Monthly Archives: April 2017

How Did I Gain 7 Pounds Overnight?

I Gained Seven Pounds. Oh Sh*t

 

At the gym the other morning, I saw a  young woman hop on the scale, move the weights to a place that apparently she did not like and immediately burst out crying. I was heading toward her to see if she was okay but another woman ran over to her and said, “what’s the matter? are you okay?”  “NO!!!!” She screamed! “I gained seven pounds! SEVEN pounds! Overnight! How did that happen? I’ve been so careful, I’ve been trying to lose weight! How did this happen? How did this happen to me?!!!”  

As you know, this is my territory, this is the population I work with all day, women who are having a really hard time with scales, food, weight, disordered eating, bingeing, purging, restricting, poor self-image and body image.

That scale is evil!

When I walk into the dressing room at the gym and I see it there, I jump away like it’s a snake. I can’t go near that thing. I see other women hopping on and off of it nonchalantly and to me it almost looks like they’re heading to a cigarette machine. For someone with disordered eating, weighing yourself is like an alcoholic walking into a bar. It’s an unhealthy obsession and it will make you feel both crazy and out of control. 

The young woman continued crying, deep heaving wails and sobs. She told the woman who was trying to comfort her that she texted her sister and told her about the seven pounds. That she hated her life. That she didn’t understand why this happened to her…  She then got up and started gathering her things to leave. The woman comforting her said, “wait, aren’t we going to do our workout?” and she said and  “No! Why would I bother? I gained seven pounds!”   and with that, she left.  

She was so upset. She was devastated actually. She had gone to the gym to get her workout in and stepping on that scale ruined a perfectly fine day. She decided not to work out, she went right to black and white thinking.

What do you think would have happened if she hadn’t stepped on the scale? What do you think would have happened if rather than being focused on a specific outcome, she’d just been focused on her day-by-day self care?  I was really sad all day thinking about her, and I wished that I’d had the opportunity to chat with her, but it just wasn’t appropriate. If you are a doctor and someone falls and hurts themselves, you say, “I’m a doctor, let me look at that knee,” but in my case, “I am an eating disorder therapist, I can help you with your cognitive distortion!” As you can imagine,  I really wanted to do that… but it wasn’t appropriate in the moment.  

Later that day, I came across an article about a woman who did an experiment of weighing herself each hour for one whole day to see what happened.   Here’s the general gist of the article. 1. Her weight fluctuated that day by – you guessed it- seven pounds!  And despite the fact that she clearly saw that fluctuation (wait, I haven’t eaten or drunk anything in the past hour, why is my weight up by 2 pounds?) she still started to get really stressed out by the scale!

This is what happens when you start measuring your worth by something that has no use in life other than to measure mass. It doesn’t tell you anything good that you did that day (“I rescued a baby from a burning building!”) It just spits out an arbitrary number. And then you give it the power to make you feel a certain way. This takes you away from having power over your own life. Don’t let a piece of machinery tell you how to feel about yourself. Don’t let it dictate your day. You are worth more than that. I can’t stress enough, the number on the scale has nothing to do with your worth, who you are is perfect, whole and complete at this moment. In another moment your weight might be up five pounds, in another moment it might be down five pounds. But in both those moments, you still are perfect, whole and complete exactly as you are. You haven’t changed. So instead of using this external thing to tell you how you are supposed to feel about yourself, what kind of day you’re supposed to have, instead, do something that makes you have a good day. Buy a meal for a hungry person, dig a sand castle with your neighbor’s kid, plant butterfly fennel in your front yard, say something nice to someone you don’t know… anything else but weigh yourself. The scale is not an accurate measure of your worth, and clearly, it’s not even an accurate measure of your body mass. 

Bingeing on Creme Eggs

It was one of my mother’s ex-boyfriends who introduced me to Cadbury Creme eggs. I was seven years old and I was quickly hooked. Never had my mother let me eat anything that was so…. “junky!” as she would say. Nevertheless, he persisted — he kept talking to my Mom about “how can a child possibly get through childhood without eating creme eggs in the Spring?  You can’t just keep giving her carob covered rice cakes and let her think she’s having a childhood! It’s not right.. it’s just not right.” Eventually, his logic won out and I was allowed a creme egg. And I thought it was the ambrosia of the gods and goddesses. Never had I eaten anything like it (cue the rice cakes). So, as it was, annual Spring Creme Egg binges became a thing.

One summer, while I was living in Boston, one of my roommates who had a job at Store24 brought home a gigantic case of mostly stale Creme Eggs (it was July already). And I even ate those. They were so stale. Creme Eggs were like crack for the binge eating disordered soul. I know that I was not alone because every year at this time, I hear news from my clients that they are struggling with the Cadbury Crack.  Because of that, I’ve decided to share an excerpt from Reclaiming Yourself about this very topic…

 

Diane, a 34-year-old woman, believed that once she started eating chocolate, she would not be able to stop until whatever she was eating was gone. Unfortunately, she had the problem of consistently bingeing on chocolate. During a session that we had during the spring, I asked her to bring in one of her binge foods. What she brought was a bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs.

