Q & A Friday- I binge eat and sneak eat to rebel

Q & A Friday- My Inner Rebel Doesn't Want to Stop Binge Eating

Question: 

Dear Leora,
I’m starting to identify that I use binging to rebel. I get a high from being sneaky and saying a big F-you to my mom, my husband, anyone who ever commented on my weight, etc. I’m doing what I want when I want with no one’s rules when I binge. I’m sure it comes back to my mom “catching” me eating her Snackwells cookies or crackers or ? … then my finding every opportunity to sneak food that she wouldn’t know about. My adult mind knows it’s ridiculous. I’m not “getting one over” on anyone by sneak binging now. But are there substitutes to get that feeling of doing something only I can do and decide? Most times I have the house to myself, I secretly “plan” a binge.
I also find that I’m struggling with the sneaking thing and find its just habit that I sneak good when I’m alone…even if I don’t crave it, it’s what I’ve always done. 
What’s up with that? Any insight would be appreciated! 
My Answer: 
This is such a good question and one that I think about A LOT.  You are NOT alone. I hear this a lot.  Many of my clients deeply feel that rebellious kick inside them  when they begin to heal. They become angry at at me for not corroborating with their eating disorder mind, but for supporting their healthy mind.
Logically makes no sense, right? They are paying me and coming in to my office weekly for therapy, yet they are angry at me. But why? Why would someone want so badly to stop bingeing and then be angry at me when I work to help them stop?  
There are a few different things going on here.
The first is that ED, the voice of the eating disorder begins to get really loud when your wise self comes in for help.  ED mind and Wise mind start to fight. That rebel is part of ED. It doesn’t want to go away and it will fight. 
The other part of this is that the behaviors are not logical because they are not coming from your intact adult self. They are coming from a very young place. Although realistically you know that it doesn’t make sense, your inner child believes that  someone is trying to take your best friend away. Something that has brought you joy and comfort for so long. Bingeing is your security blanket, it’s your favorite and  best coping mechanism.  So of course you are going to fight against that. It make sense.  Our coping mechanisms do something for us that is very important, they soothe us.  So when you believe somewhere that someone is stealing your coping mechanism, you get angry and try to go behind their back to get what you are being denied.  I think it’s likely very old, but also new in a sense. Is there anything that you’re being denied right now that you feel like you have to steal or sneak to get? (sleep? money? time to do things? affection? sex? etc…)  When you can’t get what you need, food is the easiest way to soothe. 
Sneak eating also is a lot about both habit and shame. It’s a habit that you’ve formed, where you know that the moment you are alone, you are supposed to get in what you can. So just being alone can be a trigger. Even if you are alone for moments, like bringing a pan of leftover food from the dining room table into the kitchen. With typical sneak eating, that 5 seconds alone in the kitchen can be you bingeing on leftovers that you weren’t even hungry for because the habit of eating when you are alone is so ingrained. That comes from being told that you were wrong or bad to eat. It makes you feel shame and then the shame builds on itself. So you feel ashamed for eating, your habit of sneak eating kicks in and then you feel ashamed of yourself for sneaking and then you eat more to deal with the shame. 
 
So how to help with that.
There is only one antidote for shame and that is acceptance. 
 
Bring in your adult intact self to talk to your rebel in the kindest and most loving way and remind her that she is safe and she has choice and she can do whatever she wants, but what does she really think would be the best choice for her? And when you come from a kind and loving place, your rebel little girl and even ED (who is ultimately their to protect you) will both realize that you no longer need them, that you have an adult caring self who will protect you and keep you safe. Make sense?  
The other part of this is to tell people around you that you trust that you have been sneak eating, that it’s an old habit, that it has nothing to do with them, but that because of that, you are choosing to air out this secret so it can no longer mess with you. Once the secret is out, you can ask for support. Like not being alone in the kitchen at night. Or whenever you find that you are being triggered to binge eat. Don’t be afraid to ask for support as much as you need. 

I hope that this response was helpful for you. Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating? Send an email to bingeeatingtherapy  at gmail dot com. All questions will be kept confidential. Include your first name or the name you want to be referred to as and your location. Are you interested in online therapy or coaching to deal with your eating disorder? Please contact me to discuss getting started. 

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.

1985

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.)

