Monthly Archives: August 2010

When food is the third person in your relationship

Some couples are drinking buddies. That is, they spend a lot of time going to bars together, or drinking at home together and alcohol becomes a big part of their relationship.  Often these couples aren’t exactly sure what they’d do together if alcohol wasn’t accessible.  Other  couples are eating buddies. Their relationship revolves around food and eating. They plan elaborate vacations where food and restaurants are at the center of their itineraries, they cook big elaborate meals together, they eat out together.

Then, there are couples where the obsession with food permeates every part of the relationship. They buy binge foods and sit home alone bingeing together rather than in private. They diet together, vowing to stay away from certain foods, then, as diets most often do, they fail together and begin bingeing together. The eating disorder becomes triangulated into their relationship. In family therapy, the concept of triangulation occurs when there is some kind of unspoken, unacknowledged conflict between two people. They then use a third person to mitigate that conflict. In this case, the person is the binge eating disorder.

When food is triangulated into a relationship, the couple will find that most of their conversations revolve around food–what they’re eating, when they’re going to eat, what they’re going to eat. They might also have a great deal of conversations that revolve around their bodies and how to “fix” them. Couples who triangulate food into their relationship will find that most of their social activities with each other revolve around food and food related events. They will also find that if there is something going on in the relationship, some kind of conflict or something that one of them or both of them are unhappy about, that they will avoid the subject and try to get closer by isolating as a couple and eating together.

If one partner begins to recover in a relationship like this, it can often be challenging for the other partner, who could then feel threatened as they lose their partner in crime. It can also bring forth all the conflict that has been stuffed and avoided with food. Sometimes, partners find that without eating and food, they don’t have much in common with each other.

How to Figure out if food is triangulated into your relationship.

  • Are you and your partner obsessed with food?
  • Do you often do events together that don’t revolve around food?
  • Do you binge and then vow to go on diets together then binge again? Is this a cycle?
  • Are you afraid that without eating, the two of you wouldn’t have much in common?
  • Are their things in your relationship that go unspoken about?
  • Does one of you become threatened if the other begins a healthy lifestyle regimen?
  • Does one of you unconsciously try to sabotage the other when they begin a healthy lifestyle regimen, ie: bringing them binge foods or taking them to a restaurant where the food can be a binge trigger?

If this sounds familiar, some steps that you can take to detriangulate your relationship are:

  • Talking about your feelings more with each other. When you each get home from work, take time to discuss your days with one another.
  • Begin to notice what role food plays in your relationship, for instance, if it’s a Friday night and you’ve already eaten dinner, but one of you decides that getting a pint of ice cream would be a good idea, discuss what it is that you’re avoiding. Are you disinterested in being alone together without food? Are you afraid of what you would talk about or afraid that you might not have anything to talk about?
  • Try to integrate some non food activities into your relationship, like going to museums or art openings, or taking walks or some kind of (non cooking) lesson together.

Sex, Love, & Food

Geneen Roth wrote a book almost 20 years ago called When Food Is Love. Of course,  this is using food when what you are really craving is love. A common theme that I’ve noticed in women with eating disorders is this  sense of unworthiness or a belief that they are not loveable. It’s incredible to notice that what you might do with your food is what you might do with your life. Binge eating and binge loving are one in the same. Real love vs. fake love is similar to real food vs. fake food. We can tend to binge on the fake stuff more easily than the real stuff.

Real Love vs. Fake Love:

Real love grows slowly and is based on years of trust, problems, fun,  tragedy, grief, drama, trauma, blessings, caring for one another and learning about one another. Real love is deep, lasting, and unpainful. Fake love is a quick flash in the pan that feels like being very, very drunk. It’s intoxicating and uncomfortable and painful and urgent.  Then you have a terrible hangover from it. Then it’s over. And you realize that it wasn’t actually love. It was chemicals, hormones, anxiety, and fear. It was something that you were using to help you to feel better about  something else that was going on in your life (kind of like the way binge eaters and bulimics use food!) The problem with real love vs. fake love is that fake love is so intense and uncomfortable, that comparing it to real love, which tends to be much easier and sedating can really mess with your perception of what is real.  Real love can begin to not  feel like love at all anymore because it doesn’t have that intense edge, it’s doesn’t elicit the same chemicals.

