Monthly Archives: July 2010

Focusing on the Negative

So much of eating disorders is fueled by focusing on the negative. By negative, I mean what we don’t have. There is always this sense of “I would be better if i were thinner, if I had more money, if I had a boyfriend, if I had a baby, if I had new car, if I had a nose job, if I had a big house, if I were popular, if I had better clothes…” etc. etc.

When  Zen Buddhist Monks work toward detachment, they practice detaching from their wants. When we attach to our wants so vehemently, we leave little space for enjoying what we have. This causes a great deal of suffering. “I am sad because I don’t have __________________ (fill in the blank).”

The problem here is that when you obsess on what you don’t have, you will never be happy. There will always be something that you don’t have. This doesn’t mean not to have goals and aspirations. This doesn’t mean to settle. This means that you can love yourself and enjoy your life as you’re working toward your goals. You can’t wait to enjoy your life.

A great practice is spending a few minutes each morning having some gratitude for what you do have. Some people make a morning practice of writing a gratitude list. This helps to bring the focus away from what you don’t have toward what you do have.

For instance, rather than, I hate my body, I should be thinner. “I am grateful for a body that works.”

Rather than,  I wish I could afford to buy a house. “I am grateful to have a home to live on and I can make it into the home that I choose it to be.

You know the drill!

Choices and Reactions

It’s not what people do that upset us, it’s our reaction to it. It’s not our thoughts or our feelings that upset us, it’s our reaction to it.

One of the things that we rarely remember in recovery is that we actually have a choice. Sometimes, when we have the urge to binge, it feels like we have no choice whatsoever. If we have the urge, we absolutely must do it. But the truth is, you always have a choice. If you are feeling the urge to binge, you can decide not to. Yes, it will be challenging to sit with that uncomfortable anxiety of wanting to and not being able to binge. It can feel like an unscratchable itch, and the only way to relieve it is to binge. However, you can allow yourself some discomfort and some anxiety. Anxiety and discomfort and desire and even feeling the need to binge are just feelings. Feelings can’t kill you. You can sit with these. Some people believe that they can’t. But you can.

Many people react to such feelings as loneliness, sadness, anger, or anxiety with disdain. They feel the need to judge it as bad and make it go away. The truth is that there are no “bad” feelings. You can’t put a moral judgment on a feeling. They just are. God gives us millions of emotions, yet so many of us believe that it’s only okay to feel one or two, all the others are unacceptable. You are completely responsible for your own reaction. It’s okay to be okay with what you’re feeling even if it’s unpleasant. So often people try to push the uncomfortable feeling away which in turn causes more discomfort.

It’s not just our feelings that we react to, but it’s also other people’s actions. For instance, if someone at your office blows you off or is rude to you, you have a choice. You can attach meaning to that which upsets you. You can believe that they don’t like you or that you did something wrong, or that there is something inherently wrong with you, or you can give yourself another rational explanation… they didn’t feel good, they just had a fight with their husband, or maybe they were just in a bad mood. In the end, how other people treat you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. People choose their own actions. People choose their own reactions.

Next time something happens, notice how you react. Is this reaction helpful or harmful? Can you choose a reaction that would feel good in your body? Can you slow down and think about how you want to be with this instance in this instant? This is all about you, no one else.

Routines and Rituals

In working with addiction, one of the most basic things that one can do to help oneself is to change up their routine a bit. For instance, someone who knows that they have a glass of wine each day when they come home from work, will begin to fantasize about that glass of wine a few hours before they leave work. However, if they can put a little break in that routine, they might be able to push through the urge. One way to do that would be to schedule a different activity for after work, like a tennis game or a walk with a friend or something else that doesn’t have to involve drinking or happy hour. Another way is to set a timer when they get home. They will not let themselves pour that drink for at least 30 minutes until after they get home. After 30 minutes, the urge might not be as strong because the ritual of it is broken.

You might have a certain ritual around a particular food or a binge. Although binges almost seem to happen spontaneously, the thing to remember is that a binge actually begins forming several hours before it happens. There is the urge, the activating event, or the knowledge that you are going to be in a situation that causes you to binge, ie: alone in the house, visiting parents, coming home from work, out drinking with friends for happy hour… whatever it is, you know from past experience, this can trigger a binge.

