Your Body Speaks.

athlete Teresa Di LoretoWhat is this woman's body saying?  What do you know about her from looking at this picture? (* see below)

When you learn to respect and understand the language your body uses to communicate with you, your awareness of your position in life grows. You may change your perceptions, enliven your imagination and creativity, resolve adversarial relationships and in general, move beyond your current limits.

This is particularly important for anyone who has or ever had an eating disorder. Even if you have or had disordered eating that didn't reach the level of a full blown eating disorder, understanding
your body's language is more than helpful. It can be a revelation.

Why? When you rely on the sensation of eating or starving or exercising to soothe or numb powerful feelings you bypass your mental awareness of what is going on with you. You skip over your mind and go straight from feeling to body. You can experience your body as a mass of craving that needs to be satisfied because the cravings are unbearable.

If you bear your body sensations and ask yourself, where have I felt this before? you might make some powerful discoveries.

For example, the skin on your arm might tingle to where you feel an itch that borders on a burn. Maybe it's an allergic reaction. Maybe cream or an antihistamine will soothe it. But maybe that is a part of your body that got scalded when you were a child. Something is going on in your life now that is reminding you of a painful experience you’d rather forget.

If you stay with your body feeling and ask, how is this familiar? you may remember something you’ve kept away from your awareness.

Then you can explore what was going on in your life at the time of the original sensation. You may make some connections to your present life.

When you do, your body doesn’t have to send you this message. You can know the information in your conscious mind and so relieve your body of carrying the burden.

When you know more about that past situation you may make think and respond differently to what is going on in your life now.

The next time a body sensation irritates you, especially if it awakens you in the night, of course be aware that you might need medical help. But also, ask yourself, “How is this familiar?” “Where or when did I feel this before?”

You just might open a door to a new awareness that helps you improve your life.

  • Do you have recurrent body sensations that are unrelated to a physical illness?
  • Do you have a familiar body sensation that drives you to eat?

Ask yourself about those physical sensations and see if any memories come up.

* pix  Teresa Di Loreto, in 2012, after Long Jump victory at the National University  Championships in Messina. photo  released into the public domain by its author, Kasper2006  


0 # Yes, frequentlymylifex2 2014-01-26 18:53
About a year ago I started having body memories related to the sexual abuse from my grandfather.  I can be doing nothing and suddenly received very strong body sensations where I re-experience the actual abuse. I've had sex as an adult, but the pain I feel is at an excruciating level one would feel as a small child being taken over by a much larger and powerful man. I also get jaw pain and nausea from body memories experienced in other parts of my body from this abuse. 

These body memories came after my realization that I had endured many years of abuse at the hands of my grandfather. They are very hard to deal with, but my therapist and I are working hard to get them to dissipate. We imagine shooting him or yelling "no!". Running from the memories is not helpful.

I have been terrified and turning to self harm methods to ease the terror of the body sensations. We are working through this too. I have been more present and less dissociative in my sessions as I keep talking and go weakly.  

I also keep an email journal which I enter notes whenever I need to talk something out, share a dream, or vent. In between sessions she will sometimes give me input or help me with a different way to handle a bad moment.  I'm lucky to have her. 
So yes, I'm very, very familiar with this!
0 # body memoriespinkjoanna 2014-01-26 21:52
Dear Tracy,

Thank you for sharing this important information. I hope reading the article and sharing some of your experience helps you in your healing process.

Sometimes I think of those body memories of abuse as a kind of sweat where your body is sweating out the ugly pain as part of a psychic as well as physical cleansing.

When the sweat comes out on the surface of the skin we then take a shower to wash it away.  When the body memories come out we do what we can to get them off of us.  Talking to your therapist,
writing, talking to the memories, using your current imagery to remove the old imagery/memory are all methods for cleansing and getting those experiences up and out.

Brava to you for the fine work you are doing. Yes, you are fortunate to have a therapist who cares about you and understands this process.

