Tag Archives: cognitive therapy

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.

Talking about trauma with kids; PTSD, neural mapping, EMDR and reframing

/This article was originally posted on March 21, 2011. It is still important to have open conversations with children about traumatic events or other information they may find confusing, troubling or frightening. EMDR therapy can be helpful for adults with PTSD./
We all need comfort and we gain it from sharing our burdens, talking about troubles and letting out worries. Listening is more important than talking – let kids talk to you about trauma – we don’t know what they are thinking or are worried about until we let them talk it out. Don’t worry too much about “how to talk about it”, pause, listen, and accept – “yes, there are worries but we’ll stick together and work through it”, is a strong message for all of us to hear.
Children and all of us have “hot” emotional memories centered in the amygdala and milder long term factual memories stored more generally throughout the neocortex. Electrical activity of the brain can be recorded and associated with the topic being considered. The amygdala centered emotional memory can be tied to smells, sounds, places or people and can be unexpectedly triggered leaving the person with panic attack type symptoms unique to the individual’s memories of the early traumatic event.

Douglas Buchanon described neural mapping in his blog “Follow the Neurons – Your Life Map” [TheGatesofHorn].Neural mapping is a bit like playing with a line of toy dominos. The designers spend hours placing the dominos in line, each the perfect distance and angle from the last, carefully balanced on end and poised for any slight shock to send the entire chain tumbling down. Emotional memories may be triggered by something like a car door slamming shut. A toddler memory may be submerged regarding something as trivial as mom and dad fighting over who has to carry in the groceries and the car doors were slammed shut violently. To a toddler the words may not mean as much as the tone and the violent sounds.

After the event, immediately, and maybe later that day, the next day, the next week – the toddler may pester with questions of what is wrong and what did I do to cause that fight? The child’s world is centered around themselves – natural while young but prone to self blame. The memory can be stored with feelings of “I caused that arguement – I am a bad person – I don’t deserve attention or explanation” and so on. If their worries are left unanswered or are denied as real then the hot memory is ignored and is left unprocessed, instead it is pushed down and forgotten at the daily level. A car door slamming with a combination of shouting voices might trigger a panic attack though.

The hot memory can be toned down and moved to long term storage if time is allowed to discuss the event – and more than once. It might pop up in the toddler’s chit chat daily, and then weekly, monthly, and maybe even over the years if it was bad enough triggering event. Once the connection is made though, (negative event associated with a negative symptom) and discussed, usually the power of the slamming/shouting sound is reduced and similar events in the future may not trigger a panic attack or it might  be a milder reaction.

Children are absorbing knowledge and building their neural pathways – good habits and bad habits are learned by watching the people they love and trust. Spending a few minutes whenever possible to listen to children share their worries allows them to move the memories from the ‘hot’ button zone of the amygdala, to the mellower long-term storage of the neocortex.

Symptoms of PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, can be effectively reframed  and reduced using cognitive therapy techniques like EMDR. A problem or trigger event is visualized and then a state of deep relaxation is reached and the memory is discussed or pondered with guidance from the therapist. New insights from the perspective of the adult framing of the situation can be considered and then the relaxation method is repeated using the new perspective.  The neural maps of the traumatic events can be reached  from a deeply relaxed state of theta waves. EMDR, attempts to help the patient reach the theta state with rapid stimulation of the right side then left side of the brain, either visually with a moving hand or object, or with sound or a vibration buzz in the palm of the hand. Children under seven are already living in this more meditative level of consciousness. In the zone – flow time – playing like a child – we could all use a little relaxed theta time these days and a chance to free a little worry from the hot zone of the amygdala.

The world is changing but denying reality never solves problems it only pushes them down to a submerged hot zone. When we talk about our troubles then we can look for solutions and change. Denying problems, denies a chance for change.

Art therapy can be a useful way to give children and anyone freedom to explore feelings – color to feel not to produce. Playdough and other free form play can help reach a relaxed state where gentle talk about hot topics can be released  as they surface. Picking at the problem with needling questions may not be as quick as open ended play time. Adults may find a walk or bike ride their ticket to free flow brain time.

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  1. Terrorism, and talking to kids about catastrophic mass violence, guidance sheets from The National Child Tramatic Stress Network [nctsnet.org/trauma-types/terrorism]
  2. by Carol Boulware, MFT, PhD, “EMDR Therapy, EMDR Therapists, EMDR information, PTSD,” [emdr-therapy.com/].
  3. by Carol Boulware, MFT, PhD, “EMDR-Breakthrough Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress,Trauma and Self-Sabotage,” [emdr-therapy.com].
  4. by Carol Boulware, MFT, PhD, “Do I Have Anxiety Needing Therapy?” a discussion about anxiety and PTSD focused on adults [emdr-therapy]
  5. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network [nctsnet.org/]
  6. Trauma and Your Family – a guidance factsheet from The National Child Traumatic Stress Network pdf: [nctsn.org]
  7. by Tanya Anderson, PTSD in Children and Adolescents, Great Cities Institute, GCP-05-04, November, 2005  pdf: [uic.edu]
  8. This website is a non-profit 12 step based program for the Adult Children Of Alcoholic (or Dysfunctional) Families. PTSD and neural mapping aren’t discussed but the symptom list includes similar problems: The Laundry List – 14 Traits of an Adult Child of an Alcoholic (or Dysfunctional Family) ,  [adultchildren.org]
/Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes and is not intended to provide individual health care guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./