I have seen a great deal of overlap in my practice with women who use food to help them to escape and women who use love and sex to help them escape. There are often affairs, infidelity or just becoming obsessed with unavailable people. These affairs are short lived and problematic to either a marriage or a psyche. Women who become obsessed with unavailable men are escaping from their lives and obsessing on something that is just not going to happen. This can bring forth so much pain, stress and anxiety. It can also keep them from nurturing healthy relationships with otherwise available people or with their husbands or partners.  Those fake love chemicals are just so strong that people can feel high from them. Comparing fake love to real love is like comparing the high you get from doing yoga and meditating to staying up all night blowing lines of coke and doing shots of tequila. One is healthy, and something that you can do forever, it’s a long lasting but less intense high. The other is dangerous, depressing,  intense, and probably feels wonderful briefly. But if you really are craving a high, you’re going to opt for the latter. All you can do after that night is recover.

Real Food vs. Fake Food

As we know, either obsessing about eating food, or not eating food (dieting), having a perfect body or finding the perfect binge food or the perfect time to binge,– is an effective escape from reality. Fake food like donuts and Cheetos and Pepsi might be more appealing to binge on than yogurt, wheat germ, alfalfa sprouts and broccoli. The fake food gives you a quick seratonin boost and makes you temporarily numb to anything else going on the world. While the real food, though not as exciting provides real nurturing and can help you to be healthy both physically and emotionally.

Do you ever binge on fake food when you’re actually needing real love? Do you ever binge on fake love when you’re actually looking to escape?

It’s more difficult to distinguish fake love from fake food, but the following questions related to figuring out if it’s fake food or not, might also help you to figure out the love thing.

Is it something that will nurture your body and your spirit?

Could you eat this every day for the rest of your life?

Will your body feel uncomfortable after eating this food?

Can you eat just the right amount of it without bingeing on it?

Are you eating this food in private (are you isolating with it?) or is it okay to eat this right out in the open?

Is this food nourishing? Will it help you grow or heal?

Stop what you’re doing for a second just to think about what you’re doing. Not just with eating, but with everything. It can often be illuminating.

Just One Day Without Binge Eating Challenge

One of the many AA mottos is “One Day at a Time”  That just has to be true.  People who binge eat are often very polarized in their thinking. It has to be all or nothing. So,  when people decide to recover from binge eating, they set the bar very high for themselves. “I’m never ever going to binge eat again. I’m only going to eat healthy every day for the rest of my life.” Wow. That’s really way too much to think about. And not only that, but it’s a giant set up for failure. When you decide that for the rest of your life you’re never going to binge, you establish a really difficult task for yourself. And it’s a set up for a binge. “Well, if I’m NEVER going to binge again, I might as well have a really good one tonight. Then tomorrow I’ll be perfect.” That almost never works. You wake up ill the next morning and are unable to eat or feeling too guilty to eat for several hours. When you finally do allow yourself to eat, you are so hungry that… well, you know. The cycle starts again. There are variations on this. And certainly, there are people who make a decision to never binge again or never binge and purge again and never do. But, for the most part, this is incredibly overwhelming for the psyche. And it backfires. However, if you can break the task down into small, manageable pieces, recovery becomes more tangible.  So, make a decision that you are going to choose one day. Just one whole day, where you don’t act out in any eating disorder behaviors. No bingeing, no restricting, not purging, no overexercising. You are going to take one day to act as if you are recovered. Just to see what it’s like. You must do this with the caveat of letting yourself know that this is only a one day experiment. That is what will make it more palpable.

So, here’s how you do it.

