Monthly Archives: January 2017

I know I shouldn’t want to lose weight, but I still do…

I consider myself a feminist but I still want to lose weight. Is there something wrong with me-

In Binge Eating Disorder recovery, one of the most common topics that comes up is weight loss.  People learn to take the focus off of weight loss and put the emphasis on health and healing and self-love, but that feels both wrong and uncomfortable. After all, the pursuit of weight loss is something that they have been doing most of their lives.  When I ask people to try to refocus their direction away from the scale, they often tend to get anxious or unhappy. That’s totally normal and I expect it. 

If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you know that I have a weight neutral approach to healing. Weight neutral is idea that health isn’t tied up with your weight. The common dialectic states that when one loses weight, their health will improve. The weight neutral approach states that when the weight is focused on, it takes attention and focus away from actual real health concerns and that people die from diseases that were ignored because they were told, “lose some weight and this will resolve…”  The other part of the weight neutral movement recognizes that when people primarily focus on their weight for health reasons, it only makes things worse by causing binge eating and rejecting other parts of life and certain foods that would increase  healthfulness. In fact, in a study done last June, it was shown that a weight neutral approach to healing actually increased health (by measurable standards such as lowering cholesterol), reduced stress and  increased life satisfaction more than simple weight loss programs.  We know that focusing on weight and weight loss increases frustration, increases binge eating, and ultimately increases weight, yet so many of us still just want to lose weight… 

Oprah lost 67 pounds after completing a liquid diet. Two days after this show was aired and she stopped the liquid diet, she admitted that she could no longer fit into those jeans.

Oprah lost 67 pounds after completing a liquid diet. Two days after this show was aired and she stopped the liquid diet, she admitted that she could no longer fit into those jeans.

So let’s discuss that. If  Oprah Winfrey, one of the most powerful women in the world, a billionaire, if she still hasn’t been able to let go of this notion, than you can know that you are in good company. But Oprah. Oh how I love Oprah and I love how human she is and I love how she’s publicly been sharing her struggle for all these years. I can use her struggle to illustrate why and how weight focus is so damaging.

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Oprah, (despite the fact that she has more resources than 99% of us) still has not let go of her desire to lose weight. She is not immune to it. And this doesn’t make her a bad person.  However, it does make her someone who has been fighting the same frustrating fight for at least the 30-40 years that we know of. And it’s likely been longer than that. Wanting to lose weight doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you superficial and it doesn’t make you unlikely to recover from your eating disorder. But the desire to lose weight, just like the desire to binge is a desire that would perhaps be better left to sit with than to follow down the rabbit hole to satisfy. Because like the desire to binge, when you follow and take action on the desire to lose weight, you will more often that not, wind up feeling uncomfortable in your body. Why? Because the pursuit of weight loss can make one feel very unstable and is almost never long-lasting.  It sets us up for failure. This is illustrated to the left by one of the most powerful women in the world. 

So let’s talk about acceptance. I don’t just mean body acceptance and body love, but accepting yourself as a whole. Accepting that you have these feelings, thoughts and desires that are directly opposed to everything you might have learned or believe in.

Maybe you think that the pursuit of weight loss is a waste of time and maybe you believe that it will get in the way of your recovery. Maybe you see how damaging it is. And maybe you still want to lose weight. That is okay, because you are human. And you have to balance and accept these very real human desires and feelings inside of you. 

I know you still want to lose weight. I know it. And I accept that and I accept you. You are human and all your feelings are important and valid. And, just because  you want to lose weight, that doesn’t mean that the pursuit of weight loss is necessarily a positive thing for you. 

So what can you do? You can be your own most powerful ally. You can do your best to fully accept that despite the fact that you have the knowledge and the understanding that dieting is not good for you that you still want to lose weight. You can know that part of self-acceptance is accepting the confluence of emotions and desires that are diametrically opposed to your beliefs and morals.  You can know that your desire to treat your body with love and respect and to feed it, nurture it and treat it with the utmost of kindness is in direct conflict of the messages that we get from the media and the medical community- messages that skinny is best, that if you had more discipline that you could be skinny, that you have to lose weight to be healthy. As we have seen, all those messages are not just wrong, but damaging.

