binge eating

How to Stop Night Eating

 

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Do you ever feel like you can’t go to sleep unless you eat a ton of food even if you’ve had a balance dinner? Do you lie awake thinking about food, unable to relax until your belly is so full that you pass out into a food coma?  Do you find yourself up late at night grazing through cupboards, or even waking up in the middle of the night and finding that you can’t go back to sleep without eating something? If so, you’re not alone.

Night Eating Syndrome (NES) affects millions of people in this country. Although it can be similar to binge eating- it can also differ in that there is not always a gigantic binge, but several episodes of grazing throughout the night. NES often corresponds with anxiety and insomnia. There are theories that for people with NES,  serotonin levels decrease in the evening causing snacking on heavily carbohydrate laden foods to help the body relax and get ready for bed.

Though it’s challenging, the following steps can help you stop  night eating:

 

1. Eat breakfast! This can help to establish healthy daytime eating patterns to ensure that blood sugar and serotonin levels remain steady throughout the day.

2Establish regular eating patterns throughout the day including big, hearty and nourishing lunch, dinner, and snacks. People with NES are afraid to eat normally during the day since they get most of their calories at night. The irony is however, that if you eat during the day, you might find that you need less food in the evenings.

3. Before you go to sleep at night, write in a journal. Write about your day, your fears, anxiety, anger, sadness, joy, excitement, whatever, just write and move your emotions through you.

4. Relax in a hot bath with Epsom salts for about 20 minutes prior to bed.

5. Keep your journal next to your bed in case you wake up in the middle of the night. If you do, write in your journal.

7. When you go to sleep at night, turn off all the lights and television. Sleep with a sleeping mask and earplugs in order to ensure deep sleep.Put a piece of  duct tape across your bedroom door so that you don’t unconsciously get up and walk to the kitchen. The tape will snap you out of your trance so that you can bring some consciousness to the choice to get up and go eat.

8. Put a STOP sign on or in your refrigerator so that you can remember to think about what you’re doing.

9. If it makes you feel safer, consider a lock or timer on your refrigerator or cupboards. This is not to restrict you, it’s to help you feel safe- if you know that you don’t have access to food, you might just stay in bed and get the sleep you need rather than spending time rummaging through the refrigerator or cupboards for food.  If it feels restrictive or punishing, don’t do it. This is not to punish you, this is to help you find safety in your house. 

10. Consider a high fat, high protein snack such as full-fat Greek yogurt or a glass of whole milk in the evening to quell sugar cravings and increase tryptophan levels. 

11. Talk to your doctor, acupuncturist or Naturopath about taking a supplement such as Magnesium Gluconate, LOW DOSE melatonin, tryptophan5-HTP, Relora or GABA at night to increase calm, decrease night eating behaviors and help with sleep.

Night eating is challenging because it is so unconscious, but helping your body and mind relax while increasing consciousness  of the behavior can help quell it.

10 New Years Resolutions that Will Change Your Life

new years resolutions

 

Want some New Years Resolutions that can actually change your life? Not one of them involves losing weight.

New Years resolutions won’t make you happy. In fact, the way they are most commonly created- they’ll make you miserable by the second week in January. Cheated on that diet? Your whole year is ruined. Picked up that cigarette? Can’t quit again until 2017. Oh well you’re screwed. Forget about any resolution that has you thinking in terms of all-or-nothing. Instead, try to think about increasing happiness and joy and kindness to yourself. Here are ten ways to do that:

1. Resolve to stop supporting a media that devalues women.

How to do it: Stop buying fashion magazines and “health and fitness” magazines that tout the same tired articles on how to lose 10 pounds this month or how to torch 500 calories in one workout, and how to get rid of cellulite for good and those that use diet pills, powders and potions as their sponsors.  There are only so many diets and so many workouts, yet these magazines seem to be able to repackage the same information over and over again for years on end.

