5 Ways to Conquer Inner Critic Thinking


Inner critic thinking is that inner voice that spews all kinds of irrational and negative statements in our minds.  It gets triggered by stress and is fueled as we feed it by adding to the negative stories it tells us.  We all have an inner critic.  But guess what!  We all have an inner coach as well.  Unfortunately, most people spend more energy feeding the critic and ignoring the coach.  Our brain is like a muscle that needs to be worked out.  And just like our muscles, our brain needs reinforcement and repetition to grow stronger.  When we spend our time feeding into negative thoughts, we strengthen the critic.  So it only makes sense that if we can learn how to reinforce and build the coach that it will get stronger.  As the coach gets stronger, our irrational and critical thinking will get weaker.

Irrational thoughts or cognitive distortions are usually extreme and negative thoughts based on beliefs and ideas we get from our culture, society, family or even religions.  Our brains hear and idea or belief and process it by categorizing it or organizing it in the brain.    One of the ways we can organize a thought is by categorizing it into being good or bad.  When we do this we distort the belief by creating rigid rules and expectations about a particular person, place, thing or situation.  These rigid rules and expectations keep us stuck in our heads and can grow as we feed the storylines and make assumptions.  I will give you an example from an intuitive eating workshop I did this week.

Belief or idea:  “Sugar and white flour are difficult for the body to process and can trigger the brain to want more.  Eating too much sugar and white flour can cause the brain to become dependent on it much like a drug addiction. “

Cognitive Distortion:  “Sugar and white flour are bad.  I should never eat sugar and white flour.  If I do, then I will get fat.”

You can see that the belief or idea does not make one reference between white flour/sugar and fat.  But our brains can distort the information into a new thought or belief otherwise known as a cognitive distortion.  In turn, we label white sugar and flour as “bad” and many people feel shame and guilt when they eat it.

Intuitive Eating teaches 5 ways to reframe cognitive distortions.  These 5 techniques help to build the inner coach and conquer the inner critic, reframing our irrational thoughts and re-programming our brain to process beliefs and ideas in a healthier and more rational way.  These ideas come from the work of Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole, authors of “Intuitive Eating”.  Elyse and Evelyn use these techniques to help clients overcome irrational and negative thoughts about diets and body image.

1.  Actual Experience.  Challenge the distortion by reframing it with an actual experience.

Example:  “I’ve eaten sugar and white flour before and did not get fat.” 

2. Fact.  Challenge the distortion by reframing it with a fact.

Example:  “Many thin people eat sugar and white flour every day.”

3.  Mindful Awareness.  This technique is simply acknowledging the thought without judging it or feeding the storyline. Mindful Awareness allows for you to reframe the distortion by recognizing the fear and anxiety that is triggered by the thought and being present with those feelings without having to add anything to them.

Example:  “This statement or belief makes me feel worried and anxious about eating white sugar and white flour.”

4.  Gratitude.  Challenge the distortion with an attitude of gratitude.

Example:  “White sugar and flour tastes yummy and is in some of my favorite foods.  I am so grateful they are available to me to enjoy when I feel like eating them.”

5.  “For the Most Part Thinking.”  Challenge the distortion by adding “for the most part” to the statement.

Example:  “For the most part, sugar and white flour will not make me fat or addicted when enjoyed in small amounts.  For the most part, I am free to enjoy them in my diet.

Try applying these reframing techniques to your irrational thoughts or cognitive distortions.  If you would like to learn more about my work or services, please visit my website at www.mindbodyspiritcounseling.net.

The techniques discussed above are from the book “Intuitive Eating” by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole.



Stress and the Parent/Child Relationship


-Romans 12:2
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Stress blocks intuition; it blocks our ability to hear from God. Stress leads to living in survival instead of living life. Learning how to manage our stress and balance our mind, body and spirit leads to a more intuitive and balanced relationship with our children. This book will help you to understand why and how stress is triggered in your relationships with your children, will help you to learn ways to overcome that stress and will teach you how to incorporate new ways of communicating and relating to your children. But first you must be able to identify what stress is and what it feels like.

A Psychological Explanation of Stress
Stress occurs every day, everywhere and in everyone. Stress affects a large percentage of the general population. People struggling with stress range from infants to the elderly in age.

The long-term impact that stress has on a person’s nervous system is great. Often times stress will affect a person’s mood and can even result in a clinical diagnosis of anxiety and/or depression. It can lead to people engaging in high risk or unhealthy behaviors to numb them and help them cope with feelings of fear, worry and insecurity. Lastly, stress can have a tremendous impact on relationships.

Last week I had a friend tell me that he doesn’t know what is wrong with him.  He said he simply feels exhausted and he doesn’t know why.  He told me that it’s gotten so bad that he plans to see his doctor to discuss medication options.  I looked at him with a flat affect, confused by how he really had no idea why he is so tired.  He gets up at four AM to start his day and doesn’t stop to rest until about eleven PM.  He has a high
stress job that is demanding, a busy family to take care of and recreational commitments to tend to.  He does practice self-care by eating healthy, exercising regularly and feeding his spiritual needs through his church community and music, but he does not take enough time for rest.  Instead, he tries to fit all the activities into his week and the result is fatigue and exhaustion. It has affected his mood, his behaviors and his relationships with family and friends. My friend expressed feelings, symptoms and long-term effects of stress which is the result of not listening to his mental, emotional, spiritual and physical needs.

The following explanation is my understanding of what happens to the body, mind and spirit when it experiences stress:

Stress is a chemical reaction caused by an increase in cortisol and adrenaline. When we experience a stressful situation or event, it causes sudden feelings of panic, fear or worry.

The feelings of panic, fear and worry make us uncomfortable, so our natural instinct is to respond by fighting back or trying to avoid the situation. Sometimes our natural instinct to these feelings is to freeze.

This kind of response does not solve anything. It simply makes it worse and over time the stress builds, sending more frequent and intense surges of adrenaline and cortisol throughout the body. If we experience stress on a regular basis, then our bodies adapt to the cortisol or adrenaline high and they eventually become unbalanced. If our bodies are unbalanced, then we can experience the rise in cortisol or adrenaline at any time, even when there is no external stressor. When this happens, it becomes difficult to rest, eat, exercise and do the natural things our body needs to rebalance itself and can result in a clinical diagnosis of anxiety.

Stress on Mood, Behavior and Relationships
Over the last several years, I’ve worked with many teens who are struggling with high stress at school. We live in a culture where we push our kids from morning until evening. They don’t eat properly, they don’t drink enough water and they don’t sleep enough. Electronics are taking over our world and children and teens sit in front of the screen instead of going outside to play. They sit all day at school and have test, after test, after test. They become overloaded with sensory and auditory information. The amount of stress and pressure they experience combined with the lack of nutrition, exercise and sleep has a serious impact on a child or teen’s mood. After years of living with this kind of stress, they usually experience symptoms of anxiety accompanied by panic or sometimes even agoraphobia (fear of leaving the house). In time, the anxiety leads to depression.

Adults also struggle with high stress. Our culture does not encourage us to take time to unwind or destress. Instead, it pushes us to keep going, suck it up and fight through the stress. Half the time we don’t even know we are stressed until
it is too late. Like teens, adults do not eat regularly or nutritiously. They do not sleep enough hours and they do not get enough exercise. Many don’t drink enough water and instead survive off of caffeine or energy drinks to stay awake and energized. Our culture has made it nearly impossible to recognize stress and anxiety because it’s way of dealing with stress is to use some kind of quick fix or substance to numb and relieve it. Addictions have become high among teens and adults for this reason.

Relationships are deeply impacted as a result of the effects that stress has on our mind, body and spirit. Do you know anyone who is struggling with anxiety, depression, mood disorders, or addictions? If you answered yes, then please take a moment to reflect on how their disorders impact their lives, specifically with regard to their relationships. Take a moment to reflect on how their disorder impacts their relationship with you. Anxiety, depression and addiction are family disorders, not just individual ones.

Stress and the Parent/Child Relationship
So what does this have to do with the Parent/Child relationship? Stress has everything to do with it. Children shut down because they get stressed. They retreat to their rooms and their video games or cell phones because they are avoiding being triggered by stress.