So here’s the deal– I want to help you be accepting of yourself, of all your thoughts, and of your body. I want you to treat your body with love and respect. I want you to feed yourself when you are hungry and not restrict or reject foods unless you don’t like them or are allergic to them or sensitive to them. I want you to listen to your body. I want you to go toward health and wellness. When you do, your weight will likely land where it’s supposed to. As I’ve said before, that might be thin, that might not be thin, but it will be healthy. When you treat yourself with kindness, your body will come to it’s natural shape and weight. And even if  you still want to lose weight, it’s okay. Wants and desires are okay and normal. But when you redirect those desires, when you think about how you want to live your life and don’t let the pursuit of weight loss get in the way of that, when you do the things that you want to do in life and give yourself what you really and truly need this is where your healing comes from.  

Q & A Friday – I’m Afraid to Eat Fat

How Eating Fat Helps Cure Binge EatingQuestion: Hi Leora!

I got the 100 days of real food cookbooks, and notice that they say to eat full fat cheese and yogurts and things like that, I know that you say we should eat full fat yogurts and things as well. I know they are better for my body, and I can eat less of then to get full faster, but it’s honestly hard for me to not buy nonfat.  It makes me worried about gaining weight. I know it’s silly, but would love any advice you can give!

Thank you! Elizabeth

Answer: Hi Elizabeth, 

Yes, you are right. There is an underlying message out there that all fat is bad- body fat, fats in food, all of it. There is a belief that eating fat makes you fat– which is not only untrue, it’s also the opposite. When you eat more healthy fat, your body weight actually regulates and comes to its healthy place.  At this point, although many of us know from a nutritional and intellectual standpoint that full-fat products are much better for your body- it’s still difficult to integrate that knowledge to day-to-day eating. Fat certainly keeps you fuller longer and is more satisfying but it also decreases your risk of binge eating, and conversely,  avoiding fat increases your chances of bingeing. So much of healing from binge eating disorder is also about increasing your nutritional profile. This is why: 

–Essential fatty acids found in food supply the nutrients that promote growth of our cell functions but our body cannot make on its own. Thus if we avoid fat, we will either get very ill or our body will involuntarily turn to binge eating to meet these needs. 

–Your brain is made up of fat- the myelin sheath (which insulates your nerve cells) is made up of fat. Because of this, it’s important to continue to supply your brain with fat. This helps to increase concentration and uplift your mood.  Depression and anxiety can often lead to binge eating as it temporarily decreases these mood issues (and then makes them a lot worse). By keeping your brain feeling strong and stable, you have more of a chance of avoiding binges. 

–Fat transports essential fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) to your cells.  Your body needs these nutrients to keep its functions going. If it doesn’t have fat to deliver them, you will likely binge (whether you want to or not) because your body is looking to heal itself. 

–Fat helps to regulate your hormones which will keep issues like PMS at bay. When you find that your mood swings are fluctuating less, it decreases your chances of binge eating. 

Because of how essential fat is, your body will seek out ways to get it if you avoid it. Now, your main question is “how can I get myself to eat fat?”  You have to flip the message in your brain that “fat is bad.”

Flip Your Thoughts about Fat: When you see full-fat yogurt or olive oil or milk or cheese, I want you to try to think to yourself, “there is something rich and nurturing for my body, I am dousing my body in nutrients when I feed it healthy fats.   You are changing your thoughts about what fat is. Instead of equating fat with an unhealthy body, start to think about how healthy and strong fat makes your body. 

