the only person's approval you need is your own.

 

Looking Good behaviors with food include the following:

1. You eat before you go out to eat with others in public at a party or on a date. You do this to be sure that you are not hungry when you go out, so that you will not eat everything in sight and make a "fool" of yourself in the eyes of others. You then eat sparsely at the party or on the date to look good to the others. This is just one form of "closet eating" which is to hide how much and what kinds of food you eat. You try never to eat out in public and if you have to, you try to minimize how much you openly eat. This keeps the world outside of the "truth" of your real relationship with food, even though your size, weight and energy level tell on you.

 

2. Being an overachiever on the job or at home. Since you are obese or overweight, you overcompensate for this fact to disprove the notion that "fat people are lazy slobs." You put so much energy in being an achiever you have little emotional, physical or intellectual energy left to deal with changing your relationship with food. If you changed your relationship with food and developed a healthy balanced lifestyle, perhaps you would not need to work so hard to achieve and be successful. However there is a danger in this reality. If you become healthier, thinner and happier you might not be as motivated to work so hard as you do on the job or at home. You might begin to change your priorities in life. This reality might scare you and you prefer to stay "looking good" because success has become more important to you than your health. Being a dead "achiever" is more important than being a living and healthy "lifestyle balancer" who is not as motivated to achieve.

 

3. Dressing for success and looking attractive, neat and picture perfect all of the time. You never allow yourself be seen in public without every hair in place and every seam and pleat ironed. You spend hours making sure your hair and clothes look great. You spend countless hours making yourself up to look "just right" in the public eye. You fear being ridiculed or rejected for looking unkempt, unprofessional or sloppy. You are obsessed in making your appearance "look good" to dispel the belief that "all fat people are slob." You would prefer to become a the best dressed corpse than an healthy, wholesome, energized relaxed dresser. If you put as much energy into changing your relationship with food as you do in the efforts to dress and look good, you would be on your way to a balanced lifestyle already.

 

4. Being over responsible to see that others get enough food. This is the concentrating on providing food and nourishment for others. This is an admirable endeavor but for a food addict this is a dangerous endeavor and it certainly keeps food as a primary topic of focus in your life when you are "powerless" over it. It appears that you would be better served to encourage the people in your life to become personally responsible for their own dealings with food.

 

5. Lying about what you eat. You will lie about how much you eat and how often you eat so as to avoid the negative reactions and responses of others. Your need to "look good" to other goes so far as to perpetrate lie after lie about your eating habits. However your body and health tell the truth about you. You would prefer to hide the truth than to honestly confront it and do something about it. The time for honesty is now, so take the challenge and change.

 

6. Entertaining with food. This is where you make food the central reason for the entertaining rather than the entertaining as being the rationale for the gathering. You focus so much on the food that the role of socializing, having fun and enjoying the company of others gets lost. You claim the need to entertain to maintain your social contacts, business associations and community standing. Yet, you focus on the food aspect of such gatherings and miss the relationship component at times. Your biggest binges are preparing and cleaning up after these gatherings, since you eat sparingly during them. You plan your food for these events weeks in advance and compulse, obsess and visualize them over and over until the event is completed. You would rather die from entertaining than live having fun, socializing and communicating with others in healthier food-free ways. Ok so you are saying, "Society teaches us that food is central to entertaining." So who said society is healthy. Be daring and put socializing, communicating and having fun as central in your entertaining and live longer.

 

7. Being the "best cook." This is getting approval and recognition in the family, your circle of friends, neighborhood or community as being the "best cook." This can be so addictive that you find it hard to give up the need for this recognition even if it means that you are persistently placing your life in jeopardy by being around food so much on a daily basis. A live "ex-best cook" is certainly more rational and realistic a title for a food addict than being a dead "best cook."

The Looking Good Pattern like all of the other behavioral patterns of low self-esteem is a compulsive way of thinking, feeling and acting and it is important to become aware of the characteristics so that you can confront yourself or have others confront you when you are falling back into this pattern when dealing with your food addiction.

