What’s Eating at You Is Killing You… And You May Not Even Recognize It!
I met with a lady a few weeks ago who expressed a desire to begin training because she had a goal to drop some body fat and improve her level of health and fitness. She is married, 42 years of age with 3 kids and a part-time job.
“I just want to feel good again, Uncle Steve, to have more energy and to look forward to each and every day, like I used to” she said, rather forlornly.
I could sense the despair in her voice, so I inquired about her medical history. Things like dis-eases, medications she took, and so on.
She said, “I have IBS and fibromyalgia, and I get migraines often. I take Lomotil for my IBS, Lyrica for my fibromyalgia and Aleve when my migraines come on strong.”
Wow…Where to Begin?
First, please let me pre-empt what I’m about to write by stating that I am NOT a doctor of any kind, I don’t pretend to be nor do I prescribe any kind of therapy or medical advice. I also realize this piece will probably not make some people very happy with me…
So be it.
I am, however, a 56-year-old, 33-year veteran of the health and fitness field and I’ve worked with hundreds of people from all walks of life in that time. I’ve read countless books from a myriad of authors on various “dis-eases” from arthritis to cancer. There are some common themes that arise again and again in dealing with people who suffer from certain gastrointestinal dis-eases and dis-stress and their related symptoms.
Please understand that I am differentiating between dis-eases like IBS, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis and so on verses other intestinal viruses like giardia (giardiasis), Hepatitis A, salmonella and/or similar food or water borne dis-eases.
I also empathize and sympathize with you if you have any of these issues. The difference that you and I may have is not that I don’t believe you may have the dis-ease, it’s that I don’t think that the cause stems from an outward influence. In my humble (and yes, questionable opinion…please hear me out to the end of the article before deciding which) these issues are a manifestation of internal strife, stress, repressed anger, forgiveness issues, resentment, unfulfilled promises or something akin to these.
I guess, in essence, I’m asking what came first: the dis-ease or the emotional/mental issue.
Secondly, I’ve found that people with these types of maladies often lay claim to them and wear them almost like a badge. In the case of the woman I interviewed, she referred to them as, “MY IBS…MY fibromyalgia…MY migraine headaches.”
To me, it’s the difference between telling a lie and being a liar, or stealing something and being a thief. One is what you have experienced, done or did, the other is what you are. It may seem like semantics, but it’s deeper than that.
Having a label for something and identifying yourself with and/or by that label are very two different things. One is empowering, and one is not. One creates a fighter, the other creates a victim.
You are not cancer, or fibromyalgia, or Crohn’s or anything else. You are a human being currently who may be undergoing and suffering from the effects of one or more of those things, but you are NOT those things.
Don’t own or wear that label.
3 Layers of Communication
In dealing with the young lady with whom I referenced earlier, and in order to assist her fully, it would obviously behoove me to know more about her personal situation, her injury, family and medical history, as well as the level of and how she handles stress. But that isn’t always possible and, like I stated earlier…I ain’t a doctor.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t help.
Folks who have issues such a IBS, fibromyalgia, ulcerative colitis and so on (at least from what I’ve observed over the years) ALL have one thing in common: some sort of past repressed trauma or emotional pain that, in my opinion, has now manifested itself as the dis-ease they currently struggle with.
I know that’s a bold statement, but in my experience it has always proven true.
- A family member or close acquaintance who emotionally, physically or sexually (or possibly some combination, thereof) abused or neglected them.
- The death or loss (perhaps from traumatic event, abandonment, a move or divorce) of a close friend or family member during the emotional developmental stage of their life. (ages 2 – 7)
- A traumatic event, like an attack or attempted rape while at work, or assault while at work or at home, school or perhaps an event or function.
- Some other type of strong emotion inducing event, like the theft of funds or personal property without consequence to the other party.
- Anything of this nature that causes a painful flood of negative emotions for the involved individual.
As you can imagine, these types of events gnaw on us. How can they not? They slowly eat away at us, churning our guts into knots unless they are dealt with effectively.
When I’m dealing with an individual who has tried for years, and sometimes decades, to get their weight and/or health under control, I must do two things in order to be fully effective in helping them achieve what they desire:
- They must know that I care. You may have heard the quote, “People don’t care how much you know until they first know how much you care.” I could be the best personal fitness professional or strength coach on the planet, but if the person with whom I am interacting doesn’t think I have their best interests at heart, none of that matters.
- I must gain their trust. Trust takes time to build, and seconds to lose. If I want to be an effective coach for people, I must build relationships of trust and goodwill by proving myself to be worthy of trust. This takes time. Not to brag, but there is a reason I have clients I have worked with for 10, 15 and 20 years. I’m understand that I am in the relationship business, first and foremost.
I’ve also learned over the years in dealing with people that if I can get them to open up to me, even if it’s just a little glimpse, about issues from their past, they can make huge strides in eradicating limiting beliefs and issues from their lives.
I discovered many years ago that there are three basic levels of trust in communication with folks that allow for openess, and they are: Will Talk About, Won’t Talk About, and Can’t Talk About items.
- The first level is “Will Talk About.” These topics of discussion are characterized by things people will talk about pretty much right away. These are things they are comfortable in discussing, or only mildly embarrassed by.