Take it slow:  This doesn’t have to be a fast all or nothing process. You can start slow. For instance you can tell yourself that you will have one bowl of full fat yogurt in the morning once and see how it goes. Then you can make a list of breakfast foods that are full fat and try one each morning. For instance:

  • Toast with peanut butter
  • Eggs with Avocado
  • Full fat yogurt with berries 
  • Macadamia nuts with fruit 
  • Bacon/Avocado rolls
  • Butternut squash with butter or olive oil mashed in (yes squash for breakfast! very yummy)

And then just let yourself sit with it mindfully and see how it makes your body feel. Usually when I do this experiment with clients, I give them a one week challenge of eating a breakfast with fat and protein each morning. Although they are often scared, they tend to feel so nurtured that they notice their urge to binge decreases considerably and they feel grateful for their new appreciation of nourishing fats. 

Start slow. Try it for one breakfast and see how it goes and then let me know! Thank you for the question. 

Q & A Friday- How should I cook and shop to prevent binge eating?

friday-q-a-how-do-i-feed-my-family-healthfully-when-im-in-eating-disorder-recoveryThis question comes to us from Anna in Denver.

Question: 

Hi Leora,

I was wondering if you could recommend any good cookbooks you use to cook, or websites? Also, does your family and kids eat the same recipes? I would really love to start cooking just Whole Foods, maybe utilizing the Mediterranean diet mentality. I really want to stop tracking my food, but haven’t been able to yet. My hope is that I just fill my diet up with fruits, veggies, healthy fats and protein and I will no longer feel the need to track my food. Any advice? Also, I have thought about going to see a nutritionist for BED, but I’m worried she will just give me a structured meal plan. I have been struggling the last couple of days with overeating, and I just want extra help. What are your thoughts?

My Answer: 

Hi Anna, 

What a great question. 
As far as recipe sites go,  I do really like Whole Foods Markets recipes. http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe-collections and these recipes from the World’s Healthiest Foods are easy. http://www.whfoods.com/recipestoc.php – however, I rarely use them.  I will admit to you that I am a “lazy” cook. I don’t do a whole lot of recipes or follow cookbooks or recipes. I just don’t have time so I keep it very simple.  For me, easy is the only way to go. I know from the past that if I make eating and cooking too elaborate or try to do it perfectly, I will fail.  I once heard someone say that it’s better to succeed 100% of the time by doing something good than to fail 90% of the time by trying to do things perfectly. I think that’s a good rule of thumb. Make it simple and life will be easier. 
So to answer your question,  my kids eat the same way as we do. Usually breakfast is some eggs and some berries and fruit or (full fat) yogurt with museli, nuts and fruit or oatmeal with raisins, nuts and cinnamon. 
I also cook a lot of yams and winter squashes. I really do nothing to them other than put them in the oven for an hour and then mush them up. Sometimes I’ll add some olive oil and salt, but usually they are delicious and soft as they are. The kids love that too. They go through yams like crazy. 
I keep lots and lots of fruit in my house, mostly berries, pears and apples. The children will eat up to 10 apples a day. Seriously. Their dentist said that apples actually have the benefit of brushing their teeth, so not to worry. 
I will throw chicken tenders in a pan (I get them from Trader Joes’  http://www.traderjoes.com/fearless-flyer/article/2251) and stir them up with some cut up vegetable and beans (garbanzo) throw some salt, olive oil and curry powder in… and bake up a potato with butter or sometimes add cheese or sour cream if I want it. The kids will eat all of that too. They also love rice, so I’ll usually cook up some rice with garbanzo beans, salt and olive oil. 
Once a week we usually eat salmon and that is very simple, I just put it in the oven with butter and salt at 350 for 20 minutes and then sometimes cut up an avocado on top and some salsa and side is a potato or yam and spinach or broccoli. 
The kids sometimes like to snack on crackers with cream cheese (I give them Mary’s crackers), rice cakes, seaweed, string cheese, and lots of apples and carrots and Lara bars. 
 I have to make cooking easy and non-tedious because otherwise it will be a chore and I’ll wind up ordering take-out. I buy most of my vegetables pre-cut, I buy lettuce in bags and meat already cut so I can just throw everything on a pan or in the skillet.  
 But if we are out, the kids will definitely have hamburgers with french fries or pizza or a quesadilla or taco or cake at a birthday party and so will I!  
As they say in A.A. — KISS (keep it simple, sweetheart) and recovery will be smoother. Release perfection and let yourself be simple. 

