How To Shut Down Without Food

15 Ways to Shut Down Without Using FoodThere is a theme in my practice this week. All of my clients came in telling me that one of their biggest problems in healing from binge eating is that they feel like they NEED food to just…shut…down.  Sheila, an extremely busy attorney explained to me that in the evenings, after working a 12-14 hour day, she looks forward to coming home, sitting in front of the television and being able to eat, it’s the way she shuts down after a crazy day. Lindsey, a mom of twin 3 year olds told me that at night, after she gets the kids to sleep, but before her husband comes home, she just NEEDS to sit down with a pint of ice cream and Netflix to shake off the day, that the thought of it is the only thing that keeps her going throughout her evening. This is not new, I’ve been hearing this from my clients fo decades. Food serves a very important purpose- it is soothing, it’s calming and it helps signal the end of the day. It gives you that much coveted self time that you were missing all day.
IT IS SOOOOOOOO important to soothe yourself after a long day of work and kids and stress and everything that you do. You need to be calmed, you need to be soothed, you need a separation between you and the day. Food is what has been doing that for you.  But there are some other things that you can do at end of the day that are not binge eating and will help you shut down.  
And, I’ve compiled a list of my favorites for you: 
  1. Take a hot bath with Epsom Salts. Hot water is good medicine. And the magnesium in Epsom salts will relax your muscles and allow you to get the peace you need between work and sleep. It will also lull you into a deep and lovely sleep.
  2. Read a book that has nothing thought provoking in it. Remember, this is about shutting down. Really turning your mind off, so get into bed with a book that is fun, engrossing and captivating. No books on tape. You need to be using your hands to hold the book- this integrates your tactile senses and satisfies your sensory needs to eat.
  3. Meditate or do a guided visualization. No need to silence your mind or take too much effort. Close your eyes, lay down and breath in through your nose for 10 seconds, hold it and breath out through your nose for 10 seconds. You can also check out wellness hypnotherapy to find specific guided meditations for different subjects (binge eating, relaxation, anxiety, etc.)
  4. Do a Savasana- the most relaxing yoga pose (also called corpse pose) usually done at the end of a yoga class to help you take space between your yoga practice and getting back to your day. It’s so easy. The Savasna pose is really lovely because it just relaxes your whole body. You can use a bolster or a lavender scented eye pillow as shown here- or if you don’t have those things, you can bunch up some towels to put under your knees and heat a wet wash cloth in microwave to put over your eyes. But you really don’t even need all of that, you can just lay on the floor with your arms out, your legs separated, relax your jaw, relax your forehead, just let your body find peace. Make sure that the lights are dimmed, your eyes are closed and even have some quiet music on.  I do however, highly recommend the eye pillow. I use this with all my hypnotherapy clients and I find it helps them to relax very, very deeply. (Photo credit to Suza FrancinaSavasana or -corpse pose- will help you turn your mind off!
  5. Take a restorative yoga class or do some restorative yoga. Restorative yoga is ecstasy grade relaxation. It’s not power yoga, it’s not about fitness, it’s about really relaxing your body and releasing very, very deep tension both in your muscles and in your mind. You don’t have to be a yoga guru to do it either. It’s for every level, even someone who has never done yoga before. When I was in graduate school, I took a one-credit weekend long class on how to relax with restorative yoga poses. A French Psychologist yoga teacher flew in to teach the class- which was about six of us in a big studio in Mill Valley. We each had a big collection of bolsters and pillows and some rope around us that we used to drape ourselves over and around. After getting into each pose, we’d meditate for about 45 minutes to an hour. This was for 9 hours each day. When the weekend ended I felt like my body was jelly and there was no way any worry could ever get into my mind or body. I felt like I was levitating. I don’t even know how I drove home- I think I might have floated.  If you can dim the lights and light some candles and have some nice smelling aromatherapy around you- even better. In San Francisco they offer some evening restorative yoga classes and I’m sure they do in other parts of the country and in certain parts of Europe- but if that’s not an option, definitely check out YouTube and see if you can find some good classes.
  6. Get Body work. I know you can’t go get a massage every day before bed, but you can every once in a while- and if not, try some self massage
  7. Watching television can be rough because lots of people binge in front of the TV- however, if you can do something else while you’re watching tv, like give yourself a manicure, pedicure, hot oil treatment, face mask- something loving and self nurturing that occupies your hands and mouth.
  8. Adult coloring books – can be more relaxing than meditation. It calms your mind and gives you a very similar effect that you’re looking for with food- it gives you another way to  shut down after a long day.
  9. Make jewelry. Seriously, making beaded necklaces or bracelets is an extraordinary way to occupy your hands, relax your mind, and feel that high that you get from your reward centers lighting up when you accomplish a goal or task. It’s easy to do, just have your beading kits right there so you can grab them, sit down on the floor, put on some relaxing music and make some pretty jewelry. Give it as gifts, wear it, or sell it on Etsy.
  10. Knit. Knitting is actually used by occupational therapists to help people alleviate stress, relax, and focus their brains. 

