Sick Of Struggling With Food, Weight & Hating Your Body?

After a 40 year struggle with food, weighing over 300lbs & hating my body….I discovered the root cause of my food addiction & weight struggles & finally found a permanent solution!

Release Your Weight Permanently
& Get Freed Up To Finally Live Your Dreams

 

I have been passionate about growing and evolving on a personal, professional and spiritual level for the past 30 years.  My struggle with food, life threatening obesity and all of the pain and shame that go along with having this struggle began when I was just five years old.  Through my dedication to my own personal & spiritual growth, including taking a deep dive through healing my family of origin issues for many years, I am grateful to be maintaining a 160lb weight loss for the past 15 years.

Although I knew that my issues with food and weight were an early coping mechanism that I used to deal with the stress of being raised in a dysfunctional family, it wasn’t until I began doing extensive research about what childhood trauma was, it’s various causes and the life long shadow it can cast on a persons life that I realized that I had only understood a small part of the bigger story of why food and weight had been so difficult for me for so long.  As I was educating myself about childhood PTSD…..

I had epiphany after epiphany, in the stark realization that for over 40 years my struggle with food, along with the resulting morbid obesity that I had suffered with were driven by a form of childhood PTSD called, Developmental Trauma.  

 

At My Top Weight of 310lbs, 2003. This is what undiagnosed, unresolved childhood PTSD looks like.

Here I am after maintaining 160lb weight loss for 15 years. This is what resolved childhood PTSD looks like.

 

 

 

 

The brain scan below contrasts the difference between a normal child’s brain on the left and the brain of a child with childhood PTSD on the right.

This brain scan illustrates that childhood PTSD is not only a psychological disorder, but an actual physical brain & nervous system disorder, as well.

Note the circles illustrating the dark areas on the traumatized child’s brain on the right. These are the areas of the brain that never developed properly or never developed at all due to being raised in an environment with chronic, toxic stress.  This lack of development in some areas of the brain and over development in other areas of the brain cause children & adults with traumatized brains to operate much differently than children & adults with non-traumatized brains.

 

 

Source: Harry Chugani, M.D. Chief, Division of Pediatric Neurology, Director, Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Center, Children’s Hospital of Michigan.

Childhood PTSD is caused by a child’s developing brain, body and mind not developing properly due to being exposed to an environment of chronic, toxic stress.   In my case, being forced to live in a state of chronic toxic stress as a child is what created the perfect storm for my struggle with food, weight and my body that would last for over four decades.

I came to realize that not only had I been impacted psychologically, which I was already aware of and had been working on, on a psychological and relational level for 30 years, but I had also been impacted, and still was being impacted on a brain, and nervous system level as well!

This new knowledge of the root cause of my obesity being childhood PTSD (a brain, body and mind disorder), as well discovering that there are proven, evidence based bio-psycho-social solutions to resolving childhood PTSD, are what has ignited a passion in me to get this life saving information out there to the public. 

Although it was initially shocking to discover that I had been and still was suffering from childhood PTSD: a brain based, post traumatic stress disorder…

At the same time it was also such a relief to discover that my 40 year struggle with
food and obesity were never my fault to begin with…

How Childhood PTSD Causes Food Addiction & Obestiy

Areas of the brain impacted by childhood PTSD that drive food addiction and obesity:

 

Foodie in training.  At 2 years old, my grandfather & I.  This image illustrates how the underpinnings of using food as a solution to cope with toxic stress and the resulting morbid obesity is passed down through the generations.  My grandfather passed this coping mechanism down to my Dad, who then passed it down to me.  Sadly, my grandfather weighed over 300lbs most of his adult life & died just a few years after this photo was taken at just 59 years old from a massive heart attack.

 

Fight, Flight, Freeze Overdevelops Causing Chronic Anxiety & Tension:
The fight, flight, freeze areas of the brain become overdeveloped, as well as overactive as a way to adapt to the toxic stress it faces on a regular basis.   Since trauma keeps a brain, body and mind in a chronic state of hyper-vigilance, chronic stress & anxiety are a common state for traumatized people.  A person having to deal with chronic stress and anxiety will naturally seek out ways to calm themselves down. 

