Get Through December Without Bingeing Day Five

get-through-decemberwithout-binge-eatingI hope that you had a beautiful weekend. Mine was pretty great. I took my 3-year-old and 5-year-old ice skating for the first time. We had so much fun. My 3 year old was a little freaked out by it, but my 5 year old was awesome. He picked it up really quickly and became lightening on the ice. Funny fact about me – my mother had an intense obsession with the Winter Olympics figure skating and wanted me to grow up to be the next Katarina Witt. She had me in ice skating lessons by the time I was 4. It didn’t stick though – I mean clearly, I’m not a famous figure skater.

Today’s Tip

Anger. Anger is a big one. For women with disordered eating– there is a shared trait– instead of “acting out” they “act in.” For instance, if someone does something that makes you angry, you then take that anger out on yourself. Example- your boss tells you that your report was crap, you then go to the vending machine and start bingeing on vending machine snacks. Or, another scenario, your mother tells you that you should start Jenny Craig with her on January 1st. You tell her that you’re not doing the diet thing anymore and she looks at you skeptically and says, “do you think that’s a good idea?” You feel angry at her and bad about yourself- so you go eat.

A lot of this is because you feel like you have no voice, no ability to stand up for yourself or say what you really feel or mean, so you push you voice down with food. You are angry at someone else and you take it out on yourself.

Some other ideas:

1. Sit down and write a letter to your mom/you boss/your best friend/your husband or wife — tell them everything that you’re feeling don’t hold back — let it all come out of you so that it’s not stuck inside of you, so that you don’t have to stuff it with food and so that it doesn’t come out in a passive aggressive way later. Then destroy that letter. You’re not going to send this one. This is the get it all out letter. If you feel safe to do so, you can then write a letter that feels more productive that you can actually give to this person, or rehearse what you want to say if you want to say anything at all.

2. Remind yourself “just because I’m angry at _______ doesn’t mean I should abuse myself. Someone else’s abuse toward me needs me to be kind to myself, not abusive in return.”

3. Put on big boots and stomp up a hill to move that anger through your body rather than push it down.

4. Scream as loud as you can into a pillow – again to move it through rather than to abuse yourself with it.

Other people’s behavior toward you is not your fault. We all make choices about how we want to behave and when people choose to treat people unkindly, it is a huge problem for them. For you it stings, but you don’t have to live your life as someone who says insensitive or unkind things and thus you can choose not to let their behavior make you hurt yourself.

Today’s Inspirational Quote:

You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger. — Buddha

Anger is a human emotion and it’s normal. Don’t be afraid of it, but don’t push it down – let it come out in the most productive and healthy ways so that it doesn’t get stuck in your body and hurt you or come out sideways when you least expect it and hurt someone else.

Go and read day 6!

Get Through December Without Bingeing – Day Three

get-through-decemberwithout-binge-eatingWeekends are rough this time of year.

Tip of the Day

Be cautious about alcohol. Of course you should be cautious about alcohol anyway, but it’s a huge contributor to binge eating ESPECIALLY IN DECEMBER. For instance, you have a few drinks, get drunk and go home and eat as much as you can and you don’t even remember how you got there. The other thing is a morning hangover. Many of us have those memories of being in college or in our early 20’s and having had one (or 10) too many and waking up so sick and so hungover and needing to eat lots of heavy starchy foods to coat your stomach and make you feel better. It’s real. I’m not saying don’t go out and enjoy yourself, you should– but try to be mindful with alcohol because it really co-occurs with binge eating.

If you are out at a party:

Don’t drink on an empty stomach make sure to eat food first because as you likely know, when you drink on an empty stomach you start metabolizing it very quickly and you get drunk fast. Eat first.

For every drink you have, have a full glass of water in between.

Limit yourself to 2 or 3 at the most drinks.

Inspiration for the Day

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’” – Muhammad Ali

This rings so true in recovery because yes, recovery is difficult and takes mindfulness and close attention. But when you are on the right path you will get to the other side and it will become easy.

“If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.” – Zen proverb

I’ll talk to you all on Monday. Keep going, and if you fall, it’s okay– as long as you’re on your path you can just stand up and keep walking.

Go To Day Five!

Get Through December Without Bingeing – Day Two

get-through-decemberwithout-binge-eatingToday’s Tip: Holiday gift baskets. You know those gift baskets that people send? The ones full of peppermint brownies and all sorts of other gooey things and candy canes and cookies and short breads and jams and pears? You know the ones that I’m talking about. They’re both sort of gross but also sort of delightful and tantalizing at the same time. People send those haphazardly and constantly. In fact one year I even got one sent to my office from a Residential Eating Disorder facility but I’m not naming names (ahem… I’m looking at you Sierra Tucson).

Anyway– here’s a common situation. You’re at work, it’s about 3pm, you wander into the kitchen because you’re maybe hungry, maybe not, you can’t really tell… you just need a break. The kitchen is empty except for… not one but THREE gift baskets. No one is around you and the gift baskets are mostly intact except the plastic is off – but they haven’t been dug through and all the “best” stuff is still in there — the bingey part of you wants to hurry up and grab the good stuff before the baskets get quickly picked through and the only thing left is 10 year old hard salamis and stale crackers with spreadable spray cheese. So quickly — before anyone comes in and sees you– like a flash you grab everything yummy and race off to the bathroom so nobody sees you eating it.

Let’s STOP this scenario before it starts. First thing first. You wandered into the kitchen out of habit and unsureness about what you needed. Maybe you were hungry, maybe you were bored, you were certainly in need of a break. But you automatically gravitated to the kitchen. Let’s circumvent the kitchen and just walk outside. I know – that’s unfair for me to say as someone in California, if you’re in Minnesota being outside in December might not be ideal. However, if you can get outside or down to the lobby, someplace to give your eyes, your mind and your constitution a change of scenery – and think– what do I need? Am I actually hungry? Or do I just need a break, a cup of tea and a few minutes away from my desk.

The next thing to ask yourself is, “if I had wandered into this kitchen and the gift baskets weren’t there, would I be looking for a peppermint brownie?” If not, then you are most likely eating compulsively, out of habit rather than out of either desire or need. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but in December, when food is surprisingly everywhere, it can take over and you will feel totally out of control. This is the situation where you want to feel like you can make your decision about what you really want for your body rather than having the food and the compulsion make the decision for you.

Remind yourself that just because it’s there and it’s there for a limited time doesn’t mean that you have to eat it. That’s the scarcity model. I have to have pumpkin spice lattes in October because they’re only around one month out of the whole year and I won’t be able to get another one again until next year! It’s a marketing technique to make us feel like we REALLY need something and need it now because it’s only around for a limited time. But the thing is, we really can have these things whenever we want them. Remind yourself that you can have these “special” foods any time of year to avoid the all or nothing trap.