1.)Pick out a day that you are going to act as if you are  without eating disordered behaviors.

2.)Remember, it’s only one day, so you don’t have to prepare yourself the day before by bingeing or starving.

3.)Wake up that morning and EAT BREAKFAST!  What I find  incredibly common in binge eaters  and bulimics is the propensity to skip breakfast. The idea for most is to go as long as they can without eating. The belief is that if they skip breakfast, it will set up a “bad” precedent for the rest of the day. But remember, this is the day that you pretend that you have no eating issues, so go ahead and eat breakfast.

So, when I say breakfast, I don’t mean a piece of fruit. I mean a good hearty breakfast. Try to have a high protein breakfast with some fiber and complex carbohydrates. Such as two eggs and a cup of oatmeal with a piece of fruit, or some turkey sausage with whole grain bread and fruit, or if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, a tofu scrambled with vegetables and a side of fruit.

4.)When you make your breakfast, make it with loving kindness. Try to get up a bit earlier than usual. Instead of rolling out of bed and chugging coffee while you’re running out the door, set your alarm for 1/2 hour earlier. Before you shower, before you do anything, give yourself some time to make yourself a nourishing breakfast and really take time and space to eat quietly. Sit down at a table without turning on the television or looking at the internet or reading the paper. Eat slowly. Notice your food. Notice the tastes, the textures and the feeling of eating. Let your body take in the nutrients it needs.

5.)Notice as you shower and get ready for work what it felt like to give yourself some time and space and nurturing in the morning.

6.)As you begin your day, notice what your body feels like. Check in with your body for cues of hunger and satiety. If you did indeed feed yourself a good hearty breakfast, but you feel hungry in an hour, this is probably not physical hunger, but emotional hunger. Are you stressed about something? Are you tired? What else might be going on?  Continue to assess your hunger throughout the day using the hunger and satiety scale.

7.)When it comes time for lunch, again, don’t skip it. Don’t eat lunch in front of your computer. Eat something healthy such as a salad with protein and a broth based soup, or a sandwich on whole grain bread with lots of vegetables and some kind of non processed meat and a piece of fruit. As you did with breakfast, try to give yourself space and time to actually taste your meal. Don’t inhale it. Notice it bite by bite. Allow it to feed your body and nurture your cells.

8.)Check in with yourself throughout the day. Am I hungry? Am I tired? Am I stressed? What do I need? How can I give myself what I need? Do I want to eat? Do I want to eat because I’m hungry or do I want to eat because I’m feeling something else?

9.)If you are finding that you are feeling hungry in the afternoon, let yourself eat something with protein and fiber, such as nuts and fruit together. If you want to eat something with sugar like a cookie, limit yourself to one serving and eat it with some protein such as raw nuts or seeds or a piece of string cheese or even a hardboiled egg or slice of meat.

10.)When you get home that evening, if it is a time that you usually binge, remind yourself that this is only one day of not bingeing, it’s just a one day challenge, and see if you can use your recovery tools to do something different.

11.)Again, make yourself a good dinner and eat it peacefully.

12.)After dinner, let yourself unwind. No work, no running around, no gym, no errands. Just a relaxing evening. You might want to take a bath or get into bed with a good book, or talk to a friend that you’ve been meaning to catch up with.

This is just one full day of self care and trying to see what it might be like to be on the other side of this. It’s just an experiment. As people with eating disorders, the days are filled with experiments. Experimenting on how little you can eat, what you can omit from your diet, how much you can eat, this diet, that diet….  Try seeing what it might be like to do this.

Restau- RANTS

Salon recently put out an article about what happens when people don’t get the food that they expect to get at a restaurant. It seems that people go into an emotional tizzy when they don’t get what they expected. It’s no surprise that restaurants can be very emotionally charged experiences for people. They order their food a certain way and when it fails to meet their standards, they then become agitated and angry. This isn’t an unusual phenomenon. Yet, it’s curious. Why is it that people are so incredibly attached to outcome when it comes to food? What is the expectation that food is going to be or do for them and when it doesn’t do that, what kind of reaction do they have?