Do you ever wonder why your kid is rolling his or her eyes at you? It’s because he/she is shutting down and doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. Why? Because they are stressed or they fear becoming stressed. 
Or do you have a child who is constantly butting heads with you? Why might this happen? The answer is because he/she is stressed, defensive and as a result goes into fight mode to conquer the stress.

I know what you are thinking. You are rolling your eyes saying to yourself, “What the heck does she has to be stressed about? When I was her age….blah, blah, blah.” Yeah, I know, I thought those things before too. But the fact of the matter is that I would never go back to being a teenager. Why? Because I had no choices or control over anything. Being a teenager was hard and today with cell phones, social media and electronics, life for the teenager just got harder.

Finding balance by learning how to manage our stress is a key ingredient to healthy relationships between parents and children. When we live life with balance, we are filled with peace and contentment.

As parents we have a choice with regard to what we do for work, who we surround ourselves with, what we surround our lives with, what we put into our bodies, how we choose to move our bodies, etc. Kids don’t have these choices. Until they are adults, they are expected to follow our lead. And as I grow older and learn more about what it is that children need to become healthy, successful, independent adults, I am learning that children need to learn how to take care of themselves. They need to learn how to listen and honor their intuition and follow where their spirit is being led. Are you raising your children this way or are you feeding off of each other’s stress? Are you guiding your child or are you controlling your child? Are your expectations of your child dictating how you communicate and relate to your child? Are your fears, worries and insecurities triggering stress for you and impacting your ability to make intuitive decisions?

God created each of us for His purpose. He gave every person gifts and skills that they will use to live out their life purpose. Many adults continue to struggle to find the balance between what they want to do and what God wants them to do. In time we begin to recognize that when we adhere to God’s plan for us, our lives become full and blessed and we find peace and contentment even in the midst of distress.

So why do we think it is any different as we raise our children? They are His before they are ours. They too are here for a purpose. As a mother, I’ve come to recognize that my job is not to control my children out of fear that they will go down the wrong path. My job is to teach them how to have a relationship with God so that He can lead them. My part as a parent is the easy one and I am not in control of anything.

Stress impacts our ability to stop and remember this. It implodes us with feelings of fear and worry which are not from God. The rest of this book will help you to better understand why stress gets triggered in our relationships and what we can do to manage it so that we can stay in step with God’s plan for us as parents and how He wants us to guide our children.

Questions for Reflection
Find a quiet space where there are little to no distractions. Take a moment in quiet to reflect on what you just read. When you are ready, answer the following questions in your journal.

  1. Does stress impact you mentally? Explain.
  2. Does stress impact you spiritually? Explain.
  3. How does your body physically respond to stress? Do you fight, flight or freeze in a stressful situation. Give an example.
  4. Does stress affect you emotionally? Explain.
  5. What people, places and situations trigger stress for you?
  6. Do you engage in unhealthy behaviors to help you cope or numb stress? Explain.
  7. How does the way you cope with stress impact your parent/child relationship?

Grief and the Parent/Child Relationship


Proverbs 3: 5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

I think when we hear the word grief, we automatically assume it has something to do with death. I know I used to view grief this way. But I learned that grief does not only occur when we lose someone or something, it also occurs when we experience changes.

In my book RENEWED:  A Mind, Body, Spirit Approach to Self-Renewal, I wrote a chapter about grief and the stages we go through. I explain that we go through this grief process with any kind of change or loss. This process includes the following 5 stages: denial/resistance, anger/blame, bargaining/shame/guilt, sadness/depression and acceptance.

There are two things we grieve when it comes to the parent/child relationship. The first is the changes that occur in our children as they grow older and how grief affects our relationship with them. The second is the expectations we have of them and in our relationship.

Grief and Change
It has been my experience both working with children and being a mother of three that our relationships with our children evolve over time. When our children are little, it is our job as parents to protect, teach and care for them. Our children develop personality traits early in childhood that help us to determine how we parent, but our role as the parent is the same for all children. It is to guide them. This is somewhat easy for us to do because ultimately we are in control of them. It is a time when we instill our values, beliefs and ideas onto them. It is a time when we dictate the schedule of their lives and have control over what they do in their lives.

Around age eleven something begins to shift in our children. Age eleven is when the beginning stages of pre-adolescence begins. At this age children begin to experience a sense of self or identity. They begin to have their own thoughts and feelings about things. They are able to process the meaning of things and make connections between those meanings and their feelings about those meanings.

As the child continues to get older, the boundaries and rules change. There is a shifting that evolves over time in the parent/child relationship when the relationship is healthy.

The explanation for this shifting is the systems theory. Systems theory says that we are one part of the whole and that any change that happens to one will affect the whole. I believe this to be true as children develop. As they evolve through the developmental stages, we too as parents must evolve.

So what does this have to do with grief? Well, as I talked about earlier, we grieve change and loss. As our children evolve into more independent human beings, we too will evolve with them. Evolving is a process that involves going through a series of feelings much like grief. At first we may have difficulty recognizing or even resist the changes our children are going through. We may become triggered by their independence and feel angry when they express thoughts and feelings we don’t understand or agree with. We may bargain with them in order to gain control again. We blame and shame them when they don’t live out our expectations of them. And lastly, we feel sadness and sometimes even depression as we come to realize that they are becoming their own person, rebelling against our desires and wishes for them. Eventually we learn to accept them for who they are and love them no matter what. And when we reach that place of acceptance, we find peace in our relationship with them. They are no longer shut down from us or fighting us.

Grief and Expectations
The second thing we grieve in the parent/child relationship is our expectations. Our expectations come from what we were taught. They are instilled in us through our culture and society. Our teens have expectations of how we will parent them and parents have expectations of how their parenting will turn out. Neither one will be right though.

I can remember envisioning my family before I gave birth to my first son. I envisioned the family from 7th Heaven, you know that cheesy show where there was sunshine and rainbows after every argument. I learned the hard way that in order to be a better mother to my children, I needed to be aware the expectations I have of myself as a mother and of their paths of my children. Having expectations of people, places and things will always lead to disappointment and puts pressure in the relationship.

I believe that every child is different and we need to assess each situation as it comes. The situation that most comes to mind when I think about expectations is grades. Parents have expectations that their teenager will get certain grades. I don’t think there is anything wrong with challenging your child to get those grades if he or she is academically capable of getting them. But often times, these expectations are not even discussed with the teenager. And if they are, many times we are not listening to what they are saying as to why they are not fulfilling those expectations.

I had a teenager I was seeing and she had A’s and B’s on her report card. She was bright and worked hard in school. As she got into high school her grades dropped and she had a harder time keeping up with the expectations in the classroom. She would forget to turn things in and would not get grades for missed assignments. Her parents insisted that she was being lazy. As I started learning more about this client, I decided to recommend some testing. Long story short, we found out that this teenager had a mild learning disability. Her parents were shocked as they had no idea their child was struggling the way she was. They never expected to get the results they got, but once their child received some help, her grades improved and she was back to getting her usual A’s and B’s. The relationship was also restored.

I can’t tell you how many times I have a teenager in my office that is telling me about their struggles and the parent is in denial that there is an issue. They are convinced that their child is being lazy or oppositional. Some even use the excuse that it is a phase instead of taking the time to sit and talk with their child and really listen to what is going on. I too am guilty of having expectations of my children. I expect them to get up in the morning without an attitude, help around the house, go to school, then sports and also maintain friendships. I expect them to be nice to their siblings and respect their parents. I expect them to do this all with a smile. But then I reflect on my own life and realize that I don’t do this all perfectly either and I am a grown adult. As I began to understand what my expectations are of my children and in my family, I experienced grief. Why? Because in order to accept the reality of the things I am expecting, I go through resistance, anger, blame, shame, sadness every time they don’t turn out exactly how I expected them to.

I am not telling you it is bad if you have expectations of your children. I am telling you to be aware of your expectations and be aware that you will grieve if they don’t turn out the way you expect. And during those moments grief you will experience denial, resistance, anger, blame, shame, guilt, sadness resulting in ups and downs with your children.

What You Can Expect
As the parent and child go through the changes in their relationship, it is common for the both the child and parent to feel stress and become reactive to the stress they encounter. This is why you will often see a child shut down or become argumentative or resistant to the parent during these changes. The stress that is triggered comes from the feelings of grief we experience as the child develops and changes and as we are forced to let go of things being exactly the way we expect them to be.