If you have decided that you are hungry and that you do want to eat this yummy snack, that’s great– YOU have made the decision, the food has not. Look the food over, think about what you really want, and sit down in the kitchen where other people can see you (don’t sneak or hide because it adds to the secretive mentality of the disordered eating behavior) really let yourself take a break from work and spend a few moments with a cup of tea and your treat. Savor it and enjoy it, then let yourself go back to work without feeling guilty and without believing that just because you ate one snack that you ruined your day and now you have to binge. A treat is an absolutely normal part of being a balanced and intuitive eater.

Daily Inspiration

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love this quote because it’s so relevant in binge eating recovery. It’s not about never falling down, it’s about how quickly you get up. Don’t let a little slip up turn into a binge or a binge turn into a multi-day binge. If you eat something mindlessly, that’s okay, just wipe the crumbs off you, smile and keep going forward.

Click Here to Go To Day 3!

Get Through December Without Binge Eating – Day One

get-through-decemberwithout-binge-eatingThanksgiving is over and Winter is here! Hopefully you enjoyed your holiday and it went well.

The Fall is very difficult for people with disordered eating issues. Halloween brings candy with it all over the place, Thanksgiving brings family drama, mashed potatoes and phantom urges, and then there is December.

December is the worst!

There are constant parties, constant drinking, there are cookie swaps, latke feasts, gift baskets full of peppermint brownies sent to the office every minute, baked goods in the staff cafeteria almost daily… and then there’s that “well just screw it, I’ll go ona juice fast starting on January 1st and then after 3 days I’ll go Paleo…” and then you binge your way through December feeling awful, sick to your stomach, uncomfortable and holding on to the promise that 2017 is going to be different. It’s going to be your year and then by January 2nd- you’re back on the cycle and you already feel as though you’ve ruined the whole year!

Let’s not do that this year.

Let’s have a peaceful and moderate December. I want to support you in being kind to your mind and body. No crazy diets, no intense binges. And if you slip up, I want reach out to help you stand up quickly and not slide down that slippery slope of December madness.

So every day in December I’m going to be sending out an email with one quick tip and inspirational quote or story to help you get through December and start 2017 already feeling strong.

Today’s Tip:

When you notice the urge to go act out with food, like if you’re at work and you can’t wait to get home to “decompress” or if you want to run into the break room and grab all the homemade cookies and hide with them- just take a breath and remind yourself kindly (no harsh inner critics allowed) what you will feel like after the binge, what your body will feel like, what your mind will feel like, what the shame and the self-reproach will feel like. Then ask yourself “what am I really needing?” to relax? To shut down? To take a break and walk around the block? What am I looking for with this binge? How will this binge serve me? What am I looking to gain from it? How else can I get that?

Click Here to Continue to Day 2

Is Going Vegan Helpful For Binge Eating Disorder?

Is going vegan best for binge eating
Friday Q & A
It’s not Friday! But I’m doing my Q & A today anyway because this was an important one.  This is a topic that I’ve been avoiding since I’ve been blogging (10+ years on this site). Why have I been avoiding it? Because it’s so emotionally charged and so controversial and I didn’t want to isolate anyone. However, I’ve been getting many, many emails and comments about this topic lately so I realized that it was time for me to tell my story. This email came through the other day and it felt important to answer sooner rather than later. 
Question: 

Dear Leora,
I have been in recovery for a few months (seeing a therapist). Within that time frame I watched a documentary that turned me vegan overnight. I am now realizing that it is feeling very restrictive and socially affecting my life. From the advice of my therapist, she said that it’s only fueling my fire with my obsession with food and having to prep and to focus on it more than i should be right now, and I agreed. So a couple days ago I decided to incorporate meat and dairy back into my diet. I feel so guilty about eating the animals as I became vegan only for ethical reason. I feeling very conflicted about what I should do. I like the feeling of not worrying about what I’m eating but I now know how the animals were killed so that I can eat them and it’s messing with my head!!! The food almost grosses me out but I eat it anyway, and it does taste good. It’s hard turning a blind eye though and pretending I don’t care. Any advice on this topic or do u know anyone else who’s been through this? 

Best Wishes, Kathryn (Minnesota)
My Answer to Kathryn. 
Hi Kathryn,

Thank you so much for this very important question. Believe it or not, I have extreme personal experience with this one. I was raised vegetarian from age 10 and turned strict vegan on my own at the age of 20. Being vegetarian and vegan were extreme ethical decisions for me. I was a member of LEAP ( league of environmental and animal protection) for my high school’s chapter (LEAP was the late 80’s version of PETA-). 

I turned vegetarian the summer of 1984.  I had always been extremely sensitive and never liked the idea of meat and where it came from. Due to my family and my upbringing, I was also a child who felt overwhelmed by food and my fear of fat.  That summer, in camp, my counselor Betsy was a vegetarian.

 I didn’t know any strict vegetarians back then. It seemed exotic and cool and I really admired Betsy. She ate the mashed potatoes off the top of the Shepherd’s Pie,  dined on salads and carrot sticks while the rest of us were chowing down on bug juice and Kosher hot dogs, and chewed on apples while the rest of us ate ice cream and brownies.
Betsy was quiet and kind and seemed almost ethereal, like you could see through her. These were all things I admired and wanted to be. I wanted to float through life without necessarily having to solidly be in life. Looking back it was probably a combination of my fear of being noticed coupled with my fear of not being noticed. I thought that if I didn’t eat meat anymore, I could embody Betsy. I would be sweet, kind, sort of float through space and time and I wouldn’t have to worry about choosing what foods to eat because my choices would be inherently limited. It seemed like a win-win situation.
So that August, when I came home from summer camp, I announced to my mother that I wanted to be a vegetarian.  As you might know from previous posts, my mother was extremely restrictive with our food, and she was absolutely thrilled by this.  She was already in a spiritual lifestyle (back then they called it “new age,”) and this fit perfectly for her. She was able to keep both our diets “clean,” and embody the life that she thought she should have. 

When I was 28, my mother was seemingly the “healthiest” person I knew. Her diet was soooooo clean. For the past twenty years, all I’d ever saw her eat was brown rice, tofu, steamed squash, raw vegetables, fruit, mineral water, quinoa, kale (before kale was what kale is now, it was impossible to find back then, we had to travel to a health food store 40 miles away)…. you get my point.  She never drank alcohol, never smoked, never did drugs… her apartment was meticulous, she was perfect… neat, clean, meditated daily, did yoga like the Maharishi (She’d been doing it since the 1960’s).   In her early 40’s, she was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease called PBC (Primary Biliary Cirrhosis) where the bile ducts destroyed her liver. She died super young (54 years old). And when she was dying, she told me that she thought maybe I should try eating meat. She said “what if I was wrong about all this?  I want you to try it…”  

And then my mother died. And I was left depressed and with this ethical dilemma. I hadn’t touched meat or eggs for almost 20 years and hadn’t touched dairy for more than eight years. I had principals.  Being a strict vegan also felt like my identity. I didn’t know what or who I was without my veganism. I know that it might seem strange, but for those of us with eating disorders (and maybe you can relate to this), so much of our identity is tied up in the way we eat or with our eating disorder, or with our body size. But my mother had made a deathbed wish to me (she also asked me to let my hair grow long, but that’s a different story for another post)… 
A few months into my Mom’s death, I was sitting out by the river thinking about what she said.  At that moment, a fish jumped out of the water. Literally jumped. It felt like a sign. I mean, fish don’t jump out of the Hudson River everyday.   I felt like that fish was saying “it’s okay.” Perhaps I was looking for signs. As we know, when you are looking, you will find.

