Sunday, December 30, 2007


Dear Readers:


In general, we seek to feel good and to avoid feeling bad. We make choices based on the probability we believe that they will either make us feel better, or avoid our feeling worse. The problem with the way we tend to do this, is that we primarily look outside ourselves and use our choices seeking to control our environment and others.

We think that if we control others, control the circumstances, we can avoid encountering undesirable stimuli and be provided desirable stimuli. We place the locus of control outside of ourselves. We wait to be presented with things to make us happy and try to set things up so we don’t encounter those things that make us feel bad. And in doing this, we position ourselves for repeated frustration, disappointment and suffering.

It can actually be very freeing to realize that the only thing we “control” is ourselves. As part of a large dynamic system of life, we influence and are a part of co-creating external reality; however, the only piece we alone are in charge of is ourselves. No matter how any situation or person has impacted us, we are still responsible for our choices. These choices may be made under duress, or unconsciously, but we alone make them. And, our choices are always made within a dynamic relationship with others whom they impact. Every action ripples into the world and influences things, sometimes subtly, sometimes obviously. Choice is intimately wrapped with uncertainty, unpredictability and change. You can always choose your own words and actions, but you never choose what others do in response.

With any choice,there is always the possibility of consequences that you cannot predict. Risk and uncertainy are the norm, and must be accepted, as well as expected.

Life is always happening and changing, independent of our likes and dislikes. The more time we spend trying to direct and control external circumstances and people to fit our ideas of how life “should” be, the more overwhelmed and inadequate we feel. Many times, when we realize that we don’t directly control circumstances outside ourselves we feel powerless and defeated. When we feel powerless, our belief in the importance and efficacy of our choices shrinks, and we become depressed.

When our efforts to find something “outside” of us that can make us feel more worthy, adequate and loved don’t work anymore, we become depressed. Depression is a sense of scarcity, in self or in the environment, that leads us to feel as if no matter what we do, there just isn’t enough of what is needed to fix the problems we encounter. There are two basic ways we experience depression, which are really two perspectives arising from the same source: 1) The lack is seen in one’s self. We are flawed, needing to be "fixed"; and 2) the lack is in others, or in the environment’s inability to fix the problem to accommodate our needs.

Whether the lack is seen in ourselves and our innate ability to feel fulfilled, or in the ability of the external environment to provide fulfillment, we say to ourselves “I’ll never be fulfilled. Either because I’m worthless, or nothing will ever fulfill me because it’s worthless."

With all this uncertainty, the consistency of food, its flavor and comfort it brings, are predictable, and we seek it like a lifeline. Food feels like something we have some control over, and the type of fulfillment it provides is satisfying and temporarily fills the physical aspect of our sense of emptiness.

If depression is about the feeling of scarcity, it makes sense that one of the most commonly chosen legal substances we use to treat our depression is food. Feeling full, sated and warm is equated with abundance and happiness.

***Here is a simple 5- minute energy boosting meditation exercise which you can use that helps you to create, from your internal resources, that wonderful warm, and abundant feeling that might have thought that only a good meal could bring.

  • Get into a comfortable position (seated or lying down).

  • Close your eyes if you are in a place where that is okay to do. Otherwise, pick a focus spot on the wall or horizon to place your gaze.

  • Begin noticing your breath and how it moves in your body - do this for at least three breaths.

  • Begin noticing your entire body head to toe - how you feel, and how the environment feels around you - any sounds, smells. Do this for at least three breaths.

  • Once you can feel really "in" your body, you are ready to move on to the next step.

  • Inhale, and imagine that you are bringing in sustenance. Give this sustanance a color that you associate with feeling happy and satisfied, or a word that makes you feel good, or a musical tone that makes you smile. Feel it come in and fill you with what you need.

  • Exhale, and imagine you are releasing whatever you don't need, whatever doesn't sustain or help you in your life. Feel it leave you as a color, word or sound as well.

  • At each subsequent inhalation of breath, let what you are bringing in fill the empty spaces left by what you release on each exhalation.

  • Imagine your body becoming filled with what helps you and emptied of what doesn't.

You can do this before you eat to help you to eat less, but with more true pleasure, or after a difficult emotional or physical encounter in order to regain your equilibrium.