 

How To Get Through Thanksgiving without Bingeing

 

20-steps-to-having-a-safehealthy-binge-free-thanksgivingIn 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.” Well. I think that was a little harsh, but there is some wisdom in it. 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. Being back at my childhood home, I always notice some phantom urges. It’s weird. Out of nowhere, I’ll notice very old thought patterns just popping into my head, like, “when everyone goes to sleep, I will turn the television on and sit by myself and eat…” but these aren’t overwhelming urges, nor are they attached to desire.They are just like passing old junk that go through my mind because I am back in the same physical place that I was when I acted out with food so many years ago. It doesn’t feel as though it is anchored to anything and it does not feel threatening or scary. It is just old thought energies popping into my 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.

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 Get Through Thanksgiving Dinner without Bingeing

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. Take breaks to breathe deeply while you’re eating. This will help you digest your meal and to stay calm. 

3. If you don’t have anyone supportive at the Thanksgiving meal, 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.

4. 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.

5. Eat what you want but also make sure that you let yourself have a solid 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. 

6. 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.

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

8. 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.

9. Take walks or time outs. Let yourself leave the situation and take mini breaks. 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.

10. Bring your journal with you so that you can sit and relax and process your feelings during the meal rather than stuff your feelings.

11. Bring your ipod or phone with some mediation music or relaxing music that puts you in a calm mood.

12. Make a gratitude list before you go.  Think about what you are truly grateful for during the holiday.

13. 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. 

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. 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 only take small slivers, so that you get a couple of bites of each. Again, it’s a one plate desert- and stick to a small plate. 

17. Probably refrain from taking home leftovers that you feel as though 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.  

18. Plan for what you will do that 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. 

19. Listen to the most recent recovery warriors podcast where Jessica talks to me about Thanksgiving! 

20. 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. 

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

Good Luck and Happy Thanksgiving to you!

 

 

Free Webinar – 5 Steps to Changing Your Brain to Stop Binge Eating

 

Are you torturing yourself with food? Have you been on and off diets for years of your life? Do you feel like you are constantly tormenting yourself either with diets or food binges? Do you start a diet, fall off the wagon, and then beat yourself up for not being able to lose weight?

It’s NOT your fault and you DON’T have to live like that.

The diet and binge cycle is very real and very painful. But you CAN learn to find steadiness, ease and feel normal around food and peaceful in your body.

In this exclusive training, you will learn:

The reasons behind why people really binge.

The tools that you need to empower yourself with so that you can stop.

Why You DON’T need willpower to stop binge eating and what you need instead.

What neuroplasticity is and how to use it to train your brain to effortlessly stop binge eating.

How to use mindfulness and meditation to harness the inner peace that ALREADY exists inside of you so that you don’t have to use food and diets to soothe yourself.

 

REGISTER NOW!

Friday Q&A – I Can’t Stop Eating at Night


Q & A Friday

Today’s question is a pretty common one: 

Question:

Dear Leora,

My problem is that I do awesome all day, I don’t binge at all and I eat three solid meals and I exercise moderately, I’m not restricting, I’m not dieting… none of that.  Night times suck though. I’ve finished eating, I’m not hungry at all, I sit down and put on Netflix and before I know it, I’m at the refrigerator. First it’s a piece of cake or some ice cream or a bowl of cereal, and then I’m up again. I’m up and down about ten times and I can’t stop myself. Before I know it, it’s after 10,  I’m totally full, I’m nauseous and I go to sleep depressed. What am I going to do? Can you help me?

-Karen from New Orleans

Answer

Hi Karen,

You are not alone.  This evening eating is definitely a tough one for many people who have binge eating issues. There are a few different ways to go about it. First off, we have to consider what is going on at night.

1. There are some theories that for some people, serotonin dips at night and so they binge eat to help them raise their serotonin levels. Eating high carbohydrate foods increases serotonin levels because it makes tryptophan more readily available which is an amino acid which is a pre-cursor to serotonin. Other ways to naturally increase serotonin levels are to eat tryptophan rich foods– which would be a glass of (full fat) milk, pumpkin seeds, mozzarella cheese or turkey. Here is a list of high tryptophan foods.