How it will change your life:  You will save money on magazines, you will create more time and space for yourself to think about other things and to enjoy your life. You will get rid of the clutter in your house. You will stop beating yourself up for not following varying and contradictory advice that those magazine give.  You will find relief of feeling as though you should be something else, you will stop dealing with the stress of seeing digitally enhanced images that portray an unrealistic version of what a woman is supposed to look like.  You’ll  be able to relax and just breathe and just be you…

 

2. Resolve to stop comparing yourself to other people. 

How to do it: When you find yourself going to the place of, “”my life would be so much better if I made as much money as…”  or “everyone has someone to spend Valentines Day with except for me…”  stop yourself immediately. Think of a big stop sign in your mind and say to yourself, “no. I’m not going there.” Remember that everyone has their own path, their own Dharma. When you look to someone else’s path you stop moving along your own. You become paralyzed and you’re unable to allow your life unfold the way beautifully and the way it’s supposed to.

How it will change your life: You will actually be able to focus on going forward in your life given what you have. You will be able to appreciate and enjoy the things and the people who are in your life rather than feeling disconnected to what you do have. You will find that when you look at and enjoy what you do have rather than what you don’t have you will generally be happier. You will also be able to enhance and make more of the good things in your life because you will be moving forward in joy and able to appreciate those around you rather than stuck in envy.

 

3. Resolve to stop spending buying money on miracle potions. 

How to do it: Stop looking for the next miracle skin cream or beauty potion that will make you perfect. Stick to one simple skin care regimen that you enjoy and that’s not too expensive. Keep your diet healthy (lots of fresh fruits and vegetables) and get fresh air and exercise.

How it will change your life: It will take away the stress and anxiety about buying something every time you see a commercial or read an article about how different your skin will look and be when you get this one product. It will reduce waste in your life and it will keep you from spending excessive cash on something disposable.

 

4. Resolve to let go of gossip and criticizing other people

How to do it:  So, that means even if you happen to be present for a conversation where someone starts talking about someone else, you make the decision not to engage in that conversation and you don’t allow someone to chide you into idle gossip. You choose not to criticize people around you either to their faces or behind their backs. You don’t talk about how someone looks, about their life choices, about their parenting skills, you just let people live their lives and you live yours with kindness and integrity. If people start to talk about others around you, you can just say, “I have this New Years resolution to let go of judgment and criticism of others, so I don’t want to go there.”

How it will change your life:   Letting go of negativity and criticism will feel better in your body. You will feel lighter and better. You will also find that people around you trust you more. They will know that their secrets are safe with you and that they are able to talk to you without fear of judgement or criticism. It will take a big weight off of you and give you more mind space to concentrate on yourself and your own needs. The people around you might just decide to jump on your bandwagon making your circle more pleasant to be around.

 

5. Resolve to stop engaging in Fat Chat

How to do it: Stop talking about how fat you are. Stop talking about how much weight you need to lose. Stop talking about diets. Stop talking about who has gained or lost weight. Stop commenting on other people’s weight either to their face or behind their back, even if it’s “omg you lost so much weight…”  Just stop. Check out this article on letting go of fat chat. 

How it Will Change your life: You are choosing not to participate in a society that judges women for the way their bodies look and for how much they weigh.  You create a positive example for those around you and you have done something to change the way people judge people by looking at how much they weigh. When you engage in fat chat, you are contributing to the continuing exploitation of women’s bodies, making it okay for the media to perpetuate the myth of the perfect female form.  Change starts with you.

 

6. Resolve to do the things you love more often

How to do it: Make doing things that you love a priority. Carve out time for them every day. If you love to write, give yourself 1/2 hour a day to write. If you love to knit, or sew, or ride your motorcycle, or take photographs, or garden or play with your cat, or go swimming, or draw, paint or sculpt, or sing, make sure that it is something that you do several times a week. It’s so common that people prioritize cleaning the house and paying the bills and never feel like you never have time to do the things that you love. You have the power to make your life enjoyable. When you go into super-functional mode and stop paying attention to the things that give you pleasure, you feel sad, as though you’re just moving through life crossing things off your “to do” list. Some things should be done not to get them done, but for pure pleasure. Don’t reward yourself by vowing to draw after the dishes are done, make drawing a priority. Put it on your list for sometime during the day, not in the evening after all your chores are done. Do it on your lunch break. Make time for you.

