Category Archives: book review

People may need people and a sense of purpose for health and happiness

People and other species are social creatures whose survival may have been dependent on being part of a group rather than being isolated. Loneliness has been associated with increased inflammation and a reduced resistance to infection by viral diseases. Genetic changes have been found to occur in isolated individuals that lead to the increased inflammatory response in comparison to individuals who have more social support. Our instincts have developed to trust that being part of a group increases our chance of survival. Having a role that fulfills a valued purpose for the group is associated with an increased sense of happiness.

Fitting into groups well can take social skills that need to be nurtured from birth. Infants learn body language at an early age by interacting with a parent who responds to the baby’s cues. If the baby smiles the mother smiles back and the baby learns to smile more readily. If the baby has a mother that doesn’t notice body language though, then the infant may stop smiling as often. Infants and children depend on their caregivers for everything and try to please with their smiles, eye contact, or baby coos. If the infant isn’t receiving eye contact in return however they may stop trying or are scolded they may learn to look away and to avoid eye contact.

Children ideally need emotional support in order to develop trust in themselves and in others. Parents who have limited skills in understanding and accepting their own emotions may not be able to teach their children what they don’t understand themselves. Children who have some role model in their lives who understands emotional skills may cope better than children who don’t.

The topic is discussed in more detail in the book Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents, by Lindsay C. Gibson, PsyD, (New Harbinger Pub., Inc., 2015, Oaklnad, CA) [1] (This book is not a twelve step book and is not affiliated with the Adult Children of Alcoholic or Dysfunctional Parents twelve step group.) An excerpt from page 108:

“Why is emotional connection so crucial?

According to neuroscientist Stephen Porges (2011), mammals have evolved a unique coping instinct in which they are calmed by proximity or engagement with others. Instead of just having the involuntary stress reactions of fight, flight, or freeze, like reptiles do, mammals can calm their heart rate and reduce the physical costs of stress by seeking reassuring contact with others of their kind. Certain vagus nerve pathways in mammals have evolved to allow stress hormones and heart rate to be reduced by confronting in such forms as physical closeness, touch, soothing sounds, and even eye contact. These calming effects conserve valuable energy and also create pleasurable social bonds that promote strong groups.

For all mammals, including humans, something magical happens when this desire to seek comfort switches on. The danger might not go away, but individuals can stay relatively calm as long as they feel tied into their herd, pack, or circle of loved ones. Most mammals have stressful lives, but thanks to their instinct for engaging with others, calming comfort and restored energy are just a friendly contact away. This gives mammals a tremendous advantage over other animals when it comes to dealing with stress in an energy-efficient way, since they don’t have to go into fight, flight, or freeze every time they sense a threat.” [1]

So a sense of connection to others can help reduce the negative inflammatory effects of the stress response. Some stress can be healthy to help get us moving to meet whatever challenge has occurred. Stress may become more overwhelming however if the person is isolated or never learned social skills or trust enough to ask for help or seek out help. Children in situations with emotionally immature caregivers may learn that people around them can’t be trusted or that trying doesn’t lead to success so why bother trying — they can learn  a sense of helplessness and hopelessness rather than finding strength from others.

The book Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents, by Lindsay C. Gibson [1] describes  four different types of emotionally immature caregivers, how growing up with them might affect children and how the children might overcome the lessons they learned later in life as adults who only just discovered that emotions aren’t dangerous things to never be discussed or worse that one might be punished for exhibiting. Some emotionally immature people may feel threatened by strong emotions and may react negatively to children who are simply being children. The child in that situation learns to not trust themselves and may not learn that emotions are normal rather than upsetting or frightening.

Severe childhood trauma can lead to changes in the brain that cause ongoing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A new strategy for treating PTSD has been developed which involves electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve called Vagal nerve stimulation (VNS).  Which the excerpt from the book [1]  suggests is the nerve pathway that naturally is stimulated when social contact is sought during a stressful situation.

Stress and trauma have been too readily available lately. More police officers were shot today in the U.S. in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Three are injured, one critically, and three officers were killed Sunday morning. The gunman was a former marine who drove there from his home in Missouri. The gunman was killed at the scene. Further information about his possible motives are not known at this time. Whether there were any accomplices is not known but it is believed he was a lone gunman and there has been no further shooting in the area.