Another possibility is to talk to your health care provider about taking a supplement such as 5-HTP or Tryptophan which are both amino acids that are precursors to serotonin. These can help you relax in the evening when you have that anxious need to binge. Definitely check with your doctor before taking these, especially if you are already on an anti-depressant or other medication.

2. Your pattern seems habitual also. In the evenings you have a routine. You have become habituated to bingeing at night to help you get to sleep. So in some sense, you have to let yourself be uncomfortable for a while as you break that habit. Ways to break habits including interrupting your routine. And for that, you need to make a plan and put effort into it. For instance, if you want to start a new habit of going to the gym every morning, it’s much easier to do that if you put your gym clothes out at night and pack your gym bag before you go to sleep. Then in the morning, it’s much easier to follow the breadcrumbs of getting up and going.  So, think about other ways to break up your routine after diner. For instance, instead of sitting on the couch watching Netflix, perhaps you can get into a bath with epsom salts (this is my very favorite thing to do at night) or lay down in your room and read a book. Make sure that’s all set up for you– that’s how you can follow the breadcrumbs– put the epsom salts in the bathroom, put the book on your bed. Or, you can make plans ahead of time to meet someone after dinner or have a phone/Skype date planned. You definitely want to something that breaks up the routine of the things that you had previously been doing.  You also want to make sure that you have the plan in place ahead of time, otherwise you’re more likely to follow the path (routine) that you’re used to.

3. Look underneath the habit and think about what it is that you are trying to gain by bingeing. Are you actually hungry? Did you not eat enough that day? Are you trying to calm down your body and mind? Are you trying to quell anxiety? The truth of the matter is that most addictive behaviors are used to try to manage anxiety. So think about other ways that you can let go of anxiety in the present. Because eating is a sensory experience, doing things that involve moving your body reduce anxiety and urges to binge. There are a few yoga poses that are easy and release anxiety.

The first is child’s pose which is super calming for both your mind and for your digestion:yoga to stop binge eating

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then there is Viparita Karani (legs up on the wall) as simple as it sounds which good for reducing anxiety, depression and insomnia:

yoga for binge eating

 

 

 

 

I also recommend checking out 10 Ways To Shut Down at Night without Binge Eating.  Try some of these things out and let me know how you’re doing. If things don’t improve, email me again and we’ll brainstorm.

I hope that this response was helpful for you. Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating? Send an email to bingeeatingtherapy  at gmail dot com. All questions will be kept confidential. Include your first name or the name you want to be referred to as and your location. Are you interested in online therapy or coaching to deal with your eating disorder? Please contact me to discuss getting started. 

Q & A Friday- I’ve Stopped Binge Eating but I Haven’t Lost Weight- Help!

Q & A FridayToday’s question comes to us from Pamela in New Jersey.  This is a super common and difficult question that comes quite often in ED recovery. 

Question –

Hi Leora,

I have an ED therapist and ED nutritionist and I’ve been seeing them for over a year. I’m also in a weekly ED recovery group.

I think I’m doing good with recovery but I’m not losing weight. I think it’s because I’m still eating to take the edge off. Not in a binge sort of way but in a starting point sort of way. I’ve been paying more attention to using the hunger scale recently and that’s improving. Not losing anything since starting a serious recovery program is very discouraging. I’m no small fry, I’m over 300 pounds. I have very low energy and still sleep quite a bit which makes sense considering my body is very large. Everyone in recovery says it’s not about the weight. It’s about healing the behaviors and the weight I suppose will come off eventually. I’ve found a lot of peace but it’s not easy being so large.

When I bring up weight loss to my ED nutritionist she say’s that should be on the back burner for now. However even after all the progress and peace I am discouraged and down mood wise. My poor body has endured much with the BED. I’m getting up there in years now (55yo) and it’s not getting easier carrying the extra weight. I understand the goal isn’t to “lose” weight but to find more normalized behaviors around food and resolve the need for emotional eating.

But i am tired, I am feeling low and today I’m discouraged. I’ve done a good job not making about the weight over almost the past two years and weight wise I’ve let go of 10 pounds or so. When do I let it go of the big excess weight. I know you cant tell me but there must be a way to combine releasing extra weight with recovery even if it is some form of a “diet”. There has got to be a way to gain physical health and normalized eating together. I have no illusion of being super small, I think I have a very real thought of what my body is comfortable size/weight wise. But when I bring it up I am told that losing weight cant be the focus. But that doesn’t change that it’s just to hard and humiliating carrying this extra 150 pounds. Yes Humiliating at times when I cant sit at a table at a restaurant for example, or cant sit on someone’s couch bc it wont hold me. I’m in pain emotionally and physically over this weight issue and I need someone with some direction other than put it on the back burner.