Thank you again, thank you so much, for telling us about your experience. You are helping others as you pursue your own recovery.  
0 # Body sensationsshh 2014-01-27 16:38

Firstly, Tracy, I just want to say that I can remember when you first started getting those strong body memories and how difficult therapy was for you around that time - it sounds like you have come so far and are really starting to work on the abuse behind those sensations, sounds like you and your therapist have a really good working relationship.

Secondly Joanna, I just want to say thank you for this blog post! Whilst I don't really experience the type of body memories you describe, I do find that when I stop using food to get by, I become very sexual - frequently aroused and desiring sex. After finally getting to grips with my relapsed eating over the last few weeks, I am finding this happening more and more, and realise that I've been relapsed for so long that I'd forgotten all about this secondary coping mechanism that I'm faced with in recovery. Your post reminded me that I had successfully tracked this sexualised behaviour and managed to make sense of it, and that when I'm feeling "in the mood" all the time, that actually, apart from around ovulation time (when it's kinda natural), that it's a sign that I'm feeling inadequate, and that I can successfully deal with it by asking myself "what's making you feel inadequate? what is it about? Is it justified? what can you do about it?" Sometimes it's sufficient just to question myself in my head, whilst at other times I need to sit and journal properly to get to the bottom of things and vent my feelings.



0 # Sex and foodpinkjoanna 2014-01-27 17:08
Dear Shh,

Brava! What you say is so important.

Sex and food are vital to keep the species going. Sexual craving can be
extraordinarily powerful, as can cravings be for food.

I don't know if what I'm about to write relates to your situation.
If something powerful is going on in our psyche that we can't bear,
or think we can't bear, then we need something equally or more powerful
to block it.

There's not much more powerful than the need to eat or have sex for species
survival. The only thing I can think of that would join the group would
be thirst. Perhaps that brings in alcoholism.

So yes, stay with those body feelings. Write them out. Talk to your therapist
or get into a sexual 12-step meeting and explore without acting out.

You'll discover something that you can't know while you are distracted
or even emotionally overwhelmed by powerful sexual feelings.

I'm sure others are grateful to your posting this, Shh.
0 # Thanks Joannashh 2014-01-28 02:48

I spent a reasonable amount of time in therapy discussing my sexual side, so I know what it's about and where it comes from.

For me, sex was the only part of my life that my mother didn't have access to, to monitor, make judgements about, and pass comment on. It became important because it was the only part of my life that allowed me to be myself and with that feelings of escape and freedom - and when things were particularly tough at home, that's what I did. I was quite careful, and usually selected a target that I already knew and who I knew would treat me relatively well.

But it wasn't just the freedom, it was also about being good at something, as I was never good enough at anything in my mother's eyes no matter how hard I tried, and this allowed me to not only be myself and be free, but also to do something right and be good at something in life.

I did have issues with the morality of it all, as that was something that was very much preached at home - no sex before marriage, and women aren't supposed to enjoy sex they just do it to keep their husbands happy ...and this did become integrated into my sexual preferences, to be "punished" gave me permission to both do it and enjoy it.

I don't need to act out anymore, I know if I ask myself what it is I'm feeling inadequate about, that is making me need to escape to a place where I will feel useful and good enough - that as soon as I acknowledge that it's about inadequacy and start to address the driver, my desire for sex will diminish almost instantly.

If only the eating was this straightforward!

It's not though, the eating is very enshrouded in a double bind type relationship - where I'm damned if I do, and damned if I don't. I realise my mother had/still has issues with food, weight and body image. Her issues turned her into "a feeder", she fed me all the things she wished she could eat herself, and no food must be left where it might tempt her - you couldn't save anything for later, and open packets always had to be finished off in the same sitting. If we had a cake or anything like that, she would force 2nd and 3rd helpings upon us until it was gone - and she would get angry and fly into a rage if you tried to refuse anything. Yet she judged us on our size and weight, in the same harsh way that she judged herself too. You couldn't win! I just wanted to be "good enough" and feel loved by her - I ate whatever she "forced" me to eat regardless of my body sensations - the feeling full or feeling sick - it was more important to be loved, and I crash dieted when she forced me to (that was more literal force, because she withheld food), because I didn't like hearing her say she was embarrassed and ashamed of me, and that I was a disappointment, so again I learnt to ignore those body sensations associated with starving, because I just wanted to be loved. In fact I actually learned to view the discomfort of the body sensations associated with bingeing and starving (which is what it was), as positive things, because I believed they'd make me "good enough" and then she'd love me.