My condolences and best wishes to the families, friends, and coworkers of the slain officers, may they rest in peace, and to the community of Baton Rouge

Emotionally immature parents may raise emotionally immature children who grow up to raise their own emotionally immature children. Help break the trauma cycle by reading the book Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents, by Lindsay C. Gibson [1]. Whether you are a parent or a teen or an adult learning more about emotional maturity and immaturity can help understand your own emotions and others. Whatever we grow up with will seem normal to us and as adults we tend to seek out similar relationships to those we were familiar with as children — but sometimes what seems normal to some people isn’t normal for everyone else and there is no need to continue living in abusive situations just because it seemed like a normal part of life as a child.

Lack of emotional skills may increase the risk of acting inappropriately when under severe stress. People need the support of people to help reduce negative effects of stress and increase a sense of connection and purpose. People need to learn emotional skills from people who have emotional skills  — or sometimes from a book. [1]

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

What to say when you’re talking to yourself

What To Say When You Talk To Yourself, is a book about a cognitive therapy strategy that I found very helpful for my overeating problem. I never attended an Overeater’s Anonymous group. I didn’t think my dietitian self could stay anonymous or keep from trying to counsel others. The OA 12 Step group I believe recommends no snacks and controlling your meals carefully. I believe that deprivation and over-controlling eating can make the binging problem worse in my experience and based on review of other research in the field of eating disorders.

My individual therapy with a child trauma counselor helped guide me to my suppressed feelings of unworthiness. Deep down I felt bad, naughty, undeserving of comfort or touch. Not at any fault of my parents. I did get hugs and kisses and loving guidance through life but we didn’t talk about our feelings much. I grew up eager to please or eager to avoid attention so I could continue reading my latest book in peace.

Amazon Link

Negative messages that you heard your entire life can be hard to change. Reading new statements can help retrain the old negative message into a healthier one. Daily review of the new self talk statements can be done while brushing your teeth if the statement is on an index card by your mirror, or if it’s posted in your car, or by your phone. I wrote them all in a spiral notebook of index cards and would flip through the whole set  a few times a day. I haven’t read them in a while and I think I should start again – thay are helpful.

I am posting my modified statements about health and eating. The book did have eating related examples but some of them were deprivation oriented. Retraining disordered eating habits requires focus on relearning hunger and fullness signals. Deprivation and controlled eating tend to backfire and lead to worse binges in my experience and based on my review of research in the field of disordered eating. The body has to have sustenance and “cold turkey” strategies do not work the same for substances that are essential to life.

Cravings have to do with real physical needs of the body. Our instincts and taste buds help guide us to the foods that have the nutrients that we need. Trying to fight cravings with a set menu and controlled portions of foods chosen by someone else or even by yourself but at a different time may not be what your body needs at the moment and may leave the appetite unsatisfied and still seeking something.

Allowing yourself to nibble a variety of things by the bite or two can help to retrain the appetite and taste-buds to recognize the flavors and smells associated with the food that ultimately satisfies – when the bite or two leads to the “aha that is what I want” food, then eat more of that and the appetite memory for that taste and satisfied feeling will be stronger the next time that you have that sort of hunger.

Salt and potassium delivery units are essential after a sweaty workout or a long night. The piece of fruit in the morning with a handful of lightly salted almonds would quench a thirst for electrolytes with more variety of nutrients then the glass of juice and salty piece of bacon found in a common American breakfast would deliver. Both meal examples are only part of a typical breakfast – I’m trying to highlight the potassium and sodium cravings. We need a little every few hours all day long. Meals and snacks help with good hydration and that helps with energy level and regular removal of toxins. Lactic acid build up in muscle tissue can slow down the  worker/athlete. Drinking plenty of water and having a salty food with a fruit or juicy vegetable will give the body the replacements that were sweated out or used up by the working muscles. Bonus if the salty food is magnesium rich because the muscles waste that as well. (like nuts )

I know how to eat well and it is still a daily challenge, more due to laziness however and less due to emotional reasons  now (I slowly realized that I was stuffing my anger – eating my words.)