It is common for binge eaters and bulimics to have a particular binge food, such as pizza or Twinkies or ice cream. For someone who uses food to elicit an emotional response, such as pleasure or calmness or to shut out sadness or anxiety, the Twinkie will consistently do exactly what they want it to do. It’s like taking a xanax. No wonder people become so anxious when their orders are screwed up. They had an expectation of the way the food would make them feel. The food has failed to do that, or the establishment has failed to live up to their expectations. What a let down.

Trying to let go of your expectations as to what food can do for you and trying to let go of  the outcome of your food experiences can be liberating.  Food isn’t xanax. Yes, it’s nice to get what you pay for, but if it’s so emotionally charged when someone gives you regular milk for your coffee instead of skim milk, it’s worth looking at. What am I expecting food to do for me? Am I really that rigid around food? Will two tablespoons of full fat milk in my coffee make a difference in the grand scheme of things?  Watching the anxiety that comes up for yourself, having and observing ego (the observing ego is the part of us that watches what we do and say in some objective manner, while tolerating the anxiety that is produced) as you notice yourself in a restaurant is a great way to let go of some of your issues around food. Letting go of some of the rigidity is crucial.

Free Food! But at what cost?

Then, there’s the free food phenomena. This is a binge eaters Achilles Heel. It sets up not just temptation, but a moral dilemma, “is it okay for me to waste this food?” There are many free food situations that get set up. But you have to look at the real cost in free food. Such as “if I eat this, will it set up a binge later?” “will I binge on this because it’s free?” “Is this unhealthy for me to be eating in quantity?”

There is the hidden cost involved with free food, and one that comes with a price tag that is much higher than the food. What will happen if you begin eating the free food? Ask yourself the following questions before you start.

1.)What is the cost/benefit analysis of eating this food?

2.)If I eat this food, just because it is free will I be happy?

3.)Will I be happier in the long term if I eat this free food?

4.)What are the consequences of eating this?

5.)After I am finished with the food, what might happen?

6.)If I eat this free food, will I be able to eat it moderately or will I begin to eat it compulsively?

7.)Will eating this food trigger a binge?

8.)If so, will I wind up bingeing for the rest of the day/night or for several more days?

9.)Will eating this food cause me to purge?

10.)If  I don’t eat this food, will I feel badly?

11.)Will I feel worse if I don’t eat this food than if I do?

Here are some common free food situations and ways to counter them.

Scenario: Babysitting

Situation: The parents have left tons of ice cream, candy, chips, cookies, cake, and other types of food and  junkfood for you to snack on while you’re there.

How to Deal: No matter how old you are, babysitting can be a trigger. You are at home alone, with very little to do and a whole open refrigerator full of free and new food. Before you go to babysit, have a plan. You might put a boundary on yourself saying that won’t eat anything there at all and eat a healthy nutritious dinner before you go. If it’s an all day thing or a time that will coincide with your dinner, you can pack healthy meals to bring with you. If the kids are eating meals that you are likely to binge on, or are likely to trigger a binge (most often I hear mac-n-cheese or pizza) simply decide that you are going to have something different. While you are there, make sure that you have a great book, or a great movie for after the kids are asleep. You might even ask the parents if it’s okay for you to have a friend over. If so, bring a safe friend who won’t engage in binge eating behaviors with you and bring games to play after the kids go to sleep.  If not, let someone know that you want to avoid binge eating have a friend to talk to and check in with while you are there. Bring something to do with your hands, like crafts to do with the kids, or knitting or jewelry making. Make sure to set your intention before you go there that you are not going to engage in binge eating there. The intention you set and the strategies that you set up will help you to refrain from acting out in eating disorder behaviors.