The grief we experience in the ever changing parent/child relationship is a process and it happens over time and in layers. I share this explaination with you to help you understand why you may feel some of the feelings you feel in your relationship with your child. Be compassionate with yourself and with your child as you become more aware of these patterns. Allow yourself to feel these feelings without judgement of yourself or your child.

God gave us feelings for a reason. He also gave us the process of grief, therefore I know it is not bad to feel these things. But what does He want us to do in times of grief? I believe He wants us to lean on Him. And He wants us to teach our children to lean on Him. When we lean on Him, He will guide us and comfort us through our times of grief. He will make our paths straight if we trust and obey His will and desires for us.

Questions for Reflection
Find a quiet space where there are little to no distractions. Take a moment in quiet to reflect on what you just read. When you are ready, answer the following questions in your journal.

  1. Is grief triggering stress in your parent/child relationship
  2. What kinds of changes are happening in your parent/child relationship that are causing grief?
  3. What stages of grief have you experienced in your parent/child relationship? Explain.
  4. Please list your expectations (“should” or “should nots”) that you have for yourself and your teenager. Have you experienced grief with any of these expectations? Explain.

Learning how to feel in a culture that does not want us to is like trying to row a boat against the current. We may rock back and forth and side to side. We may even flip the boat and fall out. But If we persist long and hard enough, the currents will shift and we will eventually make it to shore.
-Katie LaPlant

My Story Part 4

books renewed

Thank you so much for allowing me the time and space to share my journey and experiences with you.  This story is the first part of the book I wrote called, RENEWED.  RENEWED is not only a book, it’s a program that teaches people how to take care of themselves physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally by re-learning how to connect to their inner self.   I want to take a moment to share with you the outcome I’ve experienced as a result of following the RENEWED approach to intuitive living.

I started RENEWED with my story to explain where I came from and what my cultural, societal, family and religious background was like growing up. Like most of you who chose to read this, I grew up not knowing how to take care of my whole self. My inability to live intuitively was the result of the culture and society we live in. That society and culture impacted my grandparents, who projected what they learned onto my parents, who projected what they learned onto me. I had to re-learn how to listen to my inner wisdom and inner self. I had to learn to connect to my intuition. And most importantly, I had to learn how to manage my stress by practicing self-care so that I could stay connected to true self.

So much has changed as a result of relearning how to listen to my mind, body and spirit. The biggest thing I learned was how to have faith in God. During my mini breakdown, when I decided to finally learn how to cope with stress, I was challenged to trust in God. I chose to believe in Him and chose to ask Him for help. As I stated in the beginning of this book, I’ve always believed in God, but I had never truly surrendered my life to Him.

My relationship with God started with a physical and mental problem. I was desperate to feel better; desperate for my anxiety to go away. I was desperate for sleep. I was desperate for peace. I had little energy, but tons of motivation to get well.

Since turning my life over to God and learning how to listen to my intuition so many things have changed. I learned how to accept that life is a process. I may pray for something to be restored or healed, but most of the time, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. I learned how to be grateful for my troubles. I learned how to view my troubles as a chance to learn and grow. I wouldn’t say that I get excited when I have troubles, but I do have peace during my troubles.

Today I can recognize my stress within a matter of hours to a few days. I no longer spend week after week in stress. Today I know that when I start to feel uneasy, then I need to take a step back and assess my path. I still encounter stress and I still encounter depression, but I know that it will pass. I also know that it can be a sign that something in my life is off or needs to change.

When I started to live intuitively, my fears of people and fears of talking went away. I am now writing, blogging and beginning to speak to groups of people. I am leading groups and teaching. These are things I never would have imagined myself doing as they used to cause me a great deal of anxiety. And best of all, today the inner critic does not bother me after I talk in a social setting. I no longer obsess about what I said or didn’t say or about what they think of me. Intuitive living allows me to live for God, therefore, I do not need to be afraid. If God brings me to it, then He will provide the resources I need to get through it.

I learned how to accept my faults and failures and know today that I am not perfect, nor am I expected to be. I know that it is
okay to mess up and I do it a lot and am able to smile during and after my mistakes. Today I know how to laugh; I know how to have a sense of humor.

I also know how to grieve. I know how to recognize expectations and I know how to feel the loss and rejection that comes when my expectations are not met. I no longer run or hide from my problems, nor do I need to get defensive.

I no longer struggle with bulimia. I am learning to fully embrace my body for what it is today. I am intentional each day with physical self-care and I do the best that I can. I continue to struggle with emotional eating at times, but I think everyone does. I am able to remind myself that I am not perfect, so I am not going to eat perfect every day. I am much gentler with myself. I do not restrict food today. I enjoy food to the full. I love food and I love the different seasons in nature and holidays that are included. I enjoy every bit of eating, especially during the fall and winter seasons.

Today I engage in exercise that I enjoy. I love to cycle with my husband, walk my dogs, lift weights and jog on occasion while catching up on my favorite television shows. I do not put the pressure I used to put on myself to overwork my body. I love the movement I do and enjoy my time at the gym, on the bike or in nature with my dogs.

Today I have purpose. I understand that I am here on this earth for a reason. I seek that purpose every day. I understand that it changes and evolves over time. I own my own practice and am building programs that teach people how to take care of themselves. This is one of my favorite changes I’ve encountered. I feel like a butterfly who exploded out of its cocoon. I love my job and feel so blessed to be doing
it. Work brings me a sense of fulfillment and validation. And when I take on too much (which I can do sometimes), I take a step back and regroup by adjusting my schedule.

Today I have friends. I have real friends who care about me. I have friends and family that I know would be there for me if I needed it. But more importantly, I am not dependent on them for happiness nor do I need them to feel good about myself. I have healthy, loving relationships.

I have a church that I absolutely love. I cannot imagine my life without this church. One of the best things I ever took the risk to do was to explore my faith. Today I not only attend church, but I volunteer at my church. I lead at my church. Most importantly, I grow at my church. I am not afraid at my church. I do not feel bad at my church. I have no guilt or shame at my church.

Throughout this journey, God has become the most important part of my life. I used to put my faith in money, relationships and food. But today I know God. Knowing God allows me to live without fear as well as to have freedom from guilt and shame.

My journey has been long and it has been hard. But I would not change one part of my journey. Today I like myself a lot. I am a pretty cool person who does pretty cool things. I could not say that before. My journey has taught me how to let go of some of the hardest things I’ve ever been challenged to let go of. I know I still have a long journey ahead filled with continuous healing and growth, but I have faith and fully believe that I will continue that journey. My life gets better and better and the blessings get bigger and bigger.

There are circumstances and situations I dread in the future to come, mostly having to do with losses of loved ones, because let’s face it, that is never easy. But I know that I have God and I also know that this life is not eternal. I know that I do have an eternal, spiritual life waiting for me when I am done here. This gives me great peace.

RENEWED is a program I’ve developed as a result of my personal and professional experience in working with people who struggle with stress, anxiety, depression, relationships and even addictions. My hope is that it will reach people and help them too. I believe that God has a plan for this program. I believe that He used me to create this to help others. While I have hopes for what will become of this, I know that no matter what happens, God is in control.

My hope in telling you my story is to help you to uncover yours. My guess is that you can relate to some of the feelings I felt and the experiences I went through. To continue reading more about my journey with self-renewal, check out my book, “RENEWED:  A Mind, Body, Spirit Approach to Self-Renewal”.  If you would like to learn more about how I can help you to find peace and balance in your life, please visit my website at www.mindbodyspiritcounseling.net.  To join a RENEWED group or attend an upcoming 5 Week Transformational Workshop, please check out the Events at Mind, Body, Spirit Counseling. 

Peace and blessings,

My Story Part 3

books renewed

Emotional Crisis
Throughout my childbearing years I worked as a clinical
social worker in the Children’s Department of a community mental health center. I was working toward my license part time. It was an amazing experience for me. I
worked in community mental health for ten years. During
those years I met a lot of clients. Some were as young as 5 and some were as old as 19. I could relate to their feelings of anxiety and depression. Because some of them were diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I decided to diagnose myself with bipolar disorder. I can remember sharing with two different therapists that I thought I had bipolar. I don’t think they believed me.

