Saturday, December 22, 2012
with Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP
Living life to the fullest is all about striving for a mind-body balance every day. Achieve a mental, nutritional, and physical transformation for life with tips from wellness expert Pamela Peeke, MD.
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Friday, December 21, 2012
Go Ahead and Reach Right into This Cookie Jar
By Pamela Peeke, MD
For most of her 67 years, Kris has waged war with her body weight. From early childhood, she carried much more weight than the other kids. As the years went on, she became hooked on the daily routine of overeating her favorite sugary, fatty, salty food combinations. Topping out at 325 pounds ten years ago, she’d had enough, detoxed off the junk, and managed to battle her way down to 220 pounds. She was going strong when her husband, the love of her life, passed away. Distraught, lonely, and grieving, she sought relief from her old “friends”– her food fixes — and packed on fifty pounds. Her expanded girth led to aching knees and back pain. Instead of retirement years filled with social activities and new challenges, Kris found herself hiding at home, filled with blame, shame, and guilt. Lost and feeling helpless, hopeless, and defeated, she finally realized she was addicted to these foods as well as her whole way of life. She’d had enough. That’s when she came knocking on my door.
Eager to start, Kris declared, “I’m ready to take on my munching monster”. As we began the journey together, she constantly amazed me with her ingenuity, always finding creative ways to switch out food fixes for healthier fare. Popping into my office shortly after our first session, Kris shared a little secret that I now want to gift you with. It’s called Kris’s Cookie Jar of Love and Inspiration.
Cookies were one of Kris’s go-to fixes, whether she was stressed, happy, or bored. Growing up, her mom would keep a constant supply of freshly baked cookies in a colorful jar. Sneaking into the kitchen day and night, Kris would dive into the jar, load up, and run with her precious stash back to her room. The cookies kept coming well into adulthood. When she hit 325 pounds, she knew the cookie binges had to stop. Staring at the cookie jar, she had mixed feelings. It had always conveyed a sense of comfort and safe harbor from life’s usual pains and angst. Yet, it also represented loss of control, a canister of cravings, and a mountain of anesthetics to numb her from the frustrations and anxieties in her life. Conflicted, she sat with it for a while and then had what I love to call an EpiphaME.
She loved that jar sitting in her kitchen and didn’t want to give it up. So she created a win-win solution. She’d keep the jar but redefined its role in her life. Grabbing a pen, scissors, and colorful paper, Kris set about cutting small circles and squares, the shapes of her familiar cookies. Then she inscribed on each piece of paper one of her favorite inspirational sayings. The collection included affirmations lovingly handwritten by her husband, who wanted to help cheerlead Kris through challenging times. Whenever Kris read or heard another great quote, she’d quickly make another “cookie” and toss it into the jar.
So, whenever she felt like caving to the craving, instead of diving into the jar to run from and numb herself with cookies, she now reached into the cookie jar and grabbed an inspiration or two. Reading “You go girl, you can do this to live the life you so deserve!” killed the craving on the spot. It also broke her addictive food trance and snapped her back into reality. Her mindfulness and vigilance was heightened. A deeply spiritual woman, she also prayed a little prayer of gratitude for her quick regrouping with the help of her cookie jar of love and inspiration.
The jar was her pal until her husband passed. Her grief was overwhelming and she sank into years of self-neglect, depression, and social withdrawal. The jar got pushed to the back of a kitchen shelf. When Kris awakened from this painful period seeking help, that’s when Kris and I began our journey together.
As we began her detox from her food fixes, we also began to reorganize her lifestyle habits to support the new program. And as we begun, she’d all but forgotten the jar. Until one day, she accidentally bumped the kitchen shelf and the jar landed in her lap. Smiling, she couldn’t help but think, “Coincidences are God’s way of acting anonymously”. Quickly, she reached into the jar, pulled out an inspiration and laughed out loud as she read “No, this isn’t a cookie — this is the rich and fulfilling life you deserve. That’s what you’re really hungry for.” Inspired once again, each week she now adds fresh new material to her cookie jar, which she now proudly displays front and center on her kitchen counter.
As we have worked together, Kris has been having countless EpiphaME’s. Perhaps many of you can identify with some of these as well. Each one has led to more inspirational “cookie” deposits in the jar.
1) Practice Self-Compassion: Kris had never realized that she’d devoted her entire life to care giving others, mostly in deference to her own needs. This became apparent when her husband died. Suddenly she was left with a void. Who was she to care for now? It never occurred to her that she needed love and support and care giving as well. That’s when she realized she’d always believed she didn’t deserve that kind of attention. It was always about someone else. A milestone in her detox and recovery program occurred when she discovered that she not only deserved love and compassion, but without giving herself those two gifts, she could never be the best care giver to others. At the age of 67, she finally figured this out and realized it’s never too late.
2) Pitch the Unhealthy Voices: “You’ll never make it,” “You’re too far gone,” “Give it up. It’s too late.” For most of her life, Kris listened and believed these Unhealthy Voices. In addition to feeling like she didn’t deserve happiness and love, she realized she was incorporating these voices into her sense of self-worth and self-esteem. When she did, she’d feel low and cave to the crave. Grabbing those cookie jar inspirations reminded her time and time again that she was strong and powerful and deserved every lick of love and support coming her way. This time she was angry and firm as she said “No more! I don’t believe those voices. I believe my own!” and set about writing more self-created messages of support.
3) There’s Science Behind the Munching Monster: Like so many people, Kris was relieved and thrilled to realize that there was excellent new science to help her understand the biology of her relationship with food, specifically her food addiction. Armed with the new science (see The Hunger Fix book) and a plan of action, she was finally hopeful for lifelong recovery from being hooked on the hyperpalatables. She created more “cookies” that now said “Reclaim your brain. You can do this!”
As I write this blog, Kris has just emailed me another update. You can see she’s bound and determined to make this work:
“Things are going great as I go through some challenging times. I was invited to five holiday/retirement gatherings last week. I declined the buffet parties and chose the open house luncheon/tea and did very well sipping a cup of tea (trying different flavors) w/steamed shrimp & vegetables and staying away from the food on the Munching Monster’s tray and remembering that the party was about mingling, not munching!”
I have a suggestion for everyone. How about creating your own cookie jar experience? It could simply be a lovely box of affirmations, inspirations, and self-coaching thoughts that can help you when you feel the urge to cave and self-destruct. Hey, the jar’s contents are zero calories but heavy on the self-compassion, love and support. Give it a whirl!