Welcome to Weighty Issues

As you may know, we live in a culture which promotes a love/hate relationship with food, with our bodies and ultimately with ourselves. Therefore, we are left feeling out of control with our eating and with our lives. Joyce Sarat White, licensed professional counselor and founder of Weighty Issues, helps clients explore information, challenge beliefs and encourages the reframing of one's relationship to food, to their bodies and to themselves. Click here for a more complete description of Weighty Issues.

This blog will provide you with the opportunity to receive support and education. The information is meant to complement, not substitute for professional services. Thank you for visiting, I hope it will become habit forming!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Life Worth Living

The following story was written by a client. It will give you a sense of one person's process towards health and healing.

I finally reached out for help, after years of suffering with issues related to food. I was unhappy, emotionally numb, and the world seemed to be a difficult and unsafe place. I was struggling with the relationships in my life and with myself. I thought if only I could learn to control the food I would be happy. I soon realized I was using food to medicate myself, eating to numb the pain and to block the hopelessness.

Joyce patiently listened to my unhappiness; we slowly built a trusting relationship. I treaded cautiously; she respected my resistance, understood my unwillingness, and gently encouraged me to express myself. In the beginning I could not tolerate the pain and be open to my experience. Joyce gently guided me with love and compassion, teaching and counseling until I was finally strong enough to take an emotional risk.

I began to open up to the pain, to explore and experience the pain. The pain had been buried and covered by years of disordered eating. The pain felt so frightening, and unbearable. How could I let myself feel? I was terrified.

The vulnerability I experienced during this phase of treatment was excruciating. I wanted a quick fix; I needed to feel better immediately. I finally realized I could not cover the pain with food anymore. This was going to take work, a commitment, and faith that I could heal. At times the vulnerability became unbearable. I wanted to leave – to quit therapy. Joyce encouraged me to express these thoughts and feelings and supported me unconditionally during this difficult time.

As I began to learn to experience my inner world and take care of myself, I became emotionally stronger. Gaining strength from Joyce’s confidence, I began to keep a journal, took mindfulness meditation and Reiki classes, and explored my spirituality. I incorporated daily physical activity into my routine, and worked with other healthcare providers to learn good nutritional habits. In addition, I worked to strengthen my assertiveness skills and develop reasonable boundaries. I was working to create balance in my life and to trust I could take care of myself. All this hard work resulted in more self-confidence.

As my confidence grew, the need for food diminished. There was no going back to a life where I needed to numb myself with food to live. While life is full of challenges I am learning how to cope by expressing my feelings and caring for myself.

As I learned to trust Joyce I learned to trust myself. Being able to trust myself has changed my life. I feel a sense of freedom, security, and competence that I have never experienced before. Discovering my internal strength, my ability to listen and care for myself has led to the beginning of a life where I can make decisions that are good for my health and happiness-creating a life worth living.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

People are like Plants; Plants are like People

Long ago, I was not interested in gardening. My sister, who was president of her garden club, continually told me the joys of being a gardener. However, I was too fascinated by people, the human body and how it worked; how to move it and how to nourish it. I could not see the value in taking time to smell the flowers.

Then one day I went to a lecture at a nearby nursery. I heard references to carefree daffodils, handsome blue flag iris, and romantic window boxes. As I listened more I began to see how plants are like people; and people are like plants. The instructor spoke of giving your plants just the right amount of water, fertilizer, and sun for optimum growth. She continued by saying, "Plan your garden by selecting flowers that will make good companions....Gradually bring plants in or out of the house so as not to shock their systems....Allow plants to be dormant so they can rest and bloom again....Talk to, touch, and care for your plants and they will thrive and not die."

We as humans need the same self care. We need to foster rich soil by nourishing our souls so we can be fully alive. As we tune into our inner self and treat ourselves kindly, our creativity blossoms like a plant moving toward light. We begin to make choices that are health enhancing. We choose the proper foods. We eat when we are hungry and we stop when we are full. We spend time in the sun to feel alive and vibrant but not so much as to cause us illness. We are careful not to shock our bodies with too much stress. Gradually we increase our exercise so as to stand taller and stronger yet avoiding injury. We allow ourselves to rest so we may bloom again and be are personal best. We drink water to hydrate our systems...drinking more when it is hot and less when it is cool. We are mindful of our potential as we watch our summer gardens grow.