Let me know how this works for you. Happy New Year.


This article was edited by Douglas Castle.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Pattern Disruption – Harnessing the Power of Pausing and Choosing

Dear Readers:

In the last post, we discussed pattern development. Now we are going to explore pattern disruption. The choice to follow the pattern you know, or to break it resides in the pause between the stimulus that triggers the desire to overeat, and your response.

It feels compulsive, so how can unhealthy eating ever be a choice?

Let’s use the example of touching a hot object on the stove.

In some circumstances, where we can see that removing our hand would cause a worse consequence (such as spilling boiling water all over ourselves), we can override our instinctive reaction to remove our hand. We can break the pattern because we are able to make a conscious choice.

In other situations, the heat stimulus feels so great and startling that we simply remove ourselves from the source as quickly as possible, not even considering other possibilities. We react automatically. We go with our conditioning, and sometimes this works out, and sometimes doesn't. If we are conditioned to go on a brisk walk when we are upset, it can often help, but if our conditioning says to eat a gallon of ice cream...well that gets rid of the immediate feeling but has some unpleasant long-term consequences!

Occasionally, the heat stimulus could come as a surprise. When we are very shocked, we can become immobile for a moment. Then, once we regroup from our confusion, we burst into action, usually the conditioned response. An everyday example of this temporary paralysis is to overeat after we have experienced feeling indecisive and uncertain in a new situation.

What state of mind makes the difference in which response is picked? What makes us able to override our instinctual response versus fleeing thoughtlessly from the stimulus, or becoming frozen in shock? What makes us choose consciously?

Belief does. Belief in the possibility of choice. Our belief in options leads us to making a conscious choice. Our belief we have no viable options leads us to feeling trapped in the experience, helpless to change it. When we operate on the belief there is only one option, no options, or no viable options, then whatever our default mode is becomes our reaction. Awareness of options opens us up to new actions.

Belief in some level, however small, of choice or option, no matter what the circumstances are, creates a feeling of internal power that calms the initial panic/auto pilot reaction to undesirable stimuli. Disbelief in choice creates a feeling of either denial (i.e. this can’t be happening because I don’t want it to) or powerlessness and resignation to the undesirable stimuli.

Here is the mindset, which you can train yourself to use, that will allow you to exercise your choice, rather than following your compulsion
: **

You must believe that in every situation, no matter how dire, there is some level of choice.
Even when you feel there are no choices you like or want to choose, you still can choose your attitude about being in a situation that is not in your control.


Exercising choice of attitude challenges our conditioning. Try having awareness of choice in attitude when you are experiencing an everyday frustration where you feel trapped, for example a traffic jam. There is so much you can't do to change it...but what can you do to change you?

There is one rule here: don’t try to control how you feel. Feelings are natural - they ebb, flow and change. The only thing you need to do in these exercises is acknowledge your feelings. These exercises are focused on learning to take charge of your choices, not judging yourself for having feelings.


When you become triggered into overeating, extend the pause before you respond. Take at least a minute, attention turned inward, and observe what the impulse is about without judgment. Looked at compassionately, you will watch it change. Just acknowledge what's happening. No denial, no indulgence. You don’t have to feed it. You don’t have to starve it. Pause and reflect. It may feel urgent, but given some time, the urgency will diminish. It may be a comforting habit, but given some time, the need for a particular eating routine will lessen.


Search outside your comfort zone for choices that will help you, even if you don’t “feel” like doing them. New habits take repetition to instill, so be patient as you unlearn and relearn new, healthier response patterns. Make a list of choices ahead of time, when you aren’t feeling so overwhelmed. Carry the list around, review it, add to it, refine it. Carry the list around, add to it, and review it. Practice choosing something different than what you always do when you feel bad. Because it is not yet a habit, it may initially cause restlessness, agitation, or discomfort. If so, again practice the pause to help you stay longer each successive time in the new activity. Practice choosing something different.

If you have trouble seeing your choices, I suggest you read Victor Frankl’s classic book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” It is an inspiring story of how someone in a concentration camp faced with horrific imprisonment found small ways every day to choose how to live in a situation of apparent powerlessness and despair.

Notice your pattern, acknowledge your triggers, create a pause before doing, and exercise your power of choice.

