Thursday, July 26, 2007

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) part 1

It's taken me a while to write this post because of the enormous impact that EFT has had on my health and well-being. When something affects a particular symptom or system it is easy to report on, but when something affects your whole being on every level, it's less easy to define. Yet the more I use and experience EFT, the healthier and happier I become. I guess the best place to start is at the beginning.

In January I was flicking through the various support group information on CFS/ME when I came across a comment which said that one of the groups were using EFT to amazing effect. I didn't know what EFT was at this point, but this stuck in my head, and I had an overwhelming urge to research and find out more. First of all I downloaded the free manual from Yes, you can learn EFT for free, as it's founder Gary Craig wants it to be universally available. I also bought the book EFT, Energy Medicine and Energy Psychology, as at the time learning from a manual was not easy for me - I was still having trouble focusing on the computer screen. I read the book which in all honesty blew me away. I was also fortunate to have one of my therapists lend me the first series of DVD's on EFT.

The technique itself is very easy to learn, and only takes a couple of minutes to practise. You can do it on yourself or with the aid of a practitioner. It involves tapping on various acupuncture points. The idea is to redistribute the energy in the Chinese meridian system. So, how does it differ from acupuncture/acupressure or shiatsu? As a shiatsu practitioner I am very clear what the difference is. Where as these traditional Chinese techniques focus on the redistribution of energy in the meridian system, EFT adds something extra. While you tap on the points you also focus on any particular physical or emotional problem that you have experienced. Any problem that we have, be it physical or emotional, creates a disruption in the bodies energy system. This disruption can either register as a pain and illness, or as an emotional/psychological problem such as anxiety, stress, depression etc. However, by simultaneously tapping on the points whilst focusing on the problem, EFT helps to create a balance in the bodies energy system. Of course, the traditional Chinese systems such as acupuncture often create balances in emotion, but EFT works so precisely because it focuses directly on the individual problem.

My first EFT awakening experience was phenomenal!! Like many people with CFS/ME I had been plagued with severe pain in my calves. At times this was so bad that I to get my partner to move my feet backwards and forwards as they would seize up and I couldn't move them myself. I would say that the pain in my legs was my worst and my most disabling pain - like a tooth ache running all the way down my legs. Enter EFT! I had watched a number of DVD's and seen a number of miracles, but I was not prepared for what happened next. The pain in my legs had set in as usual so with some skepticism and a feeling of doubt that however good this technique was it couldn't take my pain away, I did my first round of tapping. What followed was amazing. First of all I had a feeling like ice freezing and cracking throughout my calves, then the pain shot backwards up my legs and straight up my body. It felt like it literally shot up and out of my head! At the same time I had an unaccountable rush of emotion. I burst into tears (I'm not the tearful type). Then to my amazement, the pain had totally disappeared. I felt completely stunned! There are no words to describe the shock of finding a technique that could move my disabling pain in seconds. It was, to me, a miracle.

After my EFT awakening, I immersed myself in EFT and energy medicine. In later articles I will outline my phenomenal experiences training with an EFT master who himself has overcome CFS with EFT.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Metabolic Typing - part 1

