I'm a Trauma Survivor Who's Thriving & You Can Be Too!
After a 40 year struggle with anxiety, attention, morbid obesity, relationships & alcohol I discovered the root cause of my struggles & finally found a permanent solution and you can too!
I had a rough start…..
My Mom was very kind and loving, but was also chronically anxious, depressed and angry with my Dad.
My Dad was a great provider, and took our family on fun vacations and adventures, but was emotionally shut down and unable to meet my Mom’s emotional needs.
From the time I was about four years old I remember the same conflict playing out over and over again between my parents that would last throughout my entire childhood:
-Mom would become angry & resentful at my Dad for his inability to attune to her emotional needs when she was upset.
-Dad coped with her anger by eating, shutting down, giving her the silent treatment, or leaving. Sometimes he would leave for the night & sometimes for much longer periods of time.
-None of their issues ever got resolved, therefore the tension between them just kept building up and Mom’s rage just kept increasing.
-At four years old I took my Dad’s lead and began using food to cope with my Mom’s anxiety, as well as the chronic tension between my parents
-At six years old, in second grade I started getting bullied for being overweight. It was so horribly painful that I would eat to soothe the pain & shame of being a fat kid which of course made me gain more weight.
-My mother tried to be supportive of my struggles with food, weight and getting bullied, but she had no clue that the root cause of my needing to soothe myself with food was due to the toxic stress that her and my Dad were subjecting me to in our home due to their inability to resolve conflict with themselves or each other.
-At eight years old, in fourth grade my Mom’s rage toward my Dad, along with her depression and anxiety got to the point where she began to cope by drinking alcohol.
This is when our house turned from garden variety dysfunctional, to bat shit crazy!
It was then that Mom would medicate her pain by drinking alcohol on a daily basis. She would then rage at my Dad until the wee hours of the morning several times a week for over ten years.
I never knew if I was going to be able to sleep through the night, when Mom would be drunk or when my Dad was going to leave.
I remember feeling like I was trapped in the family from hell…
My attempts to lose weight had started when I was just eight years old. My mother and grandmother had put me on several diets throughout my childhood. Obviously since they were not aware of the root cause of my weight (being exposed to toxic stress of their dysfunctional relationship) these diets never worked and after an initial weight loss, I just kept on gaining more and more weight.
It felt so unfair to be subjected to this level of hell on a regular basis. At least my Dad could escape my Mothers wrath by leaving.
As a young little girl, I didn’t have the option to escape the insanity of the emotional violence and ongoing dysfunction that was going on in our home
So I ate
I just kept on eating, and eating and eating and gaining more and more weight…
At 14 years old, by the time I entered high school I weighed 225lbs. During the summer after my freshman year in high school, my parents enrolled me in the Lindora Weight Loss program. This was the diet program where you were given HCG shots coupled with a 500 calorie a day diet. I was able to lose 80lbs in three months.
Therefore, I showed up in the fall of my sophomore year with a new 145lb pound body. However, since I wasn’t aware of, and therefore wasn’t able to address the root cause of my obesity: childhood PTSD, by the time I was 21 years old I had gained it all back plus more. Sadly, by the time I was 26 years old I was over 300lbs.
Since I Hadn’t Addressed The Root Cause Of My Struggle With Food & Weight: Childhood PTSD, I Ended Up Gaining All Of My Weight Back Plus Gained Another 80lbs By The Time I Was 27 Years Old
My Journey Through Overeaters Anonymous
When I was 28 years old, I joined Overeaters Anonymous (OA). Over the course of about three years I was able to lose 140lbs though the support of OA. OA helped me learn about the ins and outs of emotional eating, and how to use the group for support in healing my need to use food for emotional relief.
Although OA helped me gain a better understanding of my emotional eating patterns and provided some helpful structures and emotional support though connecting regularly at meetings with other members struggling with the same issues, it unfortunately didn’t address childhood PTSD as the root cause of my obesity, and that I needed brain and body based treatments to fully recover. Therefore, since once again, I was not able to address and heal the root cause of my obesity: childhood PTSD, I was not able to keep my weight off and again, over the course of several years gained it all back.