Without a calm, attuned caregiver to help them calm down, a child will seek whatever means are available and or/modeled.  In my case, my Mother was extremely anxious, angry or intoxicated and my Dad was emotionally and/or physically absent.  Also, food was modeled by my Dad as a way to cope with stress.  Therefore, food was a soothing, calming and available solution to my emotional distress when my parents were not.

Emotional Reactivity: 
Brain research proves that the brains of traumatized children are hypersensitive to external stimuli and can become easily high-jacked by emotions that do not cause children with normal brains to become upset over.  Therefore, when a non traumatized child gets angry, sad, or upset, they are able to self soothe or find a caregiver to help regulate and calm them down in a relatively short period of time.  However, due to the changes in a traumatized child’s brain, they tend to be more sensitive to becoming emotionally triggered, and therefore can seem to “over react” to what seems like a mild incident, & can also have wider emotional swings that take much longer to calm down. 

Therefore in my case, given the chronic, toxic stress my young developing brain and mind was exposed to by my Mom’s chronic anxiety, depression, anger & alcohol abuse and my Dad’s emotional & physical absence, my brain adapted by staying stuck in a hyper-aroused state. A hyper-aroused brain makes a person chronically anxious and hyper sensitive to stress.  Therefore, having childhood PTSD caused me to become upset more easily, stay upset longer, and therefore required I need more soothing to calm down.  This dynamic is what was driving my need to seek out soothing myself through food.  Hence, I began gaining weight when I was just six years old and continued to do so until I reached my top weight of 310lbs in my mid-forties.

Pleasure Center Deficits:
Brain research proves that the pleasure centers do not develop properly in the brain of a traumatized child.   Therefore in my case, I required more food to feel satisfied.  When more food is needed to feel full and satisfied, it causes overeating, and ends up in weight gain and obesity.  Of course, as a child I had no idea that it wasn’t my fault that I had a brain based, traumatic stress disorder that made me anxious and that was driving my need to use food to cope with the toxic stress in my family.  Therefore I blamed myself for being weak willed, felt like a total loser, and of course my self-esteem plummeted.

At 2 years old fully enjoying my birthday cake

At 3 years old, I remember having such a hard time controlling my impulse to eat, even when it required me to stop for my mom to take my picture.

Impulse Control Deficits:
Brain research proves that the impulse control areas in the brain of a traumatized child do not develop properly.  Therefore when food cravings would arrive, I lacked the ability to say no to them due to having  impaired impulse control. Hence, I ate more and more due to lacking the impulse control to be able to stop.  I used to hate myself for not being able to stop eating, not knowing then that I had a brain that did not have the proper development to support me in resisting my desire to continue eating.

Attention Deficits:
Brain research proves that the frontal lobe areas do not develop properly in a the brain of traumatized child.  The reason is that the brain adapts and develops according to the environment it is exposed to on a regular basis.  In an environment of chronic, toxic stress, the brain is forced to develop the fight, flight, freeze area over the frontal lobe area.  Since the frontal lobe area is responsible for impulse control, planning, attention and being able to hold a focus, it’s lack of development causes attention issues.

Hence, childhood trauma is a key driver of ADD, ADHD & is what many learning disabilities are caused by.  Learning about how my  ability to hold a focus was significantly impaired by my childhood PTSD, helped me understand why it was so hard to stay focused, initiate and complete creative projects and why I had difficulty in school.

In our culture many children with attention and learning disabilities are shamed over their inability to focus and therefore do well in school.  Therefore, low self esteem issues are common with children suffering with childhood PTSD.  When a child feels painful shame of never feeling like they can measure up, they will seek to soothe their pain with whatever they have access to.  For me, again, it was food.

Relationship Difficulties:
Since childhood PTSD happens in the context of close family relationships, this type of trauma is also known as relational trauma.  Therefore, many adults and children suffering with unhealed childhood PTSD find that they struggle with finding or maintaining close friendships or romantic relationships.  This is due to our nervous systems being hyper-sensitive to experiencing a stress response trigger when engaging in close relationships.   This is due to our brains being wired to expect stress (and the need to fight,flight or freeze) in close relationships since this is what happened in our relationships with our abusive or dysfunctional caregivers.

As humans, we have evolved for thousands of years in tribes and therefore are wired for and need bonding and close relationships to feel truly satisfied and fulfilled in life.  When we have a brain, body and mind that has been changed by childhood PTSD, our ability to develop close, healthy, bonding relationships can be significantly altered causing chronic loneliness, deep sadness, anxiety and depression.

