Helping you become all that you are capable of becoming!


Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle
A Manual for a Guilt Free System of Healthy Living
By: James J. Messina



I. Who is this Program for?

If you are or have been obese or 30 lbs or more over your ideal healthy weight, then answer the following set of questions to determine if the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program is for you. Answer true or false if the following statements are currently true or have been true:

_____ 1. I have a poor body image and I do not like looking at myself in the mirror.

_____ 2. I am bothered by my weight and it interferes in my personal happiness.

_____ 3. I have problems gaining and maintaining intimate personal relationships which are personally fulfilling.

_____ 4. I am bothered by compulsive behaviors (ie: dieting, shopping, gambling, risk taking, sex, mood altering drugs, alcohol, over the counter medications, prescription drugs, credit card use, relationships, excessive exercise, rescuing others, workaholism etc.)

_____ 5. I have low self-esteem when it comes to comparing my weight and body size to others.

_____ 6. I experience depression over my weight and body image.

_____ 7. I have tried a number of diet programs and been a yo-yo dieter and still regain my weight when I am done with the diets.

_____ 8. I do not maintain a healthy level of physical activity and/or exercise in my life.

_____ 9. I do not have a healthy understanding of food in my life.

_____ 10. I am sick and tired of having my weight related problems.

If you have answered true to 3 or more of the above questions and are or have been obese or 30 lbs or more over your ideal healthy weight, then the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program is meant for you.

II. The Goal of the Program

The Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program is designed to assist its participants to develop healthier self-esteem so as to address the essential components of a healthy lifestyle of recovery from being overweight. The lifestyle changes include a healthy relationship with food, a healthy exercise program, reduction of stress and anxiety with rational ways to relax, maintenance of one's physical and mental health, self-image and body image improving activities, reduction of other compulsive behaviors, the establishment of a healthy network of support in recovery, appropriate use ot time, adequate sleep and rest, release of anger and depression, self-nurturing and inner healing, improving of interpersonal relationships, reduction of conflict with others, reduction of the need to control others or to be controlled by others and the development of means to define oneself as a "winner' in life letting go of the pessimism and cynicism over past inadequacies to be successful in recovery.

III. The Design of the Program

The program is divided into three components. The first is the Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous (SEA's) weekly meeting. These meetings utilize the material contained in the nine books of the Tools for Coping Series Books (Messina,J.J.,, 2013), and the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Manual (Messina, J.J., 2013). The second required component is the Developing a New Relationship with Food class conducted weekly in conjunction with the SEA's meeting. This class utilizes the materials contained in the Developing a New Relationship with Food Manual ( The third component is A Healthy Personal Exercise Program in which each participant must be fully engaged by the end of the first month in the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program. The exercise program is the responsibility of the individual to obtain. It can either be under the supervision of a personal trainer selected by the participant or be supervised and conducted by a medically supervised Health or Wellness Center associated with the program.

IV. Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous (SEA's) Group

This component of the program is a 12 Step Support Group format I created, based on my nine books series: The Tools for Coping Series (Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, 1992). I am a recovering obese person. In 1985 I made a commitment to heal my low self-esteem and to get my life into balance. I began to write the Tools for Coping Books as a personal quest for my own recovery. I implemented the SEA's program that year in my private practice and it has run continuously ever since. A side benefit of working on my recovery from low self-esteem was that I was able to implement an aerobic exercise program into my life and was able to establish a new healthier guilt-free relationship with food.


The SEA's group is conducted as a support group based on the Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous: The SEA'S Program, the first book of the series. The topics addressed are reflected in the titles of the other series books:Tools for Personal Growth, Tools for Handling Loss, Tools for Anger Work-out, Tools for Relationships, Tools for Handling Control, Tools for Communications, Laying the Foundation(behavioral patterns of low self-esteem) and Growing Down: Tools for Healing the Inner Child. The group's topics are developed around Five Themes, at one theme per week in rotation:

1. ALERT: The system of recovery to assist individuals to overcome the stress anxiety, panic and tension in their lives by becoming more rational about life and learning to relax in healthier ways.

2. ANGER: The system of recovery to assist individuals to release their anger which is masked in a variety of ways including self-destructive behaviors, withdrawal, stuffing it in, rage, revenge, passive aggressiveness, pessimism, hostility, sarcasm, cynicism, jumping to negative assumptions etc.

3. CHILD: The system of recovery to assist individuals to heal from within by developing ways to self-nurture themselves through self-affirmation, unconditional self-acceptance and self-love, letting go of shame and guilt, self-forgiveness, overcoming invisibility etc.

4. LET GO: The system of recovery to assist individuals to overcome their need to fix and be excessive caretakers of others, to let go of the need to manipulate or intimidate, to let go of helplessness or dependency on others, accepting powerlessness, letting go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables, developing detachment etc.

5. Balanced Lifestyle of Recovery:

The addressing of the lifestyle issues in recovery from being obese or overweight and how to prevent or address relapse in the recovery process.

The participants in the Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous Program are expected to work independently outside of the group meetings on the materials contained in the Tools for Coping Series Books. They are expected to maintain a personal journal and fill out a weekly progress sheet on their recovery efforts to be handed in at the weekly meeting. To successfully complete this component of the program will take a minimum of two years. Due to the open nature of the meeting structure a participant can voluntarily select when to enter and exit the program since there is no set start up or cut off date.

