Food and Diet Obsession
If most of your day is spent thinking about what you just ate or what you're going to eat next, Dr. Phil says that the possible roots of your obsession may surprise you.
Most of the time, obsessive behavior and compulsive thinking about food have nothing to do with food. They have everything to do with your self-image. It's just that the battlefield you've chosen is food. It's where you've chosen to exercise tight control in hopes that none of your underlying fears and emotions will creep up on you.
People often use food as a control mechanism. Having an obsession with food and controlling your intake of it can be a substitute for having command over what you really want to control: how you feel about yourself.
Ask yourself what would happen if you didn't focus on food so much and let go of the control. Do you fear you'd be a worthless human being? What if you said, "My body image is independent of my self-image. If I am a good, caring and loving parent/spouse/child and an honest, responsible citizen, it doesn't matter how much I weigh"? You may want to weigh less and that's OK. But weight and self-image are not the same thing.
Know that you can unlearn this behavior. Everybody has a definition of success. If your definition of success is to have hyper-control of food intake, it's the wrong definition. You need to change your definition.
Understand that ending obsessive behavior with food sometimes isn't the answer to the problem because it doesn't deal with the root of the problem: internal dialogue that says you're a bad person if you don't weigh a certain amount. You need to change your internal dialogue.
When discussing food obsession, Dr. Phil believes it's important to note that one of the biggest problems with weight loss programs today is that they are highly focused on food. Many popular programs incorporate a regimented diet in which people have to weigh food and count calories, etc. People often go on a diet because they don't want to eat as much but the structure of the diet requires them to spend their entire day focused on food, which only exacerbates the problem.
Internal vs. External Factors
In order to define your self-concept and how it came to be, you need to understand two major sets of factors that help shape who you are:
External Factors: You can trace who you've become in this life back to 10 defining moments, seven critical choices and five pivotal people. You cannot change these moments, choices and people, but once acknowledged, you can begin to work on changing your future.
Internal Factors: Unlike the external factors that we have no control over, our internal factors are made up of our own reactions to the events in our life. Since these reactions happen within us, we have the power to change them.
Identifying these factors along with the effects that they have had on your self-concept will allow you to deal with them in the here and now. By doing this you will be able to take your power back, stop being a passenger in your life, and start driving.
Next: Define your external factors
Defining Your External Factors
According to Dr. Phil, you can trace who you've become in this life to three types of external factors: 10 defining moments, seven critical choices, and five pivotal people. But first it's important to understand the following terms:
Ten Defining Moments: In every person's life, there have been moments, both positive and negative, that have defined and redefined who you are. Those events entered your consciousness with such power that they changed the very core of who and what you thought you were. A part of you was changed by those events, and caused you to define yourself, to some degree by your experience of that event.
Seven Critical Choices: There are a surprisingly small number of choices that rise to the level of life-changing ones. Critical choices are those that have changed your life, positively or negatively, and are major factors in determining who and what you will become. They are the choices that have affected your life up to today, and have set you on a path.
Five Pivotal People: These are the people who have left indelible impressions on your concept of self, and therefore, the life you live. They may be family members, friends or co-workers, and their influences can be either positive or negative. They are people who can determine whether you live consistently with your authentic self, or instead live a counterfeit life controlled by a fictional self that has crowded out who you really are.
Defining Your Internal Factors
Internal factors are reactions that you create inside yourself in response to the world. Even though they happen inside you, it's best to think about them as behaviors because they are actions that you choose. By choosing how to perceive yourself, you can either behave your way to success or behave your way to failure. For example, if you believe you are competent and special, you will live up to that truth. If you believe you are incompetent and worthless, you will live down to that truth.
The powerful internal factors that shape your self-concept are:
Internal Dialogue: This is the continuous conversation that you have with yourself about everything that happens to you. This dialogue is constant, happens in real time (at the same rate at which you would speak the words aloud), and provokes a physiological change (with each thought comes a physical reaction).