Scenario: Upgrade to First Class

Situation: You are fortunately upgraded to first class on a  long flight. With that comes unlimited drinks and food and as many snack packs as you want. Even though you ate a good meal before you got on the flight, you find that it’s hard to refuse the free food, despite the fact that you are not hungry.

How To Deal: Check in with yourself to figure out whether you are hungry or not. If you are not, let the flight attendant know that you are not ready to eat yet and ask if you might be able to save your meal for later in the flight when you are hungry. If you do choose to drink, don’t have more than one drink. People tend to drink a great deal on long flights and this can be dangerous. You might become dehydrated and get a headache, then feel miserable when you land. Think about what might happen if you choose to overeat or drink a lot on the flight. If you do, will you land feeling ready for your visit or to come home and get back to work/school? Again, this is a cost/benefit analysis. Will eating and drinking make you feel better or worse in the long run? There are many other ways to make a long flight pleasurable besides eating and drinking, and it’s nice to land feeling strong and healthy rather than uncomfortable, bloated, headachey and sick.

Scenario: Food Basket

Situation: Christmas, Get Well, Easter, Thanksgiving… whatever! Someone has sent you a basket full of binge foods.

How To Deal: Be honest with yourself about whether or not you will be able  to have them in your house to eat moderately. If not, regift it. Give it away, donate it, bring it to a homeless shelter, or a homeless person, or a friend.

Scenario: Free Pizza Party

Situation: You arrive at work/school and find that your class or team has won a free pizza party for whatever, but you know that pizza is either a binge food or a trigger food for you (a trigger food is one that you eat that you won’t necessarily binge on, but will trigger a binge later).

How To Deal: Again, think of the cost benefit analysis. Will you feel better or worse if you eat the pizza. Can you eat one or two slices and stop? Can you eat one or two slices without bingeing afterwards? Can you stop at one or two slices? If the answer is no to these questions, refuse the pizza and instead stick with lunch that you had planned. Is saving $5-$10 for lunch worth the way you are going to feel if you trigger a binge?

Scenario: Home to visit the parents

Situation: Parents house is completely full of junkfood. You are stressed out being at home– all the old feelings of your childhood have come up. You want to binge after they go to sleep.

How To Deal: Remember that you are no longer a  kid and that you do have control. You can choose exactly what you want to eat, whether you want to binge or not, and what time you go to sleep. The food in their house won’t make you feel better, but it will trigger the old binge cycle. Tell yourself the first night that you are not going to touch the junkfood, but if you want to the next night, you can.  See how you feel when you wake up the next morning. If you remember waking up in the past feeling full and uncomfortable and full of shame, notice how nice it is to wake up feeling well rested and comfortable in your body. If you choose to eat the junk food that night, make sure that you have a healthy dinner and choose one or two small things to eat. When you eat, do it slowly and mindfully. Check in, are you doing this to shut down? If so, try to stay conscious. Try to eat slowly and actually taste what you are actually eating. You will find that you are more satisfied with a small bit of the food than you are when you binge on it or compulsively stuff it down your throat.

Scenario: Someone is taking you out to dinner

Situation: You are invited out to dinner by a friend who wants to take you to a place where the food is unhealthy and triggering. They urge you to order foods that you know will trigger a binge.

How to Deal: Don’t go to the restaurant very hungry. Understand that you don’t have to eat to make anyone else happy. You eat to feed yourself. You don’t have to eat something that will make you feel uncomfortable or trigger a binge later. It’s okay to say, “no, actually I don’t want to order the macaroni and cheese or the s’mores pie…” or whatever your mate wants you to order that you know will hurt you. Tell them that because they are so excited for you to try that,  you would love a sample of theirs, but you really are in the mood for something different. You never have to eat something to make someone feel better. You are not responsible for other people’s reactions, only your own.

Scenario: Happy hour- free bar snacks with drinks

Situation: You go for drinks after work with your friends and they are giving out free wings, mini eggrolls, chips, dips, ribs, pizza rolls, whatever! It’s free so it’s enticing, but you also know that it isn’t a proper dinner and if you get started you won’t stop.