So what about you? Can you add to this list? What are some positive ways you shut down without going to food? 

How to Make a Difficult Decision



Do you ever feel just totally lost?

Do you ever feel just totally lost?

I was with a client this morning who has a really big decision to make. She is deciding between two jobs that have been offered to her or alternately staying in her current job. She is a wreck. She can’t sleep. She’s been bingeing non-stop on anything she can get her hands on. She’s depressed, she’s anxious and she’s not sure what impact each decision will have on her life. And ultimately, though she doesn’t really love her job, she is comfortable there- and change is just so freaking hard. So, all that has been making her a total nervous wreck with very little ability to be grounded and centered.

So what do we do when we are in this space?  When we don’t know what to do and when we find ourselves knee-deep in chips and ice cream instead of in the bounty of our choice.



How to Make a Difficult Decision:


1. Remember that choice is a privilege and be grateful for that. It doesn’t necessarily make your decision any easier, but it’s always good to remember that when you have options, you have liberty.

2. Get out of your head and into your body. When you are trying to make a difficult decision, you spend so much time ruminating and stressing about it. You are literally up in your head and not inhabiting your body. This makes you tired, foggy,  not present and more likely to find yourself in front of the refrigerator without your permission or knowledge. Put your feet, feel the ground beneath you and take five deep breaths in and out. Do it right now! You will be amazed at how much of a change you can make in 60 seconds. You might check out this old article on 17 ways to be in your body. 

3. Ask yourself this question, “if I weren’t scared, if I had no fear, what decision would I make?”

4.Think about your needs, your life and let go of anybody else’s energy that might be in your space. Your decision will impact you the most, so try not to think about what other’s might think about the decision you make. You can’t be a mind reader and you can’t please everyone. You don’t have to. You only have to decide on a path that is right for you.

5. Try to think about each possible path and think about how you would feel on the other side of it. If you can find a place of relief, that is where you belong.

6. Ask yourself, “am I afraid of making a poor decision or am I afraid of change?” change is incredibly difficult and we all have trouble with it. But fear of change shouldn’t keep us stuck in circumstances that don’t work for us.

7. Ask your deep inner wisdom. Put you hand over your heart and ask your wise self what you should do. Your higher self knows.

As a gift to you, I am offering my all time favorite guided meditation for free. This offer lasts through the weekend, so download it now. Even if you don’t have a big decision to make, this is an extremely soothing and calming meditation that helps you connect to your deep inner self and find relief and calmness.

Use the coupon code CALM and click here to get it for free. 


Family Vacations lead to binge eatingI have a friend who has some pretty severe issues with food. We discuss them sometimes, but she is my friend, not my client. She has her own therapist to talk through these issues with and so we don’t discuss these things too often.  This friend, I’m going to call her Angela, is an amazing, beautiful woman who struggles horribly with both depression and anxiety.  Though she has been in therapy for a very long time, her main coping mechanism to deal with her pain is compulsive eating.