You have far more power to live a fulfilling life than you realize or have ever used. It does, however, take practice!

These three simple exercises are amazingly powerful if practiced regularly. Let me know what you think and how it works for you. Post here or to my email:


Next Post: Choice and Consequences - Creating Your Internal Locus of Control

**Depression ranges on a spectrum from simple to complex, from mild to severe. These exercises are most effective when you are feeling mild to moderate, more simple depressive situations, but they are also good tools that can be integrated with other treatments.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Dear Readers:

In order to begin to get a handle on the relationship between eating and depression, you must first look at the concept of patterns. Patterns permeate our experience. Rituals, musical rhythms and seasonal changes are familiar patterns which give us a sense of belonging and predictability. Patterns can be a source of comfort when they create a feeling of order, influence, control, or mastery in an area of our lives. We feel more competent, confident, and safe when we focus on that which repeats and is repeatable. I think of a pattern as a blueprint or an outline, there are individual characteristics adding variety, but the same general pattern exists in the ways that living things are structured, the matter they are composed of, and how they function.

Patterns Create a Feeling of Safety Because They Provide Predictability

We make choices continuously about what to do or say in the interval between receiving a stimulus and providing a response. Behavior patterns develop initially through trial and error, as we learn that a particular response is successful in creating a desired outcome or avoiding an undesired outcome. A mostly successful response will be repeated and is easily chosen when seemingly similar situations arise. Some patterns can serve us well in circumstances requiring survival or quick reactive physical skills. However, there are many times when a particular response is no longer useful, appropriate, or even a good choice... yet we still tend to hang on to it.

Learned reactions can take on a rigidity after repetition that makes it more and more difficult to choose something different. These patterns then become our default mode or autopilot when we are overwhelmed or flooded with emotion. This is seen most often when the trigger for a particular stimulus is especially sensitive. Then we become stuck and enmeshed in our learned groove. We are especially prone to fall back on our learned patterns in times of crisis, when we are feeling unworthy or inadequate, or have deep uncertainty about our choices.

Eating - A Necessary Pattern for Survival

Eating is necessary for life and is a basic primal need. It is a deeply ingrained pattern. It starts in infancy when our need for sustenance is consistently met, inconsistently met, or usually not met. Nourishment develops as a both source of feeling comforted, safe and loved, and also as a battlefield where control and influence are exerted. Punishment and reward can be doled out in the form of food and food becomes a powerful weapon in control. Food is one of our first experiences of something “external” that we need in order to be okay, to feel better... to experience pleasure. We equate food with feelings of abundance and relaxation, or scarcity and anxiety.

Our relationship with food is linked with feelings of safety, control, and mastery. In healthy and unhealthy ways, we use food to create feelings of fulfillment, abundance, and to avert our sense of scarcity. When we do not feel safe, when we are bombarded from without and within with messages of our inadequacy or unworthiness, we seek that which will help us feel better and be more in charge of our lives. We look to increase the frequency, intensity and duration of whatever appears to help us feel safe, influential, adequate and worthy.

Depression - A Pattern of Feeling Overwhelmed, Inadequate and Unworthy

Depression is characterized by an accumulation of feelings of scarcity, lack of meaning, and loss of control or influence. When we eat to relieve, cover, or gain a sense of control, we can see that we are seeking a way to treat our depression. This creates a call and response pattern that is especially hard to break because eating is not optional. However, how and what we eat is changeable, as is how and what we do to manage our symptoms of depression. We will explore the more promising and proactive options in the next posts.

NEXT POST – Breaking the Eating/Depression Pattern


Sunday, October 7, 2007


Dear Readers:

There is significant evidence in multiple studies correlating emotional depression with eating and weight issues. Unfortunately, many healthcare and human services professionals who are working with individuals struggling with eating and weight concerns are unable to either identify or assist in addressing the coincident depression component.

Depression and eating/weight concerns are both at near epidemic levels. I don’t know anyone whose life is not touched by them, in one way or another, with varying levels of intensity. When dealing with this devastating duo, feelings of unworthiness, inadequacy, despair, lack of control, and hopelessness are common. People suffering from depression (in its many forms and variations) are overwhelmed, and are sick and tired of being sick and tired . Tired of feeling guilty, ashamed, anxious and of being maligned by other individuals, as well as by society as a whole.