 

B. Acting Out

The underlying theme of the Acting Out behavioral pattern in relationship with food is "No one is going to tell me what I can or cannot eat. No one is going to tell me how much, when or where I can eat. No one is going to tell me how to correct my problem." This message is a rebellion against any real or perceived authority figures. It is based on the message that "I have been hurt once by others and no one is ever going to hurt me again." The message of the Acting Out pattern is one of anger, resentment and hatred. For example, in this program the suggestion is made to eat in moderation and to balance one's food intake with no more than 30% of the diet being in fat calories. An Acting Out attitude would be: "No one is going to tell me how much I can eat and how many fat calories I am going to ingest." This person then goes about ignoring, rebelling against or turning off the message of health and continues to eat in unhealthy ways. The Acting Out pattern is a fight for control. It is the reacting to the real or perceived efforts of others to control them. The behavior of Acting Out reflects the message: "I will never be controlled by anyone so don't try." The unfortunate consequence of Acting Out in this program is that you will never allow yourself to hear the messages of health, hope and happiness available to you in life. You will resist changing your lifestyle and will have a life of ill health, low energy and early death.

 

Acting Out behaviors with food include:

1. Binge, binge and binge with no regard to the messages of how unhealthy it is for you. Your anger and rage at being controlled by the "messages" of the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program gets you so emotionally unravelled that you proceed to do the opposite of what is being encouraged in the program. You find yourself rebelling and fighting the messages and in your frustration, anger and rage you medicate yourself with food and continue your downward spiral of self-destructiveness. You need others to confront this self-destructive Acting Out behavior so that you can look yourself in the mirror they are holding up to you to let you see that you are literally killing yourself out of your anger and rebellion not to be controlled by other. This program is voluntary and you are free to choose to enter and participate in it. No one is holding a gun to your head to do this program. It is your free will choice to do or not to do it. Stop blaming others for "forcing" you to do it. Accept that you are in charge of your own life. If you want to die slowly then keep up the binging. If you want to begin to enjoy the fruits of a healthier, more energized, life enhancing existence than begin to take the steps of the program and put them into your life. You need to do loads of ANGER work to release yourself from the grips of your rebellion.

 

2. Maintaining an oppositional, "yes...but.." position. You may be doing this to the tenants of the Tools for Balanced Program which you find difficult to implement or maintain. You are so reactive to the messages and scripts in your head which are "old tapes" from the past from either a parent, relative, friend, teacher or authority figure about how you "should" deal with food that you hear these messages in the program's messages. You perceive these messages to be forms of control just like the "old tapes" were. You are reacting to that person in the past by Acting Out to the messages of the present program. This makes it difficult for you to hear and to be open to the new messages of hope, health and happiness. You hear them rather as messages of limitation, deprivation and discipline. You feel you are being limited in your freedom to be who you want to be. You feel that you are being controlled to be just like everyone else. You need to do work at eliminating the power you have given these old messages. You need to do ANGER work and resentment release work so that you can have the emotional and psychic energy to get on with the reframing of your life into a more balanced way of dealing with food.

 

Acting Out is self-destructive. It is an expression of anger. It is a rebellion against being controlled by others. You need to do ANGER work and LET GO work to free yourself emotionally to be open and accepting of the messages of the program so that you can get on with putting your life into balance.

 

C. Pulling In

The underlying theme of the Pulling In behavioral pattern is to become invisible by hiding your feelings from others. The message of this behavioral pattern is to avoid being seen or heard so as to avoid any further pain, hurt or rejection in your life. By using the Pulling In pattern you utilize food to medicate your feelings and to help stuff them down. For example you may use food to insulate yourself from further physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse you have received from people in your past. The more food you eat and weight you put on your body the better the protection from future pain and hurt. Unfortunately rather than becoming invisible and insulated from being hurt or rejected, due to your weight you gain unwanted attention and derision concerning your being fat and obese. Rather than becoming invisible and insulated you are more vulnerable to being seen and hurt.