I’m asking you bc whenever I read what you have to say you make sense.

Any thoughts? Thank you Leora,

Answer-

Your question is such a good one.  As long as I have been working in Eating Disorder Recovery, this conundrum has come up on an almost daily basis. People either start to gain weight in their recovery and it’s very upsetting for them, or they find that they have been not bingeing, not purging, no restricting, and not dieting — but they have not lost any weight. They then become extremely discouraged and also very angry.

The anger is usually directed at recovery or at their recovery team. They wonder why they’ve wasted all this time not on a diet when they could have been on a diet and lost weight rather than what they’re doing right now. 

My friend Sheira, who is a well known eating disorder therapist often says, “when you focus on weight loss, you make a pact with the devil.”  As an Eating Disorder Therapist, when you promise anyone that you will help them lose weight or you focus on weight loss with them, you begin corroborating with the societal message that got them into their Eating Disorder to begin with.  The very first thing we need to do with someone who is recovering from an eating disorder is to help them take their focus off of food and weight and the scale and diets and weight loss and help them to refocus on their mental and physical health.  Dieting and the pursuit of weight loss does not equal health. The problem is that we have been told that it does– not only does weight loss equal health, it also equals beauty and it equals our worth in the world. I remember an interview many, many years back with Duff (she was one of the first MTV Vee-Jays). She was a model and model thin– and then she became ill. While going through multiple chemotherapy treatments she became really skinny, sick skinny– and people started complimenting her on her weight loss and saying things like, “whatever you’re doing- keep it up! You look great!” She was appalled. She was already super thin and then she was sick. Skinny culture is not about health.  This is why we don’t focus on weight loss in ED recovery. We focus on health. And sometimes health means weight gain while focusing on mental health recovery. 

This is a super common argument that occurs when the Eating Disorder Community gets into a room with the Obesity Awareness community. When we go to Eating Disorders conferences, there are always inevitably lots of folks from the Obesity recovery community. The obesity researchers look at weight loss while the ED recovery community feels that the goal of weight loss most often ends in an eating disorder for the ED population, so treat the eating disorder and weight will come to its natural place. The belief is that concentrating on weight loss will bring you back to a place of obsessing on the scale,  feeling like a failure and then reverting to eating disorder ways. In ED recovery, we want to treat your brain first and help you to find a place of peace. We believe that your healthy body will come concurrently with a healthy mind. 

This argument however does not really fly when people feel that their weight is negatively impacting their lives. People tend to interject society’s negative connotations of their weight with their own feelings about how wrong they are and feel in the world. The answer is to address the problem that you’re dealing with, not the weight. For instance– pre-diabetes. The recommendations for reversing  pre-diabetes includes eating healthy food and exercising 30 minutes a day.  Exercise does not have to be pejorative or punishing or painful. It can be a walk with your kiddos around the neighborhood, it can be swimming, it can be a yoga video, it can be jumping on a trampoline. Pre-diabetes is having an elevated blood glucose level and can be helped by exercise because when you utilize your muscles they will pull glucose out of your blood for energy and stamina.  And healthy eating doesn’t have to be a diet determined by someone outside of you. Healthy eating includes eating lots of whole unprocessed foods when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re body is satisfied and allowing yourself to eat foods for enjoyment (like ice cream!) in a non-bingeing and loving way.

Having no energy is something that you can work on as well.  People of all shapes and sizes (especially women) feel that they have no energy. Ways to increase your energy again include getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night, exercising and eating for both health and enjoyment.   If you are able to eat when you are hungry, stop when you are satisfied and incorporate loving, healthy movement into your daily routine– your body WILL come to its healthy weight without you focusing on weight loss as the goal. Try to shift your focus instead on personal health and inner peace. 

