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4 posts from March 2012


Making Changes that Stick

There are times when what we are doing just isn't working. You may be struggling with a relationship that feels as though you are not on the "same page." You may have tried to get more sleep or be on time, perhaps exercise more or eat healthier. You have tried many times and it works for a day or two, then back to the old behavior and out the window the change goes!

Surrender is the first step, and then here are five concrete suggestions for making changes that stick:

  1. Commit to a time frame. My preference is 90 days, but if that is overwhelming, shorten it – 30 days, two weeks or even one week until your next counseling session.
  2.  Practice the new behavior every day, consistently. It's just like exercising a muscle – it gets stronger with repeated use.
  3.  Keep it simple. Get a strong start and build from there.
  4.  Be accountable. Make the commitment to your counselor or a partner who understands what you are working on and check in – often.  
  5.  Keep on. If you slip up, keep going. This is the ONLY way to break the all-or-nothing thinking. A slip is okay and may be part of your journey.

What change are you working on? Can you practice holding your tongue instead of criticizing your child's appearance? Could you make a new commitment to stay with your food plan? How about improving your self-care?

Feel free to ask us about an accountability program. We are always happy to help.



What Does it Mean to Surrender?

"The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." – Anais Nin

Twelve step programs have many recovery tools that can be beneficial to those who are struggling with food addiction, emotional eating, anorexia, compulsive eating or bulimia. One of these valuable concepts is surrender. This admission of powerlessness is at the core of Step One, and is really the heart and foundation of 12 step recovery.

In order to make a positive change in your life, you need to have a heartfelt commitment. Everyone who comes to our office shares that they want to make changes, but they're not always at the point of true surrender. They may not have given their whole selves over to the process of change. They're not willing to experience the discomfort, stress and uncertainty – the risk of blossoming.

Twelve step programs have a saying that it's the "the gift of desperation" that often leads people into successful recovery. This happens after years of trying over and over again to change something, control something or give something up. They may succeed for a short time, yet as soon as a tricky situation comes up they go right back to their familiar behaviors.

At that point, the truly desperate will realize that they must surrender. Their way is not working.

Merriam-Webster says that by surrendering, we "cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority."

Note that this authority is not your counselor, sponsor or any other person. Some think of it as the compulsion or behavior; other see it as the food. Surrendering to this "enemy" means having a healthy respect for the seriousness of the problem and acknowledging that we're powerless over controlling it by ourselves.

Overeating and restricting food not only make people emotionally isolated and miserable, but can lead to many serious health issues and even death. Change is scary, but the consequences of not changing are even scarier.

Twelve step programs have many tools, resources and supports that can help you get to a place of surrender. Our counselors at the White Picket Fence Counseling Center can help, or we are also happy to make referrals to someone in your area.

Have patience and respect for your own time line. Some people surrender quickly, and others hold on for years. Commit to the process and stick with it – because you never know when it's going to happen for you. Another much-loved saying in the rooms of recovery is:

"Don't quit 5 minutes before the miracle happens."

  • How willing are you today to surrender your harmful eating behaviors and commit to change?
  • Are you willing to let go of control?
  • Are you willing to embrace something new?
  • Are you willing to let go and trust the unknown?
  • Are you willing to seek support from someone who's been where you are (e.g., in a 12-step program or support group)?
  • Are you willing to seek support from a professional who is highly trained and experienced in helping other people with similar issues as you are facing?

Click here for a list of 12 step recovery programs and links to their websites.

A List of 12 Step Groups and Websites



Guilt and Shame in the Land of Oz

Erika-bentBy Erika Bent, B.A., graduate student intern

In the Wizard of Oz, the entire community was built upon the reputation of a powerful and knowing wizard. The tin man, lion, scarecrow and Dorothy admired his great power and sought guidance. They succumbed to his great voice and awing appearance. However, when an innocent dog peeled back his masterful disguise, the Wizard of Oz was revealed as an ordinary human. As a result, he became insecure, self-conscious and ultimately felt ashamed of his failure to exercise his great and supposed power.

In this classic story, the Wizard of Oz experienced significant shame for failing to live up to his own and his community’s expectations. We have all experienced forms of guilt and shame at some time during our lives. Many situations can bring about feelings of shame or guilt, such as making a mistake or crying in public. Feelings of shame are different from feelings of guilt in that guilt reflects a wrong-doing, whereas shame indicates something inherently wrong with oneself as a person.

Both guilt and shame can be debilitating and isolating. It is important to express these feelings in a healthy way and develop healthy coping skills. Some techniques that can be helpful to deal with the painful feelings of shame and guilt are listed below: 

  • Express your thoughts and feelings through journaling
  • Relaxation techniques, such as guided imagery, deep breathing and muscle relaxation
  • Turn to your support system
  • Work through your guilt/shame with trusted people in your life, such as friends, family, therapists, etc.

There are several ways to cope with debilitating shame and guilt in a healthy manner. It is important that you find techniques that work for you.