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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Power of Our Beliefs

Did you know that your beliefs change you--mentally AND physically AND even spiritually? Our brains have an amazing ability to adapt, rewire and change based on what we believe and the choices we make. And get this—also based on the God we worship. Christian psychiatrist Dr. Timothy Jennings said in his book, The God Shaped Brain, “Although we have power over what we believe—what we believe holds real power over us—power to heal and power to destroy.” Medical literature is chock-full of case reports of patients dying—not from actual illness, but from believing they were sick—from the fear they were going to die.

This is an exciting topic which I'm covering this week on my BlogTalkRadio program, Every Body Matters. Click on the link. Scroll down to "on-demand" episodes and click on the shows link. I'll be going live today, Wednesday, at 10 am PST.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Dopamine Makes Me Do It!

“Get out of my way! I need my fix of cupcakes!”

Ever had cupcake withdrawal? It’s a battlefield out there. Scripture says, “All food is good, but it can turn bad if you use it badly” (Romans 14:20, MSG). It’s hard not to be addicted to something. The pull is powerful. Why does giving it up hurt so much? I’m not a scientist so I’ll give you the “Food Addiction for Dummies” version.

If you eat a hyperpalatable food —sugary, starchy, fatty or salty food, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine. Most people walk away satisfied. But for some the desire to repeat the pleasure is too strong to resist. Neurotransmitters are responsible for inducing euphoria. One of them is dopamine. This chemical fires up the brain when we do something exciting or rewarding. It produces a feeling of exhilaration or pleasure—the “I’ve got to have it” feeling. We get immediate gratification and find our favorite thing hard to give up, which is a good definition of addiction.

When God created the dopamine response it was for survival. Activities like eating, drinking, engaging in sex, and working, contribute to the survival of the human race. Therefore, our brains are programmed to encourage these behaviors by making them highly pleasurable (see Ecclesiastes 2:24-25). Is sugar as addictive as heroin or cocaine? Is a cupcake comparable to ‘crack’ to a susceptible brain?

According to scientific data food products can hijack the reward system in much the same way as drugs do. Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said, “When a person is addicted, they get conditioned like Pavlovian dogs.” Ninety percent of the dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area of the brain become stimulated when we prepare to eat. The more dopamine released, the more the person wants the food. Addiction develops when dopamine continually floods the brain. Eventually, it takes more and more food to feel normal. This explains why it’s more difficult to stop after a couple bites.

Most people, however, don’t see food addiction akin to substance abuse. Not only do drugs and alcohol alter brain chemistry, but so do the wrong foods. Speaking about “cravings” Dr. Volkow claims that when people are exposed to their favorite foods but not allowed to eat them, a tidal wave of dopamine surges. They hungered for their food fixes, yet they weren’t hungry at all. This is similar to what occurs in the brains of drug abusers after they watch a video of people using cocaine.

Food can act on the brain as an addictive substance. Certain constituents of food, sugar in particular, may hijack the brain and override will, judgment and personal responsibility. Animal studies reveal that hyperpalatable diets, sweet ones in particular, are more rewarding—and potentially more addictive—than intravenous cocaine and heroin. Dr. Mark Gold, chief of addiction medicine, McKnight Brain Institute, University of Florida, stated, food addiction is “eating despite the consequences, being preoccupied with food, feeling guilty about your eating habits, and overeating in the face of various health concerns.”

Does this strike a nerve? How do you know if you’re addicted to food or something else? Do you feel out of control? If you try to stop what does it feel like? Hell? Withdrawing from sugar produces the same symptoms as withdrawing from a chemical. Behind every craving is a compelling urge to pursue pleasure—to feel terrific while avoiding pain, physically and emotionally. The problem isn’t with having cravings, but rather what we crave. What our souls really hunger for and craves is to know God and to become intimately connected to Him. He can help us break unhealthy eating patterns. God is in the business of changing lives. Turning to Him empowers healing and transformation!

For more-- listen to today's Every Body Matters episode on BlogTalkRadio "The Hunger Fix."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Help! I'm A Slave to Food and My Body!

I'm so excited to announce that beginning today I'll be hosting a new online show every Wednesday for women, Every Body Matters. To be consistent, I'm going to be blogging on the same topic each week. I know many listeners are visual learners, so this should be a plus.

You may remember the story of 11-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard who was kidnapped in 1991. Abducted from a school bus stop, she went missing for over eighteen years. During this time Jaycee had two daughters by her abductor. Most people wonder why she simply didn’t run away when she had the opportunity. Psychologists have a term to explain this phenomenon: the Stockholm syndrome.

Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response that occasionally occurs in people who’ve been abducted and held hostage. The abductee doesn’t resist and actually shows signs of loyalty or caring for the person who took them. They do so despite the dangerous and harmful things the abductor does to them. Instead of hating the abductor, the person befriends and, at times, actually believes the captor is protecting them instead of harming and dominating them. Some people believe this may have happened to Jaycee.

We can use this term, Stockholm syndrome, to understand how a person becomes abducted by addiction. Using an eating disorder as the example, the disorder takes hold of the person’s mind and won’t let go despite the fact the eating disorder is harmful, even potentially lethal. The abductor (eating disorder) makes the person do many things: starve, binge, purge, take laxatives, or exercise until exhaustion. In return, the abductor offers her a false sense of protection.

The woman held captive believes she controls the power of the eating disorder because she chose it. As a result, she befriends the eating disorder and creates an identity around it. She’ll even defend it when other people show concern or try to medically treat her; similar to the abused woman who defends her abuser. Over time she actually believes the eating disorder is helping, not hurting her. It gives the message, “If you’re thin, all your problems will disappear. I’m your savior!” It promises life, but ultimately robs you of your very soul.

There’s a good chance that right now you feel stressed. You promised yourself you wouldn’t engage in a negative or self-destructive behavior. But somehow the abductor baited you with those familiar promises. The liar it is, it starts the process of churning out negative self-talk. You find yourself doing what you don’t want to do. Sin deceives. It whispers, “The abductor will give you what you want. It will take care of you. God won’t. He’s angry at you.” The abductor promises to relieve your pain and fill your soul-hole. Christians have a name for this captor, Satan—and his goal is to silently seduce us, infect our minds, and destroy our lives.

Someone said humans have a tendency to crucify ourselves between two thieves: the regret of yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. The good news is healing and transformation often occur smack in the middle of life’s adversities. God knows the lessons we must learn—lessons of patience, submission, and self-denial. When we vent our heart to the Lord, He uses our pain to draw us closer to Him.

Many times our prayers aren’t answered immediately. The Bible tells us not to lose heart (Luke 18:1). Keep praying—don’t cease. Sometimes God fulfills our desires. Sometimes He asks us to wait. Sometimes He says no so He can give us something better.

Do you have an abductor? Describe your abductor. What do you find so compelling about it? What promises it has made you. What precious gifts has it stolen from you? How have you been deceived? Pray and think carefully: What do you really want? What are you actually seeking?

This is an excerpt from the 2nd Edition "I’m Beautiful? Why Can’t I See It?" by author Kimberly Davidson

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Scars and Stories

There is a saying that goes, “Scars are like tattoos—with better stories.” I tell my stories, those stories that produced scars of all lengths and depths, to help others avoid the same dicey and destructive path I traveled. God tells us he will use what was meant for evil for good and he does through our stories—our scars. But as new creations in Christ our stories will change when we change our choices. Here are five ways you can begin to create new stories by facilitating change and growth:

1. Bring God into everything you do. The ongoing presence of God can strengthen and heal as he nurtures your mind, body, spirit, and cleanses your soul. No addiction has a chance of survival. Work on continuously communicating with him until it becomes a regular habit. Set aside a specific time each day to immerse yourself in God’s Word, even if it’s only a couple of verses. He will provide the light so you can understand (see Psalm 119:130).

2. Practice solitude and self-examination. Find a still quiet place where you can meet with God to pray and examine yourself. Ask him to help you answer these questions as you move forward. Take your time and scrutinize your motives.

• What do I think will truly make me happy?
• What or who do I believe fills the hunger of my soul?
• What deep needs am I trying to fill?
• Do I fear God’s plan for my life is not what I really want?

3. List the personal traits you want to change first. Go back to your answers from the “Pre-Study Exercise.” Pray over the areas in your life where you feel enslaved. It helps to focus on changing one area at a time. Ask God to reveal the area he desires to begin working on first.

4. Be patient and give yourself time to heal. God’s timetable will most likely be slower than yours. Depend on God for the power to change, but don’t expect him to miraculously change your personality and behaviors. Changing engrained traits takes time.

5. Keep directing your energies toward growth and healing. Get a routine going, and an adequate amount of rest and sleep. Scripture tells us that rest leads to restoration, “The LORD…makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul” (Psalm 23:1-3).

This is an excerpt from the book "Something Happened On My Way To Hell" by author Kimberly Davidson