 

My boyfriend at the time and I went to a fish restaurant (he was so excited because he was very NOT vegan) and we ordered fish. I remember my order. It was a tilapia plain with butter and lemon. I remember eating it with no consequence. No stomach aches, no illness, no bad reaction, nothing.  I was nervous because I had read so many accounts of long term vegetarians and vegans eating animal products again and getting sick, but that didn’t happen to me. 

Well, at this point I just started trying things. Next thing up was pizza. I was ecstatic. Real pizza, with cheese! Not just a cheeseless pizza with sauce and eggplant (there were few options for vegans back then), eggs came next, and then after a few months, chicken, and then red meat. I tried to eat as  ethically as I could (grass fed, organic, etc. which I was/am privileged to be able to do. I realize that it’s not an option for everyone,)  and it was hard for me emotionally but physically lots of things changed. And they changed quickly: 

1. When I was vegan,  I walked around dizzy all the time. I didn’t really know any difference, I thought that that was just how people felt. However, when I started eating meat, that stopped. 
2. I had more endurance and I was able to exercise with ease and actually enjoy it. When I was vegan I pushed myself through exercise. 
3. My anxiety went away. 
4. My binge eating urges decreased immensely. Almost completely. In fact, I binged A LOT when I was vegan. A lot a lot a lot.  I think it’s partially because my body just wasn’t getting the nutrition that it needed because my diet was so restrictive. 
5. My concentration levels sharpened.  I was able to sail through grad school in a way that I couldn’t in undergrad. Focus and concentration were just so much easier for me. 
6. I felt more content, my mood improved dramatically. 
7. And I hesitate to write this, but the truth is that I dropped a significant amount of weight when I stopped being vegan.  This won’t necessarily happen for everyone as we all have different body types and needs. 

I felt as though my body really needed it, and given how different I felt, it began to make me think that maybe part of science, nature, the food chain, the universe etc, meant for this to be.

I truly believe that we all have different nutritional needs for our bodies.  Like animals, some humans do better as herbivores, some do better as omnivores. That’s why it makes me so angry when people make the blanket statement that veganism is the best diet for everyone. For some people it’s fantastic but for some it’s not.

Veganism literally made my body and my mind sick and ineffective.  My best advice is to watch your body closely. If you feel that you are not feeling well as a vegan, that your body is not getting what it needs, that you have more urges to binge, that you’re tired more of the time than not, that you’re cold more of the time than not, then try implementing different options.  See what a bit of animal products does. If it doesn’t work for you either physically or emotionally, experiment with getting more protein and fat through plant sources.  It’s a very difficult line to walk, but you have to find out what is most right for your body. 

I know that there is this “vegan glow” that people talk about. I have a hunch that it’s because vegans tend to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables. It’s not so much about what they’re leaving out, but about what they’re taking in. I know for sure that when I was a vegan I had no glow. My skin was dry, my hair was dry,  I was tired and hungry and anxious.  If I am being perfectly honest with myself, when I look back now, I believe that my vegetarianism and veganism was a “legal” way for me to restrict my food and keep my eating disorder under wraps but still alive. Restricting my food kept me feeling virtuous and honest.  Recently someone who I hadn’t seen in more than a decade told me how great I looked and that I had that “vegan glow.” I said, “funny because I eat meat and dairy and chocolate and everything now.” 

Again, I know that this article will anger many people, but I felt that it was important to tell my story and give my personal truth.  This doesn’t mean that I believe it’s everybody’s truth, but everybody’s truth is different and it’s up to you to find out what your personal needs really are.  Nobody else can tell you this.

  Related: When Someone Promises That They Can Help You Lose Weight, They’re Totally Lying to You. 

I hope that you’ve found this helpful and I appreciate the question.

Warmly, 
Leora

How To Not Binge Eat on Thanksgiving

how not to binge at thanksgivingA long, long time ago, in a lifetime that is so far from the one I’m currently in, I had one of my first major, major forays into deeply disordered eating on Thanksgiving. It was 1986, I was twelve years old (12 YEARS OLD!!!!) and we were having our Thanksgiving dinner at my Grandmother’s boyfriend’s daughter’s house. Said boyfriend’s daughter also had a daughter who was about the same age as I was, only she was a much better person than I was. I knew this because my grandmother kept insisting “why can’t you be more like Allison?”

I didn’t realize it then, but there was no way I could be more like Allison. Allison had a mother and father who lived under the same roof, she lived in a house in the suburbs in Connecticut and money, cool clothes and lots of friends weren’t an issue for her. And, not to mention, she was tall and thin. I lived in a tiny apartment alone with my mother in the Bronx, we didn’t have money for Guess jeans and Swatches and being the total nerd girl that I was, I was more interested in books and my saxophone than boys and clothes. I was also painfully shy, so even if I wanted to make friends and have a cool TV life like Justine Bateman in Family Ties or Rickie Shroder in Silver Spoons.. it just wasn’t in the cards for me. I was too different. I didn’t have the look, I didn’t have the house, I didn’t have the family structure. No brothers or sisters, no two parent household, no house with a yard, no mother baking me cookies when I got home from school, just one totally stressed out Mom who came home after dark totally frazzled, angry and needing a break but not getting one.

Anyway, it was a huge set up for me. We’d go to these people’s house in the suburbs and I’d feel so different. My mother would be annoyed, and my grandmother would be pinching me and whispering to me, “why can’t you be more like Allison?” This particular year, when I was twelve, I remember everyone gushing about how tall and thin and beautiful Allison was. And I felt short and not thin and ugly. So I ate lots of yummy Thanksgiving food to help me feel better. Allison’s mother could cook and cook and cook for days and make the most delicious meals. My mother didn’t have the time to cook those kinds of meals– what we mostly ate at home was brown rice and squash and tofu.  I remember that particular Thanksgiving my grandmother jabbing me when I was on my second piece of pie and whispering “Stop eating piggy… don’t you want to be thin and beautiful like Allison?” All of my shame came flooding into me. I couldn’t win.  I went up to the bathroom and I don’t even know how at age 12 I knew how to do this, but I looked for laxatives in their medicine cabinet. I took a bunch of ex-lax right there in that Connecticut bathroom and that night, after we went home and my mother had gone to sleep, I dragged her bathroom scale into my room and stayed up all night with stomach pain and cramping and using the bathroom. And every time I went to the bathroom, I would note that I was down another notch on the scale. I did this until it was light out and the Star Spangled Banner was on television and then I went to sleep, feeling light, empty and proud of myself for all the great work I’d done. (????)