A few years ago, during the time of Tyler’s surgery, I decided to see a psychiatrist to get some psychotropic relief for the anxiety I was feeling. What I really wanted was a pill to stop my compulsive eating. At this point I had given up on ever reaching my pre-baby weight; I just wanted to stay in the overweight category of the BMI (Body Mass Index) scale. The psychiatrist diagnosed me with bipolar disorder and started me on minimal medications that had somewhat of a positive effect for a short period of time. After a few months the medications were increased by the psychiatrist and a year later I was being faced with a taking a second and third drug which was a pretty serious medication.
I was still overweight and completely obsessed with being a size 4 again. The medication wasn’t doing a thing as far as I was concerned. If anything it was causing me to binge eat more. But the doctor insisted that I needed the medication. I told him “Thank you very much but I don’t want it anymore.” I asked for his blessing to help me to wean off the medication. He was very sweet and kind and agreed to help me, but did not agree with my decision. My therapist was worried too. I could see it in her face, but she whole heartedly supported me through the entire process and told me to go with my instinct that was screaming for me to get off these medications. Yes, it was that voice again.
I did wean off the medication. It was complete and utter hell. It took 3-4 months to regain balance in my body, mind and spirit. Once again, I cannot believe my husband stayed with me through it all. I was an absolute mess through the whole process. I had severe panic and anxiety accompanied by insomnia for three months. I almost caved in and took a medication for the insomnia, but fought through it. This period of my life made the most impact on me. Surrendering to that experience truly changed my life forever. During that time I questioned everything I learned about mental health, physical health and spiritual health. It was my moment of complete surrender.

Finding Balance
Through that experience I developed a relationship with my aunt who was learning how to be a yoga teacher. She taught me how to breathe and how to connect with my body. She also taught me some gentle yoga postures to help me relax. I could only do these things for about two minutes at first. My mind would race, my heart would pound and I needed to get up and move. I felt like I could not breathe.
That summer I met two holistic nurse practitioners. One introduced me to vitamins that helped with anxiety and sleep. The other helped me learn about how food affected my mental health. She encouraged me to try an elimination diet for a few weeks. I was so desperate to feel better that I did it. I cut every single processed food, dairy, sugar, caffeine and gluten out of my diet for four weeks. Then I slowly added foods back in. It was the start of learning how to listen to my body.
I could not believe how sensitive my body was as I added the foods back in. I got headaches from certain foods and I noticed body pains from others. I noticed gas, bloating and digestive issues. It was eye opening. I didn’t stay on a clean diet for long because the desire to compulsively eat was stronger. Shortly after, I went back to my old ways of compulsive eating. I think I even purged a few times that year which was something I hadn‘t done since before I had children. But, I knew I was on the right path because I was sleeping better and feeling better.
That Fall I went on my first retreat to Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. It was a terrifying, but life changing experience. I took a workshop on anxiety that weekend and learned about the inner critic voice in our heads. I began to implement what I learned into my life. Being at Kripalu healed my anxiety. Overcoming my fears and trying new things, talking in small groups with people I didn’t know, crying in front of others, eating healthy food and practicing breathing and yoga techniques for the weekend all changed my life.
At Kripalu I learned how to take care of myself and more importantly why I need to take care of myself. I learned that weekend that I need to put myself first. So I began to do it. That year many things changed. I developed a very close relationship with God. My relationships with friends changed. I could not take care of my friends anymore because I did not have the physical or mental energy. I learned how to ask and accept help. I was not used to this and it was a challenge for me to accept help from others. But that voice and feeling in my heart told me that if I wanted to get better, then something needed to change.
Little by little my need to please others disappeared. Fear of people, criticism and judgment slowly faded. I opened a small private practice that grew quickly and left my job of almost 10 years. I lost friends in the process and fought with family that year, but I healed. All through this I continued to use food to cope with my feelings.
I recently decided to face the next challenge…my biggest challenge…my eating disorder. I call it my cross. My eating disorder has always been the cross I bear. I tried every diet out there. I tried Overeaters Anonymous and just recently was talked into trying a very expensive shake diet. I did lose weight for about 2 weeks, but gained 15 pounds back. I finally decided I needed to look at why I gained 15 pounds after all I had been through and all I had learned.
As my spiritual practices continued, the answers became clear as to why I was putting on the weight. About two years ago I lost a good friend. I considered her my best friend because she knew the deepest and darkest things about me. I shared my whole self with her. We shared our spiritual beliefs, our fears and our worries. She was my neighbor and dear friend. Our kids were friends and our husbands were friends. We vacationed together and even decided to do some spiritual healing work together. One day during her journey of growth she decided that she no longer wanted to be in a friendship with me. She refused to tell me why and abandoned the friendship without giving me a clear reason.
I tried several times to reach her, but failed. I spent two years of my life struggling with understanding why and how she could just get up and leave. I wondered why and how she could spend time with other women, but wanted nothing to do with me after all we had shared together. I questioned why I was so unlovable. I asked her for forgiveness; not understanding why I needed to be forgiven. I gave her the space she needed to figure things out.
I gained about 20 pounds while grieving the loss of our friendship. I became embarrassed and ashamed when I would run into her and drive by her house because it was noticeable that I was struggling with food by the amount of weight I gained. I wanted to hide. I knew it was time to go back to Kripalu for healing. I found a workshop by Geneen Roth on her latest book “Women, Food and God”. I felt that intuitive feeling again, so I bought the book, read it and began the process of implementing her principles and guidelines into my life. But, I gained a few more pounds.
Something inside me pulled at me to not give up and keep learning and going. I knew I had no other choice. Every single attempt to lose weight failed. So I did. I attended her workshop which was the most amazing of them all. She taught us about intuitive eating which is the process of listening to our mind, body and spirit regarding eating. I continue today with the process of intuitive eating. What does it feel like eating? Am I mentally hungry or physically hungry? Recognizing when I am full has been the biggest challenge of all. The process of intuitive eating led to my lifestyle of intuitive living.
True Surrender
It has been about a year and a half since attending that workshop and starting an intuitive living lifestyle. So much has changed for me. What started out as learning how to listen to my body, turned into listening to my body, mind and spirit. They are all part of the whole. I wrote my first book after that workshop. It was intended as a coaching tool for clients to help them begin to dialogue and process their food journey. That book evolved into this program.

My spiritual life grew quickly after that workshop. I started doing things I would have never done before. Once I could feel what was going on inside me, I could begin to listen. Soon after I learned how to listen, I started to take risks and began obeying my intuition. I learned one very simple thing; if I take the risk and obey my intuition, then I will not fail. But if I ignore it; then I will become anxious, imbalanced and eventually depressed.

I still encounter daily challenges. I mean come on now, I am a wife and mother of three very busy children. All three children have their challenges. I am constantly battling the education system which can be very stressful. My kids are involved in karate, hockey and football which involve a very busy practice and game schedule. I have two puppies I am trying to train which has been very overwhelming. I am a small business owner and I am in the process of writing this program so I can share it with many others. And I am very involved in my church. Life still gets overwhelming, but today I know how to recognize when I am stressed and I know what to do to re-balance myself before it turns into a chronic anxiety or depression.

Click here to read “My Story Part 4″….

My hope in telling you my story is to help you to uncover yours. My guess is that you can relate to some of the feelings I felt and the experiences I went through. To continue reading more about my journey with self-renewal, check out my book, “RENEWED:  A Mind, Body, Spirit Approach to Self-Renewal”.  If you would like to learn more about how I can help you to find peace and balance in your life, please visit my website at www.mindbodyspiritcounseling.net.  To join a RENEWED group or attend an upcoming 5 Week Transformational Workshop, please check out the Events at Mind, Body, Spirit Counseling. 

My Story Part 2

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I graduated in the year 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and moved back home. That summer was a nightmare. My weight reached the lowest I’d ever been. Clothes were falling off of me. I think my parents were worried and felt helpless because they did not understand my disorder. For so long I wanted to stand out, but I can clearly remember the anxiety I felt when my parents started confronting me about my weight loss. It all finally came out and I openly said the word eating disorder out loud to them. It was as if they didn’t know I had one. They asked a few questions. You could see the anxiety in my mother. It radiated out of her. She immediately became defensive as if it was her fault that I developed an eating disorder.
That summer, questions were asked. I was grateful they were interested and happy they were trying to understand. But I felt like they did not like the answers I gave as to how I developed the eating disorder or why.