“These do it to me every time!” she told me. “Someone keeps them in the office and I can’t have just one or two; I have to eat until the bowl is gone. It’s so embarrassing. I always have to run out to Walgreens to refill the office bowl.”

She brought them in a small plastic bag. There were about a cup of them in the bag.

“How many do you think is an appropriate serving for you?” I asked her.

asked her. “Maybe about five,” she said.

“Okay, take five out of the bag and put them in your hand.” She looked at me suspiciously. This was not an easy exercise. Diane was letting me in on a very intimate moment; she was with her binge food, her lover, the thing that gave her comfort and safety and I was intruding in their space. She took five mini eggs out of the bag and put them in her hand.

“Now,” I said, “take one and smell it.” She held it up to her nose.

“What are you feeling?” I asked her

“Angry at you. You’re staring at me and judging me and you’re invading my private space. I want to eat this right now. But I feel like you’re not letting me.”

Anger is not an uncommon sensation when someone begins engaging in mindful eating. Depression is said to be anger turned inward. Many of us reclaiming3believe that it’s not okay to be angry. We push anger down with food and turn it in on ourselves. It becomes depression, inner turmoil, pain, and self-loathing. When we stop eating mindlessly and using food to push the anger down, it begins to surface and that is very uncomfortable.

“It’s okay for you to be angry, Diane. Do you know what you’re angry about?”

“I’m angry that you aren’t letting me eat this.”

“Anything else?”

“I had a crappy day at work today.”

“What happened?”

“My boss yelled at me for something I didn’t do, and I just sat there and took it, accepted her rage because there is no use in defending myself. I’ll just come off looking bad.”

“So now you want to crunch down on these chocolate candies and let all the rage melt away.”

“I guess,” she told me.

“Okay, Diane, go ahead and close your eyes. I will close my eyes too so you don’t feel that I am watching you eat, and just take one bite of the egg.”

We both closed our eyes as I heard her crunch down.

“Now as you chew,” I told her, “chew slowly. Notice the feeling of the candy in your mouth. Notice the tastes on your tongue. Notice the thoughts and emotions that come up for you. Let me know after you swallow, but don’t take another bite.”

“Okay, I swallowed,” she told me.

“What did you notice?” I asked her.

“Well,” she said, “it was funny. Even though I was eating and tasting my food, I just wanted to hurry up and swallow so I could take another bite and keep eating. I was barely able to enjoy what I was eating because I just wanted to chase the taste. I just wanted more.”

“What do you think about that?” I asked her.

“It’s definitely interesting,” she said.

“Okay, go ahead and close your eyes, and finish the candy.”

We both closed our eyes and she put the rest of the candy in her mouth. She chewed slowly and swallowed.

“What came up for you?” I asked her.

reclaiming“Well,” she said, “I started thinking about my Aunt Meryl. Every Easter she would have an Easter Egg hunt for us kids. Me and all my cousins would spend the day outside playing and running around and looking for eggs. The days had just started getting longer and I knew that summer was around the corner. We would play until dusk then sit around and have a gigantic Easter feast. Of course then, it took my father forever to get me into the house to eat. Back then I loved to play… now, it’s all about the food… now I’d be waiting impatiently for the food to be served. Anyway, back then I just loved being away from my dad and my stepmother’s house. My aunt was so warm and loving. I loved to play with my cousins. Then she’d send me home with a giant Easter basket, back to the lonely dysfunction of my dad’s house. I’d sit alone in my room sad that the day was over. The candy in my basket gave me comfort.”

Diane realized at that moment how much her food and her eating were connected to her feelings. I asked her to take another egg, close her eyes, and put it in her mouth. As she did, I reminded her to really taste it in her mouth, feel the texture on her tongue, the flavors on her taste buds and the sensations of chewing on her jaw and in her teeth. After she swallowed, she opened her eyes and said, “It didn’t taste that great.”

“What do you mean?” I asked her.

“Well, it wasn’t really anything. I feel like I’d go ahead and keep eating to try and recreate the first bite, but when I really pay attention, I didn’t really need any more than the initial bite to receive the pleasure. Anything after that, I was just chasing the flavor.”

I asked her if she wanted any more. “No,” she said, “I’m good for now.”

 

To read more of Reclaiming Yourself from Binge Eatingorder it here. 

The Most Important Piece of Nutritional Advice You Need

There are a lot of “nutrition experts” out there. Everyone fancies themselves a nutrition guru. I see these folks all over the Internet, amateur nutritionologists- they give weight loss advice, they tell people what to include in their diets and what they should absolutely NEVER eat. But here’s the thing. They’re not really nutrition experts. I’m sure that many of them have read everything they possibly can on the Internet about nutrition, I’m sure that they are avid readers and self-experimenters (I won’t say researchers, researchers are in labs) many have taken classes on nutrition, or have a certification in health coaching from an online coaching school…  and I’m sure that they truly believe that they are nutrition experts.

