Monthly Archives: May 2012

A recovery story

I’ve been seeing *Emily in therapy for four years. She has written her recovery story and agreed to have it posted.

I actually remember the first time I binged and purged. I was in eighth grade and we were at Thanksgiving dinner at my grandparents’ house. My grandma used to make these huge elaborate meals, with like 5 or 6 different pies and all sorts of mashed potatoes and stuffing. My cousin Jenny, who is a year older than me, was there. She was like, everyone’s princess.  Everyone was soooo excited because Jenny had  made the cheerleading squad at her high school and she was in the homecoming court. Up until that year, me and Jenny had always sat there during Thanksgiving and giggle and eat all the pies together. But this year, she barely paid attention to me.  She wore these tight  jeans and kept her portions small. She was like a real teenager.  My mother looked at her admirably and said she was so proud of how beautiful Jenny had become. She also said that it was smart to watch her figure now that she was no longer a little girl. My mom then looked at me and said nothing as I scarfed down my third piece of pie. I had never really thought about it before. I mean that’s what we did on Thanksgiving. We ate my Grandma’s pies. Even my Grandma turned against me. “Eat less pie Emily! Be more like Jenny. Look how thin and gorgeous she is now!”  I felt horrible. My own (not name brand) jeans were unbuttoned to make room for my swollen belly and I felt how greasy my hair and skin had become.  After dinner, I excused myself to the bathroom and I don’t know how or why, but I began searching through the medicine cabinet. That’s when I saw the chocolate ex-lax. I knew what they did and I knew that I could use them to get rid of the pie. I don’t know how I knew to use them. I guess I’d heard of it somewhere… and so I took three pills. I remember thinking that I should take more than it said on the back, but I didn’t want anyone to notice that they were gone.  The laxatives kicked in that night. I sat up all night running to the bathroom. And although my stomach felt ravaged and I was in terrible pain, after my bathroom  trips, I would step on the scale and see how much weight I’d lost. It was amazing to me that the pounds were just dropping off. And that’s how it started.  Later that week, I made myself throw up after eating a milkshake and onion rings from Burger King.

And that was my descent into the dark years of bingeing, purging, taking laxatives, and starving myself. I kept trying to be more like my cousin Jenny who showed up at Thanksgiving every year more and more beautiful, with perfect grades, the captain of cheerleading, with a football player boyfriend. And me, I became more and more isolated. I had put on a lot of weight and I wore all black, smoked cigarettes and had kept my hair dyed black and pierced everything I could. I didn’t really have a boyfriend, though I did sleep with a lot of boys, but no one wanted to get serious with me. I kidded myself into thinking that I didn’t care. But I was depressed. Really depressed. I used to cut myself on the arms and legs sometimes, just so that I could emote because I felt, I believed that I was completely alone. My grandparents seemed to tolerate me, but didn’t have a lot of interest or pride in me. And my mother sort of seemed disgusted by me. She knew about my activities with boys and told me that I had no self-respect.  Food was a lot of what comforted me. I would eat full pizzas on my own after school and wash them down with diet cokes. I’d go days eating nothing, just drinking coffee and diet coke and eating pixie sticks to keep me going. Then I’d collapse, cut school and go to the donut store and eat a dozen donuts in the parking lot, wash them down with diet coke and laxatives, then throw up in the bathroom of the gas station, and then drive around town buying food to binge on and find gas station bathrooms to purge in.  I just wanted to be normal. I wanted to be like my cousin Jenny. I wanted people to love me and I wanted to be beautiful and cared for. I thought that if I could get thin enough, I’d be okay. But my bingeing and purging  continued all through high school, and shockingly, I still was able to get good enough grades to get into college.

I stopped purging in college, but became addicted to diet pills, marijuana, and sometimes even cocaine to keep me from eating. I finally lost all the weight I wanted to, but my body was breaking down. I suffered three fractures by the second semester of my sophomore year. I realized then that I had to stop with my eating disorder. But I couldn’t. I had no idea how to eat normally. I tried to eat three meals a day, but it always ended with me bingeing. I managed to stop purging, but I was still bingeing and then restricting. I did manage to graduate from college, but my grades really weren’t very good. I barely went to class and when I did, I didn’t pay attention or get much out of my classes. I really wasted my mother’s money.