How It Will Change Your Life: It will help you to appreciate and enjoy your life, it will make you an active participant in your life so that you can enjoy the day-by-day, not be bored waiting for the next thing to happen.

 

7.Resolve to work on letting go of what other people think of you

How to do it:  Remember that nobody’s opinion is any more important or any better than your own. So try to have a high opinion of yourself. Hold yourself with integrity– become the person who you admire. When you are holding yourself with integrity (that means being compassionate, kind, not lying or stealing or hurting anyone, holding the highest intention for good), you will know that nobody else’s opinion of you matters because you are a good person.  Remember that most people don’t have the time or the energy to spend time thinking about you– they are spending most of their time thinking about themselves. If they are wasting their time thinking about you, well then congratulations,  you’ve got lots of power!

How it Will Change Your Life:  You will have the freedom to live your life the way you want without the weight of the fear of criticism of others. You will feel lighter and enjoy life more.

 

8. Resolve to spend more time with people or animals who have less than you

How to do It: Do volunteer work at the SPCA or your local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Find something that you’d be interested in doing at Volunteer Match.

How it Will Change Your Life:  Studies have actually found that people who volunteer have lower mortality rates and less chronic pain and heart disease. This is because of the sense of community and sharing volunteer work creates. It also reduces isolation (key in healing from eating issues) and increases self esteem and life satisfaction. Read more about the benefits of volunteer work here.

 

9. Resolve to take at least one month to go on a “spending fast.”

How to do it: Take 30 days to go on a spending fast where you buy nothing except for true essentials, such as food and hygienic products; no fancy bottled water, no takeout, no fancy meals, no bottles of wine, no fancy soaps, no new clothes, no new jewelry, nothing– just what you really really need.

How it Will Change Your Life: You will find some relief in not having to worry about what dress to buy but knowing that you have a dress at home. You won’t worry about walking into Target for a bottle of shampoo and coming out having spent $150 on razors and lotion, and you won’t have to deal with a late night pizza binge. You will find relief in not having to think too much about what to buy. A spending fast, even for a month is a huge relief.

 

10. Learn to Recognize Your Emotional State

How to do it: Use mindfulness to check in with yourself throughout the day. Set a timer on your phone to go off once every few hours. When it goes off, stop and ask yourself, “what am I feeling?” If you don’t know, check this list of feelings Then practice just sitting with that feeling without doing anything to change it.

How it Will Change Your Life: As you learn to be aware of what you are feeling throughout the day, you won’t surprisingly find yourself engaged in activities that you have previously done to avoid feeling, for instance, you won’t find yourself eating when you are anxious because you will know that you have the capacity to sit with uncomfortable feelings.

 

 

How to Get Through December Without Bingeing

As we know, December is primo binge time. We roll off of Thanksgiving into several weeks of parties, gift baskets, bowls full of candy at the office, guests dropping in, egg nog, and those are just the food triggers. Holidays trigger all sorts of emotional crises, like being around family, or not being around family, feeling single and sad, missing friends, relatives, or being forced to spend time with people who feel toxic to you.

So, let’s try to make this December a healthy one both physically and emotionally. Here are a list of things that can help you to maintain peace throughout this month:

1.No diets in December and no “I will lose weight resolutions,” on January 1. This December make a vow to try and be healthy and balanced so that you can be “present” for the holidays.

2. Consider staying away from gift baskets that come to your office. Think of them as just something that is not important to you or good for you and create a loving boundary with yourself that they are off limits. Gift baskets are generally filled with old (stale) processed packaged foods that just won’t feel good in your body.

3. If you get a basket of muffins or flavored coffee or chocolate covered candy canes or whatever, just regift it. Give it away. Bring it into the office, put it in the kitchen and don’t go back in. Give it to a homeless person in your neighborhood. Don’t even deal with it or give yourself the anxiety of choice. It’s not worth if it is a binge trigger.