There were so many things that Thanksgiving that triggered my disordered eating episode. The food was inconsequential in a sense… it was just there to soothe me. There was my shame, my comparative thinking, my family, my sadness/loneliness, my usual restrictive way of eating that was so different from what was being served.. Given this scenario, I was set up for a really bad night.  I can think of a lot of cases where there are a million set ups for disordered eating on Thanksgiving, and it’s not just because the food is there.  

  In my first semester of graduate school, right before we left for Thanksgiving break, one of my professors asked who was headed home for the break. Most of us raised our hands. “Well,” he said, “I don’t care how much therapy you’ve had, I don’t care how much you meditate, I don’t care how much healing you’ve done, when you go home, you are going to be that same twelve-year old kid that you used to be. Same family of origin issues, same role in your family… so be prepared and expect it when it happens.”

I want to support you in having a really fantastic Thanksgiving this year, one without disordered eating, without self-hatred, comparative thinking or severe loneliness. And so what if all of these difficult feelings come up? It’s okay, let’s see if we can create some strategies around not acting out in your eating disorder.

When I think about family systems, I imagine a giant machine with gears that all work together to create one fluid movement. This is what happens in families, we all have an agreed upon role. If one person were to change, it would gum up the works and the machine would begin to move differently… not necessarily worse, just differently. And not everyone has agreed to change so we wind up just back in our old fixed gear position, no matter how many changes we’ve made.

When you are back at your childhood home, or with people you knew from way back or even around food that is old and familiar, you will likely notice  some phantom urges.

It’s weird. Out of nowhere,  you might notice old thought patterns just popping into your head, like, “when everyone goes to sleep, I will turn the television on and sit by myself and binge and purge…” but these aren’t necessarily attached to desire… they are just sort of old passing phantom thoughts and feelings because  you’re being reminded of a scenario that triggered disordered eating back when it all started for you.  It might just be old thought energies popping into your mind triggered by being in an old situation with the same old smells and sights and people and feelings. The phenomena of phantom limbs is when someone feels pain in a limb that has been amputated. This was the same thing- feeling a pain that had no attachments or groundings. In this time of travel and family, you might find yourself having lots of old urges coming up again and again. It’s okay. This is to be expected. Ask yourself, “is this a present day urge or is this old material presenting itself.” It’s like this, let’s say you went home and found your seventh grade diary and started reading through it. You come to the part about your big crush– the boy who sat next to you in sixth period. You read about how he ignored you or never noticed you and how you felt so sad and rejected and how more than anything you just wanted him to notice you. When you read that, you might notice some old feelings of pain and longing come up, but you wouldn’t feel the actually desire to be with this boy. That’s because the feeling no longer exists, it’s just old material. When you go home, you are confronted by a lot of old material that triggers old feelings. Remind yourself, “this feels really real, but it’s old, it’s no longer a valid truth, this isn’t relevant to today’s circumstances…” You might go home and feel like a twelve year old, but you won’t actually be a twelve year old. You are an intact adult who can handle the difficult emotions, even if they are difficult.

Remember to breath and tell yourself that just because the old energy is coming back, you can still bring in the new energy just by breathing it in and remembering that it is there for you. Put your hand on your heart and be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that being human is so, so very messy and human emotions are not rational or linear and that everyone has them, everyone feels completely alone and sad and messy at some point. Tell yourself that i’s okay and that you are perfect and whole and complete exactly as you are in this moment, even if you’re messy, even if things feel out of control, it’s okay… being human is never easy for anyone (I bet even for Allison wherever she is)…

The Thanksgiving meal day itself is something that is always difficult, so I’ve compiled a list of things to help you stay in your recovery during that time:

How To Not Binge Eat on Thanksgiving

1. Have an intention around not bingeing, but not around food. Let yourself eat whatever you want, but tell yourself that you’re not planning on bingeing on it. This is because if you tell yourself no sweets, but then you have one bite of pecan pie, there’s a good chance that you’ll binge on it and not stop bingeing. Know that you can have potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie, all of it! Anytime of year, or even the next day for lunch. This is not all or nothing and it doesn’t have to be a binge, it can be a meal where you eat what you want until you feel satisfied. 

2. DO NOT SET UP, CLEAN UP OR COOK BY YOURSELF! Being alone is a huge set up for sneak eating or eating compulsively. Make sure that you either have someone to do this for you or that you at least have help or even someone in the kitchen with you so that you’re not alone. Let yourself get support  too, let the person who is with you know that you’re trying to avoid sneak eating or disordered behaviors around food so you’d feel better if they were with you. 

3. Tell your family about your Eating Disorder recovery. I always encourage my clients to let their family know how their recovery has been going when they go home for holidays. It both gives them accountability as well as love and support from the family. 

4. Get support to manage your social anxiety. One of the more challenging parts of these holiday dinners is being around lots and lots of people and just feeling overwhelmed. One of your instincts might be to dissociate this is where you sort of disconnect from your body so you don’t have to deal with your anxiety and all the people around you. At this point you might find yourself just eating and eating and eating to deal with your discomfort. A good thing to do is to ground yourself and come back to your body. Feel your feet on the floor, look around, see who you see and come back to your body. When you leave your body– you have no one there to to be present and let you know whether you actually want to eat or if you’re just using a coping mechanism. Find yourself physically and emotionally, remind yourself that you might be feeling overwhelmed and shy and that’s okay, (no shame in being who you are) do what you need to comfort yourself. Take a walk, go to the bathroom and breath or drink some water just to feel present again. Find a safe person to anchor you and to help you feel comfortable. 

5. If you don’t have anyone supportive at the Thanksgiving meal, find a support buddy to text or even see if you can bring a a support resource with you, a friend who might be going through recovery with you or someone you feel safe with. If you cannot do that, have a support person who you can talk to on the phone intermittently throughout the meal.

6. Make sure that you eat a good solid breakfast before you go to Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t show up hungry. If you do, your hunger might take over and squelch your intention. Our culture is so entrenched in diet culture that the idea of not eating, doing a “turkey trot” and then bingeing at Thanksgiving dinner has been normalized. But it’s not normal and it’s not good for people with disordered eating as it costs much more than it’s worth. Try to make it into a somewhat normal eating day for you so that you don’t have to take a step back in your recovery.  

7. Eat whatever you want, no food is bad, but do try to  incorporate a solid nutrient dense meal, with protein, vegetables and a starch. If you just snack or graze on a bunch of different foods, you will inevitably wind up feeling unsatisfied, as though you’ve not really had a meal. This could lead to feeling too full and trigger a binge. I really like the one plate theory for big buffets and dinner. Decide that you are going to just have one plateful of food and choose whatever it is that you want to eat on that plate. But when that plate is done, you’re done. That should take the stress away from the after effects of eating and the bingeing that happens when you are uncomfortable and unsure after you eat your meal.