One More Time, Since I had not discovered and healed the root cause of my morbid obesity: Childhood PTSD, over the course of the next 12 years, I gained all of the weight I had lost in OA and reached my top weight of 310lbs
In 2003, between feeling completely defeated around ever being able to lose weight & keep it off on my own, coupled with being over 40 and fearing I could drop dead of a heart attack or become diabetic, it was then that I decided to have gastric bypass weight loss surgery
Here is a video of me being interviewed by my
roommate the night before my gastric bypass surgery
The good news is that between having the surgery, plus all of the personal healing work I had done for 15 years prior to my surgery, in addition to the 15 years of healing work I have done after my surgery, I was able to I lose160lbs (100% of my excess weight) and have also been able to maintain 100% of my weight loss for the past 15 years.
After seeing that I had weight loss surgery 15 years ago
You may be tempted to think…
“Well, she had weight loss surgery,
& that is why she lost 100% of her weight,
& why she has been able
to keep her weight off for the past 15 years.”
Although this can seem like a logical conclusion…
it is simply not an accurate one..
for a couple of reasons…
The Truth About What Weight Loss Surgery Can & Cannot Do
There is a lot of misinformation about what weight loss surgery can and cannot do. Weight loss surgery is typically a great “kick start” at assisting you in losing a large amount of weight in a short amount of time. However, long term maintenance of the initial weight loss from gastric bypass surgery is a very different story.
According to the latest research on long term outcomes for gastric bypass surgery patients, the average person at the 10 year anniversary of their surgery is only able to maintain 52% of their initial weight loss. The stats on long term weight loss maintenance for lap band types of surgery are even worse.
Therefore the “X” factor in my success at losing all of my excess weight and keeping 100% of it off for over 15 years has to do with my addressing and healing the root psychological, spiritual, relational & social causes of my obesity.
Weight loss surgery certainly helped me take the weight off quickly, and has helped in my being able to reduce my total food intake. However, when it comes to maintaining 160lbs weight loss over the long term, it takes being willing to adopt to a whole new lifestyle as well as learning how to use different methods other than food to soothe your emotional pain.
I didn’t know that I had childhood PTSD when I had weight loss surgery, therefore the only areas that I had been working on healing for the previous 15 years prior to my surgery and for 15 years after my surgery were on a psychological, spiritual, relational & social level.
Prior to my surgery I didn’t know that my brain, central nervous system and body had been significantly impacted and also needed healing as a result of having childhood PTSD.
There is a cultural misperception on how reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is all about discipline, diet and exercise.
However, for those of us suffering with the fallout of childhood PTSD, reaching and maintaining a healthy
weight for life requires resolving our PTSD on a brain, body and mind level.
Without this level of trauma resolution, we wont have the capacity for emotional regulation and impulse control necessary to reach and maintain a healthy weight for life.
What is really required to reach and maintain a healthy weigh for life is a long term commitment to heal the bio-psycho-social underpinnings of childhood PTSD.
Therefore, this misperception about how discipline, diet and exercise are the only keys that are required to reach and maintain a healthy weight for life, completely discount the intense amount of healing and recovery work that is required to resolve the brain, mind and body issues that need to be healed to resolve childhood PTSD,
Weight loss surgery is not a panacea, however it can be used as a tool to save your life from the many
co-morbidities of living in a morbidly obese body, while you are working on resolving your childhood PTSD
Over the past 50 years I have used most (if not all) of the tools out there to lose weight, such as Weight Watchers, talk therapy, diets, weight loss doctors, weight loss surgery, books on diets or healing eating disorders, exercise, Overeaters Anonymous, etc. The key here is that you must include healing the bio/psycho/social aspects of childhood PTSD along with using these tools for any of them to be effective over the long term.
The bottom line is that if you have unhealed childhood trauma, and you don’t focus on healing your brain, body and mind from the root cause of your obesity: childhood PTSD, even if you get gastric bypass surgery, you can only expect to maintain 52% of the excess weight you initially lost at the 10 year anniversary date of your surgery.
If You Have Childhood PTSD, Without Addressing & Healing Your Brain, Body & Mind You Won’t Be Able To Lose or Maintain Any SIgnificant Weight Loss Since Your Dysregulated Brain Won’t Let You!
Prior to having weight loss surgery, I had no idea I had childhood PTSD and was therefore suffering from a brain based, central nervous system, post-traumatic stress disorder. I thought I just needed psychological healing. I had no idea back then that in order to fully heal I would also need brain and body based therapies in addition to psychotherapy if I was going to be able to calm down my brain enough to be able to regulate my emotions, impulses, and therefore my eating and weight.
This is why that without an intervention like weight loss surgery, switching addictions or other proven trauma based childhood PTSD therapies you won’t be able to maintain any type of significant weight loss for the long term.
The reason is because when you have childhood PTSD you are living in a chronically dysregulated brain. When you live in a chronically dysregulated brain, you are fighting a losing battle when it comes to regulating your emotions and your impulses.
If you have childhood PTSD, until you get your brain and emotions regulated through trauma based therapies, and/or you get a medical intervention via gastric bypass weight loss surgery, or you switch addictions, you simply won’t have the CAPACITY or the ABILITY to regulate your eating and your weight.
Here’s the rub: If you do not address healing your childhood PTSD on a brain, body and mind level, you are likely not going to have a life you love even if you do lose all of your weight via surgery or diet and exercise, and keep it off long term.
Why? Unhealed childhood PTSD wreaks havoc on your nervous system, and causes chronic anxiety, depression, and also causes other behavior and substance addictions to surface. It also drives relationship difficulties and causes many chronic health & chronic pain issues as well. This is what was discovered in the landmark adverse childhood experiences (ACE) study
This is why it is so key to deal with and heal the root cause:
Since I can’t turn back time, I will never know if I had also received brain and body trauma based therapies along with psychotherapy if that would have been enough to help me to regulate my brain and mind enough to lose and maintain my weight loss long term without needing the tool of weight loss surgery. However, I do know myself well enough to know that I would have gone all in on trying these types of therapies prior to surgery.
If I knew 15 years ago what I know now about childhood PTSD being an actual central nervous system, post-traumatic stress disorder and that it was the root cause of my food addiction and obesity
& I had gained access to brain, body & mind based trauma therapies, I may have not even needed weight loss surgery in the first place…
Deciding On Having Weight Loss Surgery
Weight loss surgery, just like the many other diets and weight loss tools that are out there are what I refer to as a “harm reduction” programs. A harm reduction program is designed to simply reduce harm for a person struggling with an intractable, self-harming behavior, but is not designed to address or solve the root cause of the problem.
Harm reduction programs are extremely important since they can dramatically increase the quality, extend or even save a person’s life, and are therefore very important to gain access to when other means at attempting to solve your problem have failed.
Unfortunately, harm reduction programs have gotten a bad rap due to the ignorance about the cause of food addiction, obesity and other addictions being rooted in childhood PTSD. Sadly our culture tends to blame the individual’s lack of self-discipline as being the source of their problem vs. understanding that they are suffiering from a post traumatic stress disorder.
This misunderstanding about the cause of addiction is why people suffering with addictions are looked at as being lazy, or as having a weak moral character. Given this misunderstanding of the root cause of addiction, our culture’s solution is to shame, punish or coerce people to work on being more disciplined vs. offering the compassion of harm reduction programs to relieve the severe emotional and physical burden that we suffer with when living with life threatening morbid obesity.
If you are considering accessing the support of a harm reduction program, it is important to know what to expect and what the limitations are with any particular program.
I am so grateful that I gave myself the gift of weight loss surgery. Gaining the support of gastric bypass surgery helped saved me (and possibly my life) from gaining even more weight and all of the accompanying co-morbidities of living with morbid obesity until I was able to discover and treat the root cause of my obesity: childhood PTSD.
Weight loss surgery also helped to relieve me from having to live with the huge emotional and physical burden of carrying around an extra 160lbs. Also, since I wouldn’t know for another 15 years that the root cause of my obesity was a brain, body and mind based post traumatic stress disorder, I am grateful that I got the support through weight loss surgery to reduce the harm to my body, mind and spirit back when I did.
My advice to those considering having weight loss surgery is to make a serious attempt first to heal your childhood PTSD through trying trauma based, body/mind therapies first. Since you are going to need to address healing your childhood PTSD on this level whether you have weight loss surgery or not, you might as well see if you can solve your weight issue with using this approach alone.