4. Remember that just because things are “limited” you don’t need to eat them. Just because Starbucks has their limited peppermint mocha christmas latte’s, you don’t need to indulge in them daily. Or at all. You can always get one from Starbucks, any time of the year. Seriously. Just because Sam Adams has come out with their Christmas Ale doesn’t mean that you have to drink them. Christmas binge food is just like any old binge food. But it sneaks up on you because it is “limited.”  Don’t let that word pull you into a binge. That’s the same black and white thinking that tells you that you have to eat a box of pasta and a loaf of bread tonight because starting tomorrow you can never have carbs again.

5. When you go to a holiday party, make sure that you’ve eaten beforehand. There is always lots of food (that’s fun for sampling) at parties like that. Arrive without an appetite and stick to one plate of food. Choose what you really want to eat, (survey the buffet before hand), put your food on the plate, and sit down to eat. Click here for more tips on Holiday Parties.

6. If you are heading someplace for the holidays, make a plan for not bingeing at the airport. Airports are infamous for binges. If you look around, you’ll see lots of people indulging in too much alcohol, too much food, or spending money compulsively. It’s really a challenge not to. You are in a confined place, anxious and bored, sometimes for way too long, and there are lots of temptations to help make the time go by. Click here for some tips on not bingeing at the airport.

7. If you are going home, even if your family is loving, supportive, and wonderful, you might find that being home (back in the place where your eating issues  were formed) can trigger some binge eating behavior. Plan for it ahead of time. Remember that you are home to be with family and that you want your trip to be calm and loving and fun. Think about how you want to feel while you’re there and how you want to feel when you leave. Think about what you need to do while you are there to make this work for you. Click here for some tips on how to make sure that home is a safe place.

8. Give yourself an everyday in December meditation challenge. Just finding some more inner peace will help to give you balance during the holidays so that you don’t have to turn to food to feel better.

And here’s another December list to consider.

Please share your surviving the holidays tips!

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How To Get Through Thanksgiving without Bingeing

How to get through Thanksgiving without BingeingIn 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 food and drinking. Think about what you are going to choose to eat and drink and how much. Making this intention will help you to empower yourself around food and alcohol rather than  letting the food take over.  Share this intention with a family member or supportive friend or a therapist.

2.)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.

3.)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.

4.)Just because there are several new and interesting foods there, you don’t have to eat everything. 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. 

5.)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. Try to concentrate on conversations with  people.

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

7.)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.

8.)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.

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

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

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

12.)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.

13.)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.

14.)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.

15.)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. 

16.)Probably refrain from taking home leftovers especially leftover bingey foods (think pumpkin pie) – so that you are not feeling like bingeing on it when you get home that night with a full belly. 

17.)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. 

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 meetups 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!

 

 

Eating Disorders and Black and White thinking

black and white thinking binge eatingLast month, my husband, kids and I went to the beach to get our last days of summer in. When we got there, I realized that I packed my sons’ suits and my husband’s suits but failed to pack my own. I was super disappointed-to say the least,  there’s nothing better than swimming in Tomales Bay on a hot day. But I made the best of it and rolled up my cutoffs and waded in the water with my two year old. At one point, I squatted down to show him a tide pool and the back of my shorts got a little wet- I thought to myself, “Oh well, I’m already wet, I might as well jump into the water.” I took a deep breath and paused. I didn’t jump into the water, but I noticed, “wow, there is my black and white thinking just popping up again.” I have recovered from multiple disordered eating issues- but my thinking instincts still  remain. My brain is still organized in that way. I didn’t react to the compulsion- I didn’t jump into the bay just because my shorts were a little wet because rationally I knew that they’d be dry in a half hour or so, but that if I jumped into the water- despite the fact that it would be super fun and satisfying for a few moments- I’d be uncomfortable in wet denim, I’d have sand stuck to me, and I’d have a long car ride  home in dirty wet clothes.  But I was extremely interested in the fact that so many years deep into my recovery- my thinking patterns remain the same. I was still vulnerable to polarized thinking. This is what black and white thinking (polarized thinking) is. It’s all or nothing.