Last weekend, we had the occasion to go out of town together with several other friends.  It was great fun, but came with all the stresses that come when four couples spend a weekend in a cabin with 7 children ages 0-6.  On Saturday night, after all the kids had gone to bed, and most of the other adults had gone to sleep, Angela and I and our husbands sat in the dining room talking.  We’d all had a great dinner that we all cooked together, and we were just sitting and relaxing and talking.

But Angela couldn’t seem to get comfortable. She had a graham cracker. Then she had a graham cracker with peanut butter, then she went in for some chips, then she went in for some bowls of cereal. And every time she finished something, she got up and grabbed something else. I recognized immediately that she was stuck doing some stress eating that was unconsciously heading toward bingeing. I knew what she was going through. I’d been there a million times before, that feeling that you just can’t get to that invisible itch. You keep feeling it and feeling it and you try and try and try to scratch it, but it’s just slightly out of reach. I knew she was anxious and I knew she couldn’t get comfortable, and I knew that she and her husband were having some issues, and I knew that she was using food to help her calm down. I didn’t want to say anything and draw attention to what she was doing as both my husband and her husband were there and it wasn’t my place. But we were also all right there with her during her binge. Finally she turns around in this desperate plea and said, “What should I eat? I don’t know what to eat! I keep eating and eating and I can’t get full!” And there it was.  It wasn’t that she couldn’t get full, it was that she couldn’t calm down, and she was using food to help herself relax. But I didn’t say that, I didn’t tell her that she didn’t need to be full, she just needed to be satisfied. The look of desperation and angst in her eyes cut right into me. I knew she was asking me what to do, and that she was asking for help. I said, “maybe get a glass of water and try to sit down and relax for 10 or 15 minutes, then check in with your body and see what it needs?” Her husband said, “yes, that’s what you should do,” and she nodded and sat.  We all went to sleep shortly after and the issue of food wasn’t brought up again. However, I’ve not been able to get the incident out of my mind. I’d seen my friend right in the middle of her compulsion and I felt powerless to stop it, yet I felt that I shouldn’t sit idly by and watch her continue to engage in this destructive episode she was having. And it wasn’t because I was having judgment about what and how much she was eating- I was feeling so empathic to what she was going through- the pain she was in, the feeling that she just. couldn’t. get. enough. food. in. quick. enough. She couldn’t and she finally turned around in desperation saying, “HELP ME! WHY WON’T SOMEONE HELP ME!?”

What I wish I had done in that moment, was put my arm around her and said, “I know what you’re feeling, I’ve had these times before when I felt like I couldn’t get full, no matter what I ate, it sucks. But I know that I when I get like that, I’m just trying to eat away the stress. The food isn’t going to help, no matter how much you eat you’re not going to be full, you’re confusing hunger with anxiety.  When I get into these frenzied eating patterns, I utilize HALT. Am I hungry, angry, lonely or tired? Can you talk? Do you want to sit down and talk? I’ll support you no matter what you want or need, but I’m here to talk.” Maybe it would have been different if both our husbands weren’t there. It was definitely not the right venue for a deep heartfelt discussion of her innermost feelings. But it’s what I wish I could have done. Not tried to stop her, but helped her find some alternate solutions to her problem of not being able to get full.

I’ve thought a lot about how my clients’ friends and families should talk to them when they catch them in their disorders. We do couples and family therapy on it all the time. But I’ve never quite meditated on what to do when it’s my own family or friend…

Always a learning process for all of us.

Friday (Er- I mean Sunday) Q&A- I can’t stop bingeing- No Matter what I try!