My experience as I implemented the SEA's Program in my life, was that I lost my last unhealthy weight one year into my recovery efforts and it took another year to get into a lifestyle balance where I never needed to diet again. The SEA's Program is essential to the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program because it helps you change the way you Think, Feel and Act. It helps you to reframe your reality about your body, your relationship with food and exercise and your self-worth and self-deservedness to spend the time, energy, and resources needed to be successful in this program.

V. Developing a New Relationship with Food

This required component of the Program is a course taught by a team of Registered Dieticians. The weekly sessions address topics such as: the nutritional aspects of food. the chemistry of food, what research tells you about what foods are nutritious, the rational perspective on eating healthy, the appropriate priority of food in your life, the common sense approach to eating right, the "non-dieting" mentality, the freedom to eat without guilt, making eating a healthy habit, how to eat for living rather than living to eat etc. The program is open ended with no set start up or end date. The topics are covered within four themes which are covered at one month at a time in rotation. The four themes of the course are:

1. What's new in the News?

Making real for yourself what is currently being published in the popular and research press on food. Helping you translate what is said into understandable everyday layperson terminology.

2. Going Out

Understanding what is meant by the menus when you go out to eat at restaurants to assist you to make good decisions about what and how you eat. How to make going out to eat more relaxing and hassle free.

3. What's in It?

Identifying the contents of food as packaged in supermarkets and stores so as to make appropriate choices of foods to fit into your balanced lifestyle. What is in the food you are eating and how it affects you.

4. Making it fun

Making cooking at home fun, by recipe adaptations, meal planning, party giving and learning to socialize with food in healthy ways.

VI. A Healthy Personal Exercise Program

This component of the Program is a requirement for all participants and must be instituted by a participant within the first month of entering the program inorder to sustain enrollment in the program.There are three ways by which this component can be addressed:

1. Enrollment in the Health or Wellness Center associated with the Tools for Balanced Lifestyle Program in which you are currently enrolled.

2. Participation with a personal trainer chosen on your own.

3. Development of a personal exercise program which is reviewed and approved by a staff physiologist of the Health or Wellness Center associated with the program.

The participant is required to bring proof on a weekly basis of the maintenance of the healthy personal exercise program to sustain enrollment in the other components of this program. A physician's release will be required in many cases before initiating an exercise program. It is the responsibility of the program participants to see their physicians prior to initiating a personal exercise program.

VII. What is Needed in Your Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Kit?

You will need the following material to make your Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Kit complete:

1. The nine books in the Tools for Coping Series Books, by James J. Messina, Ph.D., on www.

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

Book 2: Laying the Foundation: The Roots of Low Self-Esteem

Book 3: Tools for Handling Loss

Book 4: Tools for Personal Growth

Book 5: Tools for Relationships

Book 6: Tools for Communications

Book 7: Tools for Anger Work-Out

Book 8: Tools for Handling Control Issues

Book 9: Growing Down: Tools for Healing the Inner Child

2. The Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Manual, by James J. Messina, Ph.D., on

3. The Developing a New Relationship with Food Manual, by Staff of Advanced Development Systems, Inc., published by Advanced Development Systems, Inc., Tampa, Florida, 1993.

4. Spiral notebooks for journal writing

5. A recipe box filled with blank 3 by 5 index cards for self-affirmation work

6. Loose leaf note paper for Write, Read and Burn anger work-outs

7. A 40 pound karate weight bag for anger workouts

8. A box of crayons and drawing paper for drawing pictures in Growing Down and Inner

Child work

9. A full length mirror for mirror work for Child work of self-affirmations, re-parenting and self-forgiveness work

10. Exercise equipment and supplies needed for the exercise component of the program

11. The SEA's weekly progress sheet

12. The Healthy Personal Exercise weekly recording form

VIII. A Word of Caution Before You Get Started

As you take the steps to begin the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program remember the following principles of the program to help temper any negative or unrealistic expectations you might have about this program.

Principles of the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle Program

1. This is not a diet or weight management program.

2. Your weight is never taken or asked for in this program.

3. Your success in this program is not dependent on how much weight your lose or keep off.

4. You will never be asked to step on a scale while you are an active participant in the program.

5. You are asked to let go of the operant conditioning you have learned from diet control programs you have participated in the past, so you will never need to keep a food diary, log your fat grams or calories while in this program.

6. You will never be asked to go on any kind of diet while in this program so be honest with yourself and do not go on a diet while actively participating in this program.

7. This is a guilt-free program, so let go of your old notions and ideas about how guilt motivates you to be successful to lose weight or exercise.

8. Enter this program because it will be good for you. Do this program only for yourself and do not do it to please or to gain approval from others.

9. Try not to tell others you are involved with this program so that they will not hound you about how well you are doing and how much weight have you lost so far.

10. Do not set too high or too unrealistic goals for yourself as you enter the program.

11. Maintain realistic and reality based expectations and standards for yourself as you progress through this program.

12. Keep the focus only on yourself while working on and in this program of personal recovery. Let go of the need to fix or take care of your fellow participants in the program.

13. Keep an open mind to the suggestions offered in this program. Try something before you convince yourself it will never work for you.

14. Let go of your critical, judgmental and controlling attitudes as you enter this program so that you are able to hear the messages of hope, encouragement and support which it offers.

You will find that the time you spend on balancing your lifestyle will be the most productive investment you have ever made in your life.

Best of Luck as you begin your journey into a new Lifestyle which is healthy and balanced.