 

Overeating is a super common binge triggerit’s part of the cognitive distortion known as polarized thinking.

For instance- I ate two cookies with my coffee for breakfast, I might as well spend the rest of the day eating cake and cookies- I can’t eat something like a salad for lunch because I already “ruined” the dayOr I ate all my ww points for the day but then I went over a few points- I might as well binge or I don’t eat white flour or sugar, but I had a small bite of my boyfriend’s croissant. The day is ruined- Now I have to spend the day, the week, the month bingeing… or I ate two mini halloween candies, I have to spend the rest of the night testing every single candy and goodie that’s hereOr however your polarized thinking manifests for you. Bingeing because you overate is like seeing that you have one flat tire, getting out of your car and slashing  the other three. It is not rational or logical.

Polarized thinking it is a process where you feel like you don’t have any choices.  Had I not been able to recognize my thought patterns in that moment, I would have felt like I had to jump in the water. That I had no other choice since my shorts were already wet. This is a thinking process organized around perfection. “I have to be perfect or I’m nothing-I’m ruined.” There is no middle ground or allowance to be a normal human being who gets their shorts wet, spills coffee on themselves, or eats a bagel for breakfast. You believe that your choices are not your own. You might even feel paralyzed a lot of the time because you believe that if you cannot do it perfectly- you are afraid of doing it at all.  

Now here is the thing about polarized thinking- you don’t have to let it affect your behaviors. Just because your mind becomes organized in that way doesn’t mean you have to follow your impulses down the rabbit hole. Part of mindfulness practice is slowing yourself down enough to notice your thoughts and then have the ability to change your action or reaction to your thought. Remember that thoughts are just electronic impulses, and we have 50,000- 70,000 thoughts each day. You can notice those thoughts before you react to them. You can choose the thoughts that you’re going to react to. For instance the thought, “I went out with friends tonight and I overate tortilla chips at this restaurant, I am full,” can often precede the behavior of going home by yourself and bingeing on lots of other foods. You are angry at yourself because you feel that you ate too much- but rather than sit with the fullness until it passes (like letting my shorts dry for a half hour rather than jumping into the bay with all my clothes on) you might believe that you have no other choice than to binge. But you actually do have a choice. Let yourself slow down and notice your thinking without reacting to it. If you eat a roll at dinner even though you didn’t intend to, remind yourself that eating the rest of the basket of rolls or going home and bingeing would be a lot like jumping into the bay with all your clothes on. No human being is perfect- and when you hold yourself up to that standard, you can often feel very limited by your choices and your ability to enjoy being in the world.  

To deal with polarized thinking: 

1. Slow down and notice your thoughts

2. Notice how your instincts want to react to those thoughts

3. Think about whether or not there is a different choice- a choice that’s more like allowing your shorts to dry and feeling comfortable again. 

4. Try to implement that choice. 

5. Notice how you feel the next day. 

When you have black and white thinking, you believe that you have no choice and you have to take the extreme path. Recovery doesn’t mean that you will never have black and white thinking again- but it means that you will notice it more for what it is- a thought and a suggestion rather than a hardline on what you have to do. 

What do you think? How are some ways that you’ve dealt with your polarized thinking? 

Q & A Friday- Why Can’t I Get Back on My Diet?

You didn't fail at dietingYay! We’re back to Q & A Fridays.  I’ve got a huge backlog of them – so if you send me a question, please don’t worry- I will get to it! If you don’t hear from me, it’s okay to send me a reminder. 

This one comes from Jessica in New York.