8. Take breaks.  Go into the bathroom and breathe deeply while you’re eating. This will help you digest your meal and to stay calm. Suit up for winter and get outside into the cool air for a walk around the neighborhood. Change your environment a bit so you don’t get lost in it or in your reaction to it. Let yourself get away from the stress of the food and the stress of family that sometimes exists.  If it’s too cold or not realistic for you to leave, take your cell phone into another room and say you need to make an important call and talk to your support person.

9. Talk to people in rooms away from food. You don’t have to sit on a couch in front of a giant platter of cheese and crackers and nuts and hors d’œuvres talking to your aunt as it might take away from your conversation. Try to concentrate on conversations with  people and really engage, really make connections with people who you’ve not spent time talking to in a while.

10. Eat slowly and mindfully. It’s not a race to the end. You can enjoy good food and good conversation.

11. Don’t compulsively overexercise in anticipation of “eating extra calories.”  It will leave you very tired and hungry, again, unable to empower yourself to hold your intention.

12. Bring your journal with you so that you can sit and relax and process your feelings during the meal rather in case you are feeling like you need to stuff down your feelings with food.  

13. Listen to mediations or relaxing music that puts you in a calm mood before you go. 

14. Make a gratitude list before you go.  Think of 10 things that you are truly grateful for. Research shows that creating gratitude lists can decrease anxiety, increase positive relationships, improve physical and psychological health, increase empathy and compassion and increase self esteem. 

15. Engage with the very young and the very old.  If there are children there, spend time playing with them. If there are elders there, spend time talking to and getting to know them. Both things that will be enriching and get your mind off of food. 

16. Mediate. Sit quietly in the bathroom for five minutes and take deep slow breaths into your belly. Inhale slowly  to the count of five and exhale slowly to the count of five. This will calm your body and allow you to let go of any stress or anxiety that your body is holding on to.

17. Remember that if it seems like it might be too hard this year,  you don’t have to go. It’s true, you might let some people down. But you can always explain to them that it’s important for you to take care of yourself in this way this year. If you don’t think that they’d be amenable to this, or you think that they will accuse you of being self centered or self absorbed, don’t offer any explanation that might leave you vulnerable to being shamed or insulted. Creating boundaries with people is important. You don’t have to worry about letting people down wben you need to do things that preserve your SELF. Your sanity is the most important thing to keep you safe and at peace. 

18.  Create loving boundaries for yourself. Think of your inner child and think about how you would help your child if they wanted to eat all the pie and all the mashed potatoes. You would be kind and understanding but explain to them that you didn’t want them to get a bellyache! So of course they are allowed to eat pie and mashed potatoes, but in moderate amounts. A good rule of thumb, keep portion sizes for your Thanksgiving treats to about the size of the palm of your hand. Don’t try to restrict desert because that can be a setup for a binge. Instead, tell yourself that you can sample 2-4 different deserts but take smaller pieces, so that you get to eat some of everything!  Whatever works to put on one desert plate. It’s so important that you let yourself have what you want so that you don’t leave feeling deprived and wanting to binge later. 

19. Consider refraining from taking home leftovers if you feel they will trigger a binge. That doesn’t mean not to take home leftovers, but ask yourself, will I be safe with this food or not so much? You know yourself best.  

20. Plan for what you will do for the rest of the evening– feeling full can trigger a binge in many people – so plan to do something relaxing (conversation with good friend, watching a good movie on Netflix, etc.) when you get home that night and be done eating. 

21. Listen to last year’s Recovery Warriors podcast where Jessica talks to me about Thanksgiving! 

22. Be kind and gentle with yourself. In most people with BED, being too full triggers a binge. Remind yourself that getting too full on Thanksgiving is what most of America goes through and not to beat yourself up and that it doesn’t have to trigger a binge. 

23. And what if you do all these things and you still wind up bingeing? Forgive yourself. It’s okay. The last thing I want for you is to continue this binge for the rest of the week and into December. See How To Recover from a Binge.

But I’m all alone on Thanksgiving- what should I do? 

Being alone on Thanksgiving is isolating, lonely and challenging. But there are many things that you can do to counter that. 

1. Volunteer to serve meals at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen

2. Get away- get out of the house and travel and spend the day doing something you love, hiking, or exploring. 

3. Go out and see a movie marathon

4. Get online and see if there are any meet-ups for people alone on Thanksgiving

5. Spend the day doing things that feel organizing and energizing, cleaning and organizing your house, giving yourself a facial or hot oil treatment, relaxing and catching up on your favorite movies or podcasts. 

Are you traveling for Thanksgiving? Please read HOW TO AVOID BINGEING AT THE AIRPORT

Sign up for our newsletter to get tips on how to stop bingeing and receive an email every single day during the month of December to help you get through the month without binge eating.  This is a rough time of year.  The Fall is always difficult for people with any kind of dysfunctional relationship with food… It starts with Halloween which is a super scary holiday for binge eaters and emotional eaters because candy is all over the place and then it lingers for weeks and months afterwards. I remember once having a client who was still bingeing on her kids’ Halloween candy in January!

That brings us to now, Thanksgiving the full out binge holiday – it brings with it family drama, mashed potatoes and phantom urges, and then there is December. December is the worst! There are constant parties, constant drinking, there are cookie swaps, latke feasts, gift baskets full of peppermint brownies sent to the office every minute, baked goods in the staff cafeteria almost daily… and then there’s that “well just screw it, I’ll go on a juice fast starting on January 1st and then after 3 days I’ll go Paleo…” and then you binge your way through December feeling awful, sick to your stomach, uncontrollable, uncomfortable and holding on to the promise that 2018 is going to be different. It’s going to be your year and then by January 2nd- you’re back on the cycle and you already feel as though you’ve ruined the whole year!

LET’S NOT DO THAT THIS YEAR!

Let’s have a peaceful, calm, easy and moderate Fall this year. I want to support you in being kind to your mind and body. No crazy diets, no intense binges. And if you slip up, I want reach out to help you stand up quickly and not slide down that slippery slope of end of the year madness.

I invite you to join for LIFETIME ACCESS to the 5 week program so that you can get the support you need for the holidays.

Here’s what you get –

  • The FULL 5 Week Step-by-Step Program to Stop Binge Eating For Good and everything that comes with it for a LIFETIME! It’s always yours.
  • The Facebook support group that comes with it.
  • Holiday Buddy support. So during the holidays, I help people match up with buddies so that they have extra support and someone (or a group) to text with so they can get help to stay safe and moderate and comfortable with their eating.
  • I will be doing weekly Facebook lives which are interactive all through the Fall until New Years. With these you can ask and answer questions.
  • A few “group therapy sessions” online. Those will be small groups available on a first come first serve basis.
  • An email every single day in December to help you stay focused on your goal of self-kindness, self-compassion, eating with kindness and love, not over-eating, not restricting, but enjoying your food and not beating yourself up over what you might have done or not done with eating and your food.
  • I want you to start 2018 strong. I don’t want you to start 2018 thinking “this is the year I finally tackle my food issues,” I want you start 2018 feeling calm and relaxed and not feeling like you have to make any big changes. I want you Fall to be lovely, peaceful, enjoyable and full of joy instead of angst over food.

