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A Healthy Diet Can Be A Powerful Catalyst Of Emotional Healing

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Benjiro, Jul 4, 2021.

  1. Benjiro

    Benjiro Peer Supporter

    Greetings everyone,

    I haven’t logged on here in a while, but I wanted to make this post because I believe it will help some of you. Let me first give a brief outline of the path that led me to the main insight I want to share.

    When I first discovered mindbody medicine 5 years ago, I invested all of my energy into emotional healing. I stopped looking at the human body as a car that yielded a mechanical output based on a mechanical input. I started focusing on my biography, both past and present, as a means to improve my biology. This shift in my thinking was groundbreaking, and it alone enabled me to completely heal from disabling chronic neck and back pain of several years.

    I also started working out as soon as I was capable. Knowledge of mindbody medicine, journaling/emotional work, and exercise were my most important tools for a long time. A few years ago, I also discovered fasting as a tool to heal, both physically and emotionally. I intermittent fasted for a couple years, and completed longer water and dry fasts, with solid results, both for the mind and body.

    I later learned that you don’t have to completely abstain from consumption to get benefits from diet. I looked at a number of studies on animals, and I was shocked to discover that for so many species, the single number one way of getting them to live longer, or obtain better health outcomes, in cases where they do not live longer, is to restrict the daily quantity of calories they consume. I learned that eating a little less everyday was a way to get the same, and even greater, benefits than completely fasting, due to the cumulative effect. It makes sense intuitively; eating beyond the calories we need to function at peak levels creates extra work for our bodies that diverts energy from other bodily processes, like physical and emotional healing.

    My last discovery, as it relates to diet, had to do with healthy food. Why do they typically tell us to eat healthy? To lose weight? To not get sick 20 or 30 years later? I learned, similarly to the quantity of consumption, that the effects of what we eat is another huge input in the emotional health equation. What we eat, science says, influences our quality of sleep the same day. It influences how we feel the next day. It influences our ability to process various informational and emotional stimuli.

    I started eating only whole foods, lightly processed foods with nutritional value, nuts, legumes, and fruits and vegetables. I cut out all added sugars, artificial dyes, sweeteners, fried foots, fast food, excessive fats, and many other unhealthy ingredients and preservatives. I was gratified by how my emotional health started to improve within days, with slow and steady gains after that. When I ate healthier, I would wake up feeling a little lighter the next day. I felt better.

    One important note: A healthy diet isn’t just for overweight or obese people. I was always at a healthy weight, and so I never believed I could get much out of diet. Dieting, after all, is typically marketed to people who are overweight. I was in excellent athletic shape, as well, which added to my complacency. However, the truth is I ate way too much processed foods, way too much sugary drinks and added sugar, and not enough substantive food, like whole grains and vegetables, with high nutritional value. People who are overweight or obese may stand the most to gain by changing their diet, but there are powerful emotional and physical benefits for everyone.

    I know there have been many books written on “Eating To Heal,” and people say, "You are what you eat," so this is not an original discovery by any means. However, I wanted to share my positive experience here, because I don’t think diet gets enough play in mindbody circles. It is my belief that our experience of anger, sadness, fear, etc. is powerfully influenced by the food we eat, in addition to things like physical activity and our subjective efforts to deal with emotions in a healthy manner. Food, in a word, can either aid or impair our ability to process trauma.

    In sum, if you haven’t incorporated dietary changes and are already healing, a healthy diet can be a way to accelerate those gains. If you haven’t incorporated dietary changes and have been stagnant in your recovery process, a healthy diet can create a surge of momentum that tips the balance in your favor.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2021
    JanAtheCPA and Cap'n Spanky like this.
  2. AmeliaReinheart

    AmeliaReinheart Newcomer

    Any advice on the exercise portion? It’s been 5months for me now…. I never rlly stopped exercising because I was afraid of being inactive ( walking and light core things). I still have not improved. Could this be why I have not healed? Or should I keep at it and push through the pain ?
  3. miffybunny

    miffybunny Beloved Grand Eagle

    This whole post just adds confusion to people coming here looking for help imo. You have to start with getting basic knowledge. Just use common sense and eat a healthy diet and get some exercise (move). It's not necessary to do fasting protocols or become obsessed unless you enjoy that sort of thing. It all boils down to losing the fear of symptoms, and getting the right mindset. Avoiding triggers like exercise (or positions, or movement, or temperature etc. etc. etc.) is a conditioned response . We work through those by GRADUALLY engaging in the things we fear. It's called graded exposure. For newcomers to the message board, I suggest you get the basic knowledge first because these types of posts can be misleading and problematic.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2022
  4. mbo

    mbo Well known member

    Enlightening, AS USUAL, miffybunny !!!!
    miffybunny likes this.
  5. Benjiro

    Benjiro Peer Supporter

    If people are already eating healthy, then this post is not for them. That was literally the upshot. No one once mentioned it to me, so it isn’t common sense and can’t be taken for granted. You mentioned fear. Diet influences fear (and other emotions).

    As I stated in the opening paragraph, I was able to heal from many things using only emotional techniques. Just as a poor diet can make emotional healing harder, a good one can make it easier, but we still have to do the emotional work.