Dear Leora,

Thank you for the great blog and newsletters. I really appreciate them. I am struggling really badly right now. I have been overweight my whole life- on my 25th birthday, I woke up and the scale said 300 pounds. I couldn’t believe it. I was so scared that I would wind up on one of those TLC shows about someone needing a forklift to get them out of bed. It was at that moment that I decided to lose weight. I implemented a strict zero carb diet and started walking 10,000 steps a day. In six months I lost 150 pounds. It was amazing. For the first time I could wear normal sizes and didn’t have to shop in plus size stores or the plus sized section. It was amazing to walk into a store and buy regular sized clothes. I felt like my life was finally starting. Only not- because I was always anxious and I was afraid that I was going to gain the weight back and I was afraid of food and so I started eating less and less and less. I lost my period and despite that, I couldn’t lose anymore weight. I just stayed at 150 pounds. I got to the point where I was eating like just 2 hard boiled eggs and a container of cottage cheese each day- and I still couldn’t lose weight. I became really anxious and depressed. Some days, even if I’d eaten barely anything the day before, the scale would even go up like 5 pounds. And then… the bingeing started. One day I just lost it, I ate a piece of cake at my niece’s birthday party and then I was done for. I started in on the cheetos, the coca cola, the chips, the candy… then I went home and bought a pint of Phishfood and ate the whole thing. And it didn’t stop from there. The next 10 days, I couldn’t stop bingeing.  I finally got back to my diet- and I can maybe go now like a day, or sometimes not even. I just cannot, whatever I do, stick to the no carb thing. I feel like I’m elbow deep in oreos without even knowing it. Can you help me? I’m so scared and I feel so out of control. I’ve already gained back 20 pounds and I am afraid that I’ll binge myself up to 500 pounds.  Why can’t I get back on my diet? Please help me, I’m desperate.

 

Jessica,

I’m so glad you wrote. I have seen your exact situation so many times. I know how difficult it is. You feel like a failure, you feel like you failed yourself and you feel like there is something wrong with you because you cannot get back onto your diet. Because your diet was so successful the first time, you are trying desperately to get back on, but you can’t. This is what happens to many people who severely restrict their food for a long period of time- they wind up on a life-long quest to get back to that  way that they were- back to that severe restriction phase and beat themselves up when they cannot make it. They then begin bingeing like crazy. This is your body’s way of telling you “NO STOP DON’T DO THAT TO ME AGAIN!” And the fact that you couldn’t lose anymore weight after you got to a certain point, no matter how hard you tried tells me that you probably hit your body’s healthy weight so your body did what it had to do to maintain the homeostasis.  THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT! You did not fail!  

But not to worry, you can still maintain whatever your healthy body weight is without going back on your restrictive diet. 

This is my advice to you. Stop trying to get back onto that zero carb diet. Feed your body big healthy meals at least 3 times a day. Include all three macronutrients, fat, protein AND carbohydrates. If you are uncomfortable with simple carbs like bread – that’s fine, but do nurture yourself with complex carbohydrates like yams, legumes, fruits and vegetables. I also highly recommend seeing an acupuncturist to help heal the damage that the no carb diet has done to your reproductive system and to restart your periods. You can also check in with your OB. It’s important that you pull yourself out of this binge/restrict cycle now and create balance for yourself and your eating.  When you are feeding yourself 3 big healthy meals per day with the 3 macronutrients included in each, you will see your urges to binge greatly diminished. If you need help- please do see a registered dietician or nutritionist who specializes in treating Eating Disorders to help you figure out your food and get you the nutrition that your body so desperately need right now after so many month of not giving it what it needs.

I hope this answers your question and that you are able to feel better soon.

Warmly,

Leora

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. 

How to Get through the Halloween Season without Bingeing

bingeing on pumkin spice lattesI walked into Target last week and was blasted by the obscene display of mini candy bars up and down the aisles, everywhere I  looked.  I don’t even like candy bars- that has never been my jam, but still, I found myself thinking, “gosh, an almond joy would be pretty good about now…” It’s October. Which means that all of a sudden all the comfort foods are making their way into your hearts and bellies.

The leaves are falling, the apple orchards and pumpkin patches are being picked over, the kids are back into the swing of back-to-school, and Starbucks is offering its limited time Pumpkin Lattes.