Two fushias that hang in front of my house tell the story well. One is on the southwest side and the other is on the northwest. Both I thought were doing well: Full, budding profusely and gorgeous delights to passersby. Suddenly, the one on the northwest side went limp. Hanging lifeless, it looked the way our bodies look when stressed. It was not getting enough water or sun, and the wind just blew it to exhaustion. Friends told me to throw it out. How often do we want to throw out our bodies when we don't like them? I couldn't do that. I snipped out the dead branches. It was like snipping out the negative tapes in our heads: "I'm Fat" or "I'm not smart enough." I then watered the plant well, gave it more sunlight and fertilized it with extra nutrients. I patiently pampered it for weeks and brought it back to full bloom.

We too need to accept where we are and then to be patient and gentle with ourselves. It takes time to become who we want to become. By daily renewal we can attain the health and fullness we ultimately deserve.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The First Step

It is not easy to take the first step; to pick up the phone and to call and to ask for help. Often times, my clients tell me that they have been thinking about doing so for months, even years.

Then one day something happens-something that says to them, "I cannot continue the way I am thinking, feeling and behaving any longer. I need help with this food and weight issue."

Because I admire my clients' courage in acting on their own behalf, I do my best to schedule new clients as soon as possible. When they arrive at the first session, I invite them into my office. My office is a comfortable room-nurturing, warm and relaxing. Hopefully, it reflects what I try to provide for them-a calm, compassionate, nonanxious presence.

Are you ready to take the first step? If you are, please call(207 846-9053) because I am ready to walk with you down this long winding road.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pause in the Present Moment

There is an old Zen saying, "How you do anything is how you do everything." Do you rush through meals and rush through life without a pause in the present moment? Are you consumed by thoughts of yesterday, "I shouldn't have eaten that chocolate chip cookie. I shouldn't have eaten that cheesecake at the restaurant. How could I let myself gain that weight back!" At other times, are your thoughts focused on planning your future? "I am going to start exercising tomorrow. I am going to start eating healthy tomorrow. When I lose my weight, I will buy new clothes. When I lose my weight, I will have better relationships."

These thoughts exemplify those of us who have weight concerns. We are either obsessing about the past or planning how happy and joyful we will be when the weight is no longer an issue. The here and now slips away and we go through daily routines with little awareness. When this form of "Mindlessness" takes hold, we cannot be fully present for small pleasures and events, even for significant ones.

"Mindfulness" is the antidote to mindlessness. It is a philosophy as well as a meditation practice. It is to pause in the present moment and be in the moment. It is about experienceing each moment of your life both the good and the bad. It is feeling the sadness and the sorrow as well as the joy. It is paying attention nonjudgementally. As a result, you will have greater awareness and appreciation for what life has to offer. You will feel true joy to greater depths. You will be more able to take charge of the direction and quality of your life. It will lead you to greater satisfaction, happiness and health.

Mindfulness can be developed by taking time each day to allow ourselves to become fully absorbed and engaged in an activity whether that activity is eating a meal, walking along a beach, washing the dishes, playing with children or creating a work of art. If you would like to learn more about mindfulness and pausing in the present moment, please call me at my office 846-9053 or join us at the Weighty Matters Group.

Mindfulness...pausing in the present moment is an awakening to life. You will enjoy what you are doing more when fully present. And that is why it is called "the present".

Monday, May 25, 2009

Progress is NOT only Measured on the Scale

If you feel you are what you weigh and you allow the scale to determine your worth, it may be helpful to begin noticing other ways to measure your progress towards health. This is not an easy feat, since we live in a culture that shames us unless we are thin enough. However, it is imperative if we are to feel good about ourselves and our bodies and live a healthy and joyful life.