(I see here, the similarities with the pressures you felt Joanna, to eat lots yet still be thin, in fact my mother did such a good job of telling us how wrong bulimic purges were and how we must never ever do it, that in hindsight I wonder if maybe she sometimes did it herself.)




0 # Body awarenessJackie 2014-01-29 11:17
I don't notice my body enough. I don't pay attention to it or treat it with the respect it deserves. Now that I am home on medical leave, I am forced to acknowledge and care for my body. 

I am supposed to be resting. Physically, I am.  Mentally, I am not. I wanted to set boundaries about work, but the extreme stress is there daily. They announced closings and lay-offs are coming. I keep thinking "eat something, eat something" all day long.

There's nothing that I want to eat here. I eat, but I am not satisfied. My husband keeps saying that he will buy me whatever I want to eat, but there is a part of me that knows that he will edit my list.  If I tell him that I want a Greek salad, he will respond by telling me that there is lettuce in the fridge...There's only lettuce. 

My body sent me a powerful message this week as a result of the high anxiety I am creating. I'm going to be okay, but I'm feeling angry that the stress exists and I'm wondering how much of it has to do with my inability to let go and my desire to be loved and respected. I'm also afraid. I keep wondering what the real problem is? What's driving these behaviors?

 Yes, work is a dysfunctional place. I have no control over the things that cause me to feel insecure. I don't want to feel vulnerable on the inside all the time. I don't have to do this, yet I can't stop it. I can't get the validation that I need from work. I can't get it from my family. I know it has to come from me and it has to be enough. I just haven't figured out how to convince myself that I come first and then follow through on it.

I've been clenching my fists and jaw again when I sleep. I'm having bad dreams. I feel lonely. I try to think about all of the people who love me rather than all of the people who don't. I pray for people who are really suffering and try to adjust my attitude and perspective. It's one moment at a time right now.

Thank goodness I have netflix and thousands of movies to distract me when it gets overwhelming. 
0 # Body awarenesspinkjoanna 2014-01-29 14:15
Dear Jackie,

I am sorry you are suffering. This is such a hard time for you.  I only hope that your pain pushes you to a new understanding and appreciation of youself in many ways - body, spirit and mind.

That may be what you need to come out of this crisis and face the world with more self esteem,
confidence and realistic approach to what you need to thrive.

You raise many issues in your post.  I'll address one: body.

Recently I've discovered, been using and recommending a book: To Quiet Inflammation, by Kathy Abascal. It's the best and most clearly written guide to understanding how your body works and relates to stress and nourishment.

Since your eating and desire to eat is in a bit of a chaotic state now, this might be a terrific read for you ....and your husband too.

You have emotional and psychological issues to deal with, of course.  But, you don't know now how many would clear up or be less intense if you nourished your body properly.  When you read what Abascal has to say you'll understand what I'm talking about.

It's not just about having a healthy body that runs or sleeps or looks good or doesn't have a serious illness.  It's about fatigue, sadness, quick temper, frustration, weakness, memory loss, mental sharpness, optimism and so much more.

I recommend this book highly.  Not only do I suggest you read it.  I suggest you incorporate it into your daily routine and read about three pages every night before you go to sleep.  And when you finish the book, start again with three pages every night before you go to sleep.

That routine helps you learn how even seeminly little things can make a huge difference in how you feel and think as well as the health state of your body.