The energy in my house became unhealthy and I knew it. Intuitively I knew I needed to look for a “big girl” job so I could move out, so I applied for a counselor job at a psychiatric hospital on the children’s floor. That fall I moved into a single bedroom apartment alone. It was the best two years I’d ever had!

I loved living on my own. Because of how my parent’s raised me and the skills they taught me, I did well on my own. I worked full time and paid my bills. I loved working at the hospital with the kids. I was good at it and I felt like I was making a difference and giving back in some way. I learned so much during those two years.

Steve and I were engaged that year. He is an amazing man. He is kind and caring and would do absolutely anything to make me happy. Isn’t that the perfect man? I thought it was, until slowly I began to learn that he had a binge drinking problem. I can remember
cursing the classes I was taking at the time because I knew it was those classes that taught me this. I remember at one point swearing I didn’t want to learn anymore because the more I learned; the more it tore my life apart.

But something inside of me pulled at me to keep going. I learned more and more about binge drinking and binge eating. Soon they became intertwined. They seemed so similar.
I began to confront my husband about his drinking which caused problems in our relationship. I remember the day I told him that he needed to make a decision; binge drinking or me. It was devastating. I remember driving to a meeting that day sobbing and feeling completely hopeless and scared. Yet in the
bottom of my chest; deep inside my heart, I knew that I was going to be okay and that I was doing the right thing.

What the heck was that feeling though? I had no idea. However, I knew it was comforting and bright; warm and good.

I finally got to the meeting where they were talking about codependency. I can remember thinking, “Are you kidding me?” So I did what I always did when I learned a new word. First I researched it online, and then I went to the book store. The bookstore is one of my favorite places. We have a love/hate relationship. Education was the key to freedom, but it was also the key to my pain. The more I learned, the more I lost, or so I thought.

Learning about codependency changed my life. I began to learn that I cannot change or fix those around me; I can only change and fix myself. My relationship with my husband got much better once I stopped trying to control him. This change did not happen overnight. It took several years. But once again, there was a strong feeling in my heart that told me our relationship was worth it. So I listened to it once more and stayed in the relationship.
During this entire process I went through a period where I felt like I lost my family for a few years. I didn’t physically lose them, but emotionally I felt detached from them. Today I work with a lot of young adults and have learned that detaching is part of the normal process of becoming an independent adult. I just did not know how to do it in a healthy way. There was a lot of pain that came up while processing my childhood. There was so much anger and grief. Unfortunately my parents were not able to understand my feelings or this process. I can actually remember my grandmother telling me to “Stop reading so much!” My grandmother was a religious person, but far from a spiritual person. She used the name of God and Jesus to punish and shame me. This did not help at all. It just made me feel scared, ashamed and guilty.
I married Steve in 2002. My parents were so supportive and helped us to have the most beautiful wedding. My relationship with my family got much better, but my eating disorder continued. It got really bad through my first few years of marriage. But let me tell you, I looked amazing! I was probably the most miserable I’d ever been. We went to Hawaii for our honeymoon and I can remember sitting down with the travel agent to book the trip. The entire trip we planned revolved around where I was going to eat and if the hotel had a gym. At this time in my life I developed full blown OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) with food and my body. Meal times would cause panic and anxiety unless I had complete control over where we went and what we ate. I don’t remember how long this part of my life lasted, but my husband will tell you it was the most miserable. He was a people pleaser and would never challenge me or tell me how he was feeling. He simply went along for the ride.
I started graduate school in 2002. Keeping up with my eating disorder was not as easy. I could not exercise as much as I wanted due to time constraints. Because I was married and had my husband’s income, I was able to buy more of the foods I wanted. So overeating became easier. Also, there was more stress with trying to balance graduate work and my feelings of anxiety and depression. I became pregnant as planned with our first child in 2003. This was a very challenging and emotional time. I could not vomit, I could not use laxatives or diet pills and I was so big that over exercising was not an option. I was a mess.
I had my first son, Dylan in 2004. I began planning my diet for how I was going to lose the baby weight before he was even born. I did manage to lose most of the weight through Weight Watchers and exercise. But I can remember obsessing and feeling completely miserable through the whole thing; shaming and beating myself up for months and months. I really didn’t know any other way. It was the way I treated myself since I was seven or eight. Dylan was born with some minor challenges. He had sensory integration challenges at an early age. He wanted to be held constantly. He struggled with keeping clothing on, loud noises stressed him out, and he began having fears, phobias and night terrors by 9 months old. His first word was “dirty”. We thought it was cute at the time, but I knew “dirty” was not exactly a typical first word. That was the start of mothering a son with anxiety and OCD. But despite my education and personal experiences, I had no idea what was going on with him.
I got pregnant with my daughter, Hailey quickly after Dylan was born. She was rushed out of my arms at birth because she would randomly stop breathing. She was immediately taken that evening to Boston Children’s Hospital where she lived for the first two weeks of her life. Those two weeks were a blur. I don’t remember much about it except that I looked and felt like total crap. I also remember that food was still on my mind. My daughter was in the NICU at Boston Children’s Hospital and I did not miss one meal. In fact, I loved being there because they had these amazing chocolate chip cookies that were the size of my head. I ate one every day. I began to love hospitals after that because of those cookies. Little did I know that I would be spending much more time in them with my third child.
Hailey came home after 2 weeks with a prescription of caffeine and a heart monitor. The monitor would go off if she stopped breathing. We were instructed to conduct CPR after calling 911 if the monitor went off. This definitely raised my anxiety levels to an all-time high. But I didn’t really have a say in the situation. I was in complete survival mode, so I just went along with it and made sure to eat whenever I could to numb the feelings. For some reason that always helped.
Hailey slept in the bassinet beside my bed for three months. I was so exhausted one evening that I slept through the heart monitor alarm. My husband came running up more concerned about me because I did not wake up. And let me tell you that alarm is absolutely ear piercing. At three months old she was cleared of her sleep apnea.
We made it through the three months of Hailey’s sleep apnea and one RSV pneumonia hospitalization. Still in survival mode, I continued to make it through each day using food as my comfort. Dropping the baby weight was much harder at this point and I never made it down to my pre-baby weight. I did however; find a way to continue to make my way to the gym each day because the pain and guilt of not exercising was just too much to bear.
I got pregnant with Tyler in 2006 and he was born in August 2007. All I can say is OH MY GOSH! I thought I had seen it all. I had a three year old who was afraid to get dirty, touch anything, sleep alone, be in public places and wanted nothing to do with boy toys which is another story for another day. I got through the three months of apnea and one pneumonia hospitalization with Hailey. But then, Tyler was born. All of my children have changed me in some way, but my experience with Tyler changed me the most.
Tyler cried the minute he came into the world and didn’t stop for two years. He was my only child who had to sleep in the nursery at the hospital because I just couldn’t do anything to make him comfortable. Tyler was a very sick little boy. He had trouble swallowing and breathing and would often times choke on his own saliva. He developed nine pneumonias in four years that we know of and was hospitalized twice. I can remember once again feeling that feeling in my heart and hearing that voice in my head that would say, “Something is wrong!” I will not go into detail, but I went through years of constant confusion and questioning.
I read so much information online about what he was experiencing, but could not find someone to listen to me and help him. His doctor made me feel crazy even though I knew I wasn’t. I learned things about children no parent should have to learn unless they are a pediatrician or nurse. I can remember one time right before Tyler’s second hospitalization that I was told not to bring him back to the doctor office until it had been three days. On the second day he passed out at home from coughing. He was running a high fever for seven days and was struggling to keep his eyes open. I called the office and told them that if they would not see him, then I would call 911. They told me to bring him in and we saw a different doctor who was so concerned that she rushed him over to the hospital where he laid for two more days with yet another pneumonia.
I fought the fear to people please and decided to fire his doctor and see the doctor who took care of him during this hospital stay. We have been with her ever since. She listened to me and referred Tyler to several specialists. Long story short, that voice inside my head was right. There was something very wrong. Tyler was diagnosed with a laryngeal cleft that caused him to aspirate liquids and food causing his recurrent pneumonias and illness. It was repaired and he is doing very well. Tyler was also diagnosed with other developmental issues such as verbal apraxia and sensory processing disorder. We were able to get him help for these issues and he is functioning quite well in 3rd grade.

Click here to read “My Story Part 3″….