The truth is though, that the highest, highest level researchers in the field of nutrition, molecular biology and metabolism– I’m talking people with multiple PhDs and years of research– those people know that they are not nutrition experts either. This is because the fields of nutrition and metabolism are largely mysterious and untapped as of right now.  The people with the highest degrees and research backgrounds are the ones who are most willing to admit how little they know about nutrition. 

If you are dubious, let’s do a comparison. Here is a list of the classes needed to become a PhD in nutrition and metabolism at Boston University, and here is a list of the classes needed to get a degree from Health Coach Institute. Of note, the PhD in nutrition is a six year program and the coaching certification is a six month program. In looking at the curriculum of the coaching program, only one of those modules is dedicated to actually learning about nutrition, the other five months are coaching and business skills. I don’t necessarily think that health coaching is a bad thing;  there are people who can certainly benefit from learning to eat healthy whole foods, how to shop for them, and how to look inside themselves with a support person to help them understand what foods will help them feel their most optimal. But nobody can actually tell you that. That’s because nutrition and metabolism are extremely complicated.  For instance, there are some foods that are considered anti-inflammatory that will interact horrifically with one person’s constitution and will be great for another person’s constitution. Not even someone with a PhD in nutrition can tell you what foods are best for your body and how specific molecules will interact with different molecules given any particular time in your cycle, or given how much or little exercise or sleep you’ve gotten, where in the world you live, what genetic components your Grandmother was made of… etc. There are a billion different variables that make up how you will react to a certain food at a certain time. Don’t look outside yourself for nutritional advice, look within.

Here’s what inspired me to write this post.

My client (we’ll call her) Jenny. Jenny’s boyfriend is super into bulletproof coffee (hey we’re in the Bay Area, it’s a thing here..) anyway, her boyfriend swears by drinking his coffee with yak butter and coconut oil and raw cocoa every morning. He swears that it gives him mental clarity and that he can run 15 miles without eating anything other than his coffee drenched in high quality fats. He keeps on convincing Jenny to drink bulletproof coffee with him so that she too can lose weight and feel great. So Jenny keeps drinking bulletproof coffee… and she hates it. It makes her have diarrhea every.single.morning.  But she continues to drink it because of what the “experts” on the bulletproof forums say. She feels that she is not doing the right thing by being miserable drinking it, she feels bad about herself. The experts on the forums keep tell her to push through this “break-in” phase where your body has to get used to the coffee and eventually it will habituate. You know what else does that? Laxatives. That’s why laxative dependent bulimia sufferers keep upping their dose of laxatives. Jenny’s body is telling her something pretty significant, yet she’s ignoring it and listening to the advice of “experts.” She doesn’t trust herself or her body, she trusts strangers who don’t live inside of her body. 

My other client (we’ll call her) Debbie.  Debbie was told by her health coach that if she gave up gluten, grains, sugar and dairy that she would feel amazing. So Debbie gave up all those things and she did in fact feel amazing. Wanna hear another thing about Debbie? She’s a recovering anorexic. So being restrictive in her eating complements her psychological schema of feeling amazing when being totally in control and deprived of food. Oh and the other thing about Debbie… after four years of recovery, she started bingeing and purging again.  Her health coach keeps telling her that if she stays away from those four things that her system will heal and that her brain chemistry will even out and she won’t binge and purge anymore. The truth is, when Debbie’s not restricting, her eating disorder is fine. It was her depression that led her to look for nutritional alternatives to Prozac. She then started restricting again, which was of course helpful for her depression because she used her eating disorder to manage her depression symptoms. But now she’s bingeing and purging again. It makes sense… depression is super painful and distressing and anything we can do to make it go away quickly feels better than working with it directly. So the eating disorder comes back and we are distracted from the depression because we have to work on the ED symptomatology. See how that happened? 

If you want to work with someone around nutrition, the best way to do it is to start to focus on what your body tells you that you need. Your body knows. YOUR BODY KNOWS!  

When two of my girlfriends came back from being in the Peace Corps in Mali for two years, one came back super curvy and the other came back super skinny. They told me that they were both eating the same things (lots of rice) but one lost copious amounts of weight on a low protein high-carbohydrate while the other gained weight on the same diet. Two different ways of processing nutrients.

Sit with your food after you eat it and see how your body feels. Are you energetic? Does your belly hurt? Do your joints hurt? Do you have rashes? Are you sleepy? Are you anxious? Are you happy? Looking within and feeling your feelings both emotional and physical is the only way to know what foods are helping your body and what foods are hurting you.  Your body wants you to take care of it, and when you listen carefully to it, it will give you the right messages. Let the wisdom of your body be your nutritional expert.