Of all the things I have tried in an attempt to improve my health, few have had greater all round impact than metabolic typing. And yet, for me this would previously have been the last place I would have looked to find health, and could not have been further away from my previous views about what healthy eating entails. For over 20 years since my very early teens I had been a strict vegetarian (I began experimenting with vegetarianism when I was 9 years old), and for seven years prior to my most major crash with ME/CFS, I was a vegan. What's more, for the last five years of that time I was raw vegan, eating the vast majority of my fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds in raw form. For most of my adult life I had obsessed about nutrition. I had studied traditional Chinese medicine and macrobiotics as part of my shiatsu training, I had been on countless courses around food and nutrition (including everything from fitness industry courses to raw food courses), I was training as a Naturopathic Nutritionist, and I had even done the first level of a raw food chef training course with internationally acclaimed raw food chef, Chad Sarno. I was actively involved in promoting raw foods and I gave talks at festivals. I was part of the vegan movement, constantly read countless books on alternative nutrition, had vasts amounts of kitchen equipment, and prepared the majority of my food myself from scratch. I bought organic, tried to shop without the use of supermarkets, was conscientious about packaging, sprouted my own foods, and made fresh vegetable juices on a daily basis. Most of my spare income went on supplements and superfoods, and I shopped for quality, spending huge amounts on the best money could buy. I didn't eat sugar, chocolate, grains or additives, and I didn't drink caffeine or alcohol. Despite this, I wasn't getting any better, in fact I was getting worse. All around me there were countless stories of people healing themselves by eating raw and vegan foods, and following the raw foods lifestyle. Whilst I bought into this 100%, following the advice to tailor the diet to my own individual needs, meticulously planning my meals, trying a host of different approaches, I was not able to sustain myself on the raw food diet. I switched between this and a 'healthy' vegan diet, but still I was hungry and dissatisfied.

When I discovered metabolic typing, the information within it was not new to me. Basically I had been following the guidance of a raw food doctor, Dr Gabriel Cousens, for many years. He was very big on individualising the diet, and upon attending his course and reading his books I learned that different types of people need different amounts of macro nutrients (protein, fats, carbs). This had made perfect sense to me as I recognised that some people were fine if they ate lots of fruits, whilst others needed more heavier foods such as nuts and seeds to sustain them. Dr Cousens explained that some people were actually protein types, some where carb types, and some were mixed types, and this was to do with the way that an individual burned the fuel they ate. The system, known as metabolic typing, is actually much more complicated and scientific than the description that I have just given it, but for this basic introduction I don't want to lose anyone in the science, just to outline the basics. This made perfect sense to me as all my life I had been confused about the food pyramid as eating the way it recommends had never done anything for me. If I ate lots of carbs my blood sugar would become quickly unbalanced, my moods would swing, and my energy would become less consistent. However, what Dr Cousens (himself a raw vegan for 20 years) had not mentioned was that the originators of metabolic typing had insisted that if you are a protein type it is impossible to survive on a vegetarian diet, as you need high purine foods, and these are found in meats alone. So originally I had followed Dr Cousens advice and tried to increase my protein intake with more nuts and seeds, but this had not worked. This is primarily because a protein type needs to eat about 40% protein, 30% carbs and 20% fat, and nut and seed contents are much higher in fat than they are in protein. So in short, I was starving for protein. This was an ongoing issue for me. I craved it all the time, I binged on nuts (making myself feel heavy and constipated), in fact, I became pretty obsessed with nuts!! I would eat and an hour or so later I was starving again, and my life, in all honesty, was one constant round of obsessing about the next meal. This was regardless of if I was eating raw foods or cooked foods. I can see now that this lifestyle contributed to my ill health but at the time I believed that I would have been in much worse health if I didn't follow this lifestyle!! It just goes to show what we hang on to and how destructive our beliefs can be.

My turning point came when I went to see Shirley Kay for Perrin Technique (see blog articles on Perrin Technique). Shirley discussed metabolic typing with me and as soon as she did I felt it was the missing link. I think what really helped is that Shirley has also been vegetarian for 18 years before she was introduced to metabolic typing. Shirley looks so healthy and glowing that I felt that she must be doing something right! She was also very gentle with me in the way that she discussed the fact that my vegetarian diet may not be suitable for my constitution. And because I had previous knowledge of this system (at least in its watered down, raw vegan form), I was able to assimilate the information easily. I went home and carried out a metabolic typing test on line, and I proved to be a screaming protein type!

So how long did it take me to walk away from my 20 year intense vegetarian lifestyle and start eating meat again? Well at first the idea was hard as I had read so much against meat eating that I had a very negative view of it - I felt it was cruel, barbaric, unevolved, unhealthy and unnecessary - that'll teach me to be all high and mighty!! In reality, it only took me a day or two to convert back to meat eating. The reason being that I was so damn starving for protein that although psychologically this went against everything I believed in, my body was crying out for what it had to offer. And in all honesty it actually felt like the most natural thing in the world to me.