How to Deal: Really, stop after one drink and have soda water. It’s very difficult to turn down free salty food when under the influence. Don’t stay too late and remember that you will feel better if you don’t drink or eat too much. Think about how free food is not necessarily good food. It’s unhealthy, and probably not prepared very well. It’s probably nothing more than microwaved or deep fried boxed foods, worth very little money. Again, let’s say you eat $$8.00 worth of free food. Then you feel yucky afterwards, did you actually save $8.00? Not really, the cost of feeling ill is much more than you saved. Decide that you are going to save your appetite for a proper dinner.

Scenario: Expensive All You Can Eat Buffet

Situation: You are in Las Vegas and it’s suggested that you go to the Bellagio for their Brunch Buffet. You pay $60 for the all you can eat buffet, but once you get there, you realize that all you really want is an omelet and some fruit salad. You become upset because you realize that you are going to have to pay all that money for a very small amount of food. What do you do?

How To Deal: This is a tough one. It’s really challenging to know that you paid that much money for a couple of eggs and a piece of melon. So here’s where you have to begin to think. What is my $60 worth here? Is it worth the company of my friends? Can I tell my friends that I’ll meet them afterwards and to enjoy their brunch? If not, can I enjoy the company without without bingeing? Can I eat slowly and moderately? If I pay $60 and I binge, is that okay? Did I pay all that money for yummy food or did I pay all that money to do something that made me feel horrible? These are things to think about carefully. If you feel horrible after the buffet, than that was not worth the $60.  You can sample some things, but eat slowly and really taste and appreciate your food. Don’t turn it into a race to make back your money. Try to enjoy the environment, the company, and the food.

The Grief Of Recovery

Saying goodbye to an eating disorder isn’t easy– that’s an understatement. There is a giant grieving process that goes along with it. When you decide to let go of binge eating, you are letting go of something that you feel has been a best friend, a lover, an ally, always there when you need it, always consistent. Letting go of that is certainly challenging. There will be a big part of you that just doesn’t want to give that up. Food can be more reliable than people. It will always elicit a similar  response, it’s always there, it’s always comforting. Of course, you know that these comforts are no more than temporary, and sometimes not even that. So, being ready to let go of binge eating and bulimia can be a humbling experience as you begin to delve into your recovery and understand more about who you are outside of this eating disorder.

These changes won’t just be challenging for you, they will be for anyone around you. There will be a mourning period when you let go of your old ways of being. As you go through the stages of grief you will find that the people around you are going through their own grieving process as they don’t want to let go of the “old” you.

For you, the grieving process might look like this:

  • Denial: I don’t need to do anything different. My issues with binge eating have nothing to do with anything other than willpower. I just have to stop eating and I’ll be fine. Once I lose the weight, my life will be better.
  • Anger: This is ridiculous. Life seems really hard all of a sudden. I have all these uncomfortable feelings. I don’t know why I had to stir up all of these emotions. There was no reason to do it. I hate this. Bingeing is better than sitting with these emotions.
  • Bargaining: I think that I can reasonably go back on a low carb diet and lose the weight without having to go through all of this recovery bullshit. If I just start now, I’ll lose the weight and everything will be fine.
  • Depression: This is never going to be better. I’m always going to be stuck in this disease.
  • Acceptance: What I’ve been doing for all these years, dieting and bingeing and purging and starving and eating my emotions hasn’t worked. I’m in the same exact place as I was when I began. Maybe even worse because now I have to deal with my eating issues too.   I’m going to try and let go and surrender to my recovery and take care of myself emotionally in a way that I haven’t done before. It will be challenging, but in the long run, my life will be better for it.

