Monthly Archives: June 2011

I regret eating that… dealing with food regret

 

“You’ll never regret the things you do; only the things you don’t.” This quote doesn’t necessarily work with food though, does it?  With food, you won’t necessarily regret the food that you pass up, but the food that you choose to eat, the binge that you choose to have might lead to some regrets.

I began thinking about this over the weekend. I was out to lunch with some friends, including a dear friend of mine who continues to struggle with food issues, let’s call her “Liz.”  We all put our orders in, and even though Liz had ordered something  healthy, when others’ orders came out, she began to regret her order. She looked at another friend’s less healthy choice and decided that she wanted that. She said, “I’m having orderers’ remorse,” and changed her order to the same thing that the other friend who ordered the less healthy choice.

I had a feeling that I knew what she was feeling at that moment. It seemed that she was dealing with food regret. At that point, the food choice in that moment became overwhelming to her and she was unable to contain the compulsivity of the want. The truth is, had she told herself, “this is what I ordered and this is what I’m eating now, there’s always another meal later or tomorrow when I can choose something different…” she probably would have been fine. She wouldn’t have spent the whole afternoon sitting around regretting that she’d eaten the healthier choice– she probably would have forgotten about it in fact, or even felt satisfied that she’d been able to make a good choice for her body and well-being and not given into that compulsive in-the-moment urge.

That’s the thing about food choices. Sometimes they can feel very, very dire. Ordering that double bacon cheeseburger with fries when you had intended to order the veggie omelet with fruit and whole wheat toast can seem like it’s the most important thing in the world– AT THAT MOMENT. And it probably will. It will be very hard, but for people with binge eating disorder, often, ordering options that they hadn’t planned on can set off a binge.  The regret then will not be what you did not eat, but what you did eat. You might have a binge, do a behavioral chain analysis and realize that your binge was set off by choosing to give into a compulsion rather than sticking with a choice that might have felt less exciting.  Compulsions are challenging because they don’t always feel as though they’re in your control. They don’t feel like you can actually make a choice outside of the compulsion. Compulsions feel like they’re in charge. The truth is though, no matter how strong the compulsion feels, you ARE in charge!

Next time you have a compulsion to eat something that you know will trigger your eating disorder, remember, “I’ll never regret what I don’t eat… This is just a compulsion, it’s strong,  and it’s hard, but I’ll never regret not letting it have control. I might regret if I do give this compulsion control.” That’s why it’s so hard. Compulsions feel as though you can’t make an alternate choice. They feel as though that’s the only choice. But it’s not. It’s not about willpower, it’s about knowing that this strong feeling is only temporary. You can sit with the fear of regret. And you won’t actually feel regret about choosing not to eat something that feels unhealthy or feels as though it might trigger a binge.

Friday Q & A– I can’t stop dieting– I just want to be a normal teenager

 

Question:

Hi, I’m a 16-year-old Asian who’s had an eating disorder for almost one year. When I was as young as 13 I was already at a weight of 60kg/132lbs. I began feeling more insecure about my body after that so I went on a diet and lost 10kg/22lbs. But as days go by there’s always a voice in my mind that says I don’t look good enough and there’s always that big stomach of mine underneath my clothes. As of now I’m at a height of 161cm/5ft 3in and a weight of 45kg/99lbs.

No one knows about my diet and everything I did to lose weight although my friends and family have been saying “Since when did you get so thin?” these kind of things to me for the past year. I made my decision to recover in April 2011. But it’s just so, SO hard to completely recover and I really don’t want to see a doctor, I just don’t. I count calories every day and I try to keep them no more than 1500 but sometimes I’m just so upset that I haven’t lost my tummy weight I start binge eating and reach 2000 calories in a day!

I’m so tired of counting calories, weighing myself every day, exercising (running, jogging, dancing, sit-ups) in my room.. But I just can’t help it. Last night my parents brought me to a restaurant for dinner and as soon as I came home I saw my bloated, really huge stomach in the mirror and only went to sleep after I jogged in my room for about 20 minutes.

Please help me. I want to live a normal teenager life with no worries about weight at all, and I’m now worried of the fact that I haven’t had my period for 3 months and a half. I want to be able to live like my friends who can eat whatever they want and will never be weight-conscious, and I’m really, really afraid of weight gain. I’ll just start exercising again. I want a real meaningful life at a young age of 16…

And one more thing. I’m a huge fan of Korean music industry and the female celebrities (who have such great bodies and long legs) often remind myself how imperfect I am..

Sincerely, Kim

Answer:

Kim, thank you so very much for writing. I’m so sorry for what you’re going through. It sounds really, really difficult.  I know that you don’t want to go to a doctor– that’s not unusual, but I’m very concerned about your health. Your weight puts you at underweight and the fact that you’re in amenorrhea (no period) shows that there is something very serious going on with your health. I do think that you need to tell your parents what’s going on and have them take you to a doctor and a therapist who specialize in treating EDs.

What seems to be happening is that you’re beginning to listen to the voice of ED. That’s the voice of your eating disorder that tells you wrong information, such as “you’re too fat,” or “your belly is big, you can’t eat anymore, you have to stay up and exercise before you’re allowed to go to sleep because you’ve eaten too much.”    ED is what drives you to see yourself in a distorted way. ED is what tells you that you’re not good enough. ED is what provokes you to look at pictures of pop-stars and tell yourself that you’re not good enough because you don’t look like them.