So although I am not proud that I have had to revert to animal sources for protein, I accept this readily as the improvements that I have made since I did so are vast. And my partner, himself a strict vegetarian, is constantly amazed at the positive effects that eating right for my metabolic type has had for me - neither of us would have believed it unless we'd seen it with our own eyes. My energy is much more consistent, my blood sugar rarely crashes anymore, I am satisfied after eating, I feel clearer, I am more mentally balanced, my emotions are more stable, I am stronger, I feel calmer, I am more able to relax and meditate. In fact lots of the issues that I thought I had around food and eating have resolved - I realise that my obsession with food was due to the fact that I was not getting the right balance of nutrients and not because of a psychological disorder! It is my belief that we should take what we need from the planet, and when I think about it if I had been aware that some people cannot survive on a vegetarian diet I wouldn't have been so blinkered about remaining on one.

To take the metabolic typing test online visit
To read more about the metabolic typing diet:

Or for a more in depth explanation (which includes a chapter on Chronic Fatigue):

Friday, April 6, 2007

Energy Management

As part of my recovery it really helped me to see the amount of energy I had in terms of deposits in a bank. When you become ill with CFS/ME it is like you are in energy overdraft, and right at your overdraft limit. As you begin to heal you may occasionally go out of overdraft, but overspending energy quickly puts you back into the red again, and it can take time to get back in the black. It's as though there is nothing to spare and you have to continuously cultivate what you need to spend. But the trouble is, because of the nature of the illness, there is a tendency to spend everything we have and more, and be right back at square one again. I feel that we have to learn to cultivate energy and to spend it wisely, in the same way that it helps to manage finances rather than just spending when we like and hoping for the best. There are many things that we can do to cultivate energy such as structured rests, sleep, gentle breathing exercises, shiatsu, acupuncture, energy medicine exercises, healthy eating, laughter, the right company, inspiring literature, positive music, uplifting theatre and films, etc. But the key is that once you have cultivated your energy you need to learn to spend it in a way that does not drain your resources.

There are a number of ways to manage energy. Pacing is a great tool for recovery from illness but for many, the concept is very frustrating or alien. I feel that this is fundamentally because ME/CFS often affects those who have traditionally lived their life at a very fast pace, and in an unbalanced manner, and the concept of pacing leaves them feeling shackled. Despite pacing being one of the key mainstream approaches to managing ME/CFS, it is the one I found most difficult to grasp. This was largely due to me having no concept of what it meant! On numerous occasions I was told "make sure you pace," without an explanation of how to pace. Furthermore, because I had lived my life at 100 miles an hour (in many ways largely avoiding myself or, more specifically, avoiding what was going on in my head), the concept of pacing was as foreign to me as another language. Without guidance, early attempts at pacing included imposing rigid structures on myself with little consideration for how I might be feeling. I made plans, timetables almost, of how I would spend my day, and invariably included too much on the plan!! I felt frustrated trying to live by a rigid structure and would subsequently give up and feel doubly frustrated.

Next I turned to Reverse Therapy for the answer. (It is worth noting here that I only had 2 sessions due to budget). I got lots from Reverse Therapy in terms of understanding ME/CFS, and also the idea that in our day we must have balance, variety and fun. However, the main advise which it gives which is "listen to bodymind" (rather than headmind), I found very difficult to access. This is chiefly because I feel that ME/CFS plays havoc with your circadian rhythms, and creates a disconnection between mind and body. Reverse Therapy helped me reconnect body and mind but I still felt that I needed some structure that it didn't offer me, especially in that it advises to scrap pacing altogether and just tune in to the signals of my body. This is all very well, but having abused my body for so long by not listening to it, and also feeling that I needed some kind of structure, this approach lacked something for me on a personal level. Had budget allowed me to continue I assume that my very skilled and competent practitioner would have helped me work through these issues. However, everything happens for a reason and I believe that the way I manage my energy now is right for me.