I will be exploring the vicious circle of this emotional-physical interrelationship and offering suggestions regarding some of the ways by which the circle can be broken in a three-part series of articles, starting with next week's posting.


Some highlights –

***How to recognize the symptoms of this devastating duo;

***Approaches to help identify the root causes of this syndrome;

***Ways to address the causes, as well as to alleviate many of the symptoms;

***Eating to "feel better"... and when eating actually makes you feel worse - foods and food allergies that are shown to have effects on depressive symptoms;

***Common "thinking traps" that deepen the relationship and tighten the evil circle between depression and eating/weight issues;

LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL I look forward to sharing some ideas and insights in the hope it will provide encouragement to all of you and your loved ones who are supporting you as you battle these challenges.


Saturday, September 1, 2007


Dear Readers:

A new report shows obesity rates still on the rise:

Recently, a new RWJF (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)- supported report from Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) stated that not only are we a nation with a significant obesity problem, but that despite what we know about ways to address the issue, obesity rates are still increasing. The study found that over the past year, obesity levels rose in 31 states and no state showed a decline. This disturbing trend is happening despite the large amount of media coverage and focus on weight-loss that exists in our society. Many of us know what we could do, should do or what is best to do. However, doing it at all, not to mention with consistency, is the challenge!

Does our focus on actual weight loss, rather than healthy lifestyle choices, perpetuate the obesity trend? We are constantly bombarded with guaranteed ways to lose weight fast. Most of these short term solutions do very little to help people build a healthier lifestyle, so people see long term results. Most diets are based on depriving yourself in ways that feel punishing, rigid or difficult to maintain. They feel too hard or complicated to do over time.

I learned a simple truth a long time ago in social work school:

  • In order to make lasting change, people need to feel it is important to do AND that they can do it.
  • If you don’t think it is important and you don’t think you can do it, you don’t even try.
  • If you think it’s important but you can’t do it, you become discouraged.
  • If you think it isn’t important, but you could do it if you wanted to, then you lack motivation.
  • ONLY when sense of importance and a feeling of capability work together can it get done.

However, there is one other key ingredient needed to make lasting changes. Without it, you go back to your old habits. In order to actually reinforce the change, you need to have clarity about your desired outcome and the focus to maintain your attention on the actions needed to get there. Without attention to goals and purpose of an action, we lose our intention. Wherever attention goes, intention follows. Without a way to remind ourselves regularly of all the compelling reasons to take better care of ourselves, we easily backslide. The tendency to return to the habits we know and are comfortable with is always there. Life may not be better with our unhealthy habits, but it sure can seem easier to handle. Eating familiar unhealthy food feels comforting. Watching a show takes a lot less effort than exercising. BUT…If you keep your focus on how healthy food choices and exercise add fulfillment to your life, then maintaining your desired lifestyle changes is possible.

The way I was able to overcome my weight problem, continue to maintain a healthy weight and make consistently healthy food choices, was to practice "moving meditation" - mind focus and clarity building techniques, integrated with martial arts movements. This combination helps me continue to keep taking good care of myself without using negative motivators such as guilt or shame. Moving meditation keeps me aware and able to avoid falling into my “habit energy” or "default mode".

We need to give ourselves enough reasons to make a lasting shift to take care of ourselves and make healthy choices. A desired change has to be more appealing than staying with what we already know and do automatically. Support from loved ones, seeing positive examples, finding exercise you like, and availability of reasonably priced healthy food all help people feel more able and prepared to make the change. Doing a physical activity with mind and breath focused provides a way to keep your attention on your goals and maintain your clarity of purpose while you get there.

All the best!


Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Dear Readers:

One healthy and relatively easy way to help children prevent or minimize their susceptibility to excess weight gain is to simply make sure that they get a good, full night’s sleep on a regular basis. Sufficient sleep is a very important component of weight management, along with a healthy diet, proper exercise, and positive emotional support.