Young Woman Binging On Junk FoodAs I said previously, I’m catching up on several months of questions. I’ve got two babies at home (one very new and one a young toddler) and my new book will be released in less than 3 weeks, so that’s been taking up  any second I have that’s not either nursing a baby or chasing a toddler around. And so all of these things together have made it difficult to answer my Friday Q & As very swiftly. That being said, I’ve not forgotten any of you and if your question is in my queue, it will get answered. Please feel free to send anymore questions.
Hello, my name is Elisa and I believe I suffer from the Binge eating disorder.
All I think about is food. I’ve been trying to diet for a long time now but have failed every time because I always end up binging. It makes me feel very sad and uncomfortable at the end. My family just believes I cannot lose weight and say I go ‘mad’ eating. They think it’s a joke but I see it as a serious problem. I honestly cannot control myself when I binge. It’s like I’m a completely different person. I don’t know what to do. Once I flop once I binge and binge. I’ve tried so much. I have a food diary and also try to motivate myself but I am simply not able to stick to it and control myself. Please help me. Not to be rude but please don’t reply with advising me to go to the hospital and seek some help from there or to forget my diet and just eat healthily because i’ve been trying that for the longest time and even that does not work.
I saw your blog and it’s absolutely amazing. I feel like I’m safe asking you for help. Thank you so much.
By the way, I am a 17 year old female and weigh 60 kg. Plus I haven’t told any of my friends this and don’t want to either.
I hear what you are saying Elisa, you feel as though everything that you try fails. That despite your best efforts you keep ending up binge eating. Fortunately, there are many, many, many different ways to recover. And though it’s frustrating, failure always comes before success. Failure and mistakes are what helps you to learn. Every time you do not succeed in recovery, you have the opportunity to try something different- to learn more about yourself and see what does work for you.
I would definitely encourage you to consider giving up dieting again. But this time, rather than trying to avoid the binge, tell yourself that you are going to learn from this binge. So when you start to binge, you are going to do it differently, you are going to stay conscious during your binge. Keep your eyes open. Notice what you are thinking, feeling, try to slow the binge down, really taste the food. Is it satisfying? What feeling are you chasing as you continue to eat? Is it fullness? Comfort? Peace? Anxiety relief? Are you tired? What is driving the binge? As you begin to figure out why you are bingeing and what is driving the binge, you might begin to have some ideas about what you actually need. Maybe you need a nap. Maybe you need to walk outside.  Maybe you are anxious. Did you know that your jaw is the strongest muscle in your body? Some people binge eat because it relieves all that tension that they are holding. Sometimes closing your eyes, breathing deeply and massaging your jaw can stave off a binge. If you don’t want to keep a food diary, why not keep a binge diary instead. Every time you are about to binge, tell yourself that it’s okay, you’re allowed to binge, but first you are going to write in your binge diary. In your binge diary, write down everything that you are feeling, even if your feeling is just, “I want to binge so badly!”  Just stepping away from the binge will interrupt the compulsion, and sometimes, you might find yourself more conscious of what you are needing and feeling. You then might find that you have a choice as to whether or not you want to binge, that you feel as though you are driving the behavior, not that the binge is driving you. When you do decide to binge, make sure to forgive yourself afterward rather than beat yourself up, remind yourself that you are still learning not to binge and how to take care of yourself without food.
As for your family and friends, it could take them a while to get it. You might want to sit down with them and tell them that you believe you have Binge Eating Disorder and that you can’t “just stop” that you need their love and support.   Show them the wikipedia page that explains it. Explain to them that you don’t need them to criticize you but you need them to check in with you. Ask you how are you doing, ask you what you need, ask you how your day is going, and when you binge, ask you what they can do to support you. You might just need a hug!   I understand that you don’t want to tell your friends, but who can you trust? Is their one friend that you can trust? If not, you might want to get some online support. You can go to OA meetings online or on the phone or in person if you can.  Even if you don’t want to talk to your friends, it’s crucial to get support. This will help you to be bigger than the binge. The binge feels too big to beat when you are alone with it, but when you shine the light on the monster, it loses it’s strength.
I hope this has been helpful.
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 to deal with your eating disorder? Please see my website or email me to discuss getting started. 

Friday Q & A How do I deal with the Anxiety that triggers my Binge Eating?

anxiety and eating disordersThis question comes from reader/forum contributor Sunshine.

Q: I have anxiety, I take meds for it. How do I control my anxiety without using food? Because I use food to numb my mind. Thanks!