When Your Critic Won’t Stop Attacking You

what-to-do-when-your-inner-critic-wont-stop-attacking-you-1

You’re so fat! Look at the size of your thighs, your butt is huge… what is wrong with you? Why do you have to be so…so…  so what? 

There’s that voice that sits inside your head and tells you that there is something wrong with you. The inner critic. The part of you that tells you that in order to be liked by people, you have to be thinner, smarter, faster, stronger, and if you’re not, you’re worthless.  Do you know how many people deal with that voice? Many. Probably at least half (or more) of the people you talk to daily. 

The problem with the inner critic is that she won’t be silenced by obeying her, it just makes her stronger.  When the you inside of you punishes you for being you… you’re in trouble ALL THE TIME. 

So what to do when you live with a punisher inside your head? 

Dismantle the critic. 

Step One: Analyze the statement with writing. Write down the day, time, and the event that was happening right before your inner critic began yelling at you. 

Step Two: When you hear the critic saying something to you, try to think about what her purpose is. What reason does she have to tell you she’s telling you? What is underneath the statement? 

Example: It’s Thursday afternoon at 1pm, you are on your lunch break and are scrolling through Facebook and you see that one of your best friends from college just got engaged. You get a pit in your stomach and you start hearing yourself saying “you need to lose weight, you have to go on a diet, there’s something wrong with you…” you instantly throw your burrito in the garbage can and berate yourself for not getting a salad instead. What happened there? Maybe you saw that your friend was getting engaged and it reminded you that you’re not currently in a relationship and that you want to me. Maybe you felt scared that you’d never be in a relationship. Maybe your fear of being alone for the rest of your life made you decide to take it out on your body, that the only way you could remedy dying alone was by beating yourself up. Beating yourself up isn’t going to solve the fears that you have. Telling yourself that there is something wrong with you and that you need to diet isn’t going to make you not scared. It’s just going to add an abuser into the life of an already scared person. What do you really need? 

Step Three: Replace your abuser with a kinder, gentler voice. Now that you know why you were so upset and abusing yourself, find the loving Mom inside of you, the one who holds you and wipes your tears and tells you that you matter, tells you that you are perfect, whole and complete just the way you are. Because you do matter and you are perfect, whole and complete just the way you are. 

Step Four: Disengage from the abusive voice. Just because you hear it, doesn’t mean you have to listen to it. Think of it as an irritating noise in the background that you tune out, like construction outside your office, or a siren zooming by. You can hear it, but you don’t have to chase it. You can choose to ignore it.

Step Five:  If the voice persists, tell yourself, “this is unhelpful and unneeded.” You might even picture a giant stop sign in your mind. Just tell the voice to stop. Tell the voice that there’s no room for it. This is part of cognitive behavioral therapy.  In behavioral therapy, we have urges or desires but we learn not to act on them or to stop them before they take over. In cognitive behavioral therapy, we take the cognitions (or the thoughts) and we choose not to follow them and not to allow them to control us. The principle is that controlling the  behavior of the thought will help to calm the difficult feelings  that follow the thought. When you disengage with painful thoughts, painful feelings decrease. And when the painful feelings decrease, you begin to live your life in authenticity, in the way that you know is valuable for both yourself and the people around you.

You deserve to be treated with respect by yourself and by the people around you. But you can’t control the people around you, so let’s start with you.  (Your next step is to disengage with toxic people.  As long you are choosing not to treat yourself poorly, no one else should be able to make you feel like crap either.)