My hope in telling you my story is to help you to uncover yours. My guess is that you can relate to some of the feelings I felt and the experiences I went through. To continue reading more about my journey with self-renewal, check out my book, “RENEWED:  A Mind, Body, Spirit Approach to Self-Renewal”.  If you would like to learn more about how I can help you to find peace and balance in your life, please visit my website at www.mindbodyspiritcounseling.net.  To join a RENEWED group or attend an upcoming 5 Week Transformational Workshop, please check out the Events at Mind, Body, Spirit Counseling. 

My Story Part 1

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Do not let your past define who you are today, but allow it to help you to better understand who you want to be tomorrow.
Like so many of you, my story starts at a young age. I was a very insecure and fearful little girl. I was raised in a home with my mother, father and two sisters. I was a middle child. My mother is a wonderful and caring woman who worked part-time as a registered nurse. She is an incredibly hard worker with a giant heart for people.

My father is a positive and happy man. He too is a very hard worker. My father became a successful business owner by taking a risk, leaving a job he was not happy in and opening a business of his own. He was rarely home, but when he was it was nice.

My parents were caring parents. They were very supportive of me and encouraged my education, my athletics, and me becoming an independent woman. They raised my sisters and me to become responsible young women, with a strong set of morals and values. Overall, they were very successful parents; the kind of
success I hope to achieve as a parent one day. I had a good relationship with my mother growing up and she is my best friend today. I have a father who I admire and respect and am able to have great conversations with today. I am who I am because of my parents. I learned what I learned because of my parents and today my parents are two of my greatest supports and encouragement.

Another person who greatly impacted my childhood was my grandmother. She was 100% Greek, was loud and loved food. She died in her seventies and suffered many medical conditions including obesity. She triggered a lot of my anxiety growing up. She was very rigid with her thinking. She was emotionally abusive and sometimes even physically. Her expectations of children were completely irrational. She controlled my mother; therefore, she controlled me.

I was afraid of my grandmother. I grew up secretly in fear. I was too afraid to talk about it; therefore, I did not allow myself to feel it. I began to numb my feelings and blocked everything out mostly with food. I started having panic attacks and anxiety by age 7 or 8. I would lie in bed the night before having to see my grandmother and I would panic and cry. My feelings were never validated and I was not taught how to cope with them. I was just told to stop feeling it.

Looking back into my childhood I can see now that I struggled with so many things. I was a sensitive child who was abnormally uncomfortable in loud and busy environments. I can also see now that I was very intuitive. I could and still can sense feelings and
emotions from peoples’ faces, body language and energy; things that most people can’t sense. This sensitivity contributed to me being anxious around people, places and things that were unknown. It also made it very hard to watch the way my mother was treated by my grandmother.

I learned at a young age to ignore my feelings. Like many of you, I learned to feel shame, guilt, fear and insecurity. I learned at a young age to become controlling to protect myself from being emotionally and physically hurt. I developed obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and social phobia by middle school. I will talk more about all of this in the next few chapters.

The interesting thing about my social phobia was that I was was extrovert with social phobia. I loved people and craved connection in relationships and fun, but inside I feared rejection and shame. I learned to use my extrovert personality to mask my anxiety. To this day people tell me they never would have guessed that I struggle with anxiety or social phobia.

By age 8 I began using food to mask and comfort my emotions. My eating disorder started out as overeating and comfort eating that quickly grew into binge eating. I was overweight by age 9 which impacted my body image and self- esteem. By age 11 I was dieting and restricting food and by age 15 using
laxatives and diet pills. At age 19 my eating disorder turned into full blown bulimia where I binged on food and purged it with exercise, diet pills and vomiting. I hated how I looked and how I felt. Today I can see that my eating disorder was triggered by my
OCD thinking. My OCD thinking was triggered by my social anxiety and generalized anxiety. It’s no wonder I struggled in and out of depression my whole life. The anxiety was just too much to handle.

I struggled in school socially. I did not struggle to make friends, but I struggled to keep them. I had difficulty trusting people, so I talked about them. I feared rejection, so I stayed emotionally as far away from them as I could. I became so anxious around people that I sat far away from my friends in class. I was still able to mask my anxiety and nobody ever knew.
High School/College
My teen years and twenties were an absolute mess which is where some personality stuff comes in. I learned to behave a certain way to get my needs met. Sometimes this meant seeking attention from others by lying and manipulating or even dressing a certain way. Sometimes it meant making a bigger deal out of something than it really was to get attention. I did not do these things to hurt others; I did them because I was hurting.

I met my husband Steve in high school. We were 15 years old. I couldn’t resist his cute smile and “Z. Cavaricci” pants. Plus he always had gum and bought me lots of food. I was a food addict so this worked very well for me. On a serious note, we fell in love freshman year of high school and spent the next four years together. Steve was and still is very good to me. I love him very much, but there was also a part of me that stayed in this relationship because it was comfortable. I feared men and talking to boys. My social anxiety kept me from being able to communicate with others. I hated myself and felt unworthy. I think part of me feared first dates and talking which made it very easy to stay in the relationship with Steve.

Steve and I parted ways our first year of college. That is when life really fell apart. I turned to partying, alcohol and sex to calm my social anxiety. I didn’t know how I felt and I certainly didn’t know how to deal with it. I just knew I didn’t want to feel it anymore. Drinking alcohol allowed me to let loose. Unfortunately I can’t say it allowed me to be myself because I was acting nothing like myself. Like food, I lost control when I drank alcohol. I did not know my limits and I drank way too much. I threw myself at whoever would give me attention. I was an active bulimic who hated herself. To this day I believe that I was in survival mode, desperately trying to make it in a world that I did not understand at all.

I got back together with Steve at age 20. I was in my third year of college at the University of New Hampshire. I was studying psychology. My goal was to become a clinical mental health counselor and own my own private practice one day. I was learning about addiction that year. That is when I realized I had a problem. I can remember it so vividly. I was taking a class on “Dysfunctional Family Therapy”. We watched a movie about an alcoholic father and our teacher taught us about the family systems theory. He taught us about what it means to be dysfunctional; he taught us the roles and stages of change in a family system. As I read the course material and watched the movies he showed, my affect got flatter and flatter. My mood got more depressed and eventually my eyes were opened and my denial was lifted. At age 20, in the middle of my junior year of college, my life came crashing down.

I met with my professor briefly that year to ask some questions about what he was teaching. I rarely spoke to men unless I was drunk because they intimidated me. But I was desperate to learn more and he was the only person who was able to break through my thick denial. I remember telling him about the feelings I experienced growing up in my home. I told him about the roles that we were playing out in my family and how it all made sense after watching the movie he showed.

For the first time, I cried. And I don’t mean I cried because I was hurt. I mean, I cried because I was devastated. I thought my family was perfect. That moment was the beginning of a long recovery. That moment was the beginning of the 15 years of grief that I was about to endure. That moment was the beginning of my spiritual journey.

My eating disorder became extremely compulsive that year. I was obsessive about what I ate and compulsively purged it. I would workout with fevers and no sleep. I lost weight and was praised for it by family and friends. On the outside I looked like a new person, but on the inside I was dying. On the eve of my 21st birthday the best and worst thing happened. I binge drank that night. I drank shot after shot until I was so intoxicated that Steve had to call 911. I was non-responsive to the world. After a terrifying ambulance ride to the hospital, I am grateful to say that I recovered; well, physically that is.

Four weeks later, I received a letter in the mail. It was my discharge summary. At the bottom was a recommendation for me to see a therapist. It made no sense to me at the time. I still didn’t get the big picture. I needed help, but I could not see it. I went to the University’s Counseling Center. They immediately sent me outside of the school for help. At the time I did not understand why, but now I can see that the issues I was dealing with were not academic. They were personal and they were much more complex and serious than the school counselor could handle.

That spring I started therapy with my first therapist. Her name was Jodi. She was sweet, kind and gentle. So much came to light for me. By working with Jodi in therapy, I was able to gain insight on my issues of anxiety and began to learn about how it impacted my eating disorder. I also disclosed another dark secret that spring; it was the first time I talked about the impact of being molested by a family friend.

I went home that summer and binged, purged and exercised my way through it. With my education as a resource, little things began to make sense. My family dysfunction became clearer. Only this dysfunction did not only exist in my family, but it also existed in my relationship with Steve.