After college, I tried a variety of things to help me lose weight. I tried different diets, I tried nutritionists, I tried a 12 step group with a food plan. But all of those things made me just binge when I fell off my food plans or diets.  Eventually, I decided to start seeing a therapist. I knew I had an eating disorder and was ready for help. It was really hard at first because I felt like my therapist just couldn’t help me with the thing I most needed help with– I wanted to lose weight, I wanted to stop bingeing. I told her to just tell me what to do and fix me. She gave me lots of assignments, many of them were about eating 3 meals a day, whatever I wanted, but I had to eat mindfully. She sent me to a nutritionist who specialized in treating eating disorders, and she also recommended that I see a psychiatrist to help me get some meds that might help with my depression.  I spent a lot of money. A serious amount of money between all those specialists. But I was desperate. 

Talking to my therapist really felt like a relief. We talked through a lot of the pain, depression, and through a lot of my childhood.  I realized that a lot of my eating disorder wasn’t about the food and it wasn’t about me getting thin. It was about me feeling really badly about myself. My Dad left my Mom and I when I was 5 years old, and I always thought it was my fault. The more I began to understand how I felt completely flawed my whole life, the more I understand that it was a myth– a story that I told myself. And that through that myth that I had conceptualized in my 5 year old mind, I began to act the way I believed I was. I tried desperately to get love and attention from men, but ultimately, I felt so worthless, that I let them treat me like crap– letting them have sex with me then ignore me the next day. My mother said I had no self respect, and she was right. But she never taught me how to respect myself. She never quite let me think I was worthy of love and admiration. I wasn’t any less smart or less beautiful than Jenny, I just believed I was. She had a mother and a father at home. I had no Dad and a Mom who was angry and felt rejected and resentful. She came into therapy with me several times as we discussed her own feelings of being worthless after my Dad left her for a much younger woman.   As I began to understand my own sense of worth, I started to try and take better care of myself. I learned to sit with my feelings, I learned to HOLD myself with respect. That was huge. I didn’t have to be super witty, nor did I have to do everything for everybody to make them like me. I didn’t have to be anything. I just had to respect myself. And so as I did, my eating disorder began to have less of a hold on me. As I talked through all those things, I realized that the drive to be thin was really just a drive to be accepted. So I learned to accept myself. It has been really hard for me to accept all those lost years, it’s like my whole teen years and most of my 20s were stolen by my eating disorder. But in learning to accept, I’m just trying to respectfully mourn those lost years.

I’ve been 100% free from any eating disorder behaviors since September 18th, 2010. That was the day before my 28th birthday. I am not afraid of Ed any longer. I know that I have the tools to work through whatever life should hand me. And if I do relapse, I know that I can’t lose the recovery that I have. 

*Name has been changed.

If you have a recovery story that you would like to be published, please send it to bingeeatingtherapy (at) gmail.com

Sleep, Food, & Mood.

Do you ever do that thing, where it’s the night, but you’re somehow afraid to go to sleep? You’re kind of dreading it? You get up and go to the refrigerator, sit on the couch with your computer in your lap, looking at facebook, watching television, half-heartedly reading blogs, half-heartedly watching television, and eventually,  you’ve gotten up and eaten a bunch of food that you weren’t hungry for and your body didn’t need, and it’s past 2am, and you’re so exhausted that you just kind of stumble into bed with a full, uncomfortable belly, feeling like crap. Do you do some kind of variation on it?

Sleep, food, and mood go together. When your sleep is off, your food is off, when your sleep and food are off, your mood is off. When your mood is off, your sleep and food are usually off.

One of the ways to begin to bring your life back to healthy is to start with your sleep.    Go out and buy a nice, comfortable set of sheets and a new comforter and lots of fluffy pillows. Make your bed someplace that is inviting and luxurious. If you can’t afford new sheets right now, wash your current sheets and bedding and fluff it up, spray it with some lavender and try to give it a little bit of new life. At night, an hour before you think you should go to sleep, get into bed. Let’s say you want to be asleep at 11, get into bed at 10. Don’t turn your TV on, don’t bring your computer into bed with you. Bring a book, or a magazine, or your iPod. Listen to some relaxing music with your eyes closed or listen to a guided visualization, and just begin to let yourself relax. This isn’t about sleep, this is about relaxing your body. Sleep is a natural biological process that your body can do once you begin to relax your body and your mind. You might also want to get into the bath about 90 minutes before you want to be asleep. A hot bath with Epson Salts is a great way to relax your muscles and calm your mind and warm your body up for sleep. Try to think of a nice bedtime routine that you can do every night that will help you fall into a restful sleep. You might draw for 1/2 hour before you get into bed, you might bathe, you might write in your journal, but find something that works for you and do it nightly.

