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What’s blocking you from experiencing total wellness?
Research increasingly shows a strong connection between our spiritual life, our emotions, and our physical well being. Yet too often our physical conditions are treated without taking our whole lives into account. In Radical Well-being, Dr. Rita Hancock shows you how your mind, body, and spirit are connected and addresses the factors that can contribute, and even cause, illness, addictions, and chronic pain.
If you suffer from medical conditions like fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, neck or back pain, irritable bowel syndrome, jaw pain, food and drug allergies, depression, anxiety, or unwanted behaviors such as overeating, an eating disorder, overspending, drug abuse or alcoholism, Radical Well-being will show you a biblical, whole-body approach to overcoming your condition. With nearly twenty years of experience counseling patients from a balanced, mind/body/Holy Spirit perspective, Dr. Rita gives you practical nuts-and-bolts advice.
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Siloam (January 8, 2013)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Don’t Believe Everything You Think
If I asked you to look at a group of women and pick out the person with the eating disorder, you wouldn’t choose Helen. She doesn’t fit the stereotype. She’s a slightly overweight, sixty-year-old grandmother. Surprise! Not all people with eating disorders are skinny, teenage girls.
As I interviewed Helen about her knee pain on that first medical visit, she repeatedly pointed out that she was desperate to lose weight so her knees would hurt less. On the surface that made sense. However, something wasn’t right about this particular situation. She seemed more fixated on the prospect of weight loss than on relieving the knee pain.
That’s when she starting asking me about my previous book, The Eden Diet. Apparently her daughter had lost a fair amount of weight on the diet, and Helen now wanted to try it.
I have to admit that I was a little confused by this point in the visit. She was on the schedule as wanting to be seen for her knees. So I just came out and asked, “Shouldn’t we be talking about your knees?” Helen looked down at the ground and then back up at me. “Well, I heard you don’t see just anybody for weight loss. I heard you mostly treat pain-management patients and just counsel them for weight loss on the side. I guess I figured that you could help me kill two birds with one stone.”
You have to commend her persistence. That’s faith and desperation rolled into one! I figured I’d better help her or she’d get some people to take the shingles off the roof of my office and lower her into the
exam room through the ceiling on a stretcher while thinking, “If only I touch the hem of her lab coat, I’ll lose weight.”
As Helen and I dialogued in subsequent visits, I gleaned some insight into her underlying problem. As a child she internalized lies that led her into an eating disorder in her teenage years. She believed her mother would love her only if she was skinny. Her mother had been a dancer in her youth and pressured Helen and her sisters to not eat too much or they wouldn’t be wanted (by men). But Helen understood that nobody, not even her own mother, would want her if she were overweight.
Hence the eating disorder. She was trying to “works” her way into being good enough by manipulating (or trying to manipulate) her weight. Hidden lies and feelings of inadequacy, such as those Helen entertained, lead to emotional stress and strife. In turn those lies lead to overeating and other physical manifestations, such as pain and illness. It’s a common tale, one that another of my patients knows well.
A Little Girl Named Nancy
Nancy’s parents rarely had time for her. Her father was an attorney in a big Chicago law firm, and if he didn’t work long hours he wouldn’t stand a chance of becoming partner. Based on his own standards for success, that would have meant he was a total failure in life. He learned that way of thinking from his dad, who was also a highly successful, perfectionist, workaholic lawyer with low self-esteem deep down.
Nancy’s mother was a legal secretary in the same firm. She didn’t have to work overtime with her husband all those evenings, but she did so anyway, saying it was to help her husband get home earlier. Truthfully she just wanted to keep tabs on her good-looking, wealthy husband. She didn’t trust him around the perky little legal interns.
The one source of constancy in Nancy’s early life was her paternal grandfather. He babysat her most evenings after day care or school when her parents worked overtime, and he watched her most Saturdays too. The babysitting job kept him from getting lonely and depressed
since his wife had passed away a few years before. Without the pairing,
both he and Nancy would have been alone.
Despite Nancy’s company Grandpa was still lonely in a different
kind of way. To fill that need, he fell into reading inappropriate magazines. He made a halfhearted attempt to hide the magazines from little Nancy but failed. She found them by accident one day shortly after her seventh birthday while looking for magazine pictures she could use
for a school art project.
A flurry of questions ran through her little mind when she found those pictures. “Why would Grandpa look at those magazines? Is this how men are supposed to look at women? Is this how women are supposed to be looked at?”
Though Nancy was young, she knew instinctively that her Grandpa’s magazines were naughty, and she felt bad about herself for having seen them. In fact, she experienced not just a single crush but a double crush to her self-esteem over this.