For people around you, the grieving process might look like this:

  • Denial: Great! She’s starting another diet again. I’m sure that it will fail miserably the way all of her diets do. Whatever, there’s no reason for me to be scared, nothing is going to change. She’ll be eating nachos with me the second I see her.
  • Anger: What’s wrong with her? When I asked her to do me this favor, she refused. That’s not fair, she has always done the things that I’ve asked her to do. But now that she’s in recovery she’s trying to take care of herself? That feels really bad. Where am I? Why is she neglecting me? If she is taking care of herself, then who will take care of me?
  • Bargaining: Maybe I’ll take her out to dinner to a meal that I know she usually binges on. I know that she won’t be able to refuse and then things will be the way they used to.
  • Depression: Things will never be the same. I lost my best friend. I’m alone and lonely and I have no idea who I am.
  • Acceptance: Just because she’s taking care of herself doesn’t mean that I can’t take care of myself. If she’s really my friend, I will feel happy for her, not threatened and jealous. I understand that it has been a hard transition and change for me, but as I support her in her recovery, I can also support myself in being more independent. Without food and favors and resentment between us, our friendship can be more pure and deeper.

Hopefully this won’t happen, but unfortunately, there is a possibility that  you might lose one or two friends in the process of recovery. Those are the friends that were so invested in you being sick because it gave them a sense of who they were or even made them feel better about themselves. They are unable to accept that you are getting better. Those friends who you lose deserve  compassion because they are uncomfortable in their skin and need you to be sick to feel better about themselves rather than working from within and taking care of themselves. Though you can feel compassion, you don’t need to take care of them. That’s an inside job.

Think about what your grieving process around recovery looks like. What are you leaving behind? How will you cope with that?

The Zen of Recovery– Using Meditation to help Binge Eating Disorder

click here for meditations to heal binge eating and other eating issues

You’ve probably heard before that there are many, many benefits to meditation. If you are currently in therapy, chances are your therapist encourages you to consider a meditation practice or even has you sit for short time during your sessions. She or he  might even do some guided visualizations (a type of mediation) with you. You might know that meditation is particularly effective to help people heal from binge eating and bulimia. Getting started is pretty simple.

How to Get Started with Meditation:

There are several different ways to meditate and there is no wrong way to meditate. People tend to get very stressed out over doing it right. Many people say that they can’t empty their minds. That’s not the point. As human beings we really can’t empty our minds. People who have very serious meditation practices can get very close. However, it is a practice and a discipline and it takes time.

Try not to be black and white about it. Many people decide that they are going to wake up every morning at 5am and begin a meditation practice by sitting for an hour every morning. Some people can do that, but if you’re not able to, no big deal. You can do it at any time of day and you can do it for 4-5 minutes. Just that amount of time twice a day will have a big impact on you. As you continue, you will find that you can increase the amount of time that you sit. If you forget, you can meditate on the bus or the train on your way to work. You can walk into a bathroom stall at work and meditate in the bathroom. You can close the door to your office and meditate at your desk. You can always find 5 spare minutes to do this.  Make it simple so that you’re set up for success.

Here are several different ideas for integrating meditation into your life. There is no wrong or right way. Just find something that brings you peace and relief.