I started a Twelve Step program that year. And it was not because it was suggested by my therapist. It was actually an assignment I was given my junior year of college during a class I was taking called, “Alcoholism and Addictions”. We were required to attend six AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings to learn more about addiction.
I love telling the story about my first meeting. I will never forget it. I showed up with a bag of chocolate chips to listen to addicts talk about their addiction to alcohol. I laugh every time I think about it. In all seriousness, there was something I fell in love with during those meetings. There was a presence there that was unexplainable. It was something I felt deep within my heart. I had a lot of social anxiety, so talking with others out loud in a group was not my thing. But I continued to go back because of the strong presence and connection I felt in the room. It was that year that I learned about a Higher Power whom I choose to call God. It was that moment of my life that I began a spiritual journey and the Twelve Steps became the foundation of my faith. So I was now seeing a therapist and attending Twelve Step meetings thinking to myself, “Man oh man, I am messed up”.

Click here for part 2…

My hope in telling you my story is to help you to uncover yours. My guess is that you can relate to some of the feelings I felt and the experiences I went through. To continue reading more about my journey with self-renewal, check out my book, “RENEWED:  A Mind, Body, Spirit Approach to Self-Renewal”.  If you would like to learn more about how I can help you to find peace and balance in your life, please visit my website at www.mindbodyspiritcounseling.net.  To join a RENEWED group or attend an upcoming 5 Week Transformational Workshop, please check out the Events at Mind, Body, Spirit Counseling. 

10-Day Intuitive Eating Challenge

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What is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive Eating is about re-learning how to listen to your body’s internal cues when it comes to hunger, fullness and satisfaction. It is about letting go of old restrictive ways of thinking and eating. The only thing that is eliminated with intuitive eating is dieting. Intuitive Eating is not a free ticket to fill your body with junk. It is about re-learning to eat like a child who eats when they are hungry, stops when they are full and eats a variety of foods both healthy and unhealthy without shame or guilt.

What is the 10-Day Challenge?

The 10-Day Challenge is about making the commitment to practice the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating for 10 days. My thought process in creating this challenge is to provide tools to help you be successful in meeting your intuitive eating goals, support along the way with others who are rediscovering their internal cues with regard to eating and to inspire you to practice the 10 Principles because they work! By the end of the challenge you will be able to feel your body better and will be able to have a better understanding of how to implement a hunger, fullness and satiety scale into your day. You will be able to see the benefits of daily intention and gratitude and you will be able to have more self-acceptance and self-compassion. Intuitive Eating is about finding balance and really listening to your body. It requires you to let go of the many distractions that prohibit you from reaching your goals and lead you to emotional and unconscious eating. This 10-Day Challenge does not require you to restrict any foods. Infact, it encourages you to add “play foods” to your day which will show you that you can stop when you are full when you are truly listening and honoring your intuition.

What are the guidelines of the 10-Day Challenge?

The 10-Day Challenge has 10 simple guidelines that will help you to implement the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating. You will begin by making a list of healthy foods/meals and “play foods” that you would like to eat for the 10 Days. You will go out and buy these foods and prepare them for the 10 days. You are not restricted to this list. Instead, the list is simply a tool that will help you to prepare your meals in advance and plan your snacks in advance so that you can grab them when you reach your body’s hunger cues.

For 10 days you will ADD the following:

1. More Real Foods (Juice+ Trio Capsules and 1-2 Complete Shakes are recommended).
Principles One and Ten are about eliminating diets and feeding your body foods that nourish it and make it feel good, strong and healthy. Diets lead to overeating, diet backlash and keeps us feeling trapped in our heads. Gentle nutrition is about picking foods we enjoy that will help our body to feel stronger and healthier and work to their optimal level. Juice+ trio capsules and Complete Shakes are recommended, but are not required to do this challenge. Juice+ Trio Capsules are dehydrated fruits and veggies that are a great addition to your daily food intake. Being a busy hockey mom and professional career woman, I found it difficult to incorporate the amount of fruits and veggies into my day. I was introduced to Juice+ by a friend who is a health coach and heard many great things about it. It has also been recommended to several clients of mine by their health care professionals including naturopathic doctors. Plus with every adult purchase, your child gets Juice+ gummies for FREE as a participant in the Child Health Study. What I like about Juice+ is that there is no “diet” that goes with it in order for the capsules to be effective. The shakes are delicious too and are a great meal replacement or snack replacement that will leave you feeling healthy and strong. Each day I will post a new shake recipe (i.e., Blueberry Muffin Smoothie, Mint Chocolate Chip Smoothie, Chocolate Almond Cherry Chip Smoothie, Pumpkin Pie Smoothie, Apple Crisp Smoothie, Pina Colada Smoothie, Carrot Cake Smoothie, Peach Cobbler Smoothie, Rasberry Chip Smoothie & Chunky Monkey Smoothie). It was never my intention to incorporate Juice+ into my Intuitive Eating journey, but it is something I have been adding to my daily intake of vitamins and minerals and I am finding that I have less cravings for junk foods and they leave me feeling satisfied and full longer:) During this challenge, I recommend 1-2 shakes a day. The goal is to add more nutrition and keep you feeling more satisfied and full throughout the day. You will only add what you intuitively feel called to add.
2. Play Foods.
Principles Three, Four and Six address eating foods that we enjoy, making peace with all foods and allowing ourselves to incorporate “play foods” into our daily intake of food. Research has shown that when we allow ourselves to make peace with the food we’ve deemed as “ bad” or “unhealthy” we are less likely to overeat them and more likely to honor our hunger and fullness with regard to all foods. By making peace with food and allowing “play foods” we feel satisfied each day and are less likely to “give up” on trying to eat healthy foods. We are more accepting and compassionate with ourselves. You will be encouraged to ADD several “play foods” into your 10-Day Challenge. For example, if you are craving chips, then you will be encouraged to ADD some chips to a meal. If you are craving ice cream, then you will be encouraged to ADD ice cream for a snack one day or even a meal. If you allow yourself these foods on a regular basis and take the shame out of them, then YOU WILL find that you can stop eating them and may even find that you do not want them as much as you thought you did.
3. Satisfaction Discovery Tool.
Principles two, five and six are about re-learning how to listen to our body’s natural cues with regard to hunger, fullness and satisfaction. Research suggests that when we honor our hunger, stop when we are full and eat foods that satisfy our cravings that we are less likely to overeat and more likely to find our body’s natural weight. Using this tool will also help many to be able to re-discover their internal cues as they may have gotten lost from all the overeating, dieting and restricting we’ve done in our lives. The Satisfaction Discovery Tool is the tool used to assess hunger, fullness and satisfaction with your meals and snacks. By practicing utilizing this tool for 10 days, you will learn firsthand, the benefits of assessing hunger, fullness and satisfaction at each meal. You will be equipped with this tool at the start of this challenge and encouraged to utilize it throughout each day when you eat. Again, you do not have to do this perfectly.
4. 30 Minutes of Movement.
Principle nine talks about how exercise can improve overall functioning. You will be encouraged to get rid of old ways of thinking with regard to exercise and you will be encouraged to explore intuitive movement for 10 days. Intuitive movement is movement that YOUR body is craving. A 23 year old gymnast is going to crave much different movement than a 54 year old woman. You will be encouraged to try new activities and rate your movement to help determine what kind of activity you enjoy. Once you’ve determined your movement or movements of choice, then you will be encouraged to incorporate at least 30 minutes into each day. Movement may range from walking or jogging on a treadmill to taking the stairs instead of the elevator. It may include swimming in a pool, cleaning your house or doing yard work. There are all types of different movement we can incorporate into our day that will help our hearts to be healthier, our minds to be more focused and our bodies to feel more energized.

