By Dietitian Jill Place
“And I simply decided to be happy again …” has been on a sticky note droopily dangling from my computer screen for what seems like forever. I’m fascinated with this quote from Indian actress Zeenat Aman.
And the concept of suddenly having an epiphany and making a major life course correction. Because I know it almost never happens.
You Can’t Be Happy if you Don’t Understand What Happiness Is
Which brings me to one of my clients who I’ll call Sally. She’s an almost-60 lifelong anorexic. Sally was turned down for treatment by almost everyone else.
But I took her on because we seemed to bond. And she also was working with a therapist … an absolute must when working with disordered eating clients.
Sally was caring for an ailing parent at the time. And, along with severe disordered eating, just couldn’t dig herself out of the abyss of overwhelm and unhappiness.
Sally Finds Her Voice
Sally often complained that she couldn’t find her voice. In other words, she already knew she had never stuck up for herself. Which so much contributed to her unhappiness.
Which just perpetuated her disability (I prefer to dub eating disorders this way rather than by the more intense label “disease”).
But the parent passed away. And she is now beginning ever so slowly to speak up.
And the other day she totally got what this phrase about being happy was all about. She laughed out loud and loudly piped, “I’m gonna DO THAT!”
When four months before she had totally dismissed the idea of all of a sudden being happy when I brought it up. WHAT HAPPENED?
“Everyone hears only what he understands.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Happiness (AKA change) is a PROCESS of UNDERSTANDING
Sally didn’t get that quote four months ago because she didn’t understand it. Or, put another way, she couldn’t fathom the possibility of it.
She was still steeped in overwhelm coupled with the “Stinkin’ Thinkin’” of her eating disorder.People with eating disorders … and I’m thinking many others too as poor body image and compulsive overeating is rampant in our society … live under a series of beliefs that, quite frankly, aren’t true.Click To Tweet
Like feeling fat when you’re 85 pounds. And thinking that avoiding “bad” foods will help you lose weight. But that’s just the cherry on the triple-scoop ice cream cone.
Happiness Step One: Owning Where You’re At …
So what did Sally do? First, she owned where she was at. That’s so important … taking stock of your current situation no matter whether you want to lose weight or live a happier life.
Sally did … we examined all her “Stinkin’ Thinkin’” beliefs under a multi-faceted crystal. She DID still think she was fat. And that food made her sick.
Happiness Step Two: Breaking Down Beliefs
So we broke down those beliefs to see where they came from. She DID have some pronounced food sensitivities and was willing to finally avoid those foods after a few months of self-sabotaging with them.
We also tried some supplements to counteract some of the discomfort of eating. And she began to understand that that she somatized … had digestive discomfort not only from physical issues but also from fear, anxiety, stress, and old food beliefs … her symptoms.
Happiness Step Three: New Things to Do with FoodThen we practiced new things to do with food. Such as calming down with breathing and doing mindfulness exercises before eating to minimize physical symptoms.Click To Tweet
I taught her Emotional Freedom Technique tapping. As well as taking pictures of what she ate and commenting on them on her phone … part of my integrated virtual practice … www.gethealthie.com.
The best tool of the whole integrated bunch, it’s supportive and confrontive all at the same time. It further enabled her to understand what she did and why she did it.
As well as come clean with her food beliefs and practices and share them with a person she trusted … me. That trust took some time to build. But is now irrevocable.
Finding someone that will tell you the truth is another important part of the happiness equation. You CAN do it all by yourself. But it’s faster when you have someone walking by your side.
“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.” ~ Galileo Galilei
The Final Steps: What to Do Once you UNDERSTAND
Once you go through the process to understand whatever you want to change, then and only then can you use all that stuff you read in the self-help books. As a matter of fact, Sally is in the process of moving and selling her parent’s home.
She commented that she couldn’t believe how many self-help books she had. And felt that this huge collection didn’t actually help her in the long run.
But I said, “Oh, no! Everything you read helped you understand yourself and what your next steps might be if you ever were able to take them.”
Change Happens When You Have Enough Information
Because, in reality,change happens when we have enough information about how to make it happen. Click To Tweet And that information is not necessarily assimilated in our conscious mind but in the primordial soup of our unconscious.
So it makes perfect sense to me when clients, sometimes after years of struggling with their weight or their eating disorder, come in and proudly announce their well-thought-out plan to change it.
One of my clients took EIGHT YEARS to finally come up with a weight loss plan. But those years weren’t wasted … he learned all the tools to make the change as well as healing old psychic wounds about his weight. He eventually lost 80 pounds, ran a marathon, and has kept the weight off for almost 10 years.
Fortunately, most clients don’t take nearly that long. But that was his process toward understanding. And once he understood, he easily made the transition to his authentic, lighter self.
And … the coolest thing of all … the transition was permanent. As these types of transitions most often are. Oh … and by the way … Sally no longer thinks she’s fat. And is slowly trying new foods. And slowly gaining weight.
“A matter that becomes clear ceases to concern us.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche