Let’s face it—we’re obsessed with Charlie Sheen and Lilo. Why? Maybe because we recognize how close “the edge” is and we’re personally trying not to tumble off.
Sometimes, it’s impossible. Due to a failing relationship, a traumatic event, a dead-end job, or a way more stupid reason, we fall off the wellness wagon—and go on a total bender.
Whether this bender affects our diet, exercise, sex life, career, or entails a serious slump into substance abuse—it’s a period of time when unhealthy behaviors reign. While we may not claim to be “winning” on national television or pocket an extravagant necklace, this is when it’s hardest to conjure up that connection to the universe we used to feel during yoga or the virtuous taste of a green juice instead of a martini.
But could these periods be necessary to finding true balance in life? If we don’t know what it feels like to be down, can we truly appreciate the accomplishment of up? We asked four experts for their thoughts (and we hope Charlie and Lindsay are reading):
While I would never speak in favor of self-destructive behavior through abuse of any kind, what I CAN speak about is my own experience. I’ve had periods of time wherein I’ve abused drugs, and in so doing, destroyed my self-esteem and my ability to see clearly. And while those times were devastating, they taught me where the lowest point was, and I asked for guidance in how to move onward and upward from there. Thankfully, I received that help.
The main focus of this discussion MUST be that when you DO find yourself in a place of self-sabotage, SEE it, write it down, make notes as though you’re watching an animal in the wild, and be clear and detailed regarding what you find. Invariably you will see, at the heart of all these behaviors, a longing for love. You may need to see it many times, but when you fully commit to that longing, when you are steeped in that understanding, you’ll surround yourself with people and behaviors that will only support that love.
When we’re in a downward spiral, often it’s because of the classic saying, “We need to have a breakdown before we can have a breakthrough.”
Most people who lose their jobs, if they are honest with themselves, have been secretly wishing to be laid off or fired, because on some level they feel that they were not meant to be there, but were too scared, lazy, or comfortable to make the change on their own. Because we spend so much time at work, if it doesn’t fulfill us and make use of our natural talents and abilities, and if we have no other outlet to express them, we will feel stifled and act out in ways that are unhealthy and detrimental to us. So the more we can align our work with what we love, the more we can have a balanced life that is in harmony with who we are.
It is very unlikely that a bender is going to help you find a long-term balance in life. In my world, going on a bender implies that someone lacks emotional intelligence and a good relationship with food, so until they do, a bender is not going to be the thing to get them back on track. A bender also implies that someone is still dealing with the dieting mentality – the vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting: starting a diet, falling off of it, bingeing, feeling guilt and doing it again. Developing an emotional intelligence and relationship with eating is a process and it doesn’t happen overnight.
I believe in planned recreational eating. Knowing what is on the menu is going to be nutritionally satisfying. I think people need to learn how to eat. When you know how to eat, it comes naturally and you generally don’t experience a bender.
My first thought is that the reason people don’t make good choices for themselves is because consequences don’t come quickly. You don’t have a heart attack the first time you eat unhealthy, and your husband doesn’t leave you the first time you interrupt him. We don’t feel consequences until we hit rock bottom.
Personally, I was busting out of my mother’s clothing before I even realized I needed to lose weight. I wasn’t clued in at all—I thought I was healthy! So, do I think going to an extreme can wake a person up? Unfortunately, sometimes, that’s the only thing that can wake a person up. It seems like human beings need to go too far wrong to correct themselves.
At The Handel Group, we teach you how to design consequences for when you don’t keep promises to yourself. We also teach our clients to schedule in partying, especially if you’re an ex-partier. We teach you to clean up your life, but to take breaks so you don’t fail. It’s like in any tradition that has lasted: 6 days on, 1 day off… —Lisa Elaine Held
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