According to Deb Burgard of The Association for Size Diversity and Health,  (The Health at Every Size movement) “…advocates eating in a manner that balances individual nutritional needs with hunger, satiety, appetite, and pleasure. We also enthusiastically support individually appropriate, enjoyable, life enhancing physical activity rather than exercise for the purpose of weight loss. A “normal weight” is the weight at which a person’s body settles as s/he moves towards a more fulfilling, meaningful lifestyle that includes being physically active and consuming nutritious foods. Not all people are currently at their most “healthy weight.” Movement towards a more balanced life will facilitate the achievement of a “healthy weight.” “

When my clients ask about weight loss, we try to look and see what they think weight loss will offer them. Often answers vary from things like: Losing weight will give me:  more friends, more confidence, more energy, more love, the ability to go out and do things that I’ve been missing, I can wear whatever I want… The truth is, you can reverse engineer this. Don’t think about losing weight as the antidote to the issues. When you look to treat each issue individually, you wind up finding the benefits that you think weight loss will give you. Chasing the almighty number on the scale– for someone who has been in that rat race for a number of years, will only keep them in it.  Chase true health instead. 

What do you think? Does it makes sense? 

For further reading on the topic,  go to: 

National Eating Disorder Association Thoughts on The Health at Every Size Approach 

Health at Every Size Approach 

Health at Every Size Book 

 

I hope that this response was helpful for you. Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating? Send an email to bingeeatingtherapy  at gmail dot com. All questions will be kept confidential. Include your first name or the name you want to be referred to as and your location. Are you interested in online therapy or coaching to deal with your eating disorder? Please contact me to discuss getting started. 

21 NON Weight Loss Benefits of Exercise

21 Amazing NON WEIGHT LOSS Benefits of ExerciseAs mental health professionals, one of the things that we are always encouraged to prescribe our clients is exercise.  Exercise is fantastic!  In fact, one of my dear friends who happens to be a Psychiatrist told me that she believes that if everyone exercised – the drug companies would be out of business. 

However, as a professional treating eating disorders, discussing exercise tends to be tricky…  my clients tend to feel shame over not exercising enough, the belief that they have to exercise every single day to lose weight, or they fall into overexercising or compulsive exercising to deal with anxiety or shame. 

Exercise is great! But it won’t help you lose weight. Although it’s always been considered the golden standard of weight loss (eat less and exercise more) the more recent studies show that exercise is an ineffective weight loss strategy.  

However, there are a million benefits to exercise that are not weight loss related. 

21 AMAZING NON WEIGHT LOSS BENEFITS OF EXERCISE: 

  1. Increases your libido and gives you the stamina to enjoy and have sex more
  2. It is a natural anti-depressant because it increases serotonin production and decreases depression
  3. It reduces your risk of diabetes by pulling sugar (glucose) out of your blood stream
  4. Exercise helps you to manage anxiety
  5. Reduces your risk of heart disease
  6. Makes you stronger
  7. Increases Your Lifespan
  8. Boosts HDL cholesterol 
  9. Increases Your Energy
  10. Helps You Sleep deeper and decreases insomnia
  11. It gives you a break in the day and much needed “me time”
  12. It decreases symptoms of PMS including cramps, mood swings and bloating
  13. It sharpens your mind
  14. It gets you high on endorphins (feel good chemicals in your brain)
  15. Reduces breast cancer risk
  16. It increases your positive body image 
  17. It decreases your risk of Osteoporosis 
  18. It increases blood flow and sweating which detoxifies you and in turn give you glowing gorgeous skin
  19. It decreases risk of Alzheimer’s. 
  20. It decreases stress and increases your overall sense of peacefulness
  21. Decreases binge eating episodes  which can often be a symptom of stress, anxiety, depression, boredom, panic, and overstimulation (all things that exercise decreases). 

How to start? Don’t think of it as something you have to do, or you should do– think of it as something that you get to do and something that will help you just feel better. It doesn’t have to be every day, and it doesn’t have to be boring or repetitive. You don’t have to be training for a marathon, you can do a different form of exercise every single day or every few days to get these benefits. You can jump on a trampoline, go swimming, climb trees, go for a hike (either urban or on a trail), jump rope, do yoga, go out dancing or dance alone in your room, go for a walk with a friend, watch a Netflix while you walk or jog on the treadmill– just do something that is fun, try to move your body — movement is amazing medicine your soul, your body and your mind. 

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