Most Westernized children get fewer hours of sleep and less quality sleep than they need, which can disrupt the hormones that help control weight gain, says Dr. Shahrad Taheri from Bristol University*. While sleep is only one factor contributing to weight gain, it has ripple effects on nearly all of the other factors. Studies show that sleep deprivation disrupts the production of hormones that regulate both appetite and energy expenditure. For example, the level of ghrelin, a hormone released by the stomach that tells us when we are hungry, was found to be 15% higher in people who have only five hours' sleep per night than those getting a full eight hours. This link between obesity and too little sleep is strongest in children and teens. The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children in the UK (conducted in the 1990s) revealed that insufficient sleep at thirty months was a predictor of the propensity toward obesity at age seven.

How else does the lack of sleep contribute to why we gain excess weight? I’ve come up with some ideas. Let me know what else you’ve observed:

• When you sleep less there is more opportunity to fit in an extra meal or late night snack;
• You don’t burn many calories while you do sleep, so late night food is not being used and is being stored as fat;
• If you eat heavy food late at night, it contributes to troubled sleep quality by causing such problems as heartburn, indigestion, nausea and sometimes disturbing dreams;
• When you’re chronically tired you feel unmotivated to do anything active;
• If you aren’t active, your metabolism is slower and you are more tired and less likely to become active, choosing instead such sedentary activities as watching television, playing video games, emailing or talking on the phone;
• When you are involved in sedentary activities it tends to be easier to lose track of time and stay up too can see the vicious cycle...

From personal experience, I can tell you that making the choice to not eat anything heavy late at night and getting adequate sleep is a great investment in your family’s health. Along with the focus and willpower I gained from my martial arts training, the change in my late night eating and getting better sleep made me more willing and able to exercise. Before martial arts training, I would force myself to be active, and was so tired I would keep pushing the snooze button and get up at the last minute, with very little motivation to get going on my daily activities. I would be so exhausted I would escape by reading or watching tv at night, and before I knew it I was up too late, and the cycle started all over again.

If you exclude late night munching, get better sleep, and incorporate a program that engages you to help you to stay on track with your personal and fitness goals, you and your family will be well on your way to a healthier, happier future.

* “Childhood Obesity Linked to Youngsters Staying Up Too Late," based on UK research in an article by JENNY HOPE -19th October 2006.

--Sifu Cinda Hocking

Wednesday, July 18, 2007



Before we begin this discussion, I am going to ask you to suspend all of your entrenched and reinforced disbelief in your own miraculous and limitless abilities. I am going to also ask that you relax your body, breathe deeply and fully, and open your mind to the possibility of fulfillment - physical and emotional health and happiness. Visualize a life, your own life, filled with vitality, energy, robust health, enthusiasm and joy. Visualize your life as completely renewed, refreshed...stress replaced with eagerness...fear replaced with confidence...You must awaken your imagination and give it complete freedom to breathe, to grow, to roam...picture your imagination as if it were a giant muscle, becoming more powerful with each visualization, with each positive thought, with each new idea.

Your imagination, and its counterpart, the visualization of success, is immensely powerful. It is the genesis chamber of every success. It is the tool that initiates all accomplishment. Before anything is actualized in your life, it must be visualized (in full sensorial detail!) in your imagination. Every action is preceded by a thought. We become what we think about most. If we merely change our patterns of thinking, we can completely re-design our lives! Every thought mobilizes a field or burst of energy, and this energy has the power to transform every aspect of our lives. It is simple: CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS --CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

Sickness and health, just as sorrow and joy, are born in the mind. Your mind.

The mind is more powerful than any supercomputer, and each individual has the ability to change the way he or she thinks. When you change the way in which you think, amazing forces are liberated which actually change the way you experience physical reality. The challenge is to proactively re-train your mind to think in a way that is of the greatest benefit to you, and to the attainment of your greatest desires and aspirations. Remember: Every victory, every discovery, every invention, every innovation, and every occurrence in your life begins with a thought. The thought, fully realized, then is followed by actions to manifest it.

Now imagine what a wonderful state of health, happiness and true success you will actually experience when you master your mind, and teach it to be your ally.

These posts are designed help you to dramatically change your life, though leading your thought processes. Master your mind, and ANYTHING BECOMES POSSIBLE.

Thank you for visiting, and check this blog frequently for new posts and updates.

-- Cinda

p.s. By the way, without even consciously trying, simply by reading the words on this page, a positive change has taken root inside of you. Your transformation has begun.
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