A: This is a good question. And one that many people deal with. Anxiety is certainly underneath many cases of bulimia and binge eating as well as compulsive exercise and anorexia. Anxiety can feel very “sharp,” and doing things like eating (or drinking alcohol) can dull it down a bit.  In order to stop using food to deal with anxiety, you must make a decision to actually try to deal with the anxiety.

First off, what is anxiety? Anxiety is usually fear based in “what ifs” it’s an alternative reality filled with horrible things that might happen that plagues our minds. FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real) is the thing that keeps us up at night and begs to be shut down and quieted because fear is, well, it’s scary! Being scared is no fun and food is a great distraction. However, if you can begin to debunk the anxiety, give it less power, you might regain some power over it so that you can be in charge rather than the anxiety.

How to do this:

1.)Do a reality check. Question the anxiety. For example. What am I anxious about?

Answer: I am anxious about this party that I am going to tomorrow, I am scared that everyone will think that I’m dumb or that I have nothing to say.

Now question it. Will everyone really think you’re dumb? Do people have time to stand around and judge you when everyone is mostly trying to enjoy themselves or even deal with there own insecurities. What if people do think I’m dumb. Will that change who I am?

2.)What can you control in this situation? You can control whether or not you go to the party, who or who you choose not to talk to, and what you choose to or not to say. However, you cannot control what other people are thinking. Whatever you cannot control, try to let go of it. It’s out of your hands.

3.)If your anxiety doesn’t have a root cause, if it’s free floating anxiety, try to sit down and write it out: I am anxious because…

Do this at least once a day. Often, just the exercise of looking at your feelings can help you release them.

4.)Practice deep breathing and meditation.

5.)Do Yoga!

6.)Do progressive muscle relaxation

7.)Put signs on your refrigerator or pantry that say STOP- REMEMBER TO BREATH. That way, when you are in the grips of anxiety, you might have a chance of letting go and relaxing. When you do, breathe in through your nose to the count of 5, then exhale to the count of 5. Do this ten times. It will relax your body and mind enough for you to actively decide whether or not you want to binge.

I also wrote a post on this about 4 years ago, if you want to check it out as well.

I hope that this is helpful! Keep asking questions!

Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating disorders? 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.


I can’t tell you that I fully understand anxiety.  I’m not sure why some people are controlled by their anxiety and some people are fully able integrate life into their day-to-day without being ruled by anxiety.

Anxiety is fear on caffeine pills.

Often times, binges come out of anxiety. The flood of seratonin that you get from the binge will help calm you down. Hellish bliss. Because then, comes all the anxiety from the binge.  Did I just make myself fat? Am I fat? Should I purge? What should I do? I just ruined it!

Anxiety is not simple. And it’s sneaky. Even if you try to interupt your thoughts, it will come back in other ways.

Delving into the anxiety is one way that I believe it will begin to dissipate.

Sometimes a thought pops up. And then, before you know it, your head is in the refrigerator. Possibly going back to the thought again and again and being with the anxiety a bit until the shock of it dulls a bit.

And then following the anxiety to the source of it.

for example: “I look fat… If I look fat, people won’t like me. If people don’t like me, no one will want to be around me. My boyfriend/girlfriend will leave me, I’ll never find someone to love me, I’ll be completely alone and then I’ll die alone and rats will eat my decaying body…”

Most anxiety, in it’s truest form is existential angst, the fear of death or being alone and dying alone.  Anything that we can do to lessen that fear, (which puts us in a place of uncomfortable, heightened state of vigilance) we will do. Bingeing is certainly one way to lessen anxiety.  But clearly not the healthiest. And it becomes a vicious cycle.

Other ways to work with anxiety.

1. Acceptance– when you accept that you have no control over life, an amazing sense of peace drapes over you. Also known as surrender.

2. Meditation— lessens anxiety. Allows you to be in the present moment.

3. Exercise– being in your body and in the moment gets you out of your head and helps you stop “future tripping.”

4. Sleep– getting enough sleep balances brain chemistry to help lessen anxiety as well.