At 6 years old with our family dog Tippy.  The growing tension between my parents is now beginning to show up on my body through my attempts to manage my pain by eating.  This is also when the kids began bullying me at school. I felt so much shame when the kids at school would make fat jokes about my body and about my inability to control my eating.

Hence, many children and adults with unresolved childhood PTSD find relationships too stressful, and either avoid close relationships altogether and end up feeling lonely, depressed, anxious and disconnected, or sometimes swing to the opposite pole and become completely enmeshed in their relationships thereby losing themselves.  Either way, finding fulfilling friendships or romantic relationships are often very difficult for those of us suffering with unresolved childhood PTSD.

 

 

At 10 years old, in sixth grade in my Catholic school uniform. This was a couple of years after my Mom’s descent into alcoholism.  This is when things got really, really bad at home. Therefore, the added stress and pain of living with a raging alcoholic Mom, an emotionally & sometimes physically absent Dad, & the bullying at school made my need to use food even more intense & I therefore I kept gaining weight. 

 

 

Therefore, unresolved childhood PTSD can lead to us isolating to avoid the stress and discomfort of being around people, and can therefore lead to loneliness, depression & anxiety.  To cope with and numb this level of emotional pain, many people choose food, drugs, or alcohol.  Or many instead choose work, staying constantly busy, sex, gambling, scrolling through Facebook, gaming or the internet to numb these painful feelings of disconnection and loneliness. For me, again, it was food.

 

 

 

 

Being Re-Traumatized By Being Shamed By Society & Your Family For Being Overweight:
Most families and cultures shame children and adults for having food or other addictions as being weak willed, losers or as having a weak moral character.  The more shame I felt about my body and my food addiction, the more I needed to eat to calm myself down, hence the horrific cycle of shame, overeating, & gaining more weight kept running for forty years until I discovered the root cause of my problems and found effective solutions.

The realization that my food addiction and struggle with obesity was due to childhood PTSD & was never my fault to begin with helped me release a huge amount of guilt and shame…

This is a key step in being able to begin the healing and recovery process.

 

As long as I kept on blaming myself as being weak willed, or a loser for my food addiction and weight issues, I stayed stuck in debilitating shame.  Unhealed shame is the most painful emotion their is and is therefore immobilizing, making it impossible to break free from addictive patterns.  

Once I realized that the root cause of my issues with food and weight was childhood PTSD and that this type of trauma had been in play for generations and that it had been passed down from both sides of my family, I began to have compassion for myself as well as my family members.   This was when the true healing and recovery journey began for me.

This is not to say that we should not fully feel and process through the grief, sadness, anger or rage for the hell we were forced to live through at the hands of our parents, other caregivers, siblings or other adults.  To resolve childhood PTSD, these unprocessed feelings need to be fully processed and resolved for true resolution .  However, we must be very careful with whom we choose to process them with.  Making the wrong choice can cause us to re-traumatize ourselves.  This certainly should not be done alone.  I highly recommend you find a trained professional who is an expert at using evidence based trauma based therapies.  Regular talk therapy is not adequate to heal childhood PTSD.  You must find a somatic, trauma based therapist for true resolution.

 

Why Food Addiction and Obesity Are NOT About

Food or Being Overweight

 

Co-Founder of the ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Study, Dr. Vincent Felitti & I in 2018

 

Another major epiphany for me was discovering the landmark Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study and how it related to childhood PTSD.  The ACE study revealed the stunning link between childhood adversity/trauma & obesity, addictions, chronic diseases, as well as social and emotional problems people develop as adults. 

Vincent Felitti, MD, the co-founder of the original ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study, stumbled upon the link between childhood adversity and obesity while working in an obesity clinic at Kaiser Permanente.  After many of Dr. Felitti’s patients would lose hundreds of pounds through his program, he noticed that a significant number of them began to either rapidly gain their weight back or they would drop out of the program.  Perplexed by this seemly odd situation (patients that were successful at losing large amounts of weight would then drop out of the program and gain their weight back) he decided to dig deeper into what made them drop out and/or gain their weight back

He then discovered by interviewing thousands of his obese patients that their presenting food addiction and obesity problems were NOT the core problems, but were actually attempts at a solutions to deeper problems.  