The following list includes some ways to measure success beyond the scale:

1. Listening to your hunger; eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full.

2. Looking in the mirror and saying an affirmation, for example, "I am beautiful inside and out."

3. Giving your body enough sleep so it is rested and rejuvenated.

4. Moving your body in an enjoyable way just because you enjoy it and not to lose weight.

5. Setting aside "quiet" time.

6. Spending time in nature.

7. Letting go of negative self-deprecating thoughts and replacing them with loving, affirming thoughts.

8. Noticing when hunger is emotional and finding a nurturing coping strategy.

9. Feeding your body with a variety of nutritious foods that satisfy you instead of dieting.

10.Feeling confident, strong and able to list qualities that reflect your inner beauty.

11.Attending sessions with Joyce at Weighty Issues or the Weighty Matters Group for support, education and insights.

Which one is your measure of progress?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Client's Journey

I have been attending meetings of Weighty Matters for almost two years now and have learned so much not only about my relationship with food but also about myself.

Although I felt it was time to talk about what was going on in my life with food, I felt shy about walking into the first meeting. I wondered what kind of a group this would be and what would occur. Over the years, I'd been to Weight Watchers and Overeaters Anonymous meetings, counted endless calories and over exercised, and undervalued myself through it all. I'd lost myself in the battle with food daily and it was an unhealthy cycle I wanted to break free from.

The first session was very non-threatening. No plastic measuring cups for food amounts, no good/bad, no one talking about pounds lost or gained. How was this all going to work, I wondered?

Joyce was encouraging and supportive of everyone whether they spoke or not. The session was emotional issues surrounding food. Clearly it spoke to me. I learned from the first meeting on , that if I was present and by that I mean listening and attuned, something spoken at every meeting would resonate within me and make a connection. The insight would come to me, if not right at that moment then later. These epiphanies have been like keys that have unlocked doors and have set me free step by step.

It hasn't been easy. There have been times when the sessions, as gentle as they are, have seemed too difficult. My feelings were perhaps too raw or what I heard from another person in the group moved me too deeply. But those times have lead to larger breakthroughs and revelations. For me, this has been part of the growth process and part of learning to experience my feelings instead of using food to mask uncomfortable feelings.

I try to "share" something at every meeting even if I am tired or feeling vulnerable. Staying with Weighty Matters really works for me. Slowly, but it works. As Joyce says, it took years to get to the point of who and where I am today. Change doesn't happen overnight.

What have I learned from the group and private sessions with Joyce? The most important lessons have been about learning who I am without the action of using food to numb feelings, mask pain and sometimes, quite literally in the past to disconnect from life emotionally. I have found life is wonderful when I actually live it, move my body more and am not centered with consuming or not consuming food!

Everyone of us is unique and our paths to becoming healthy and healing ourselves are unique. I journal on a daily basis and try to walk everyday. Those are minimum basics for me personally. What they enable me to do is keep in touch with my inner self. This is also the benefit of counseling. I know ways to slow down my eating when I feel too tired or anxious such as switching my eating utensil to my non-dominant hand. Works every time, I focus on the eating and enjoy the meal more.

Listening and sharing with Joyce and the group has been a blessing. Speaking as a member of the group, I feel that we understand the feelings behind what we say as we have been there. It's personal when we reveal ourselves to another but to bring it forward reminds us that we are not alone. Support and encouragement are only two of the gifts.

It is worth every minute of continuing to come to the meetings. Even if you have had a difficult day, week, lifetime-keep coming back. It's worth it because taking the time to understand yourself is the best gift you can give yourself and you are worth it!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

About Joyce White

Joyce Sarat White has an impressive background which spans more than thirty years as a teacher, counselor, consultant and writer. She is the founder of Weighty Issues, a private practice specializing in issues surrounding food, body,and weight. She provides individual and group counseling. She facilitates a support group at Martin's Point Healthcare. She has given presentations to numerous organizations, some include the University of Southern Maine, Hannaford Brothers and has been featured on WCSH6-TV. She is a contributing writer to a variety of publications.