On one hand she couldn’t help but identify with the women in the pictures. If they were just lowly objects, then maybe that’s all she was too. After all, she was female, just like them. On the other hand, Nancy identified with her grandfather and felt deep shame. “Grandpa is bad for looking at these,” she thought, “so I must be bad too, because we’re
related and that means I’m like him.” The blow to her self-esteem stayed with her for a long time, compromising her romantic relationships with men later in life. She couldn’t trust them. Were they looking at her as a piece of meat or as a person? Would they betray her like her daddy betrayed her mommy? Or would they abandon her like her parents abandoned her to focus on their work? She was never sure.
This incident also marked the beginning of her overeating. On a subconscious level seeing those pictures at that impressionable age caused Nancy to feel vulnerable and out of control in addition to bad and dirty. Nancy decided she didn’t want anyone to look at her the way her grandfather looked at those women. So she ate to put a layer of insulation around her body. It backfired, though, because people looked anyway since she was so large.
This issue with her grandfather wasn’t the only reason Nancy gained weight as a child. On some level, even though her daddy ultimately made partner in the firm and was able to spend more time at home, Nancy always felt a sense of abandonment due to his earlier absence. She figured that she was unworthy of Daddy’s attention. If she were a good enough daughter, maybe he would have stayed home.
These feelings of low self-esteem and abandonment gave her another reason to eat to keep people away as an adult. If nobody became interested in her romantically because she was overweight, then nobody would abandon or betray her later on.
Of course, during her childhood Nancy was totally unaware of these buried feelings. It wasn’t until she underwent counseling to save her third failing marriage that she began to understand the psychology that motivated her to eat as a child.
Through counseling, Nancy learned that she felt shameful, vulnerable, and out of control as a child, especially sexually but also emotionally. Eating was her unconscious attempt to feel safe and in control. She ate to medicate her low self-esteem and anxiety, and she ate to keep away unwanted attention.
Can you relate to any part of Helen’s or Nancy’s story? They actually represent composites of a multitude of women that I’ve counseled for weight loss, pain, and other stress-related health problems over the years. In fact, all the patient examples that I present in this book are composites—yet every situation I describe is real.
As you can see by Helen’s and Nancy’s examples, fear, sexuality, and feeling inadequate or out of control are common themes that contribute to aberrant eating behavior in women. Other common issues include guilt, low self-esteem, abandonment or loss (such as parental divorce), parental alcoholism, and physical illness during childhood. Because I hear these themes frequently in my medical practice, you’ll see them often in the patient composites I include in this book.
My intent in presenting these composites is to help you understand
and manage your emotional triggers and, consequently, have an easier time letting go of your addictions, unwanted health behaviors, and physical pain. Even better than the physical benefits though, is the peace, love, and joy you feel when you break free from false beliefs and feel more of the fruit of the Spirit in your life. I assure you that the freedom from emotional bondage feels even better than the physical health benefits.
The Lies That Bind
In the following pages I list fundamental beliefs that have triggered feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety in some of my patients. In many cases the emotions caused by these beliefs led my patients to reach for false comforters (food, alcohol, gambling, spending, overworking, etc.) to try to feel better.
Before you read the list, please pray (see Appendix A for more help with prayer). Ask God to reveal only the information that you can handle, and ask Him to reveal if you should dig through these subconscious beliefs with the help of a Christian counselor. Not everyone is meant to “go there” without the help of another human. God gave us Christian counselors and psychologists for a reason.
Now if the time is right (and only you and God can be the judge of that, so proceed at your own risk and do so prayerfully), read the list and see if any of the lies strike a nerve. Make a checkmark by each one that does.
Keep in mind that everything on the bulleted list is a lie. Even though you see the accusations against you in print, don’t be fooled into believing them.
• You’re fat.
• You’re ugly.
• You’re stupid.
• You’re unlovable.
• God doesn’t love you.
• You’re bad (or not good enough).
• You’re worthless.
• You’ll never amount to anything.
• You shouldn’t have been born.
• They’re going to leave you.
• You don’t deserve to be loved.
• It’s all you’re fault.
• You’re dirty.
• You’re shameful.
• It’s your fault your parents divorced.
• You’re unforgivable because of the abortion.
• You’re a bad mother for giving up your baby when you were a teenager.
• If you were worth anything, she wouldn’t have given you up for adoption.
• Your parents adopted you to fix their marriage; now their happiness is up to you.
• If you were good, your dad (or mom) would have stuck around.
• It’s your fault your mom or dad drank.
• It’s your fault your dad abused your mom (or vice versa).
• It’s your fault he sexually abused you.
• You deserve to be treated badly.
• She’ll never let your daddy hear the last of it if you tell on him.
• Your mother won’t believe you if you tell her about the abuse.
• It’s your fault he (or she) left.
• It’s your fault he (or she) died.
