CBT, Core Beliefs, Healing, Health, Healthy Eating, losing weight, PTSD, Trauma, Weight Loss, Well Being
I wanted to check-in. It has been a really rough few months for me and I have been stress-eating, emotional-eating and exhausted-eating far more than I would have liked.
And, while I did gain some weight, I also want to acknowledge that I have managed to maintain my weight within a 5 lbs range fairly well.
Despite the setbacks and many, many, many poor decisions, I still found myself making good choices as well. Sure, I just ate half a pizza…but, I’m going to get up and get all 10,000 steps in plus an extra 500 just to prove to myself that all is not lost. Yes, I had nothing but peanut butter chocolate chip cookies for breakfast, but I will have my green smoothie for lunch.
One thing that continues to be a working point for me is how I tell myself: ‘Life is tough. You’ve been through a lot. This week has been hell. You deserve_________’ and then fill-in the blank with whatever nasty food item is in my mind at the moment: Chocolate, chips, pizza, French fries…
So, I “treat” myself and then I feel even worse.
Wasn’t that supposed to make me feel better?
I am still in the process of learning what a real “treat” is and trying to change my way of thinking about this. This idea of “taking care of myself” is something that I’m really trying to comprehend. What does it mean to take care of myself?
How do I take care of myself when the flood of thoughts and emotions that they bring with them, leave me feeling unworthy?
This is all wrapped-up in the idea of ‘self-worth’ to me. I should want the best for myself, so why do I continually, do the opposite?
When I was doing my trauma counselling, one of the things I learned was about “core beliefs”. Here is a great article about them:
I have a core belief system that is made-up of, pretty much, every negative belief listed on that website. This means that the following lists are things I believe about myself and am telling myself, pretty much, every second of the day:
I’m not good enough
· I can’t get anything right
· I’m stupid
· I’m inferior
· I’m nothing
· I’m worthless
· I’m insignificant
· I’m a bad person
· I’m unattractive (ugly, fat, etc.)
· I’m useless
· I’m a failure
· I don’t deserve anything good
· There’s something wrong with me
· I’ve done things wrong
· I’m abnormal
I’m not lovable
· I’m unacceptable
· I’m always left out
· I don’t matter
· I’m not wanted
· I’m alone
· I’m unwelcome
· I don’t fit in anywhere
· I’m uninteresting
· Nobody loves me
· Nobody wants me
· I’m unlikeable
· I’m bound to be rejected
People I love will leave me
· I will be abandoned if I love or care for something/someone
· I am uninteresting (and people will leave me because of it)
· I’m unimportant
· If I assert myself, people will leave me
· I’m not as good as other people
· My partner is no longer interested in me
· I’m bound to be rejected/abandoned/alone
· I’m out of control
· I must have control to be okay
· I’m weak
· I’m vulnerable
· I’m trapped
· I’m needy
· I do not measure up to others
· I’m unsuccessful
· I can’t achieve
· I can’t change
· I can’t handle anything
· There’s no way out
· I am trapped and can’t escape
· If I experience emotions, I will lose control
· I can’t do it
· I’m always number two
· I finish last
· I can’t stand up for myself
· I’m a loser
· I can’t say ‘no’
I have to do everything perfectly
· If I make a mistake, it means I’m careless/a failure/etc.
· I’ve done something wrong
· It’s not okay to ask for help
· I have to do everything myself
· If I don’t do it, no one will
· I’m responsible for everyone and everything
· If I care enough, I can fix him/her/this
· I can’t trust or rely on another person
· If I trust people, they may hurt me (and I won’t survive)
· People will betray me
· People are untrustworthy
· My needs are not important
· I shouldn’t spend time taking care of myself
· When I see that others need help, I have to help them
· I’m not a worthwhile person
· I’m only worthwhile if I’m helping other people
· If I express negative feelings in a relationship, terrible things will happen
· I have to make people happy
· It’s my fault
To those who do not experience these for themselves, these might seem like a list of someone who sounds like “Eeyore” and just feels sorry for themselves. But, if these lists resonate with you the way they do for me, please know that you are not being unreasonable, and you are not being ridiculous.
These are core beliefs I learned as the result of multiple childhood traumas, as well as trauma experienced throughout my adolescence, as a teenager, a young adult and finally with the birth of my son.
As my counsellor and I were trying to figure-out what my main “core belief” was, she asked me: “What is it that’s beneath all of this that makes you have the negative thought?” and I was surprised at my answer: “That I’m not worthy.”
For most of my life I have operated under a core belief that I am not worthy. I am not worthy of love, respect, friendship, hope, support…I am not worthy of anything good. It is why I have, genuinely, been surprised when I do well at job interviews, pass a test or someone gives me a gift (I still cry at the thought of what my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas 2 years ago). I am not worthy.
This negative core belief has been the biggest barrier to weight loss, the ability to form and maintain healthy habits and is fundamental in understanding why it is so difficult for me to make positive, healthy changes even when I know what’s good for me and what is not.
Negative thoughts fit into the negative core belief, so they keep feeding it and affirming its validity. Positive thoughts or interactions do not fit into the negative core belief, so kind of bounce-off and are lost. My counsellor explained to me the need to create a new core belief and to be mindful of feeding all those positives to it so that, eventually, the negative core belief is starved and disappears and the positive, healthy, core belief remains as the one that provides the foundation for my life and my daily, moment-by-moment, interactions.
She drew a cool diagram for me on the whiteboard in her office—I’ve tried to duplicate it, in case that helps get the idea across (but I’m a horrible diagram drawer):
How does this all fit in with the idea of “treats”?
Here is an example of one of many mental exchanges that take place in my brain on a daily basis:
‘I’d like a treat—I know something like an apple would be a really good thing to have. It will be sweet, provide nutrition, give me a pick-me-up, and keep me within my health and wellness goals. But, that’s too much work, I’m not really worth that effort. I may as well just have this chocolate because nobody really cares about me anyway. It doesn’t really matter how I do, nobody is going to notice. If I’m not here, nobody would mind. I’m just not worthy of that effort. I may as well just eat that chocolate and forget about it.’
Here is an example of the mental shift I am attempting to make- the mental exchange I’d like to have happen in my head:
‘I’d like a treat. An apple would be an excellent treat. It will be sweet, provide nutrition, give me a pick-me-up and keep me within my health and wellness goals. It’s the best option for me and I deserve the best.’
I deserve to eat better than pizza, French fries, chocolate and chips. These are “junk” foods and I am not “junk”.
So, as I pick myself up and dust myself off for what feels like the umpteenth time, this is mantra for the moment:
I deserve better.
This positive thought is something I will keep repeating and using to fill that new core belief that “I am worthwhile” or “I am worthy”. And, as I keep filling-up the new belief, I hope that the old belief gets smaller and those thoughts become less in quantity as well as frequency until they, eventually, become a dull buzz in the background and perhaps even disappear forever.
Until then, I will just keep reminding myself that I DESERVE BETTER!