Positive self talk statements

Enjoy the cycle of life; it’s fun for one or two.

I live actively. My body is strong and healthy.

I have the lung and heart power to do what I need to do every day.

I move fluidly through space.

I have the power to leap joyfully.

I breathe deeply. I enjoy ginger, spicy food, hot soup and tea and saunas because they help my sinuses.

I protect my inner ear from congestion, by avoiding foods that are mucous producing and environments that are dusty, musty and smokey.

I avoid toxic food and environments that make me feel sicker.

I protect myself from sickness.

I rest when I need to rest.

I respect my body’s limits and I don’t push myself past my limits.

I move my body regularly and avoid sitting still for hours.

(I need to start rereading this list – actually I’m going to set my computer up where I can stand in front of it. If the system has problems, then change the system.)

I avoid extremes by planning my time and setting steps towards my ultimate goals.

I plan my day and calmly do what I can towards fulfilling the goals.

I prioritize my goals so that important things are not put off.

I am in control of myself in every way — at all times and in all situations.

Each time that I sit down to eat I remember my goal for health. By eating right, and never giving in I am reaching the weight that I want.

Whether eating in or eating out, I really enjoy not over eating; being overstuffed is uncomfortable.

I never feel the need to finish the food in front of me. I eat only until my hunger is satisfied — and never one bite more.

*I have purposely started a practice of actually spitting out food (into a napkin), if I do notice myself eating from emotional reasons. I stop chewing and spit the food out – just because I made the mistake of starting the angry or sad or anxious eating reaction doesn’t mean that I have to swallow – to continue the emotional over-reaction – and to continue reinforcing the negative habit. Better to break the pattern, even if a napkin is involve.

I eat healthy food for energy and sustenance, not for comfort or boredom.

Starving children on the other side of the world are not going to benefit by my emptying my dinner plate.

Leftovers are for saving for later, not for finishing up even if I’m full.

I put away leftovers and make the meal useful the next day for lunch, dinner, or a healthy snack.

I help starving children by buying less junk food and donating the money.

“One way to weight loss that’s easy and works, is less food on my plate, and less on my fork!”   *This and the next statement are from the book, What to Say When You Talk To Yourself,  by Shad Helmstetter, PhD. I kept the two statements but am not a proponent of the “eat less” theory of weight loss. Fiber rich foods are bulky and we eat healthier when we eat more bulky fiber rich whole foods. So less chocolate bars or dessert on my plate – yes – but less food altogether is not necessarily a healthier choice.

“Less on my plate means less on my waist.” *** author, Shad Helmstetter’s example – that statement is both true and not true, see above.

When I sit down to eat, at no time do I allow anyone else to influence, tempt, or discourage me in any negative way.

What I eat and the goals I reach, are up to me. And I give no one else the right to hinder or control my success.

I am never, at any time, tempted to take one bite more than I need. I am strong, I am capable of reaching my goal, and I am doing it!

Although others may benefit from my success, I am achieving my weight-loss goals for my own personal reasons — for myself, my life, my future, and my own personal well-being.

I feed my inner child love and nurturing and prepare healthy meals and snacks. Sedating myself with carbohydrates is harmful and not helpful.

I comfort myself with meditation, a warm bath, a hot cup of tea, or music and movement.

***I found the movie “The Celestine Prophecy”[thecelestineprophecymovie.com/] so helpful that I added a few statements from it to my flip-book of cognitive therapy statements. The movie was based on the book, The Celestine Prophecy, by author, James Redfield, Amazon: [amazon.com]

The calm within the storm.

“I let go and Let be.”

“I find energy within and avoid battling others for it.”

“I open up and receive energy.”

“I accept energy from others and the energy is amplified for both of us.”

“Instead of taking energy from others I give it.”

“I follow my instincts and listen to my heart and gut.”

“The guidance within us, leads us towards the heaven within us.
To know this . . . is our destiny.”

Our instincts try to guide us towards what we need but it is up to us to pause and listen.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.