• You’re just like your bad mother.
• You’re just like your bad father.
• You’re not as good as your brother or sister.
• You’re an accident.
• You weren’t wanted.
• You can’t be forgiven for what you did.
• They’re going to leave you if they find out you’re bad.
• You have to try to be perfect to make up for being bad.
• You don’t deserve anybody’s time.
• God’s promises aren’t meant for you.
Remember, these are lies that have nothing to do with who you are today. It’s important to identify the beliefs that you learned in the past, as we will see. Realize that the time has come to let go of the lies, and I help you do that in this book. Now let’s talk about other sources of false childhood beliefs.
Lies That Make You Think You’re Fat
Because my daughter is a teenager, I spend a fair amount of time watching the effects of peer pressure on the kids in her age group. Even the more wholesome TV programs that are geared to her age group show perfectly manicured, extremely cute girls with perfect clothing and most excellent hair. Naturally, real-life girls of that age group are bound to feel inadequate.
I know about peer pressure for another reason. I temporarily volunteered my services to online “ask the expert” websites. I quit after
having to answer the same anonymous question a thousand times from teenage girls: “Dr. Rita, please tell me how to lose thirty pounds in the next three weeks. I’m going to be in my sister’s wedding, and I’m a total blimp. I’m over one hundred thirty pounds, and I’m only five foot seven inches. I want to get down to the same weight as the other bridesmaids.”
How did I respond? “Honey, your real problem isn’t your weight. You may have an eating disorder. You should talk with your parents and get some counseling.”
I wish I could have spoken freely about my faith to those girls on that secular site. If I had been able to, I would have said, “No matter how hard you try, you will never be somebody else, and you will never feel that you’re good enough after you lose weight if you feel inadequate before. Your greatest journey is to get in line with God’s will for your life, not to get in line with God’s will for somebody else’s life.”
Thinking you’re fat eventually makes you become fat. Your actions affect your attitudes, and your attitudes affect your actions. Watch what you think because it will affect what you do.
You Have to Ask the Questions
If you aren’t sure about what triggers you to reach for false comforters, start asking questions: “Immediately before I feel tempted to [eat, drink, gamble, shop, overwork, etc.], do I feel fear, anger, or low selfesteem? Do I feel stupid, worthless, or out of control? Or do I feel unnurtured? Or is it something else?”
And how do I feel after I utilize my false comforter? Do those emotions go away? If so for how long do they go away?” As I said, the false comforter is not the underlying problem. It’s only the attempted solution to get away from the unwanted emotion.
Many people feel out of control and hence, fearful or anxious. They use their false comforters to try to regain a sense of control. “Nobody can tell me what to [eat, buy, smoke, drink, feel, etc.].” Or they use the false comforters as short-term distractions to escape their emotions.
They cover their anger, fear, or low self-esteem with alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, cutting, or some other unhealthy behavior.
The Right Questions Break Down Barriers
Surveying and assessing your emotions can definitely help you identify your triggers. However, it’s even better to petition the all-knowing Creator of the universe for answers. He knows the nature of your deep-down issues better than you do!
You may be thinking, “But I’ve asked Him for answers a million times, and He doesn’t answer!” If you feel as if God isn’t answering you, or if you feel “lost” in your journey for answers, realize the problem isn’t likely to be on God’s end. You may have barriers that prevent you from hearing from God.
Many factors can serve as barriers that block your reception of God’s healing. For example, maybe you believe lies about yourself as a result of childhood events or abuse. Or maybe you need to repent of past sins. Maybe you need to extend forgiveness to those who hurt you. Maybe you are mad at God because you couldn’t find Him during your times of trouble. Maybe you feel ashamed and are hiding from God. Or maybe it’s something entirely different. Maybe you have emotional or physical barriers.
No matter what caused your barriers to go up, asking God the right questions about the nature of those barriers can help to tear them down.
To help you overcome your barriers, at the ends of the chapters in Parts 1-4, I offer sample questions that you can ask God during prayer. To formulate these questions, I borrowed from a number of healing disciplines, including Christian inner-healing ministry, psychology, physical therapy, and manual medicine, all of which talk about overcoming barriers of one form or another. That way, once your barriers come down, you can better receive healing truth from God and, in turn, experience freedom from your emotional triggers and bondage to false comforters.
Ask God in Prayer
* Express your thankfulness and confidence, “Dear Lord, thank You for the healing truth that I am about to receive.”
* Ask for a new start, “As I recall my past sins, please forgive me, wash me clean, and make me brand new.”
* Ask God to help you drop your defenses, “Lord, please amplify my ability to hear and/or understand deep healing truth as I read.”
* Ask for compassion, “Lord, please help me to have compassion toward myself and others. Help me forgive those who hurt me.”