 

Pulling In behaviors with food include:

1. Clandestine eating. The goal is that no one sees how much you eat. The more hidden, the better you like it to be. Your eating, you reason, is invisible to others. However, your weight, lack of energy and unhealthy life give you away to the world as a foodaholic, food addict or compulsive overeater. It is healthier to eat out in the open and live longer than to eat in the closet and live a miserable unhappy, unhealthy and unbalanced life.

 

2. Medicating emotions by eating. The public expression of all emotions is unwanted so you use food to address all of your feelings. Be they happy and positive feelings or negative and angry feelings it does not matter. A feeling is a feeling which needs to be suppressed and kept in so as to maintain invisibility from others for fear of loss of approval, non-acceptance or rejection from others. As stated earlier in the Tools for Balanced Lifestyle Program, Food is Food and is not an emotional release. Use of the ALERT, ANGER, CHILD and LET GO systems are food free methods of dealing with emotions which are healthier, realistic and life engendering. If you continue to stuff and pull your feelings in by using food you will be unhealthy, lack energy and remain unhappy and unfulfilled.

 

3. Insulating self. This is an effort to keep you safe from sexual advances and movement towards intimacy with others. Since you have been hurt in the past by members of the opposite or same sex and because you have experienced pain and suffering in past intimate relationships, you wrongly believe that if you insulate yourself with food and weight you will be happier, more content and emotionally sound. However your weight causes you more problems due to poor self-image, public humiliation and discrimination from others. You do not achieve the very goal you set out to gain by using food in a pulling in way. It is important to get psychotherapeutic help to address your avoidance of intimacy issues so that you can get on with your life in a healthier way. You will need to do ANGER work on the past issues so that you can proceed on in life with a willingness to be vulnerable to being engaged in intimate relationships in the future.

 

4. Using food and weight as the mantle of power and strength. This is to ward off the real or perceived intimidation and control by others to whom you have given a great deal of emotional power over you. You wrongly believe that weight and a large body will keep these "powerful" people from hurting or wounding you emotionally. Unfortunately, your weight becomes an object of scorn, negative commentary or advise giving by the very "powerful" people you are trying to be stronger than. You irrationally give them more material with which to pick on you. Rather than leave you alone and not ride you, they pick on your weight, poor eating habits and poor relationship with food. Rather than winning the competition for control, you lose the battle by gaining enough weight that your competitor has a real topic over which to pressure you.

 

5. False sense of security. You wrongly believe that by having enough weight on your body you are secure in this cold, lonely world. It is a false sense of security which lasts only for short spurts. This is because you are daily confronted with your image in the mirror which upsets you because your body does not look good to you. So you avoid mirrors so you can continue to feel secure. But comments from others and your lack of energy, poor health and unhappiness fight your sense of security on a daily basis.

 

Pulling In behaviors with food are dangerous because they cause you to become irrational, unrealistic and out of touch with reality about the impact of the use of food to help you to deal with your problems. You begin to live in a fantasy world where dreams, fantasy and ideals become your goals to accomplish in life. The confusion and disappointment which comes from not achieving these dreams creates greater depression, resentment, frustration and greater anger. Pulling In behaviors are self-destructive and lead to greater dishealth, disharmony and discontent in your life. What you need to do is ALERT work to get you out of fantasy and into reality. You need ANGER work to get out your anger about why life isn't the way you want it to be. You need CHILD work to nurture yourself in food free ways to give yourself authentic self-worth, self-confidence and personal security. Finally you need to do LET GO work to release yourself from the need to control your emotions by your use of food. Food is a powerful influence in your life over which you are powerless. You will never be able to eliminate the Pulling In behaviors without extensive work on improving your emotional well being and self-esteem.

 

D. Entertaining

The Entertaining behavioral pattern with food is based on the underlying theme of "let's avoid looking at the problem by deflecting it with a joke, laugh or side stepping." The message of the Entertainer behavioral pattern is to make light of the seriousness of your problems with food, weight and lifestyle. The goal of the Entertaining behavioral pattern is to show that this problem does not bother you deeply and that you are "light hearted" when it comes to dealing with this issue in your life. An example of this is when you crack a "fat joke" if you find yourself in an embarrassing situation which is food or weight related. The hope is that the others will laugh along with you so that they do not recognize that you are in pain and hurting over this situation. Although you hope they will see that you are "laughing on the outside," you know that you are indeed "crying on the inside," which causes great pain for you. The more you avoid dealing with your true emotions over your food and weight problems you are only prolonging the time it will take for you to make the commitment to do something about it. You would rather make light of it than take it seriously because it will involve a great deal of effort, time and energy to relate to food in a healthier way which seems too big, overwhelming and impossible to get a handle on. Entertaining behavior is a form of disguising yourself in the public eye so that no one can get a reading as to how you are really feeling about your problem.