Labeling: Humans tend to organize things into categories. We even categorize other humans by labeling them into groups, subgroups, classes and functions. But were you aware that we label ourselves? For better or worse, these labels have a powerful impact on our perception of self because we tend to "live" the categories we've attached to ourselves ("I'm a loser" or "I'm a winner.")
Tapes: These are beliefs that have become so deeply ingrained that they "play" automatically in our heads and influence our behavior without our awareness. Unlike labels ("I never win"), tapes have context: "I won't get the promotion because I never win." Tapes are dangerous and potentially self-defeating because they have the power to set you up for a specific outcome.
Fixed Beliefs / Limiting Beliefs: Fixed beliefs are the beliefs we hold about ourselves, others, and life's circumstances that have been repeated for so long they have become ingrained and are difficult to change. Limiting beliefs are the beliefs we have about ourselves that limit what we reach for and achieve. They also cause us to block any conflicting (positive) information while confirming any new negative information.
How Do You Label Yourself?
Labels are incredibly powerful influences in your life. You may not be consciously aware of even a fraction of your labels, whether they come from the outside world or from within yourself. Either way, you must acknowledge the existence of labels, challenge the "fit," and confront the impact these labels have on your concept of self.
Ask yourself the following questions in order to start identifying and evaluating your labels. Write your answers down so that you can review them later.
1. How do you label yourself? Are you a career woman, a mom, an accountant, a politician? Are you a failure or a winner? Are you a "fat girl" or a "pretty girl?" Write down all the labels you attach to yourself, going back as far as you can remember.
2. Where did these labels come from? Did they come from you? Your parents? A teacher? A friend? Look at each label you wrote down in the above question, and identify where each one came from.
3. Are you living to your labels? How are your labels working for you? What are your payoffs?
What Is Your Life Script?
How fixed beliefs define our roles:
Our fixed beliefs define the roles we play in life and have a lot to do with the scripts that are running them. Just as actors follow a play's script for lines, actions and attitude, we follow life scripts according to what our fixed beliefs tell us. Are you telling yourself that you are a tragic character or heroic character? Are you playing the loving mother, abusive husband, frustrated artist or successful businessman?
Why scripts are dangerous:
Whatever your fixed beliefs are, you have practiced your script for so long that you believe what it says about you and your potential. This is why life scripts are dangerous. We begin to perceive them as being set in stone. We even allow them to shape the way we expect things to turn out. Fixed beliefs also influence the casting, location and wardrobe of our script. Who is "right" for the part in our script and who isn't? What type of living arrangement and attire are appropriate for the character we are playing, etc.?
When life scripts become limiting:
Because our scripts are based on fixed beliefs, we tend to resist any challenges or changes to them. If we suddenly feel happy and fulfilled, but our script says that we should feel sad and hopeless, we tend to panic because we've gone "off script." It just doesn't feel right and besides, the happy role belongs to someone else, doesn't it? This is an example of why most fixed beliefs are also limiting beliefs. They limit our scripts by dictating what we can't do, don't deserve and aren't qualified for.
What's next? It's time to move your self-concept away from a world-defined, fictional self toward a self-defined, authentic self with Dr. Phil's Five-Step Action Plan.
Self Matters Action Plan
You can't change what you don't acknowledge. You can stop being passively shaped by the internal and external forces in your life. It's time to move your self-concept away from a world-defined, fictional self toward a self-defined, authentic self that is grounded in the here and now.
Here is an overview of Dr. Phil's Five-Step Action Plan:
Step 1: Isolate a Target Event
Decide which of your key external events has turned out to be the most toxic experience of your life. This will be either one of your 10 defining moments, seven critical choices or five pivotal people. Then write a short description of the target event. When you're done, read it over to make sure you are being honest in your account.