Joyce received her B.A. from the University of Mass. and her M.A. with honors from Columbia University. She has had additional graduate studies at Boston University, Wellesly College and the University of Southern Maine. Highlights of continuing education include participation in a Vipasanna Meditation Retreat and certification in Emotional Freedom Techniques. She also attends regularly the Renfrew Center Conference which is a leader in the field of weight issues.
Joyce is a member of the Yarmouth Eating Disorders Collaborative.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Welcome to Weighty Issues

Welcome to Weighty Issues!

As you may know, we live in a culture which promotes a love/hate relationship with food, with our bodies and ultimately with ourselves. Therefore, we are left feeling out of control with our eating and with our lives. Joyce Sarat White, licensed professional counselor and founder of Weighty Issues, helps clients explore information, challenge beliefs and encourages the reframing of one's relationship to food, to their bodies and to themselves.

Using a holistic non-dieting, health at every size approach, issues addressed are: Do diets work? What is normal eating? How do I practice Mindful Eating? What beliefs influence my behavior? How do I develop a positive body image? How can I manage the stress in my life? How can I change my negative thinking? How can I deal with emotional eating/cravings? Why do I say "yes" when I mean "no"? Where is my "soul" self? How can I accept, nurture and love myself?

In an atmosphere that truly fosters self-understanding and self-caring, you will learn how to change your relationship with food, with your body and with yourself by discovering the personal choices that form the basis for a livable, peaceful and enjoyable approach to eating, exercise and dealing with the stresses of daily living. You will also learn new skills and strategies to help you stay motivated in caring for your health and well-being. "You are going to like yourself!"

Joyce has an impressive background in teaching, counseling, consulting and writing which spans more than thirty years. She provides individual counseling at her office in Yarmouth.  She has given innumerable presentations to schools, businesses, and universities and has been featured on WCSH6-TV. She is a contributing writer to several publications. Phone and webcam sessions are also provided in special circumstances.

This blog will provide you with the opportunity to receive support and education. The information is meant to complement, not substitute for professional services. On a weekly basis there will be new posts. In addition, once a month, a new post will coordinate with the topic previously discussed at the Weighty Matters Support Group. Therefore, it will be posted after the third Thursday of the month.

Thank you for visiting here and I hope it will become habit forming!

Are You a Diet Survivor?


YOU HAVE NOT FAILED, THE DIETS HAVE FAILED YOU! It is not your fault. When a pattern occurs in a particular way, it can no longer be considered a personal failure.

Why it is hard to give up dieting? CULTURAL IMAGES-We are exposed to 1500 ads a day!

We don't see the culture at fault, rather we adopt faulty thinking. It is faulty because DIETS DO NOT WORK.

Diets are HAZARDOUS to our health!
1. They make one fatter.
2. Weight cycling increases disease.
3. A dieter is 8 times more likely to develop an eating disorder.
4. A dieter is more susceptible to depression.

Letting go of diets...means experiencing a significant loss in your life...there is grief and sadness...Where are you in this process?
1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

A Diet Survivor-If you have been on more than one diet, lost and regained the weight, and are becoming aware that the failure is not your fault: You are a diet survivor.

You are now embarking on a healing process that is life-affirming rather than life-destroying.

The Tenets of Health At Every Size
1. Health Enhancement-attention to emotional, physical and spiritual well being, without focus on weight loss or achieving a specific “ideal weight”.

2. Size and self-acceptance-respect and appreciation for the wonderful diversity of body shapes and size (including one’s own), rather than the pursuit of an idealized weight or shape.

3. The pleasure of eating well: Eating based on internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite, rather than on external food plans or diets.

4. The joy of movement-encouraging all physical activities for the associated pleasure and health benefits, rather than following a specific routine of regimented exercise for the primary purpose of weight loss.

5. An end to weight bias-recognition that body shape, size and/or weight are not evidence of any particular way of eating, level of physical activity, personality, psychological issue or moral character; Confirmation that there is beauty and worth in EVERY body.