 

Entertaining behaviors with food are:

1. Joking about fat people or about food. This entertaining behavior is a way to hide feelings of embarrassment, shame, guilt, insecurity, unhappiness, anger etc over having weight and eating problems. It is easier to joke about the problem than to openly admit that you are a food addict, foodaholic or compulsive overeater. This behavior works to divert the attention of others away from your real problems with food so that you do not have to discuss your real feelings in public. The reality is that as long as you persist in avoiding openly admitting your problem to others you will never be able to put the time, emotional energy and commitment into doing something about it. Openly discussing your problem in a serious vain is a way to strengthen your recovery efforts from food addiction. Identifying and openly admitting your problem is a major hurdle to jump to get on track with putting your lifestyle into balance and developing a new healthier relationship with food. It would be better to be a healthy, higher energy, happier thin person than to continue to perpetrate the myth that you are a jolly fat person who is unhealthy, devoid of energy and unhappy on the inside.

 

2. Making food a regular topic of conversation. This entertaining behavior is a way to hide the fact that food is a problem for you. Rather you try to give the image that "I am OK with food." The image becomes the goal in these conversations. However you forget that non-verbal communication speaks louder than words. Others know that your health, energy and personal happiness are affected by your weight and food problems. They can sense the truth by what is not being said just by looking at your body and the way you live your live. It would be better to learn a whole new topic to converse about so that you are not feeding your obsession and addiction to food. It would be better for you to be a boring conversationalist who is healthy, with higher energy and happier than a sick, low energy and unhappy food discussant. As was stated in the introduction to the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program, it is better not to discuss your activities in this program so as to keep yourself from feeling pressure to lose a certain amount of weight or to be watched carefully by others as to what you eat. The goal is to broaden your horizons about life and to take a new course of action when it come to what you talk about in your free time. Food free conversations are healthy conversations for food addicts.

 

3. Flamboyant and Jolly disposition with others. This entertaining behavioral combination is a way to overcompensate for what your real feelings are. You might dress flamboyantly to indicate that your weight doesn't bother you. You might enjoy being recognized and pointed out as being idiosyncratic in your dress. You might make it a point to always be jolly, jubilant and light hearted when with others to indicate "that although I am overweight I am still a happy person." This combination of behaviors is a mask which you wear to be dishonest to yourself and to others. The time has come to take a stand and come clean. Admit to yourself and others that you are not always OK with your weight and food problems. Admit that you have negative emotions about food and your weight and take steps to address these feelings.

Entertaining behaviors are based on the need to deny reality when it comes to negative emotions. It is important to do grief work and ALERT work to identify what realities in life you are running away from facing. You need to do ANGER work about the negative impact that you food addiction has had on your life. You need to do CHILD work to nurture yourself in food free ways so that you do not need to spend so much emotional energy "to put on a happy face" for others to hide your pain, shame and sadness. You need to do LET GO work to let go of the need to avoid facing reality for what it is. You need to accept that keeping your focus on your problem with food will keep you on track in your efforts to change your lifestyle and heal your relationship with food.