 I do hope that you will join the program. Feel free to check out the testimonials to learn more!!!

What to Do About All the Halloween Candy

how-to-deal-with-halloween-candy-when-youve-got-binge-eating-issuesSo all of you living in the United States are undoubtedly being bombarded by Halloween candy. There are giant, larger than life displays at every store you walk into, and most likely, it’s sitting in giant bowls in your house as you get ready to pass it out to little ghouls and goblins and witches and Batmans and Wonderwomans etc…

And, if you have kids, you will have bags and bags of candy in your house for months. If you don’t, the candy will be at your office in bowls as people bring in all their leftovers.

Not easy for someone dealing with Binge Eating issues.

Halloween is usually binge day. You tell yourself that this day, today, you get to eat as many of those little Twix and Almond Joy bars (and everything else that looks interesting) until you’re sick to your stomach and then you’re done- never again until next Halloween.

But of course with BED it’s not and never is that simple. You’re going to eat those candies and you’re going to feel guilty, you might even purge, you might wake up tomorrow morning feeling sick to your stomach and depressed. You might see more candy laying around and just lose control completely – and this might last for weeks, going into months.

Here is my quick guideline for Halloween candy.

1. Eat what you want. But limit it. 2-3 of those candy bars equals one serving. So limit yourself to 2-3 little fun size treats.

2. HOWEVER– don’t limit yourself to just Halloween day. You can have 2-3 servings of those candy bars every day. This way you will get to enjoy everything without feeling deprived and without bingeing on candy. You can eat a couple of pieces of Halloween candy every single day for the rest of the year if you want. I do suspect that you’ll get sick of it after a few days or weeks though– but don’t even think about that or worry about that- let yourself enjoy it each day for as many days or weeks as you are enjoying it.

3. The most important thing is that you give yourself permission.

4. You don’t beat yourself up.

5, You plan for what you really want to eat that day and you tell yourself that tomorrow you get to eat the next thing. This way you will feel satisfied and you won’t set yourself up for a binge.

6. When you’re done, let yourself be done. You might eventually become sick of Halloween candy. Don’t let your black and white thinking make you finish something that you’re not actually interested in. Sometimes we eat because we think we have to eat even if we don’t want to. If it’s harming you and you’re eating because you think you have to or you should, then just pack it up and give it away. No reason to have it if you don’t want it. My dentist does a Halloween candy buy back from neighborhood kids and sends it to the troops. Be creative. You can donate it or give it to someone for a birthday party or leave it at work.

This is really the same for those pumpkin spice lattes. If you find them interesting, then go for it. However, you might want to put some limits on it, for instance getting a small and eating it with some protein (like a salad with chicken/eggs or some cheese) rather than with a pastry. This is because your blood sugar rises and drops when you eat lots of sugar on an empty stomach and that can often trigger a binge as your body searches for more sugar to keep your blood sugar (and mood) elevated. The protein sort of helps to keep you steady.

Pumpkin spice latte season is sort of a psychological trap. This scarcity thing happens where people see something ‘for a limited time’ and feel that they have to get as much of it as possible. Remember that the holidays are famous for doing that to consumers and ask yourself, “would I want this anytime or am I being manipulated with scarcity marketing?” For most of us, it’s possible to buy the ingredients to make any of these things any time that we want, so think about how much you actually want it. As I said, if you want it, get it as the restriction and repression is what triggers a binge.

The Fall is always difficult for people with any kind of dysfunctional relationship with food… and October seems to be in full swing now with Halloween looming. It’s a super scary holiday for binge eaters and emotional eaters because Halloween brings candy all over the place and then it lingers for weeks and months afterwards. I remember once having a client who was still bingeing on her kids’ Halloween candy in January! After Halloween, Thanksgiving comes which is a full out binge holiday – it brings with it family drama, mashed potatoes and phantom urges, and then there is December. December is the worst! There are constant parties, constant drinking, there are cookie swaps, latke feasts, gift baskets full of peppermint brownies sent to the office every minute, baked goods in the staff cafeteria almost daily… and then there’s that “well just screw it, I’ll go on a juice fast starting on January 1st and then after 3 days I’ll go Paleo…” and then you binge your way through December feeling awful, sick to your stomach, uncontrollable, uncomfortable and holding on to the promise that 2018 is going to be different. It’s going to be your year and then by January 2nd- you’re back on the cycle and you already feel as though you’ve ruined the whole year!

LET’S NOT DO THAT THIS YEAR!

Let’s have a peaceful, calm, easy and moderate Fall this year. I want to support you in being kind to your mind and body. No crazy diets, no intense binges. And if you slip up, I want reach out to help you stand up quickly and not slide down that slippery slope of end of the year madness.

Please join the 5 week program so that you can get the support you need for the holidays.

Here’s what you get –

  • The FULL 5 Week Step-by-Step Program to Stop Binge Eating For Good and everything that comes with it for a LIFETIME! It’s always yours.
  • The Facebook support group that comes with it.
  • Holiday Buddy support. So during the holidays, I help people match up with buddies so that they have extra support and someone (or a group) to text with so they can get help to stay safe and moderate and comfortable with their eating.
  • I will be doing weekly Facebook lives which are interactive all through the Fall until New Years. With these you can ask and answer questions.
  • A few “group therapy sessions” online. Those will be small groups available on a first come first serve basis.
  • An email every single day in December to help you stay focused on your goal of self-kindness, self-compassion, eating with kindness and love, not over-eating, not restricting, but enjoying your food and not beating yourself up over what you might have done or not done with eating and your food.
  • I want you to start 2018 strong. I don’t want you to start 2018 thinking “this is the year I finally tackle my food issues,” I want you start 2018 feeling calm and relaxed and not feeling like you have to make any big changes. I want you Fall to be lovely, peaceful, enjoyable and full of joy instead of angst over food.

 I do hope that you will join the program. Feel free to check out the testimonials to learn more!!!

How to Use Mindful Self Compassion to Help Binge Eating Disorder

Being human is one of the most difficult ways to be born. Really, it sucks. Each day we are presented with a myriad of feelings that vary from elation to downright painful. And really difficult things happen. Houses get set on fire, mass shootings happens, people get attacked, violated… and to a less degree, our feelings get hurt, we embarrass ourselves, we fart  in public, we get drunk and act stupid, we start fights with our wives and husbands for no good reason, we overeat, we binge, we purge, we have affairs, we starve ourselves, we don’t study for a test, we say the most embarrassing thing in front of a whole roomful of people, we stumble, fall or downright fail while giving a presentation, we say that we’re going to quit smoking but we don’t or we can’t, we say that we’re not going to bite our nails, but we do it anyway, we pick our nose, we scream at our kids, we scream at our mothers, we space out and go through a red light and hit another car, we steal something from the supermarket on purpose… we do a lot of imperfect and even effed up things. Because we’re human. We are all human, and the life of a human is a difficult one. We are filled with existential angst. And that’s how we were created. And that is not easy for anyone.