    Me, I would want access to all resources that can possibly help me, not people to assume I’m going to get confused and can’t handle it.

    A lot of studies and research out there that I’d be happy to link to.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2022
    JanAtheCPA likes this.
  6. Benjiro

    Benjiro Peer Supporter

    It may be helpful to post a separate thread for support. The usual advice is to slowly resume or keep doing physical activity, but to be mindful that you may be more susceptible to muscle pulls/strains during recovery, especially at first where bloodflow may be impaired. Have to listen to your body and not try to do too much at once, but also not be too inert/complacent. Speaking from my own experience, it took me several weeks of progressively increasing physical activity to be completely pain- and disability-free.
  7. Benjiro

    Benjiro Peer Supporter

    I’m not sure where you are at in your recovery (or if you have a mindbody disorder to begin with). This forum is for mindbody disorders. As far as losing weight to improve physical and emotional health, there are other techniques you can experiment with in addition to time-restricted eating. If losing weight is your main goal, there are other communities that can better assist you.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 16, 2022
  8. miffybunny

    miffybunny Beloved Grand Eagle

    Your post about foods influencing emotions just dilutes Dr. Sarno's message and adds to the noise and information overload in which chronic pain sufferers are mired. I'm not here to debate the science behind nutrition and the link to emotions. What I know for sure is that posts like this feed into people's anxiety and creates fear based diets....more "triggers" basically. It can also be misconstrued that diet is somehow part of the "treatment" which it is not. If one wants to follow a special diet or fasting protocols etc., that is unrelated to this forum. A person could literally eat Twinkies all day, sit on the sofa watching Netflix all day, and STILL get better. Is that a great idea? Probably not, but it's absolutely besides the point. People do not come here for dietary advice and I know based on speaking to hundreds of TMS"ers, that these types of posts can be triggering and confusing...especially for newcomers.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2022
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  9. Benjiro

    Benjiro Peer Supporter

    If something is important (and you don’t seem to believe it is), then people possibly getting confused or taking it the wrong way isn’t a good reason not to bring it up. However, I agree that this post isn’t ideal for beginners. Does that mean diet should never get brought up in any context? I have made almost 50 posts, and only one of them on this topic..

    The role of diet in mental/emotional health is either scientific or it isn’t. And I don’t believe anything scientific dilutes Dr. Sarno’s message in any way.
    JanAtheCPA likes this.
  10. miffybunny

    miffybunny Beloved Grand Eagle

    I disagree. Just because something is "scientific" does not mean it's necessarily helpful in certain contexts. People's beliefs about foods can actually perpetuate the anxiety that led them to having tms to begin with. Some of your prior posts are regarding fasting and once again that adds to the static and din. Dr. Sarno kept things very simple and there was good reason for that. Most TMS'ers are over thinkers and constantly researching. While those may be wonderful traits to have, they actually backfire and have the unwanted effect of fueling anxiety. I don't believe discussion on nutrition or supplements or any other types of physical "treatments" are helpful here. If you think that sufferers don't get into the weeds and highly distracted with this kind of post or these topics, you are sorely mistaken. I have to spend a lot of time deprogramming and disabusing people of their false beliefs. While your post is well intended and may even have merit, it can get easily twisted.
  11. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    @Benjiro, it's always nice to see you here, and thanks as always for your thoughtful post, with which I happen to completely agree.

    I have often posted about eating real food. My belief is that eating well and exercising both go hand-in-hand with mental well-being. After all, isn't the entire basis of TMS theory the fact that there is a connection between the mind and the body? That connection goes both ways. It's well-established that highly-processed and overly-sweetened (and salted and fried) foods are physiologically really bad for us, and, in fact, that the excessive consumption of such foods is an addiction, which has been expertly created by the food industry. And addictions are a symptom of TMS.

    Thus, eating crap food can be (1) addictive, (2) a distraction which is covering up repressed emotions, and/or (3) a reason for self-hatred. When any or all of these conditions exist, they must be dealt with in the TMS recovery process.

    You don't have to fall for a fad diet in order to improve what you put into your body and thereby improve how you feel about yourself. The only diet I follow is by paraphrasing Michael Pollen: Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

    Personally, I also believe that if it's not butter, don't bother :p

  12. miffybunny

    miffybunny Beloved Grand Eagle

    While I agree with all of that for optimizing well being, my point is that many TMS sufferers become fearful and obsessed with what they deem to be "bad" foods. Their diets become incredibly restricted and foods become triggers. There were 2 comments on this thread that reflected the confusion (one was just deleted it seems) and were part of the reason I wanted to address the problematic nature of this whole post. Dr. Schubiner discusses this trap on YT. This was the point I was trying to make and it needs to be said for anyone reading here. Food, drugs, porn etc. etc can all be used as maladaptive coping mechanisms but these posts can easily be interpreted in other ways.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2022
    AnonymousNick likes this.
  13. Benjiro

    Benjiro Peer Supporter

    Content on the internet has a life cycle of its own. Crazy to think this post is almost a year old now. Likewise, I like peeking in here from time to time. Almost nostalgic at this point.