If you find that sleep is impossible, there are lots of natural sleep solutions like herbal sleep aids out there such as valerian, chamomile and skullcap as well as amino acids like 5-HTP and L-Tryptophan or a synthetic hormone of melatonin that you can ask your doctor or Naturopath about for help with sleep. There are also over the counter solutions as well as prescription solutions that your doctor can help you sort through. There’s no shame in finding something to help you sleep. Being sleep deprived leads to poor decision making, especially around food choices. It also leaves you looking for more energy and many people use caffeine and sugar to achieve this.

Think about the Gestalt of it, you need a healthy body, mind, and spirit. You can’t have one without the other. Even if you find that you’re just not able to get your food on track, just start with your sleep. You will find, that once your sleep is better, that it will be much easier to deal with food.

Go Vogue!

Did you hear? Did you hear? Vogue Magazine has decided to become ” ambassadors for the message of healthy body image.” And in that, according to the NY Times they have decided not to have any models in their magazine who are under the age of 16, nor any models who “appear to have an eating disorder.” I’m not sure what that means, but I’m assuming it means painfully thin models.  The new policy which has been enacted as of May 3 and thus, beginning their June issue, the following doctrine will be upheld:

“1. We will not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder. We will work with models who, in our view, are healthy and help to promote a healthy body image.

“2. We will ask agents not to knowingly send us underage girls and casting directors to check IDs when casting shoots, shows and campaigns.

“3. We will help to structure mentoring programs where more mature models are able to give advice and guidance to younger girls, and we will help to raise industry-wide awareness through education, as has been integral to the Council of Fashion Designers of America Health Initiative.

“4. We will encourage producers to create healthy backstage working conditions, including healthy food options and a respect for privacy. We will encourage casting agents not to keep models unreasonably late.

“5. We encourage designers to consider the consequences of unrealistically small sample sizes of their clothing, which limits the range of women who can be photographed in their clothes, and encourages the use of extremely thin models.

“6. We will be ambassadors for the message of healthy body image.”

 

The fashion industry is still not perfect, or even close to it, but I’m very happy to see that they are trying to take care of their own models by offering healthy food, emotional support, and by acknowledging the eating disorder issue. Now, obviously we cannot SEE if someone has an eating disorder. Most people with eating disorders don’t APPEAR to have eating disorders– they are secret, not obvious to most people. However, this is a good first step and I’m proud of Vogue for taking a stand on health. In 2006, the runways in Spain and Italy banned models with very low BMI’s from being on the catwalk and also banned ridiculously thin mannequins from being put in shop windows in order to disempower the perception that a very skinny physique is fashionable.  Hopefully this trend continues.

Don’t do a lot. Do a little.

I have this client. This smart, beautiful, funny, compassionate, wonderful client who has been suffering with food issues for a very, very long time. Once every few months, she has a plan. She’s going to cut out sugar, she’s going to do yoga 3 times a week, she’s going to meditate daily, she’s going to go to the gym after work each day.  But in the next session, the one after she comes in and tells me these things, she admits that she’s not done anything different.

She’s not uncommon. Not even a little bit.  Do you ever do this? Do you decide that you’re going to do a total 180? That you’re going to stop eating sugar, that you’re going to exercise every day, that you’re going to keep your house spotless, that you’re never going to drink alcohol again, that you’ll never smoke another cigarette, that you’ll take your vitamins daily, that you’re going to take your eye makeup off every night and start a perfect skin care regimen, that you’re going to stop biting your nails, and you’ll never snap at your mother/father/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/children, that you’re going to read the Sunday Times cover to cover every week,  that you’re going to stop overspending, that you’re never ever going to binge again, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. Fill in the blank.

It’s too much. You set yourself up for failure this way. Choose one small thing and do it for one month. Then, add something else. For instance, if you want to get into yoga, decide that you’re going to do one yoga class a week for 30 days. Then, after the 30 days, move onto 2 yoga classes a week. Then, after those 30 days are over, try for one sugar free day per week, then try for two sugar free days per week.  Decide to floss your teeth every other night for a month, then move to every night, then add in a skincare regimen every other night, then every night.  Just let yourself transform slowly. It’s easier and more sustainable.

Doing a little will set you up for success rather than failure. And you can become what you want to become. Slow is what makes things stick. When you do everything at once, chances are, things will return to the way they were.

What is one little thing that you can do for the next 30 days? I guarantee that doing one little thing will help you feel a lot different.