 

E. Troubled Person

The Troubled Person behavioral pattern with food is a combination of the other four behavioral patterns with the underlying theme of denial. The message of denial is the perpetrating of the delusion or myths that you are not a food addict, nor a foodaholic nor a compulsive eater. It is the holding tenaciously to the beliefs that:"I can control my relationship with food by dieting" or "I can quit my over use of food any time I want" or "I don't have a problem with food." The goal of the Troubled Person is to keep others from trying to get you to change or address your eating or weight problems. It is focused on redirecting peoples efforts to change and control you by use of denial, anger, counter attacks, or vitriolic ranting. It is the use of manipulation, such as helplessness, dependency, guilt, blatant self-pity, hopelessness or self-flagellation. The Troubled Person is not motivated to change. It is the ultimate irresponsible response to food addiction and unless it is addressed and changed will be the reason why you are never able to get your life into balance. It is the behavioral pattern which is ultimately self-destructive which can lead you if unchecked to a life of poor health, unhappiness and possible early death. The Troubled Person behavioral pattern is "diet driven" with the belief that "This diet is going to be the last diet of my life, all I have to do is to lose my weight and it will be gone for ever." Looking for the magic cure or simple solution to "fix" everything is the drive of the Troubled Person. What follows is an example of a Troubled Person behavioral pattern dealing with food addiction. It is my story.


Hi, I am Jim and I am a recovering food addict, obese person, compulsive overeater and foodaholic. I was obese from the time I was in fourth grade. I always had to wear "huskies" or "fat boy" clothes. I was always self-conscious about the size of my body. I was embarrassed and ashamed of it. I always felt "not good enough" and wanted others approval all of my life. I worked hard to get others' approval by being an honor student in school and working hard at jobs I was given. Once I reached adulthood, I became obsessed with food. I enjoyed the taste of food and talked about food all of the time. I always used food references when talking about any topic be it politics: "It was a crackerjack deal" or sports "He was a real hot dog" or religion "It was as peaceful and nurturing as being in a bakery as fresh bread was being baked in an oven." I was always looking for the quick fix on my weight problems. I went from one diet to another. I would lose and gain my weight. I was a yo-yo dieter but in denial that there was a problem with this. I had two sets of clothes, my "fat clothes" and my "thin clothes." I did not know anything about nutrition and was completely resistant to learning anything about it. I would use intellectualizations, rationalizations and obfuscation to address my food and weight problems. I would resist anyone's suggestion that I had a problem. I would get angry and rage at anyone who suggested I was lazy and irresponsible. I was defensive when someone would address my need to change the ways I dealt with food. I was unable to listen to anyone talk about lifestyle change.I resisted exercise as just something "jocks" did. I was always believing that: "I've been cheated because I have a big body which loves food." "It wasn't my fault that I was fat, it was my genetic predisposition and family of origin which made me so." I was clinically depressed and lacked energy falling asleep at the moment I sat in a chair. I had health problems, my knees were weak from the years of strain under my weight and I had two knee surgeries to take out the cartilage in them. I was angry, resentful, lonely, embarrassed, guilt-ridden and disgusted with myself. I worked harder and harder to achieve success in my profession to get others recognition, acceptance and approval, but no matter how hard or how much I did I never felt "good enough." I was the "family chef" and cooked for everyone. The focus of all of our entertaining was food. It was so bad that for a couple who was recently engaged, my wife and I gave a party to celebrate their impending marriage. The food we prepared became the focus of the evening and unfortunately the couple got ignored by all of our guests. I was in a downward spiral. I was becoming more and more convinced that I was destined to be a rolly polly, jolly fat person who had to regale everyone with my "fat jokes" to let them know that I wasn't bothered by being fat. I would binge and eat to medicate my emotions and negative mind set. I could sit down and finish off two meals in one sitting and then top it off with a number of desserts and sweets. I was eating all of the time. I became obsessed with food and was a closet eater hoping to hide my eating habits from others. When asked about my weight, I always claimed to be working on it by saying I had just begun a new diet. My life had become unamanagebale due to my compulsive and addictive use of food. I was a Looking Good, Acting Out, Pulled In, Entertainer with food who had become a deeply Troubled Person.