- The second level is “Won’t Talk About.” These are subjects characterized by things people won’t talk about right away, either because of embarrassment or possibly cultural issues.
- The third level is “Can’t Talk About.” These are subjects characterized by things people can’t talk about, either because the memory of them is too painful and they’ve “forgotten” it, suppressed it so deeply their subconscious mind won’t let it emerge or they know it, but just can’t talk about it.
The “Will Talk About” level of communication happens almost immediately. Heck, I was in line today at the Post Office to buy stamps and in 5 minutes I learned that the lady behind me had dropped 153 pounds over the course of the last year and a half after a gastric bypass, that she was a 46-year-old grandmother of one and she dated 65-year-old man who owned a bar and looked like the Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in The World.”
She was obviously comfortable enough with me to share these things!
From my experience, the “Won’t Talk About” category of communication takes a little longer to establish. People will often open up to me on these subjects anywhere from two days to two months after we’ve met, usually in hushed whisper tones and right after they exclaim “you can’t tell anyone about this!” then often immediately followed by a nervous laugh.
Neither of these folks generally have any real hurdles or road blocks to obtaining their health and fitness goals other than the establishment of better habits and routines. It’s the 3rd category of communication that subverts or stifles people in their attainment of what it is they want.
“Can’t Talk About”
In his great book, Broken Children, Grown Up Pain by Paul Hegstrom, he asserts that, “Despair. Emotional isolation. Self-loathing. Immaturity. Abusive actions. These are just some of the damaging fragments that remain embedded within our personalities, behaviors, and souls when we are broken as children. The memory of the past may seem distant and clouded, but within its scars deep wounds remain that continue to inflict pain upon our adult lives–and often end up spilling into the lives of others.”
These memories may be so deeply repressed as to remain unrecognized or seemingly unknown to the individual. They can also thwart progress or cause a yo-yo or rollercoaster effect of continual short-term success and failure. For example, you drop a few pounds, then self-sabotage, gain all of the weight back (plus 5 pounds) and start the cycle all over again.
The resultant confusion, frustration and anger from self-induced stressors due to the inability to effectively deal with these emotional issues can possibly lead to other health complications, like the aforementioned maladies I described. Or they may be there already, further complicating the process.
If I can gain someone’s trust, so much so that they can open up to me about these issues and confront them head on, it begins to clear the roadblocks so that their progress toward better overall health, fitness and wellness begins.
The 22 Laws
Greg Anderson, long time cancer survivor and author of the book, The 22 Non-Negotiable Laws of Wellness understands that stress is a killer.
“The problem isn’t stress, it’s toxic stress.”
Did I mention that Mr. Anderson had only one lung when cancer metastasized in his remaining lung, and he was subsequently given 30 days to live?
That was in 1994.
How did he survive, and then go on to thrive? One of the 22 resources he utilized was forgiveness. It would take me too long to describe it here, so get the book and read it, but let me state this about forgiveness: it equates to healing.
And we can all use that.
The Bottom Line
The Native Americans “knew” that we feel from our guts.
Have you ever heard any of these terms or phrases?
“What does your gut tell you?”
“Go with what your gut says!”
Have you ever been in turmoil over a situation at work or home and because of it your guts were in a knot. You couldn’t eat, possibly you had diarrhea, vomiting or just felt nauseous.
What caused it, other than the internal strife and stress from your own mind and emotions?
The turn of the century naturopathic doctors and chiropractors understood that the health of the gut determined the overall health of the body. This is becoming more and more apparent to “modern” medical doctors today, as evidenced in these recent articles and studies:
- Gut bacteria and Parkinson’s
- Role of the gut microbiota in health and chronic gastrointestinal disease
- How your gut affects your mood
- The tantalizing links between gut microbes and the brain
- New Study Links Gut & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- World’s first microbiome study reveals links between lifestyle and gut flora
- Mental health may depend upon creatures in the gut
And there are dozens more studies and research papers that infer the same thing: your overall level of health & wellness is tied directly to the health of your gut.
Therefore, is it such a stretch to imagine that filling the gut with our bodies stress chemicals (adrenaline, cortisol, norepinephrine, etc) as well as junk food, sugar and drugs to counteract the symptoms of dis-ease can lead to further complications or even cause such dis-eases as IBS, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis and more?
Could it be possible that managing your hormones and stress levels with good nutrition, breathing techniques, forgiveness, prayer, quality sleep, exercise and more could possibly heal your body and restore you to good health?
Or are you just doomed to a life of misery, drug dependency and certain early death?
This approach I’m advocating may not apply to you or even work.
But what if you tried it for longer than a month and it did?
How much safer in both the short and long term is this approach verses drugs with possible side effects?
How much happier and more satisfied with life would you be if you dealt with the emotional and mental issues that possibly plague you now, and have been ruling your life and mind for as long as you can remember?
In other words: When would NOW be a good time to get started on your healing?
P.S. Here are some resources I recommend for reading. I also recommend you find a good Christian counselor to help you work through your issues. I know one saved my life… 😉
Broken Children, Grown Up Pain by Paul Hegstrom
The 22 Non-Negotiable Laws of Wellness by Greg Anderson
Avoiding Mr. Wrong (And What to do if You Didn’t) by Steve Arterburn
What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey
Healing The Broken Brain by Elden Chalmers, PhD.