He found that their food addiction and their resulting obesity
were in reality the markers for the real problems.

 

According to Dr. Vincent Felitti’s research from interviewing thousands of obese patients, the two main reasons we overeat and become obese are…

 

1. Due to being subjected to chronic, toxic stress in childhood, a young child’s developing brain, body and mind are impacted causing childhood PTSD.  Childhood PTSD causes a person to be chronically hyper-vigilant and anxious.  To cope with being in a state of chronic anxiety, children and adults adapt by using food (or other behaviors or substances) as a drug for its psychoactive benefits such as:

a: As a sedative to help with anxiety, and therefore providing soothing, calming benefits
b: As a stimulant to lift you out of a depressed mood and provide increased energy or a sense of well being
c: As a pain reliever to numb uncomfortable, emotional pain

Age 13 right before my freshman year in Catholic high school. I weighed 2251bs. I had the intense fear there wouldn’t be a skirt big enough for my school uniform & I would have to had it custom made.  I barely made it with the largest size skirt they had.

2. Having an overweight body was actually found to be a solution vs. a problem since an obese body provides (consciously or unconsciously) several protective factors including:

a: Obesity has been found to be protective sexually:  One of Dr. Felitti’s patient’s famously said: “Overweight is overlooked, and that’s what I need to be”.  Therefore an obese body says no to sexual advances for you when you lack the ability (due to unresolved childhood PTSD) to say no to other’s sexual advances..   Dr. Felitti found that 55% of his obese patients had histories of childhood sexual abuse.  In fact the ACEs study shows that childhood sexual abuse (which causes childhood PTSD) is very common with 1 in 4 girls experiencing childhood sexual abuse, and 1 in 6 boys experiencing childhood sexual abuse.
b: Obesity has been found to be protective physically.  Having a large body can give you a sense of personal power as well as feeling protected from others abusing or attacking you.  Hence the common term in our culture “throwing your weight around”.  Many of us felt utterly powerless to protect ourselves from abusive caregivers, siblings or other adults as children.  Therefore, having a large body can provide a sense of power, safety and protection.
c: Obesity has been found to be protective socially.  In our culture, people tend to expect less from obese people.  Therefore, one of the benefits of being obese is it provides social safety from being judged, shamed, or ridiculed since we don’t feel pressured or expected to risk by putting  ourselves out there.  The narrative goes something like this:  “If I am obese, I can stay focused on my food and weight problem, and other’s (as well as I) will expect less from me.  With less pressure from society, myself and my family to take risks, be vulnerable, grow & make something of myself & my life, I get to feel safe.”   Playing it safe provides less exposure to  the anxiety of risk taking and keeps at bay the dreaded shame we would feel from the inevitable failures that come along with risk taking.  Obesity also provides safety from the anxiety and vulnerability of being exposed and more visible through being successful as well.

 

Dr. Felitti Statement On How Diets & Nutritional Advice Can’t Solve Obesity

In light of the ACE study findings, Dr. Felitti has stated that fixing the obesity problem with diets or advice about eating won’t have any effect. Per Dr. Felitti, “Nutrition is a nice subject and has nothing to do with obesity,” he explains. “Teaching people about nutrition is essentially predicated on the assumption that people get fat because they don’t know any better.”

 

How Your ACE Score Can Account For Your Struggle With Obesity

The below graph from the ACE (adverse childhood experiences) Study illustrates that the chances of you struggling with severe obesity increases by 240% if you have an ACE score of 4 or more compared to an ACE score of zero. To calculate your ACE Score visit: Take The ACE Survey.

You Don’t Outgrow Childhood PTSD Unless You Get Specific, Trauma Based, Brain, Body & Mind Types Of Therapies

 

Talk Therapy Cannot Completely Heal Childhood PTSD.   Since this type of trauma lives in the brain, body and mind, talk therapy alone cannot completely heal childhood PTSD.  To fully recover you need brain, body, mind & attachment based therapies to completely heal it.

If you have childhood PTSD, your brain will stay stuck in an anxious, hyper-aroused state throughout your entire life unless you get brain, body and mind trauma based therapies to fully recover.  This is not only important in terms of being able to calm yourself down enough so you don’t need to medicate with food.  It is also imperative to get treatment to heal your childhood PTSD so that you don’t end up with the many other adult onset illnesses, emotional and social problems that are proven to be caused by un-treated childhood PTSD.