We must be the change we want to see in the world.-Mahatma Gandhi

*Resources- The Diet Survivor’s Handbook by Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel
Moving Away from Diets by Karen Katrina, N. King, D. Hayes

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Midlife Women with Eating Disorders

Midlife Women with Eating Disorders: A Weighty Issue

Are you 35 or older?

Have you been on a diet most of your life only to be heavier than you would like to be?

Do you dislike your body, your weight and the way you look?

Do you eat to comfort yourself when you are stressed, sad, anxious, lonely or feeling empty?

Do your life and your eating feel out of control?

Do you feel like a failure and hate yourself?

Do you eat a half of a gallon of ice cream, then feel terrible about yourself?

Do you eat in secret?

Are you grieving a loss-perhaps a loss of spouse, parent or child or the loss of a dream for your life?

Are you a perfectionist?

Are your hormones fluctuating?

If you could answer yes to some of these questions, you are not alone and you could be a midlife woman with an eating disorder. Eating disorders at midlife have been occurring with greater frequency, partly due to the aging of baby boomers, but often go unrecognized.

Although there is little research in this area, there is compelling information about the extent of dieting and body image concerns, both of which are precursors to clinical eating disorders. The following statistics apply to adult women (Source: Waterhouse, 1997):

*60% have engaged in pathogenic weight control
*40% are restrained eaters
*40% are overeaters
*50% say their eating is devoid of pleasure and causes guilt
*90% worry about their weight

Along with the body image concerns, a sense of loss, isolation or stress can affect midlife women. Disordered eating patterns are complex conditions with multiple causes, including social, individual, familial and biological factors. Consequently, disordered eating can be interpreted not as mere problems with food and weight, but as a complex expression of how an individual sees herself in the world and a response to how she experiences that world.

Symptoms of Eating Disorder at Middle and Late Life
+Preoccupation with body image
+Use of over-the-counter, prescribed, or illicit substances to lose weight
+”Exercise Addiction”
+Inability to make life transitions or to mourn significant losses
+Fear of aging: competition with younger generations
+Unrealistic goals
Zerbe K.J. Primary Psychiatrr. Vol.10.No.6 2003

How to turn away from an eating disorder, be resilient and love your body:

1.Accept your body as it is. Be realistic and befriend it. Be gentle and compassionate.

2.Be “in the present” with your body. Grieve the figure of your youth. Stop “futurizing.”

3.Affirm your right to be whatever shape and size you naturally are. Begin noticing the beauty in a variety of body types. Buy and wear clothes that you love and that fit you.

4.Stop dieting and stop weighing yourself. Concentrate on eating mindfully and listen to your body: Is it hungry? Is it tired? What do I really need?

5.Choose healthy foods not because you have to, but because you cherish your body.

6.Enjoy being in your body. Do activities you like: dancing, yoga, tai chi, karate, swimming, walking, biking…

7.Find creative outlets for your feelings around your body: write about them, paint, read the writing of others, share feelings with a safe person.

8.Pamper your body with soothing rituals.

9.Take time to Breathe/to be Quiet: Reflect, prayer, meditate, journal.

10.Most importantly get support-Call me at Weighty Issues (207) 846-9053.

Healing and recovering from an eating disorder ultimately evolves from learning to trust oneself, one’s body and eventually, others.

Friday, April 17, 2009

What Clients Say About Joyce....

"I have been in many groups and have never felt so at ease and comfortable. I feel Joyce welcomes us with open arms and is a very compassionate warm person. I feel so positive after each session--like a REBIRTH! Thanks again for allowing me to be part of this wonderful experience." MGR

"Joyce has intrinsic people skills. Her education, compassion, humor, and patience make her a great advisor." JM

"Making the time and space to deal with these issues was priceless. Thanks!" FJH

Friday, April 10, 2009

Driving Directions to Weighty Issues

Weighty Issues is conviently located at 261 Main Street in Yarmouth, Maine.
The office is on the second floor of a large grey historic house. Free parking is available at the rear of the building.