So what am I doing differently? Well, the main change in how I manage my energy came about after I visited the Frenchay Centre for Chronic Fatigue. It's funny because a yoga teacher, meditator and fairly spiritual being, in my mind I have a perception of myself which would rather have just been able to access the "listen to bodymind" message from Reverse Therapy. However, rather than reject my underlying tendencies to need order and structure, I have come to celebrate them. I have tried living in chaos and living without structure many times in an effort to try and overcome these tendencies. Yet I became much happier when I learned to love these things in myself! So what did I gain from Frenchay? Well, first of all I was given a sheet to colour in to get an idea of my activity, sleep and rest. This sheet was divided into 24 hours per day so that I could chart my energy expenditure through out the week. What I liked about this approach was the key that gave the activities the grade of rest/low demand/medium demand/high demand/sleep. After the first week I couldn't believe how unstructured my life had become. I was getting up at different times per day, sleeping in the day, and doing things when I felt like it rather than having any structure.

The first thing I did was to start getting up at the same time every day and to stop sleeping in the day. I had to go cold turkey on this for a while and it was a little tough, but pretty soon my sleeping pattern started to normalise.

Next I started to work out a rough structure for the day. This included things like doing the cleaning in the morning, sending emails and going on the net in the afternoon, and having some fun in the evening. I ensured that I had 3 structured rests per day of around 30 mins each (laying flat, eyes covered, relaxing music, and some focus such as a breathing exercise). I also made sure that if I did a high demand task (such as cleaning) I would only do a short burst and follow with a low demand task or a rest. The other thing that I regulated was my meals, aiming to eat 3 regular meals per day (with snacks in between), and eating them at roughly the same time each day. Thus I began to reset my body clock and my circadian rhythms.

As time goes on my structure is becoming more defined and my routine more developed. What's more, if I do have a bad nights sleep I am now able to continue with my structure rather than staying in bed all day. This is real progress for me. I have also continued with the colouring in. This is chiefly because it is a great way to chart my progress and help me see that I am moving forward. Slowly and over time the amount of high demand tasks have increased and this makes me feel confident that I am progressing. This may not be my ideal way to live and I do not see it as a long-term plan, but at the moment making this kind of investment in how I spend my energy makes me feel like I am taking it seriously. It is like re-training myself to be responsible for my energy incomings and outgoings - a rehabilitation programme for the adrenaline junkie that I was - a fireball of energy who ultimately burned herself into the ground!

If this kind of structure doesn't appeal to you it may help to think of it as a short-term solution. I had heard about this kind of management when I first got ill and it was totally unappealing to me. It took me a whole year (when I had tried everything else), to re-assess what I needed to do and admit that I was still like a child in terms of my energy expenditure - spending every jot I had and then becoming cranky and tearful when I had burned myself out. However, I turned a real corner when I admitted to myself that without some kind of structure I would continue making the same mistakes. I actually feel a lot safer now I am monitoring my energy output. It also means that I am less likely to spontaneously spring clean a whole room in an hour just because I feel good for 5 minutes! And it takes the pressure off my lovely partner who used to have to constantly remind me of the pitfalls of the way I was spending my energy (or pick up the pieces afterwards). And since I have become more responsible for my energy expenditure I don't have to rely on my partner so much, which gives me more self-respect (and him more time to run his business). So in all, I feel like I'm on to a winner. I've often heard people with CFS/ME say that if you're that spontaneous and driven type of personality it's impossible to change. Well, I say anything is possible. If you give yourself the message that you are never going to change then of course, it is very unlikely that you will. But if you admit to yourself in a non-blaming way that the way you manage your energy will have a huge impact on your health, and if you decide to choose health over sickness, then invariably this will mean taking very good care of the way you manage your energy. It's a choice, and one that you have the power to make for yourself. If you are still in a continuous boom and bust cycles I hope that you are able to resolve the issues within yourself that are keeping you there and begin to treat yourself with the respect that you deserve, because ultimately, you are worth it.