Once that is clear you are much better equipped to deal with remaining psychological issues.

If you do this, please let us know about your experience.

I wish you every success, Jackie.
0 # Thank youJackie 2014-01-29 17:32
Thanks Joanna. I'm certain my diet is causing many problems for me. I'd  like to get off of sugar if I could. I'd be interested in reading that book because decreasing inflammation is necessary with my chronic kidney disease.

I'm not actually bingeing even though some part of my mind thinks I should be and tells me repeatedly.

I'm currently reading "When the Body Says No" by Gabor Mate, MD. I picked it up again and started reading it. It means more to me now after reading your book. I'd share some of the things that stood out regarding stress and boundaries today, but I can't recall if there is a rule about that when posting. I'll blame that on the anesthesia :-). Let me know if it is okay to share thoughts on quotes from the book.

I've spent some time this past week thinking about who I am. Who I was. Who I have the potential to be. I am on some sort of threshold. I know I am going to change. I find it scary. But I want the change more than I want to stay stuck. Even if my old voice is often the narrator.
0 # rules about postingpinkjoanna 2014-01-29 18:08
Dear Jackie,

What we eat, how much we eat, when we eat, when we do not eat are vital issues in taking care of our bodies and our mental health.  

But... this site attracts people with a current or past eating disorder.  Eating disorder thinking will derail a conversation about the details of the above.  Eating disorder thinking wil misinterpret, reformulate, rationalize, tantrum, or shake with fear around the specifics of these important nutritional aspects of self care.

So I don't encourage specific food or calorie talk.

At the same time, I support your search for a way to eat that supports your health and stops any damage caused by not eating in a way that is right for your human body.

Getting an education about what really happens in the body when you eat different kinds of foods at different times of the day is extremely helpful in your in the moment decision making about what you will eat and when.

I want to keep fad diets out of here.  I don't want to support weight recycling. And I certainly don't want to get into the passions around specific foods.

So, in answer to your question about what the rules are, the rules are a dance where we find our way, share what we can that does not trigger and does not invite a conversational journey down an eating disorder mind's chosen path.

I know this isn't clear. But it's as clear as I can get right now.  Hope this helps.  Thank you for asking!!!!!
0 # kneePTC 2014-02-05 17:21
It was strange, the other night I woke up with a crazy pain in my knee.  I couldn't move it, straighten or bend it.  I had to literally pick my leg up and move it to where I wanted it.  I actually had a dream that my knee was really swollen, so it must have been hurting enough for it to seep into my dream.  So weird.  I woke up and it was fine.  I didn't hurt any that day either.  That happened to me once or twice before.  It's very bizarre.
0 # kneepinkjoanna 2014-02-05 18:25
Be wise, PTC.

1.  Get your knee checked out by your doctor.

2.  Start writing and let your knee talk to you.  Set  up a conversation that goes:





and let yourself be surprised by what comes.  

Thank you for sharing this!

We can't tell if it's mind to body or body to mind or a combination with two way traffic.  So explore as much as you can.   :-)
0 # But...PTC 2014-02-06 04:34
But my knee doesn't hurt at all.  Well, there's a little part of it that hurts sometimes, but that was not this.  This was just a bizarre thing.  As far as going to a doctor goes, that won't happen.  I wait three months, after something begins to hurt, to call a doctor.  I do this with everything because I think it's going to get better.  My big toe started hurting in October.  I didn't do anything to it, but it felt like a knife was going into the bottom of it if I stepped on it a certain way.  I finally went to the doctor last month.  My toe is more swollen since I started doing the to exercises he gave me and I probably should call him and find out why it's swollen everyday, but I feel stupid calling because it doesn't really hurt anymore.  On the other hand, I want to know why it's swollen.  I just always feel stupid going to the doctor because I feel like they're going to tell me that it's nothing, which is good, but then I would feel dumb thinking something was wrong with me.  My hip hurt for a year before I went to the doctor and found out I had a tear.  Oh well.

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