Step 2: Audit Your Internal Responses to That Triggering Event
Ask yourself the following questions about the event you described in Step 1:
a) Where do you place a responsibility or blame for that event, your locus of control? Who was responsible? Did you have any control over the situation? Were you even old enough to have a say?
b) What has been the tone and content of your internal dialogue since that event? Do you find your real-time, "normal speed" conversations in your daily life reflecting the changes that occurred within you and are associated with that event? When you reflect on this event, what do you say to yourself? Even when you're not reflecting directly on the event, but experience feelings of guilt and shame, what do you say to yourself?
c) What labels have you generated for yourself as a result of your event? What have you told yourself about you as a consequence of what happened?
d) What tapes has this event generated or contributed to? Has this event caused you to develop an automatic, unthinking response that "predicts" the outcome of any given situation?
e) What are the fixed beliefs and resulting life script that you have constructed as a result of your event? Do you suspect you are living from a "script" that was written as a result of this event?
Step 3: Test Your Internal Responses for Authenticity
You can test everything you are saying to yourself and find out whether it is fictional or authentic by asking these four questions:
a) Is it a true fact?
b) Does holding onto the thought or attitude serve your best interest?
c) Are your thoughts and attitudes advancing and protecting your health?
d) Do your thoughts and beliefs get you what you want?
Step 4: Come up with an "Authentically Accurate Alternative" Response
When you test your negative internal dialogue and it fails (as it should because it isn't true), you need to do what Dr. Phil calls "Triple-A thinking." This means replacing your fictional responses with ones that are an Authentically Accurate Alternative. How do you know your new responses are AAA? Because they meet the authenticity standards outlined in Step 3. Start by dividing a page into two columns. On the left, list your present fictional beliefs ("I am worthless"). On the right, list as many alternative beliefs as you can. ("I am a worthy human being with valuable qualities" "I deserve to be treated with respect" "I have things to contribute to the world").
Now it's time to test your alternative beliefs.
a) Is the alternative true?
b) Is it in your best interest to hold these beliefs?
c) Do the alternatives advance and protect your health?
d) Do the alternatives get you what you truly want?
Circle all of the alternative beliefs that have passed the test. Now you can choose to adopt as many of these authentic alternative beliefs as you like.
Step 5: Identify and Execute Your Minimal Effective Response (MER)
The goal of Step 5 is emotional closure. You want to be able to close the book on the life event that caused you so much pain with a minimal amount of effort. Consider your alternatives for action and ask yourself these four questions:
a) What action can you take to resolve the pain?
b) If you were successful and achieved this action, how would you feel?
c) Does the feeling you will have match the feeling you want to have?
d) Remember the word "minimal." Could there be some other, more emotionally or behaviorally economical action that would give you the emotional resolve you want to feel?
Whatever your MER is, you need to identify it and do it so that you can achieve emotional closure and move on to a more authentic, fulfilling life.
Protecting Yourself From Sabotage
Have you made positive life changes and then been surprised by how others react? Do friends and family act as though your growth threatens them? Are they not supporting you in ways you expected them to?
Don't be surprised if those closest to you try to sabotage your efforts. Sometimes people will unconsciously try to keep you "on script" with your fictional self in order to protect you or protect themselves from change.
Dr. Phil suggests that you weigh carefully what others have to say because there may be something of value offered, but also keep in mind their possible motives.
There are four basic patterns of behavior that others typically use to destroy your quest for authenticity — whether they know it or not. It's important to be aware of these patterns and not allow "carriers of toxicity" to set you back.
The four destructive behaviors are:
The underlying message here is one of fear. "I don't want you to get hurt." "Trying something new could result in failure." This pattern is dangerous because it's often masked as love and concern and is therefore difficult to fight.
2. Power Manipulation
In this form of sabotage, people attempt to take away your personal power in order to maintain their old relationship with you. They figure that if they treat you like a child, you will yield to their suggestions like a child. "What idiot told you it would be good to go back to school?" "Do you honestly think you'll keep the weight off?"
People who feel inadequate will sometimes try to "level" those who have what they want. Your success could pose a threat and cause them to sabotage you in any way they can in order to bring you down to their level.
4. Safety in the Status Quo
People are comfortable with circumstances that they know, even if the circumstances are bad. A change for the better is still a change -- a complete threat to familiarity and the security of the status quo. Don't be surprised if others perceive your reconnection with your authentic self as something threatening that they need to destroy.