How To Lose 5 pounds In 2 Days

ahhh I wish I could stop this damn dietThe very best way to lose five pounds in two days is to make a decision to take two whole days to stop dieting and chose to eat very slowly, very mindfully, and very intuitively, giving your body exactly what it needs to thrive.

I know that quitting dieting to get to a healthy weight sounds totally counterintuitive, but overeating is the other side of dieting, which means that when you choose to go on a restrictive diet, there is a very good chance that you are going to lose your momentum, then binge, and put on more weight than you took off.

Healthy, intuitive eating is the opposite of dieting and of overeating. If you really, truly stop dieting, just for a couple of days, and implement intuitive eating,  your body will  begin to settle into it’s healthy, comfortable weight. I know that it sounds unbelievable, but I promise you, it’s true. Quitting dieting is the sure way to find your healthy, natural weight and come to peace with food and your body.

One of my clients and I were discussing the other day how everything she’s done to her body over the past 25 years, all the diets, all the exercise, the thousands of miles she’s run, the millions of crunches she’s done, the bags of cookies she’s eaten, the loaves of bread and boxes of candy she’s binged on, the carbs she’s restricted, the low-fat diets she’s been on, the shakes she’s drank, the detox diets she’s done, the diet books she’s read, the leg lifts, the pilates classes, the workout videos, the gimmicks, the fads, the coconut oil she’s eaten, the kombucha she’s drank, the South Beach, the Weight Watchers, the Atkins, the Dukan, the Ex-Lax, the “as-seen-on-tv” exercise equipment and workout videos, the stress, the anxiety, the not leaving the house on “fat days”,  the depression, all of it… it’s all basically been for something like five pounds either up or down.  That’s it. In all the years she’s been dieting, she’s been either up five pounds, or down five pounds.

This client teeters between 130-140 pounds but hovers around 135. She hates herself at 140, likes herself better at 130 and struggles at 135, where she probably most naturally falls. And she has been at this weight since she was about 16 years old.  And for all these years, she’s been trying to get down to around 125 pounds. Can you imagine how many pounds she’s lost and gained in the past 25 years? And the thing is, she really keeps coming back to the equilibrium of 135 pounds. Sometimes she’s 5 pounds up. Sometimes she’s 5 pounds down. But she’s never happy.  She tries and tries and tries to get to 125 pounds. And she’s been trying and fighting with those pounds for 25 years. There’s no room for much else in her life. Her weight takes up most of her energy. And for just five pounds. Does that sound familiar to you? Is that you or someone you know? It’s not unusual, and for many people,  it’s their whole lives. They strive to be a weight that their body just doesn’t want to be. They struggle with diets, they struggle with food and exercise, and they struggle with self image.

People spend so, so, so much time trying to lose weight, and all that work, all those years, for many it’s just for a few pounds.  They’ve run 100 marathons, gone on a million diets, eaten 10 billion oreo cookies, spent hundreds of days fasting and dieting miserably,  and yet… their bodies aren’t all that different.  I call it the 5 pound paradox. All the work spent and, it’s usually around five pounds either way. Wouldn’t… acceptance be easier? By quitting dieting for 2 whole days and eating intuitively, there’s a chance that five pounds would drop off your body. But it would definitely drop from your mind, and that’s where it weighs the most.

If you didn’t have your weight to obsess on all the time, what else would you be thinking about and doing? Sometimes dieting and thinking about getting to a certain weight all the time is easier than dealing with what’s underneath, what you’re really trying to cope with. Dieting is a way of gaining control and coping with challenging feelings and situation.

What if you took the next two days and made a decision. No diets. No bingeing. Just for two days:  “I’m going to eat slowly and mindfully,  I’m going to implement intuitive eating, I’m going to eat what my body needs to be healthy, three solid meals per day. Whatever looks good. Whatever I want. No over the top thinking about it.  Just giving my body what it needs three times both days.”  After those two days, reassess. What is it like not to diet? What is it like not to obsess? Can you handle it for another day? Are you ready to let go of control? If not, that’s okay. But just give yourself two days. No weighing yourself, no measuring. This isn’t a free-for-all binge. This is, “pretend I’m a normal eater.” Think of the most normal eater you know. Your friend who eats three meals a day, orders what she or he wants without remorse, regret or overthinking it,  Eats till she or he’s not hungry any longer, then stops.  Try to embody that attitude for a two day experiment and just see how it goes for you. You might be surprised and you might feel liberated.

You can sit quietly and talk to your food or try meditation, breathe deeply before every meal,  or try some downloadable hypnosis sessions on intuitive eating and mindful eating to help you.