The goal with these therapies is to find enough self-regulation on a brain, body and mind level so you don’t feel compelled to medicate with food. If you give these therapies a serious try and are successful at getting your brain regulated, you may not need the help of weight loss surgery.
However, if after trying these types of therapies and you are still not able to regulate your emotions, eating and or weight please know you should not be ashamed if you choose to opt in for a medical intervention like weight loss surgery. If you are suffering with childhood PTSD, it’s important to know that your brain, body and mind were injured (through no fault of your own), and that you deserve whatever medical, psychological, spiritual, or other interventions or support you can gain access to in order to heal.
Given the many levels of severity of childhood PTSD, there are many different levels of healing or limits to healing that can occur. There are many people whose childhood PTSD was so severe that trying trauma based therapies may not be able to help in them in being able to regulate their brain, body and mind to a level to where they won’t need to medicate through food or having an obese body to feel safe.
I believe if trauma based therapies are not able to calm your brain down enough to where you don’t need to medicate with food, medical, surgical or other interventions should be considered as an option. Of course you absolutely need to consult with your doctor to determine what options are the best fit for you. Only you (along with the advice of a trusted doctor) can make the choice of having weight loss surgery.
Also, it should be noted that even if you decide to get weight loss surgery, you are still going to need to heal your brain, body and mind from childhood PTSD, since if you do not address healing your dysregulated brain and nervous system you will likely gain 50% or more of your weight back after surgery, and also you are putting yourself at risk for the many other health, emotional and social issues that are associated with unhealed childhood PTSD.
My history regarding regulating my weight with and without weight loss surgery:
With 15 years of personal and spiritual growth (not brain or body based trauma treatments) prior to having weight loss surgery I was not able to maintain a healthy weight.
With 15 years of personal and spiritual growth prior to having weight loss surgery, then having gastric bypass weight loss surgery, and adding an additional 15 years of personal growth focused on healing my childhood trauma (not brain or body based trauma treatments) after weight loss surgery, I have been able to maintain this weight loss.
However, as I mention above, if I had been aware that my obesity was caused by my underlying childhood PTSD and had tried brain and body based therapies to calm down my brain 30 years ago, I may have never needed weight loss surgery to begin with.
How I Used Neurofeedback To Calm Down My Brain, Regulate My Impulse To Eat:
After reading The Body Keeps The Score is when I finally understood that one of the main reasons that I couldn’t control my eating and weight was due to the fact that my childhood PTSD was causing my brain to stay stuck in a chronically dysregulated (anxious, depressed, agitated) state. When you live in a chronically anxious, fearful, or depressed state you will be driven to seek relief through medicating through whatever your go to drug or behavior of choice is. For me it was food. In addition, impulse control deficits are also common with childhood PTSD, therefore I struggled with saying no to things that I craved but were not necessarily good for me.
Therefore, I decided to take Bessell van der Kolk MD’s lead, the author of The Body Keeps The Score, and use what he touts as one of, if not the most effective, evidence based treatments to heal and calm down a traumatized brain: neurofeedback. Neurofeedback is also known as brain training. I ended up buying and getting trained on doing neurofeedback on myself.
I can’t say enough on what a profound impact neurofeedback has had on calming down and regulating my brain. Neurofeedback has has also made a profound difference with increasing my impulse control around food, as well as other behaviors I have struggled with. It has also helped me to hold a focus in order to be able to initiate and complete creative projects (like this website),
Dr. Van der Kolk also highly recommends using yoga, breath, and somatic based therapies to help to heal the central nervous system and the body as well. I took his lead again and signed up for a weekly, gentle stretch yoga class, and I also began a somatic based mindfulness practice to become more aware of the sensations in my body, as well as to learn how to release the trauma that had been held in my body as tightness and tension.
Looking for support in releasing your excess weight
permanently by resolving your childhood PTSD?
Want To Know How I Have Been Able To…
1. Heal my brain, nervous system & body from childhood PTSD
2. Lose and maintain a 160lb weight loss for the past 15 years
3. Heal my attachment issues in relationships to be able to be a securely attached friend and partner, hence experiencing feeling the connection and fulfillment of close relationships.
4. How I have identified and am living my soul’s calling
For The Tried & True Resources That Have Helped Me
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