As I began to understand what childhood PTSD was,

I  began to realize that I had finally

discovered the root cause of my life long struggle with food and weight…

 

It was due to having a hyper-aroused, anxious brain

that used the only thing it had

access to calm itself down with:

 

Food  

 

How Discovering The Root Cause & The Solution For My Struggle
With Food, Weight & Hating My Body Revealed To Me My True Purpose

 

Discovering the true cause of my 40 year struggle with food, my weight & hating my body, as well as discovering evidence based solutions to heal food addiction and weight issues at their core: resolving childhood PTSD, inadvertently revealed to me a new passion and purpose which is to help others who are still suffering with food and weight issues to heal these issues at the root cause.

I do this by sharing my story as well as sharing the solutions I have found that have been instrumental in resolving my childhood PTSD, which in turn have been key in resolving my food addiction, which in turn has been key in my being able to maintain a healthy weight for the past fifteen years.

My goal is to teach, motivate, inspire, and empower you to plot a direct path toward healing your struggle with food and weight by addressing and healing the root cause: childhood PTSD.  When you heal your childhood PTSD on a body, brain and mind level, you will no longer feel compelled to medicate with food, and will therefore have the most effective, as well as the fastest route to reach and maintain a healthy weight for life.  

In addition, by healing your brain, body and mind from childhood PTSD, you will also get the benefit of healing many other areas (psychological, spiritual, relational, life purpose, health issues) of your life that have been impacted by untreated childhood PTSD.

My goal is to save you years, if not decades from the pain, shame and grief of chronically struggling with food and weight by letting go of symptom based, ineffective, time wasting approaches to weight loss.  I work with you to heal your struggle with food and weight at the core which is healing childhood PTSD,

In addition, my goal is to help you understand that your struggle with food, your weight and your body was never your fault to begin with, and that in order to heal you must begin to let go of the shame for having this struggle in the first place.

Cause vs. Responsibility:  It’s important to recognize that although your need to medicate with food was an early attempt to cope with the chronic toxic stress you were subjected to as a child, and was therefore not your fault to begin with, the responsibility to heal and resolve your childhood PTSD (which is necessary to release your excess weight for the long term) is 100% up to you.

Once I understood what childhood PTSD was…AND that I definitely had it, and had been struggling with it my whole life, all the veils began lifting.  

I was able to see with new ‘trauma informed” eyes how this trauma showed up in my life.  It was disguised as: chronic anxiety, sadness, loneliness, low self esteem, shame, food addiction (and other addictions as I got older) and the resulting obesity I struggled with for over 40 years.

Now that I understood the devastation that childhood PTSD can cause to a young child’s brain, body and mind, I have made it my mission to let the world know that this type of childhood PTSD exists, and that there are evidence based solutions to heal and resolve it on a brain, mind, body and on a relationship level.

I have personally experienced proven, trauma based, body/mind therapies that can make a profound difference in your healing.  What I know for sure is that with the right consistent support and trauma based and trauma informed therapies, you can truly recover from childhood PTSD, end your addiction to food, lose your excess weight and maintain it permanently.

The beauty of healing your struggles with food and weight is that once handled you can finally get on with creating a life you love vs. being constantly high jacked by the pain & drama that addiction, obesity  and unhealed childhood loss and trauma creates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me at 26 years old.

 

The good news is that as humans we are wired to heal, and with the right trauma and attachment based therapies we can recover

 

 

 

I know because it has happened to me!

 

 

2017, Here I am accepting the entrepreneur of the year award for my talk show Mary Giuliani LIVE at the Live, Love, Thrive women’s empowerment conference. I’ve come a long way from the fear of being seen!

My Mission Is To Provide You With All Of

 

The Resources & Support You Need To

 

Permanently Release Your Excess Weight By

 

Releasing Your Childhood PTSD

 

Ready To Learn How To Release Your Excess Weight
By Releasing Your
Childhood  PTSD?

 

   Check Out The Following Resources & Information About
Childhood PTSD & My Story

 

   1. Weight Loss & Healing Childhood PTSD Resources Page

    2. How Do I Know If I Have Childhood PTSD?

3. Mary’s Personal Story From Infancy Through Today