The first noble truth of Buddhism is that life is suffering. Everyone suffers just from being human. Everyone. Once we are able to accept that truth, we can transcend it. Not transcend it in that we can make suffering not happen, because suffering happens no matter what. However, part of what causes our intense suffering is somehow believing that we shouldn’t suffer. We often believe that we are alone in our suffering or that nobody else suffers like us. Nobody else is depressed, nobody else is having marriage troubles, nobody else made themselves throw up after their last meal vowing that it would be the last time, nobody else sits up all night worrying about their kids’ futures, nobody else lost their home, no one gambled away their life savings…  Being human can be extremely painful a lot of the time. So in that, we have to hold ourselves not with pity, but with compassion, just for the simple reason that suffering is suffering and being human has an inherent amount of suffering that comes with it due to the way that we are wired to react to events and to our memory capacity. 

I have been taking an eight week course up at Spirit Rock on Mindful Self Compassion based on the the work of Kristen Neff (if you haven’t read the book, it’s a great one!). I have always known that self-kindness was a deep, deep part of true recovery and have helped my clients practice it for years. However, Dr. Neff has the research to back it up. Research shows that self-compassionate individuals experience greater psychological health than those who lack self-compassion and that self-compassion is positively associated with social connectedness, life satisfaction, emotional resilience and a lower tendency for self-criticism, depression, anxiety and disordered eating. In fact, daily acts of self-compassion are an integral part of the 5 week program. The research shows that by practicing self-compassion daily, you can actually rewire your neural pathways to come to a place of kindness rather than self-reproach whenever you “mess-up.” (ie: binge, purge, say something stupid, get too drunk and dance on the tables at your cousin’s wedding then vomit then make out with your cousin’s new husband’s 70-year-old Uncle in front of everyone…) that rather than hating yourself, you can remember that you are human and have some tolerance for that very difficult plight that we all go through.

So what does this really mean and how do we practice self-compassion in daily life? Kristen Neff describes a *self compassion break. With this, you take a few moments to:

1. Take note of the fact that you are suffering (no matter what/why) and you tell yourself,  ie: “this is suffering, I am suffering right now…” 

2. You then acknowledge the pain of suffering ie: “this is really hard/this is so painful/ my heart hurts…” etc. use the language that feels most right to you.

3. Remind yourself that this is part of being human  ie: “I am suffering, but I am not alone. Everyone suffers, this is okay and normal and part of the human experience…” 

4. Treat yourself with the kind of kindness and compassion that you would a best friend or a child,  put your hand on your heart,  talk to yourself in loving, sweet words ie: “it’s okay for you to feel this way, it doesn’t take away from the person you are… this too shall pass… ” or whatever words you really need to hear, give them to yourself. 

It’s not that you’re trying to change yourself or your feelings or never suffer again, but you’re giving some ease to the suffering by accepting it. 

The trap of beating ourselves up when we are down makes everything so much worse. By being kind to ourselves, we have a chance of choosing the next right thing and not getting stuck in the cycle of pain. For instance, you can utilize mindful self compassion for binge eating if you wind up having a particularly bad binge/purge or binge episode, you might be used to beating yourself up afterward and hating yourself. However, if you can notice the suffering and remind yourself that you are suffering, and that it is hard and that you deserve compassion, you might have the strength to make a positive choice for yourself in the hours to come. A beating yourself up choice might be to continue your binge/purge episode for the rest of the day (week, month, etc) or to restrict in order to punish yourself. But when you walk away from the punishing behaviors and instead choose self compassion, you can make the choice for yourself that a loving person would make for you instead of a dictator. A  compassionate choice might be to forgive yourself, take a walk and resume your food on a positive trajectory for the rest of the day.  See How to recover from a binge for more ideas. 

One of my favorite parts of my personal compassion practice is practicing loving kindness toward the people around me. Being kind, trying really, really hard to be even kinder than I instinctively am or to do more than what comes naturally to me has been extremely rewarding and nourishing for my soul. It also makes compassion for myself come with more ease. And if you think about it, when you are compassionate and extra kind to yourself and toward the others around you, you set a positive example for those around you and it sets off a chain of positivity in the world (which we so desperately need right now).

For more information on compassion practice, see http://self-compassion.org/

*listen to Kristin’s 5 minute self-compassion break here

 

On another note, many of you know that I live right in between San Francisco and wine country. I’m including here pictures to show you what the wildfires are doing to our skies right about now. Send love to Napa/Sonoma, we need it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Best Friend is Getting Gastric Bypass Surgery

I have noticed a lot of talk in the Facebook groups about WLS (weight loss surgery). Some have had it, some regret it, some are considering it, and some are vehemently against it. 

I have been asked to weigh in on my feelings about WLS, so rather than answer you all individually, I thought it was important to tell you about one of my closest friends in the world… Eloise.

Her real name is not Eloise, but in my head she could totally be an Ellie. She’s really charismatic and vibrant and alive and confident. She has the ebullience of an Ellie. 

Anyway, Ellie and I have been friends for close to 20 years. We got married in the same year, we had our first kids within mere weeks of each other… We are super tight. And as long as we’ve been friends, we’ve had open and frank conversations about what we have dealt with in terms of food issues, disordered eating issues and body image issues.  There are differences though. I of course went through deep deep recovery for my disordered eating and even became a therapist to help others deal with it.  As much as I did have severe food and body image issues, the body image issues seemed to reside mostly in my own head. Sure, I saw myself as unacceptable and my ED told me that I truly was unacceptable, and I strongly believed that the world found me unacceptable. But in recovery I came to understand that it was a cognitive distortion. A trick of ED. Ellie has the same issues, except her body image issues are not her own, they are society’s problem.  So despite the fact that Ellie is a brilliant, hilarious, beautiful and super talented woman with lots of confidence, she still has to contend with society and the medical community’s collective feelings about fat women. 

Back in May Ellie told me that she was considering having Gastric Bypass Surgery and wanted to know what I thought.  It’s a hard question because my instinct is to say “NO NOT EVER, DON’T EVEN CONSIDER IT!” Which is basically what I said. I told her that the long term studies on bariatric surgery weren’t well documented, that the surgery is risky during, but also complications years later can be deadly, and that it was a very difficult road. I told her to first try an eating disorder program that was specifically geared for people who were considering bariatric surgery but might look into working through the specific issues first. And she said to me, “do you realize that I’ve been in therapy with an Eating Disorder specialist for years? Do you realize that my therapist has read YOUR book in the process of researching her own? do you realize that you and I have been friends for close to 20 years and you’re on the other side of recovery and I’m not? Do you realize how frustrating that is?” 

I hadn’t. I hadn’t thought about how frustrating it might be for her to continue working on recovery and feel like she couldn’t get any where.