Your belief that you haven’t “lost your tummy weight,” sounds like a cognitive distortion to me. Something that appears true in your mind, but isn’t reality. Lots of women have distorted body images where they see their bodies very differently than the way most others see them.   Unfortunately, when you get stuck in that loop, it’s hard to get out of.  You keep hearing in your head that you’re not good enough and you spend all your time trying to make yourself good enough and you miss out on your life. Not to mention that restricting your calories so low can lead to cardiac arrest, and your other organs shutting down, and eventual death.

So, this kind of eating disorder is not just dangerous emotionally, but dangerous physically.

1.)Please tell your parents immediately and tell them that you absolutely need treatment. Treatment should be a therapist, a group, a doctor or outpatient or residential treatment.

2.)If your parents are not receptive, tell someone at school, a teacher, school nurse, guidance counselor, etc.

3.)Try not to let yourself focus on pictures of other women and tell yourself that they are better than you. Begin to think about what is wonderful about you and how you can continue down that path to create the life that you want for yourself.  Often we get into the compare and destroy mode. We compare ourselves to someone, decide that we are not good enough, then decide that we might as well not exist because we are not “as good” as that other person. It gives us very little room for being who we are.

4.)Remember that your beliefs about your weight and your size and the way you look and your fears about getting fat are nothing more than fears and beliefs. They are not factual or based in truth. This is the kind of messages that your eating disorder sends to you. As you work to recover, you can change these beliefs.

 

I hope that you’ve found something here helpful and I hope that you get the help that you need. Please email me if you need further help or have more questions.

It Gets Better

Image taken from JenVenegas.com

I think that one of the very challenging things about eating disorder recovery are all the thoughts that come with the behavior.  Most often in EDs, the thoughts come first, ie: “I’m not pretty enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not good enough, I’m not special enough, I’m not thin enough…” and dieting seems like a solution to these problems. Dieting of course then leads to bingeing leads to starving leads to bingeing leads to purging leads to full blown ED.

But it gets better. I don’t want to tell you that as soon as you stop dieting and begin to embrace what your body needs that you’ll begin to love your body and have an amazing relationship with it and feel beautiful and wonderful all the time. That’s magical thinking. The problems that resulted in dieting will still be there when you stop dieting, just as the problems that you thought would be solved by dieting were still there despite the fact that you were dieting. American society will still tell you that “thin is in,” and that this very last diet will solve all your problems. Super models will still be tiny. None of that will change. And it will probably still be difficult in certain ways. But that’s when you begin dealing with the feelings that lead to the eating disorder. That’s when you begin dealing with insecurity, that’s when you begin learning to tolerate your body size, that’s when you begin leaning on your internal and external resources for support rather than food or diets.

And, after you’ve stopped bingeing/purging/dieting/starving/spitting & chewing/overexercising… whatever, even on the days that you feel horrible about yourself, even on the days that you feel bloated, or too large, or your clothes don’t fit, or someone rejected you, or you had a bad day at work or school, you won’t go back to your eating disorder because you will remember how much worse it felt to be using these behaviors to chase away these feelings. You’ll remember how horrible the eating disorder was. And you’ll get support for your feelings in different ways. You’ll talk to friends that you love and who love you. You’ll do something to take care of yourself. You’ll understand that just because you are feeling badly, you don’t need to find a solution because the problem is internal. It needs love and support and kindness. Not another diet.

Yes, it will still hurt. Society will still give you messages. You will still feel unhappy sometimes. It’s hard to believe right now, but there is relief on the other side. The eating disorder just won’t bring it.

Add something

Often, in attempts to quit binge eating, people will set up a rule structure for themselves such as “I can’t eat sugar anymore, I can’t ever eat white flour, I can’t eat gluten…” etc. However, more often that not, those foods that they restrict themselves are the foods they wind up bingeing on. Rather than attempting to control the binge by taking something away, try to add something. For instance, “I will eat a vegetable with every meal and a fruit for desert for each meal,” or “I will take a walk at night after dinner,” or “I will write in my journal or do a blog post  when I have the urge to binge,” or “I will call my sponsor/friend/family member/support person when I am feeling down.”  Change “I won’t”  statements into “I will statements.” The hope here is that you will begin to fill up your time (and your meals!) with the good stuff which will help you to generally feel better.

Do One Nice Thing for yourself– RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!

What nurturing non-food related thing can you do for yourself at this moment? You deserve to be cared for and if you don’t take it upon yourself to take care of yourself, you just might wind up using food to fulfill that need.

Here are some things that you can do right now.

1.)Rub nice smelling lotion into your feet and paint your toenails.

2.)Make yourself a cup of tea and drink it slowly while gazing out the window.

3.)Look in the mirror and tell yourself what’s great about yourself.

4.)Go get a hug from someone you love.

5.)Do your nails or go get them done.

6.)Take a nice long bubble bath.

7.)Take a walk outside.

8.)Put a facial mask on and sit around reading a fun novel.

9.)Sit in silence with your eyes closed, just breathing in and out slowly and imagine yourself flooded with healing light energy (otherwise known as meditation).

10.)Stretch!

 

What else can you do?

Do it! Do one nice thing for yourself this very moment!