    I’m the same way.. Moderation, whole foods, and avoiding added sugars and verifiably toxic preservatives. I don’t really think about it anymore. I just execute and carry on with my life. I think it was a year ago, I made these changes after my brother sent me some studies, which were really eye-opening for me at the time. I always assumed being at a healthy weight and/or athletic meant that I couldn’t really get anything more out of diet. I think now with all the studies that have been done, we have hard evidence for things people knew from instinct/observation (or at least the wise/conscious among us).

    To my mind, I need all the help I can get. And this one is a freebie that I have complete control over.
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  14. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    LOL - I didn't notice that the original was a year old! It was revived on Thursday by a spammer :hilarious: (whose post I removed).
  15. AnonymousNick

    AnonymousNick Peer Supporter

    I'm going to back up @miffybunny on this. For people who have had a struggle with food and digestion, thinking about what you eat is not productive at all. I was raised to believe that sugar was not just unhealthy, but that it was practically deadly poison. And then every ailment or sickness was my fault for eating sugar like every normal kid does. There's an article in the New York Times called "What's Eating Our Kids" that made it clear that I'm not alone. The goodist personality in general is drawn to this "controllability" in diet as well, when they don't feel they have control over other aspects of their lives. Anorexia and bulimia are the most obvious examples of this. I always thought cheese meant constipation, but when I'd just give in and eat a huge stuffed Chicago pizza, it went through me so fast it seemed like it was still in the shape of a pizza. ;) For some people, the diet thing is no big deal, but for others it can be the major manifestation of the symptomology of TMS.
    miffybunny likes this.
  16. miffybunny

    miffybunny Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thank you for adding to this conversation @AnonymousNick because I was concerned that my point was getting lost here. The vast majority of my clients and TMS sufferers I have spoken to over the past 9 years use special diets/controlling food/food elimination/legalistic beliefs about good versus "bad" food as a TMS equivalent...just another diversion tactic of the brain and a way to avoid the WHY. I would bet 100 percent of those who come to the wiki already possess common sense to know that good nutrition is optimal and the last thing they need is another tangent in which to start researching. A large number of my clients went down the alternative rabbit holes of special restrictive diets, had a history of eating disorders or now have intense phobias of foods that they connect with their pain symptoms. Then I would say that many are already very healthy eaters. I have yet to come across one person who described having a horrible diet. The other concern is that some people will see posts on the wiki regarding diet and they will misconstrue it and overcomplicate the approach in some way. You would not believe how much clean up I have to do because of things people read on message boards even by well meaning members. Dr. Sarno never spoke of diets because it was antithetical to his core message which was to live your life normally...not obsessing or worrying...but just healthfully and joyfully.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2022
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  17. Benjiro

    Benjiro Peer Supporter

    Indeed, there are people who have a neurotic / pathological relationship to food. And general wisdom on diet for them may not be resourceful. On the flip side, that risk has to be balanced against the risk of silence in the case of people who do not fall into that category.

    I had TMS and a poor diet. I believe a better diet could have improved my emotional and physical health. For me, that’s enough said. People can adapt (or disregard) information according to their unique circumstances, but to my mind, they deserve to know. I wish someone would have told me this (in clear terms) when I was younger hence why I made the post a year ago.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2022
  18. miffybunny

    miffybunny Beloved Grand Eagle

    Once again, that is besides the point. Every human on the planet benefits from a healthy diet. We know this, but the risk of people inferring that diet is somehow part of the MB approach, as a" treatment" is much higher than those with poor diets needing common sense advice. This is not only in regards to those with fears of food etc. but just in tms sufferers in general (whether their diets are healthy or not). I speak from experience so I shall keep reiterating that this topic detracts from Dr. Sarno's work.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2022
    AnonymousNick likes this.
  19. Benjiro

    Benjiro Peer Supporter

    You apparently don't agree with the premise or you wouldn't conclude that diet cannot be apart of a MB approach. Unless you are talking about a single, close-ended MB approach with only a few admissible therapies and lifestyle changes (which I don't find particularly interesting, because that would mean a better, more adaptable one might be available.) This forum, to my knowledge, is about mindbody medicine in general. Like everything else, it is still in evolution, and we can have conversations about different modalities/treatments.

    E.g. Importance of Dietary Habits Regarding Depressive Symptoms and Depression (typo in abstract noted).
    Diet-Regulated Anxiety

    From the latter:

    I don't see a reason to go back and forth anymore unless there is a new take or someone wants to comment on specific studies.
  20. miffybunny

    miffybunny Beloved Grand Eagle

    At the 25 min and 30 sec mark to the 26 min. and 30 sec. mark the myth of inflammation and fears around food triggers is discussed by Dr. Schubiner. There are many modalities to calming the brain and eating a healthy diet can only help but it is not the "cure". It's a "t0ol" at best, and the issue I see time and time again, is that false beliefs around food and food anxiety become another tms equivalent. One is free to draw their own conclusions and decide what works for them but it's important to present this side for newcomers who are sifting through a sea of information. My advice is to not overcomplicate a simple process by getting caught up in the "tools".


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