Make a plan to break up your routine or to interrupt your ritual. If you know that when you visit your folks you binge after they go to sleep at night, make a plan to go to sleep early, bring a captivating book that you can read in bed, something that will keep your attention. Have a friend on hand that you can call in the evening. Leave the house! Anything that will put a wedge in that routine. If you know that you binge when you get home from work, don’t go straight home from work, or take a new route home from work where you don’t pass the store that you buy binge food from. Set a timer when you get home. Tell yourself that you can binge after 30 minutes if you still want to. You might find that after the original ritual of coming home and eating is broken, that you’re able to resist a binge and enjoy a healthy dinner instead.

How to Love your Body

For the most part, most of my clients come in really hating their bodies and wanting to do everything they can to change them. Female bodies are exploited. They’re exploited for lust, for sex, for advertising, for humor and just for the sake of exploitation. Photoshopped and digitized porn images flood the internet, causing women to believe that their bodies are not good enough for their husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends or themselves.  Michelle Obama is a brilliant attorney yet she is famous for being the First Lady of best biceps. Janet Reno, the former Attorney General was constantly berated for her less than trendy style. Sarah Palin was referred to as a VPILF and had photoshopped  bikini pictures of herself all over the internet. So, yes, it’s hard to be a woman. As women, we are constantly being told that our worth is tied up in the way we look, in how tight our thighs are and how large our breasts are. And so then, we spend years, lifetimes even, eating, dieting, dieting, bingeing, dieting, purging, exercising, dieting, bingeing, crying, starving, running, lifting, taking potions and pills, smoking, snorting, drinking, stuffing, restricting… it’s exhausting, and it’s not even our problem,  it’s a problem of society. We, unfortunately, live in a time where women are judged by the size of their waists rather than by the size our hearts and our brains.  We can’t change the times that we live in.

However, we can refuse to participate in it. We can only waste so much time, so much of ourselves trying to fit into a mold that someone else wants to stuff us into. We will never fit into that mold. We can however, be who we want to be. We can learn to enjoy ourselves in the body we have. We can participate in sports or outdoor activities, we can play music, we can write books and stories, we can cook, we can love, we can travel. We can do anything. But we can’t wait until we are the right size. You are right, right now. If you wait, you might have to wait forever.

Your body isn’t everything. It’s not the whole of who you are. It’s a container. That’s not to say that it’s not important to keep it healthy and strong so that you can live a long and healthy life, but dieting, starving and bingeing isn’t healthy. Your body  is a safe. It needs to be strong only because it holds all the good stuff. It’s disposable. The good stuff– the warmth, the compassion, the love, the intelligence, the creativity, the kindness, and everything else– stays secure inside of it.  It’s just a body. Weight is just a number on a scale, calories are just a unit of heat, size is just the measure of matter. The meaning that we attach to it has no bearing on who you are as a person. It doesn’t measure your heart, your intelligence, your insight, your warmth, it just measures how much physical space you take up. That’s it. Nothing else. Weight is a fact, not a moral judgment, yet we seem to attach so much more to it.

We have to look at ourselves with our own eyes, not the eyes of others. We have no control over what others see, feel, and how they judge. The judgement of others is only in relation to the way they feel about themselves. That’s something that we absolutely can’t change. We can only look at ourselves and we have to learn to like ourselves.That’s what counts and that’s what matters.

You just can’t  look to the world to tell you who you are. You must announce who you are to the world.

Getting Support

Many people have this thought that they want to come in and get help for their bulimia and binge eating or read a book and cure themselves. Unfortunately, this is a pretty challenging road. Eating Disorders are diseases of isolation. You act out in your behaviors all alone. Because eating disorders thrive in isolation, the more alone you are, the stronger the behavior can become. Yes, of course it’s true that some people are able to heal alone, however, it is a rare and difficult.

I believe that the most important resource in healing from an Eating Disorder is support. Support comes in many forms, friends, parents, partners… but also support groups, people dealing with the same thing that you’re dealing with. There are several different ways to give and recieve support. If you feel as though you are unable to recieve support from the people around you or you don’t have a primary support system, it’s possible to get support through various groups. The internet has online groups and there are several in person groups or even telephone groups.

Online:

(bulimia)

(compulsive eating)

(OA meetings – online or on the phone)

(Eating Disorder Anonymous Phone meetings)

(Something Fishy)

Face-to-Face OA meetings

Smart Recovery