In 1985 I went into a one week treatment program to address my behavioral patterns which stemmed from my dysfunctional past. I became committed to working on my self-esteem. I began to write on a weekly basis a recovery plan for every emotional issue I needed to change to improve my self-esteem. This resulted in the Tools for Coping Series books. I found that after a year of work on my self-esteem, I was able to accept the messages of lifestyle balancing and changing one's relationship with food by becoming nutrition literate. I implemented a program of exercise in my life which I keep to this very day. I have become a recovering food addict whose body is an Italian Bank account. I live like a caveperson in the ways I relate to food and exercise. I was only able to turn my life around by recognizing that I was a Troubled Person with food and I came out of denial and ceased living my life in a delusional fantasy. To insure I would not relapse back into my old unhealthy ways I began to self-disclose to others the nature of my food addiction and low self-esteem. This self-disclosure compelled me to continue to work on these issues so that I could be honest with myself and other and not become a closet hypocrite. As a result of my recovery process, I am on the alert when others claim they want to change but function more in denial and Looking Good in their efforts. I have found that confrontation is the best motivational tool to use to keep me out of denial and delusion and I use this tool with others to keep them honest and on track. So you can now understand why the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle book has an emphasis on dealing with the resistance to change and is confrontational in nature.

 

Troubled Person behaviors with food include:

1. Resistance to change. You are not willing to come out of denial and stop your delusions about food in your life. Although you are reading this book or are enrolled in this program, you are not in reality ready to make the changes necessary in your life. You need time to come to grips with your self-esteem issues. You need to learn to love yourself more so that you believe you are deserving of efforts and activities necessary to put your life in balance and change your relationship with food. You can expect that if you are in the program that you will be confronted in an ongoing basis by your class leader and fellow classmates when you revert to your denial or delusional approach to the problem. You will be "called on it" when you are caught making excuses or giving rationalizations why it is hard for you to implement the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle in your own situation. Remember, everyone in this program is a food addict and we all know the "cons," manipulation and excuses to avoid doing the hard work to change. If you are not confronted when you are slipping into denial then the rest of the class might be lapsing into denial as well which would not only be dysfunctional and unhealthy but a waste of time for all of you. So try not to waste the time of your fellow classmate by bringing up issues which are nothing more than excuses to remain in your old status quo.

 

2. Magical thinking. You are unwilling to accept that it takes a great deal of work, effort and energy to change your lifestyle and ways you relate to food. You hold onto the delusion that there is a simple, easy one step method to lose weight, have a thin body and have a happy life. You are unwilling to accept personal responsibility for your own life. You want an external solution to be given you to turn your life with food around. You will need to be confronted with reality on a regular basis by this program, your class leader and your classmates. When you lapse into magical, fantasy or dreamlike visions you need to be confronted to help you get back into reality. It is something like the old Williams's After Shave commercial where the guy gets a slap in the face after he puts on the aftershave lotion and he says: "Thanks I needed that." Confrontation to bring you back into reality is not comfortable and you might find yourself getting angry, upset, embarrassed or feeling shame. But you need to accept that in this program the confrontation given is done so in love and concern for your lifelong well being. It is better to have a jolt to your system to get you back on track than to be allowed to relapse back into your fantasy and delusions which would result in you doing nothing to change your lifestyle and for you to continue to be unhealthy, unhappy and out of control with food.

 

3. Blaming others for your problems. You are unwilling to accept your problems with food are your own responsibility to change. You feel justified in blaming your parents, relatives, old friends, teachers, employers, coworkers and other people in your life for your obesity, being a food addict and compulsive eater. You are not willing to look yourself squarely in the eye and say: "Yes, there may have been things done to me the past which resulted in my turning addictively to food, but today as an adult, I must accept personal responsibility for my life and take the steps necessary to turn around my life with food in a healthy way."

 

4. Diet oriented. You find it hard to accept that you are powerless over food and believe you can control your relationship with food by simply going on a diet. You are very hesitant to accept the messages of the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program because they do not include dieting. You have experienced success in diets before and you are skeptical how not going on a diet will result in you losing weight and changing the way you deal with food. You are a "diet junkie" who is only happy or content when your are on a diet. Dieting has become a way of life for you. You are not willing to accept the research findings that your yo-yo dieting results in your gaining all of the weight back after you conclude your diet and maybe even gain more. You are unwilling to accept that you need to implement exercise into your life. You are unwilling to believe that you are seriously "nutritionally illiterate" even though you claim to know more about food than most dieticians and nutritionists do. If you were so literate about nutrition and food then why are or were you overweight?

