Dr. Oz Empowers You to Transform Toxic Relationships: End Bullying and Emotional Eating

Toxic Relationships
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You're on a diet, and you're determined to follow your food plan at the family get together. And then, without asking, your Cousin Clara puts an enormous plate of four-layer, thickly frosted chocolate cake in your face. "I made it just for you," she says sweetly. You try to explain that you're on a diet, and she says pitifully, "Don't you love me?" Feeling helpless and frustrated, you stuff down the cake and your feelings. Sound familiar? Dr. Mehmet Oz describes such situations as food sabotage, and he devoted his July 2 talk show to explaining just how you can take control of the toxic relationships in your life. From bullying to enabling, learn how to get empowered with the help of Dr. Oz and his guest expert, Dr. Brenda Wade.

A psychologist, Dr. Wade warns that toxic relationships and the accompanying communications can damage your health. Toxic relationships can result in feelings such as depression, humiliation, anger, emptiness, an upset stomach, headache and false hunger (false because you react to a toxic relationship with emotional eating, literally stuffing down your feelings with food). What do toxic communications sound like? They may include phrases such as:

  • "You're not going to eat that, are you? I thought you were on a diet."
  • "One bite won't make a difference. Have some more."
  • "It's all your fault."
  • "You made me do it."

How Toxic Relationships Develop
We learn much of our communication skills and our relationship expectations when we are children. If you grew up in home where food was used to signify love, or where you were consoled when you were sad with the offer of a cookie, you can become accustomed to using food for all the wrong reasons. As an overweight adult, visiting relatives, you may experience food sabotage when you're trying to diet, because in your family, food is regarded as love. As a result, you'll be greeted with encouragement to eat fattening foods, even if you try to explain that you're on a diet.

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In contrast, says Dr. Wade, you may never have learned how to really listen to others and communicate how you feel. If your partner or friend also has failed to learn to listen, you can fall into the trap of constantly upsetting each other, resulting in a repeated pattern of stress. In such situations, you may find yourself criticizing someone else, or being criticized by them, and suffer from lack of self-esteem as a result.

How to Detoxify Your Relationships
Dr. Wade has developed seven ways to detoxify your relationships:

  • Respect: A healthy relationship begins with respect for one another.
  • Extend: Enhance your ability to listen to others and express yourself.
  • Solid: Make a relationship more solid by focusing on the foundation built, thinking about good times in the past and the positive qualities both you and your partner, friend or family member have. Dr. Wade points out that when you focus on something, it expands and strengthens.
  • Peace : Let go and learn to forgive. Have you ever held a grudge, or been in a relationship with someone who repeatedly brings up the same issue? After an issue has been solved, learn to let it go.
  • Expect: Set positive goals, with positive expectations. Imagine yourself seeing your goal achieved. Perhaps that's something as simple as saying "No, thank you" to that insistent relative's offer of cake, or something as complex as standing up for yourself if someone tries to bully you into doing something that you think is wrong.
  • Communicate: Focus on expressing feelings rather than blaming someone. Use phrases such as "I feel" rather than "You shouldn't have." Ask for what you need without manipulation, clearly requesting what you want. Learn to listen carefully.
  • Tops: Top off your improved relationships by seeking ways to be more supportive, kind and accepting.

Self-Compassion
On her Web site, Dr. Wade often posts encouragement on how to enhance your relationships and empower yourself to detoxify your life. Recently, she explored what it means to have self-compassion. For everyone who struggles with self-esteem, her advice may be surprising and can help to improve your relationship with yourself as well as others. " STOP worrying about self-esteem," says Dr. Wade. In her view, self-compassion is more powerful than self-esteem.

What is self-compassion? Dr. Wade defines it as "the opposite of self-criticism. Self-compassion means treating yourself the way you would treat a good friend, or even a perfect stranger– with kindness, and without judgment." In contrast to self-esteem, self-compassion does not involve competition with others or comparing yourself with others. Dr. Wade notes that those who have self-compassion are less stressed, feel more connected to other people and are less apt to take things personally. And she offers these thoughts that can enhance the health of all your relationships: "Though it may take time and work to re-record the negative, self-critical tape in your brain with more loving, positive voice, it is definitely worth it. LOVE YOURSELF."

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