Mental Health Q&A6 Mar 2020
Expert advice from our team of psychotherapists Andy Chatham MSP LCSW, and Andy Roman LMHC, MS, RN
Q: I came to HHI to lose weight. I lost 6 pounds my ﬁrst week and nothing my second week! I was so high about my progress and now I’m bummed and discouraged. What am I doing wrong?
A: It is very possible that you are doing nothing wrong! I know you had an expectation after week one, but here you are, two weeks in, and it is what it is. Actually, this pattern is not uncommon. I’m not sure why (that’s for others to explain), but let me reassure you that you’re on track. It’s just not going how you thought or how you hoped. So, talk to your fitness experts, get some perspective and get back into a positive mindset. Let the program do its magic. It’s not rocket science: if you burn more than you take in, you will lose weight, barring any medical issues. If I wanted to get all psychobabble on you, I might ask you or explore with you those things that you are holding on to. It’s true: eating very clean and green catapults us into new territory, a new sense of self, a new feeling for our bodies, and that often also brings up resistance to change, which can inhibit or slow down the detox and/or weight-loss process. To change our body type can bring us into a new sense of sexuality, for instance, which can be uncomfortable or challenging at first, even if we consciously wanted it. To engage our muscles in new exercise can challenge our sense of passivity and weakness, either by recognizing how we’ve ignored our own well-being or how subconsciously we’ve identified with being a victim. To change what we eat, in itself, can bring up all sorts of challenges in recognizing how we’ve used food as a comfort or even a numbing tool. These are some of the reasons we include psychological and emotional support as important pillars of the HHI program: because we are not logical, but rather, psychological beings. One last wrap-up comment on this topic: it’s not uncommon for the HHI colon therapists to tell us that they see better results in the guests who have just come from deep psychotherapy sessions! The mind/body connection is real, so attend to your inner work every step of the way!
Q: I have an addictive personality and a long history of addictive behavior. I’m going into the HHI program afraid I’m going to mess up. I want to get well but I don’t have much conﬁ dence or faith in myself.
A: I can see how you might be wary about the success of your new health venture. I’m going to lay it out straight: you have some work to do. Addictions serve one major purpose, which is to help a person avoid and not feel pain. If the substance also provides pleasure, then bingo, you’ve got a perfect addictive storm! Food can definitely be in that category. Everything emotional you’ve repressed will be harder to keep down and is likely to come up into your awareness. Because there’s no dulling feelings with raw living foods, the intensity of detox probably will be greater for you here at HHI. This can show up in the form of intense dreams at night or feelings of malaise or out-and-out projection into your current reality, which means “issues” will arise. We who’ve worked at HHI for a while have come to recognize when a guest’s issues are up, and we know you can work through it.
But first, you must get to it. The people who get to it, get through it. It’s a perfect time to introspect and get help with it. Again, it’s why we provide psychological and emotional support services, because we know detox doesn’t happen in an impersonal vacuum, but rather, in the context of our humanity. It’s OK to get real as you get well. We’ll help you face your demons and unlock your joy. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not a sin or a crime to protect yourself from pain, but it is a pity to stay locked in defense mode and unconsciousness, spinning with the wheel of addiction. Get real and get off the wheel! Your body will follow your lead, and super-nutrition will streamline the way!
Q: I was diagnosed cancer in May 2019, I have also been going through a breakup in my relationship of seven years since January. I feel very overwhelmed by both. How can I deal with my loss of relationship and now the loss of my health?
A: It is very normal to feel very overwhelmed by the loss of your significant relationship and your health. The common theme in both of these experiences is the grief and loss associated with the significant changes in your life. Both losses may make you feel insecure: “I cannot be sure I am going to be totally healthy again” or “I cannot depend on someone who will care for me unconditionally” are the usual thoughts beneath the feelings of insecurity. It may be helpful for you to become aware of the different stages of grieving, and then to slowly reach the stage of “acceptance” so you can take charge of your life and move on. Even though there are many other theories about dealing with grief, the following five stages of grief seem appropriate. These five stages come from the original work of Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who worked with terminally ill patients and wrote her book, “On Death and Dying,” to help the patients and the survivors.
The first stage is “Denial,” a coping mechanism. Maybe you have gone through this already. “No, I am not going to be alone again. No, I cannot get cancer, because I have been very careful about my diet and exercise.” These are some of the thoughts of denial which may help you numb the intensity of what is happening and help you to gradually move on. But, as you move on, you might experience that some of the hidden emotions are coming out more freely.
The second stage is “Anger,” an emotion that has a masking effect: you may be angry at your ex for deceiving you, or at the doctor who a year ago told you that you were in good health. Anger may come out in expressions such as, “I hate him/her. He/she is going to regret his/her decision,” or “I am going to sue the doctor who had no clue about what I was complaining about.”
The third stage is “Bargaining,” which could be a way to regain the loss of control one feels in the grief and loss. “If I had spent more time with him/her, this would not have happened,” or “If I had gone to such and such a doctor, I would have been much better informed.” These are some of the thoughts associated with this stage. A religious person may make deals with God or another higher power at this stage to reverse the events.
The fourth stage is “Depression,” which is generally a quiet stage. In the early stages of the loss, you could be hiding your emotions, but in this stage, you may embrace the reality of what is happening and start moving on. Many thoughts associated with this stage can be negative: “Why should I ever be in a relationship? What is the big deal if I die of cancer?” Some people may feel lost at this stage. This is when they can use the help of a therapist. The realization that what is past is past may help you overcome the depression itself. I find EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) to be particularly useful in dealing with this stage.
The last stage is “Acceptance,” which can be, yet not necessarily, a happy stage. However, you may be able to accept the reality of what happened and start feeling that there is more chance to feel better than worse. “Ultimately, I am happy I am not in that torturing relationship anymore” or “This was an opportunity for me to take good care of my health” are some of the thoughts associated with this stage. This is the stage where one accepts the reality of change and resolves to move on.
By mentioning the five stages, it does not mean you or anyone else should necessarily go through all these stages in order to accept change as a preparation to move on. Some people may move on faster with familial or social support. However, it is good to be aware of the stages of grief that most people go through in order to reach the stage of acceptance of the changes in your life. As your emotions affect your healing process, it is good to have some resources to deal with challenges in life. If you continue to feel overwhelmed by your challenges, it is good to also get some professional help soyou can rebuild your physical and emotional health with more comfort and ease.