 

5. Irresponsibility. You find it hard to keep the focus of your efforts and energy on taking responsibility for your own life. You find it hard to accept that "you" are the reason why you are overweight, obese, unhappy and out of balance in your life. You find it hard to believe that all of the effort, activity and energy spent on correcting your relationship with food is to be done by you. You are waiting for someone else to do it for you. You are convinced that if you wait long enough someone will come into your life with a message and "cure" which will make it simple, easy and permanent to no longer be a food addict, compulsive eater and foodaholic.

 

6. Defensiveness. You are always waiting for something to be said to you which you can pounce on to justify why this program is not for you. You are looking for something to be said which you can justify why this program is a failure and waste of time just like all of your earlier efforts. You are alert to any innuendo of non acceptance of yourself to justify quitting the program. You are not happy with the need for confrontation being an integral part of this program. You reason that:"Since I have a problem, I should be treated with kid gloves." You find it difficult to accept that because you are a food addict you cannot be treated with kid gloves. If you remain in denial of your real problems, you will never change your life in the process. There are no easy answers in this program which puts you off. You do not like the fact that dealing with this problem is a lifelong effort. You are put off by the fact that the Balanced Lifestyle effort takes a long time before you can see results. You are put off by the fact that all of the work is yours to do. You are put off by the statement that "The Program only works if you work the program." You are holding onto your defenses so that you do not have to come out of denial and get out of your delusional way of living. It would be better for you to be a healthy, happy and energized humble recipient of the messages of this program than for you to remain an unhealthy, unhappy and hopeless foodaholic. You need confrontation to get you out of your defensiveness and your class leader and fellow classmates need to provide this to you if you are to be "called on it"enough to motivate you to change your lifestyle.

 

7. Lying about doing something about your problem with food. You are unwilling to admit to yourself and others that you currently are not really doing anything to get your life in balance and change your relationship with food. You are not ready to take the steps necessary yet. You are not able to be honest with yourself or others about your lack of effort. The unfortunate thing is your body, low energy level and lack of happiness give you away. It would be better for you to be honest about your lack of effort at this time than to perpetrate lies which only make you feel guilt and shame for saying once you put them out there. Lying only makes you feel worse about yourself and drives you more to food in an addictive, obsessive or compulsive way.

 

Because all food addicts are Troubled Persons, you need to put more effort in healing your self-esteem. You need to work at implementing the Tools for Coping mechanisms for growing in self-love and self-nurturing. You need to accept the Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous tenets and 12 Step Program. You need to work at using the ALERT system to get rational about who you really are so that you can grow in self-acceptance, self-approval and self-love. You need to use the ANGER system to let go of your anger at others and yourself so that you can grow in forgiveness of others and self-forgiveness for what has happened to your body due to your poor relationship with food. You need to use the CHILD system to grow in self-worth and self-confidence by letting go of shame and guilt, growing in self-forgiveness and overcoming your desire for invisibility. You need to learn to deal with your feelings in a healthier ways by identifying them and then assertively expressing them to get them resolved. You finally need to use the LET GO system to let go of your need to control others and to let go of your powerlessness over food. You need to grow in a spirituality so that you can hand over your food issues in a healthy way so that you can proceed to take the steps necessary to put your life in balance.

 

The behavioral patterns related to food are strong, compulsive, learned patterns which take years to correct. You need to identify them in your life and take the steps necessary to confront yourself when the appear in your behaviors. You will need the support of others over your lifetime to "call you on it" when you relapse into these unhealthy ways of dealing with food..?

 

Tools for Coping Series Related Readings:

1. Laying the Foundation

  • Chapter 3: Look Good Behavior Characteristics
  • Chapter 4: Acting Out Behavior Characteristics
  • Chapter 5: Pulling-In Behavior Characteristics
  • Chapter 6: Entertaining Behavior Characteristics
  • Chapter 7: Trouble Person Behavior Characteristics

2. Tools for Personal Growth

  • Chapter 16: Accepting Personal Responsibility