  • When you are ready to sit, try to find a place where you can sit in peace for a few moments without someone asking for your attention. Don’t worry about external noise or distractions. Those will always be there, even if you’re meditating on the side of a mountain in Kathmandu. Just allow yourself to close your eyes. Some people like to concentrate on their breath. That’s one great way to meditate. Notice the feeling of your breath and follow the steady rhythm of it. If you see that your mind begins to think about your day, that’s okay, gently return to your breath. You might have to do this 100 times. It’s all okay. You might even notice that you are feeling anxious about something. You can even name that feeling in your mind. “Anxious!” you mind say to yourself, and then return to your breath.
  • Another way to meditate is to put your hand on your heart and just be with the rhythm of your heartbeat. Again, don’t worry about emptying your mind. When you notice that your mind says something or feels something, acknowledge it with love, then return to your heartbeat.
  • Meditate on a word or phrase that is relaxing to you. Such as the word “peace,” and picture something calming to you such as the ocean or a meadow or a waterfall. And keep slowly repeating the word peace to yourself as you see picture the scene or imagine yourself in that scene.
  • You can also scan your body and let each body part relax. Start with your feet and progressively set the intention to relax each part of your body from your feet to your scalp and then just allow yourself to breath.
  • Meditate on compassion. As you breath, visualize yourself drenched in love and light and healing. Then, visualize someone you love drenched in love and light and healing energy.  Then, visualize someone who needs help drenched in love, light and healing energy. Then, visualize someone you might be angry with or resentful of drenched in love, light, and healing energy. Then, visualize a nation in trouble drenched in love, light and healing energy. Then visualize the whole planet drenched in love, light, and healing energy.
  • Throughout the day, check in with yourself to see if you can just bring awareness into your day. Incorporate mindfulness into your day to day activities, even washing the dishes. Feeling the soap on your hands and noticing what it feels like to accomplish the task of washing a dish counts as mindfulness. Check in and notice what emotions you are feeling. Check in while you are driving/riding to work. Check in while you are at your desk. Check in as you’re talking to different people to understand how their presence impacts you.
  • Visualize yourself being free from the urge to binge. See yourself in a situation where there is food all around you. You know that food is what you use to nurture your body, not to hurt yourself. In using food to love and care for yourself, you understand that it is not dangerous so being around it isn’t stressful and it isn’t delightful, it just is a fact of life.

A daily meditation practice has been shown in several targeted studies to reduce stress and anxiety disorders, increase attention, mental awareness and creativity, reduce high blood pressure and  decrease the risk for heart attack and stroke.

There are several reasons why meditation can be such a great tool to help with binge eating disorder. First off, according to a study  out of  Maharishi University in Iowa, meditation has a profound effect on stress levels. After studying people who participated in a regular meditation practice for  four months, they found that the participants produced less cortisol (a stress hormone). Because they were so much less entrenched in their stress, they were better able to cope with the daily stressors in their lives.

Because so many binge eaters use food to relax, shut down, and decrease stress and anxiety, they find that when they use meditation to relax and reduce stress and anxiety, they no longer need to use food for that purpose.

Meditation also creates an awareness of your thoughts, feelings, reactions,  behaviors, your compulsions and the actions they precipitate. As you begin to cultivate a practice of being more attuned to the way that your brain is working, you will find that you have more control over your compulsions and behaviors.  For instance, in Vipassana meditation (also called mindfulness or insight meditation), you allow yourself to be with what is without judging it or trying to change it.  If you are practicing Vipassana meditation one morning and notice that you are feeling angry, it’s okay to allow that anger to be there. What often happens is that people feel different feelings throughout the day that they put judgements on, like “I’m angry, that’s bad. I’m sad, that’s bad. I’m anxious, that’s bad.” When you notice your feeling with love and acceptance, remembering that as a human you are dynamic and have millions of emotions coursing through your mind and body at any given time, you won’t be as quick to try and change them, fix them, or make them end. Often, using food is a way to make the feeling go away or change the feeling or simply not feel it. This kind of meditation helps you to increase your capacity to sit with uncomfortable feelings without using food to push them away.

Third, as you cultivate an awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, you will notice before you begin to binge. So often, people don’t even realize that they are bingeing until after they are done. As you become more aware of your intention, you will find that you catch yourself before you act. You will be observing yourself with interest rather than disassociating. Because of this, you will be more apt to notice as you begin to go toward the food. You can then ask yourself, “am I going toward food because I am hungry or am I needing something else?” If you’re needing something else, you can then ask yourself “what am I feeling?” As you begin to notice what you are feeling, you can then understand more what you need. You can choose to nurture with something other than food. If you are actually hungry, you  can then check in with your body and notice what it needs and nurture your body with food. As you do this more and more you develop a healthy relationship with your mind and body and are best able to meet the needs of your mind and body.

For other meditations and online visualizations, click here!

Here are some other ways to meditate.

Namaste!