5. 8-10 Glasses of Water.
Need I say more? Principle 10 addresses gentle nutrition which includes proper hydration that aids the body in being able to flush toxins and digest the foods you are eating properly. You will be encouraged to drink water throughout the day for 10 days just to help your body to feel the impact of proper hydration. When you are done the challenge you are welcome to go back to old ways, but I promise you will notice the difference you feel as a result of proper hydration.
6. 7-8 Hours of Sleep.
I know…I know. This one is going to be the toughest. Principles seven and ten talk about honoring your feelings and honoring your health. How do we expect ourselves to feel good emotionally if we are tired and groggy from a poor nights sleep? Research shows that we need at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night to be able to function and perform at our optimal levels. Many of us struggle with getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night. We live in an extremely overly scheduled and committed culture and we struggle to get all the things we want to do or need to do in one day. So for 10 days I challenge you to plan for 7-8 hours of sleep. If you don’t fall asleep that is okay. The important thing is that you are resting your body, mind and spirit for 7-8 hours which also allows our bodies the quiet time it needs to digest properly.
7. 10 Minutes of Meditation.
Meditation has been proven to change the brain and reduce overall stress, anxiety and depression. Did you know that it has been proven to be just as effective, if not then more effective than taking psychotropic medications for anxiety, depression and mood disorders, only without the side effects? Many of us struggle with the long-term impacts that stress has on our body, mind and spirit. For 10 days you will be encouraged to listen to a 5 minute morning meditation and a 5 minute evening meditation. I will provide you will video meditations (they may even be live if I have the courage) each day that will help you to set daily intentions and goals that are directly related to your intuitive eating journey.

For 10 Days you will ELIMINATE the following:

1.  Diets.
For many, diets lead to weight gain. Diets mess with our minds, control our thinking, lead to shame and guilt and in the end, for many, diets lead to weight gain and for some they lead to disordered eating. For 10 days, you will eliminate all rules and knowledge with regard to food, weight loss and diets. For 10 days, you will practice being grateful in the body that you have that gets you from A to B and you will work on conquering your inner critic bully that tells you that you need to lose weight. For 10 days you will be free from the diet mentally and be free to eat whatever foods your body wants while practicing the principles of Intuitive Eating. But keep in mind that Principle Ten is to honor your health with gentle nutrition. So again, Intuitive Eating is not a free ticket to binge eat or splurge on “play foods”.

2. Expectations.
For 10 days you will let go of any expectations you have with regard to Intuitive Eating. I know you are confused because I told you what you can expect to gain from this experience. But for 10 days you will free your mind from expectations of weight loss, expectations of becoming a perfectly clean eater and for some, expectations of failure. For 10 days you will let go of rules and expectations with regard to when and what to eat. You will live moment by moment and you will practice asking yourself if you are hungry, if you are full and if you feel satisfied. And if the answer at the end of your meal is no, then you will ask yourself what it is that you need to eat and how much in order to reach those goals.

3. Scales.
For 10 days you WILL NOT get on the scale. You will commit to 10 days of freedom from the number on the scale. The scale has been one of my biggest enemies. It defined me and impacted what I ate and how much I ate. If I lost a few pounds, then I felt like I could give myself permission to “celebrate” or my head would tell me that I had plenty of room to eat what I wanted and in turn I would over consume food as a reward. If I gained weight, then I became extremely anxious and would over-consume food to calm my anxiety. This is not intuitive at all. So for 10 days, put away the scale.

Juice+ and Complete Shakes
To learn more or order your Juice+ Trio Capsules or Complete Shakes, go to www.mindbodyspiritcounseling.net and click on Juice+. You can read my testimony and click on the link to order your Juice+ today. If you are interested in FREE Juice+ gummies for your child, please contact me for details on how you can join the Child Health Study.

***If you are interested in joining a 10-Day Intuitive Eating Challenge, please join the Intuitive Eating Support Group NH on Facebook.  There I will provide you will all the information you need to get started as well as your 10 days of smoothie recipes and 10 days of morning and evening meditations.

For more information on Intuitive Eating or to see a list of the 10 Principles go to intuitiveeating.org.

 Peace and blessings,

Katie LaPlant, LICSW

How to Discover Purpose and Meaning in Your Life and What You Need to Put it into Action


Every Spring I go on a self-exploration and transformation retreat for 3 days.  This year I attended a workshop on how to create transformational workshops.  The purpose of this weekend was not only to rejuvenate, but also to help ignite my fire that would hopefully inspire my next project of putting RENEWED: A Mind, Body, Spirit Approach to Self-Renewal into a 3 day transformational workshop for clients.  My intention for the weekend was to leave with knowledge on how to structure my workshop and how to relay 15 chapters of information from my book to my participants in a 3 day time period without overwhelming or boring them.  So what does this have to do with you finding your purpose?  Bear with me a moment and I will explain.

Chapter 13 in my book talks about discovering our purposes and meanings in life.  I break it down into 3 different life purposes (Universal Purpose, Communal Purpose and Personal Purpose) and use the 5 W’s and 1 H (who, when, where, what, why and how) to help readers to discover their life purposes.

Our Universal Purpose is all the same and answers the what; it is to matter in this world and to those around us.  But our Communal and Personal Purposes are different.  Our Communal Purpose is the who, when and where we matter to.  Our Personal Purpose is the why and how.  It answers the questions of what gifts we will use to matter, where we got those gifts, why we use them and how we use them.  I explain that we can have one purpose or multiple purposes and that those purposes can evolve over time.

So let me get to the point of what I discovered last weekend and see if it can help you to uncover your life purposes.

I spent the first two days in this workshop struggling to figure out why I was there.   It started out pretty weird.  There were five leaders and they had us participate in some pretty uncomfortable and different activities that broke social norms.  They were activities that brought about group cohesion, comfort and safety through movement, music, meditation, laughter, drawing, storytelling, sharing, touching, etc.  You heard me…TOUCHING.  No, it was’t some perverse activity that we did.  It was gentle partner yoga, but it was weird and uncomfortable with a stranger.  

One of our group leaders kept telling us, “You have everything you need inside of you to create a transformational workshop.”   They would transition us from one activity to another with little explanation as to what the purpose of the activities were.  I had trouble making the connection between each activity and what I was supposed to be learning.  I am used to the traditional style of learning where the teacher talks and the student listens.  My expectation was that they were going to give us step by step instruction on what we need to do to create a workshop and ideas for what we can implement into them.  This did not happen as I expected.

I uncomfortably participated in all activities and grew more and more frustrated as the workshop got closer to an end.  Then, on the afternoon of the second day, something shifted.  It started with an activity where the group had to serve one another by helping and offering assistance, then switch off and receive help from another.  A second activity was called “mind-mapping” where we drew our vision onto paper.  Again, I was a bit frustrated because I already had my vision drawn out, I needed help to put it into action in an organized way.  So I quickly finished the activity and instead of using my turn to talk about my project, I listened to my partner and tried to help her with her brainstorming.  We ended that session with a mindful meditation and off I went to my room.  I took out my notebook and began writing everything that was flowing from my brain.  In 2 hours I had developed a vision statement and outline schedule for my workshop.

That evening we talked about the elements of personality and language and how each person learns and connects differently depending on which personality traits they have.  That night I wrote more and more.  The next morning we spent time having closure with our group.  Tears were shed as group participants shared about how they felt so safe in the room and how they were able to connect with each other in such a short period of time.  We processed the weekend events and how the group leaders helped us to connect to our vision.  I can remember smiling inside as the light bulb turned on and it became clear as to why I was there and how that particular workshop helped me.  It all began to make sense and the words I had flowing through my brain were, “You have everything you need inside of you to create a transformational workshop.”

You see, I went there with clear knowledge and vision as to what my purpose in life is.  But what I learned at that workshop has everything to do with you uncovering yours.  I learned that when we are in a safe environment with like-minded people, we are able to connect to our intuition that has everything you need to uncover and live out your life purpose.

The group leaders did not teach us anything I did not already know (although they did provide us with a wonderful manual and help me to put organization to it).  What they did was create an atmosphere that was safe with very few words and a whole lot of skill and wisdom.  They provided us with activities that stimulated our brains through movement, music, meditation, laughter, drawing, storytelling, sharing, touching, serving, etc.  These activities, combined with the safety in the room, allowed for a connection between the brain and soul.   And when that happens, our intuition is released uncovering our purposes.  It took me a little while to let down my guard and fully connect to my fellow group members, but once I did, my purpose that weekend flowed right out onto paper.

So my advice to you if you are feeling stuck with regard to who, when, where, why, what and how you are to matter in this life is to find like-minded people and connect with them.  You can do this by joining a group, spiritual study or taking a workshop with like-minded people.  You have everything you need inside of you, you just need to connect to it.

Keep connecting with those whom God puts on your path. Your fire will ignite and your purpose will become clear.

If you would like more support and guidance with regard to exploring your purposes, check out my RENEWED program at http://www.renewedmindbodyspirit.wordpress.com.

Peace and blessings,