“But what about acceptance?” I asked her, “What about accepting your body size and just working on your health, your own self-care, your own inner-peace, your own self-love…”  

“I can’t,” she told me, “I can’t accept this body size. You know I used to think that people paid attention to me because I was pretty and now I realize that people pay attention to me because I’m fat…” 

“Umm…” I said to her, “People pay attention to you because you’re fucking awesome. You have more charisma in your pinky than most people have in a lifetime… when I’m out with you, we’re always surrounded by people and meeting new friends. That doesn’t happen to me when I’m not with you.” 

“It doesn’t?” she asked.

“No, ” I told her,  “Not even a bit. You know how you meet new friends wherever you go? It’s because you’re cool and people want to be near YOU… I don’t have that when I’m not with you, when I’m with you, people are literally clawing their way toward us to get close to you. You’re just… really likeable. Inherently.” 

“REALLY?” she asked me,

“Yup. Totally…”  I told her. “Your spirit and your soul are much bigger than your body. And, you know, more significant of course.” But even if this wasn’t the truth, even if she was unpleasant (which she’s nowhere close to), she would still be valuable and worthy as a human being. 

It’s amazing the stories we can tell ourselves about ourselves. We have these mythologies, these “roadmaps” about who we are and what other people think about who we are and what we look like that we then build our self-esteem around. Our super-ego can tell us anything to agree with the stories with have in our heads about ourselves. Ellie had at one point believed that people paid attention to her for the way she looked, she then believed that people paid attention to her for, well, the way she looked. People pay a lot of attention to her because she’s  fun, funny, the life of the party, compassionate, kind, calming to be around and loving.  When she took that in she realized that she might not be seeing the full picture. We left it off by her saying that she would consider the acceptance piece and the Health at Every Size ideology. 

Last weekend we took the boys swimming together and she told me that she’d decided to go forward with the surgery. That she talked to a surgeon, an RD and several people who had gone through the surgery. I asked her what they said, she told me that they all said the same thing, that it didn’t change their brain around food, just their ability to eat it, and it was a battle, a struggle every day, even for those 10 years or more out from it. So her idea is to schedule it for April and spend the next 8 months working on health and self-acceptance and finding other things to use as coping mechanisms and that maybe she will opt not to when the time comes, but that she likes having that option open to her. 

She told me that she was afraid to tell me because she thought I might not be supportive. Here’s the thing. I believe this: Your body Your choice. And I also believe that when there are big decisions to be made, you have to get all the information and be well informed. You have to be informed of the risks, the long term side-effects, the possible outcomes either negative or positive, and told all of this in a neutral way as to not sway your opinion.

Gastric Bypass surgery is not the easy way out. It’s a hard-core surgery with side-effect that border on discomfort to death. For some people it can be a positive experience. It varies greatly.  My feeling is, if you are considering it, be as informed as possible, know all your options, all the possible side effects and make your choice based on real facts rather than promises of a better life or feeling pushed into it by friends or doctors.  Being fat doesn’t make you inherently unhealthy (or unworthy) and fatness is not a sickness to be cured from.  If you do make the decision to do it,  find your support tribe, the friends and family who will be there for you without judgment or disdain. Your body, your choice. But make your choice from a very, very, very informed and well thought through space. Take months, if not years to make the decision. This is your life and your choice.  I do encourage you though to work with a therapist who specializes in EDs to help you change your brain so that you’re not stuck after surgery without your coping mechanism and feeling alone and feeling as though you need to turn to another sort of coping mechanism (such as pain pills or alcohol) which does happen as well.  Gastric Bypass surgery can only treat the weight, but it can’t treat the underlying behavioral issues or the drives that create these behaviors. So working on coping mechanisms and behaviors is paramount as the surgery can often undo itself due to the disordered eating that was never addressed. 

I hope that this post can explain to you more about my feelings about weight loss surgery. It’s extremely complicated and there is not a black and white answer. No one should be shamed for their choices or their desires. No one should be shamed about anything related to their bodies. But of course everyone should be informed and educated. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eating Disorders Protect You from Thinking Too Much

I have this brilliant client. Let’s call her Megan. Megan is brilliant. She comes in and waxes poetic about politics, philosophy, relationships, ethics, medicine… Really anything. She has a lot on her mind and needs to talk through it. I love to listen to her and I love to hear her thoughts and her ideas on life and the world around her.  But Megan’s big brain tortures her. It keeps her awake at night. It keeps her stuck and paralyzed and it keeps her from moving forward in life. And there are some weeks, after months and months of being free of eating disorder symptoms that she comes in and says, “I spent the last 48 hours bingeing and purging and I can’t stop.”  

I have several Megans in my practice. In fact I have  been having Megans for years.  These Megans have helped me come to a very important conclusion, which is that eating disorders help calm down an overactive brain.  I continue to see brilliant people with active minds using food to help them stop thinking. Eating disorders come in handy that way. If you are thinking too much, bingeing can just shut it down. If you are thinking too much, you can go on a diet and redirect all of your stress into working out and losing weight and restricting and bingeing. It’s a way to distract, it’s a way to shut down. And it’s common. 

Do you ever go on a diet because you just have so much going on in your world? In your brain? Like maybe work is making you crazy, your relationship is not working or you don’t have a relationship, your kiddo’s IEP is a mess, your dog has diabetes and you can’t afford his insulin, the theoretical framework of your dissertation just isn’t working, your husband’s ex-wife is sending you death threats, you got fired, you can’t find a job, you can’t pay for diapers,  your wife is having an affair… and you just want to stop thinking about life… so you go on a diet. Or maybe none of these things are happening. Maybe you just can’t shut your overactive brain off, so you go on a diet and you put all of your energy into it. And then you start bingeing. And maybe then you start purging. And then what happens? Then you have to go back into treatment and your whole life is about treatment and nothing else matters for awhile.  Eating disorders and eating disorder recovery become coping mechanisms, ways to not have to think anymore when thinking is so torturous.

So when life gets too much and all you want to do is dive into a binge episode or run on the treadmill to avoid food and your feelings, what else can you do?

Other Options: 

You can send yourself love and compassion, you can talk to people about what’s going on in your mind. You can use guided meditations to calm your brain and its meanderings.  But mostly you can try to remind yourself that your thoughts are just thoughts and you don’t have to be afraid of them. Just electric impulses that pass through you and you don’t have to follow them down the rabbit hole. Even thoughts about bingeing, purging or dieting. It is possible to teach your brain not to follow certain thoughts that don’t serve you and not to feel controlled by them. In the 5 week program we use cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness techniques and neuroplasticity to learn how to take control of the thoughts that feel overwhelming. A quick CBT trick is to ask yourself “is that thought objectively real or true? how do I know it’s true? Is there another possible truth? If there were another possible truth that I could think of that would feel better in my body, what would it be?” Then write that down and think about what that would be like. Just the mechanism of finding the possibility to change thoughts can help you to calm the overwhelming feelings. 

 

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