It makes sense that binge eating behavior would start to surface. Scarcity creates demand. And the idea that these special coffee drinks will only be around for a limited time can drive anyone toward a full on binge.

It’s totally okay to eat mini almond joys and Pumpkin Latte’s, but let’s discuss how to make October a safe month for you without falling prey to the now or never binge mentality. 

1.)Understand whether you really want the food or if you are being manipulated by scarcity marketing. Ask yourself “would I eat this if I could have it any time?” 

2.)If you feel good about it – go for it! But definitely set some loving boundaries around it and enjoy it, it it mindfully.  For instance, decide to let yourself have that latte’, but rather than a tall or a Grande, order the short. If you want a pumpkin pie, don’t buy a whole pumpkin pie yourself, see if you can buy a slice and save it for desert after dinner. Or you can even bake a pumpkin pie and have people over for it. When you eat it, don’t eat it impulsively but sit down and ENJOY it! Really let yourself smell it, enjoy the aroma, taste it and digest it. 

3.) If you truly believe that eating this food will set up a binge, then tell yourself that it’s okay not to have it right now, either not today or not this week or maybe not even this year. If you are feeling wonky in your recovery and know that it’s not the right time, honor that with compassion. You don’t have to eat it or drink it if you are nervous about it. 

4.)If you find that you are very anxious about bingeing on mini candy bars and Halloween candy, choose not to have it in the house this year. That’s totally okay to keep yourself safe when you need to. If you were a cocaine addict in recovery, you wouldn’t have piles of cocaine in your kitchen. It’s the same with food. It’s okay to not keep something around that makes you anxious. My mom used to give out little Halloween goody bags with boxes of raisins, spooky pencils and pennies on Halloween. It was totally embarrassing for me as the kids would look in there bags and say, “Oh Man! Raisins and pennies!” Back then I thought that she was forcing her health food paradigm on the world, but now I understand why she did it. She didn’t want the binge food on hand and she didn’t feel right contributing to unhealthy eating. A lot of it for her was about integrity as well as protecting herself and her family from junk food.

I have clients who are still bingeing on  their kids Halloween candy in January, so I do think it’s better to just get it out of the house. There is a dentist in my neighborhood who has a Halloween candy buy back program. He gives a dollar a pound for Halloween candy to kids and sends out care packages to the troops. You can do something like this with your kids- buy back their Halloween candy from them or make care packages to send out to others. If there is no way that you can get rid of the candy in your house- put it on a high shelf out of reach. This will at least break the compulsion of grabbing mini candy bars all the time. 

Other alternatives to candy for Halloween are:

– Halloween Toys or Stickers

Halloween Pencils

-You can make a bunch of oragami fortune tellers with your kids or your friends or your parents or nieces and nephew and give those out.

-Glow Sticks and Glow Jewelry!

Or, if you can’t forgo the candy, try these more healthy treats.

For many people, buying Halloween candy can trigger a binge. Plenty of people wind up with tons of leftovers that they wind up bingeing on. Kids get enough candy from your neighbors, it’s okay to take care of yourself by giving kids something different and fun.

5.)If you find yourself tempted in stores where all the Halloween candy is out, make sure that you have a plan before you go into those stores. Make a list of what you need to buy and leave your ATM card at home. Bring cash so that you can’t compulsively grab something. And don’t go shopping hungry! Not even at Walgreens or Target

6.)If there is candy sitting in bowls at the office, again, if it won’t trigger a binge and you know that you can eat one or two pieces in a healthy way, then allow yourself a set number in a day (like two pieces of candy). Don’t eat them standing up by the bowl, bring them back to your desk. Eat one and save the other for later. Make sure that you don’t substitute candy for lunch. If you think that eating that candy will trigger a binge, stay away from the bowl. Have a plan and be mindful when you have to pass that bowl.  Keep a bowl of non binge foods available for yourself such as a bowl of apples or almonds or oranges. If the bowl is haunting you, calling to you throughout the day, try to talk back to it. Tell it that you’re trying to prevent yourself from bingeing and the instant gratification that you will get from a Hershey’s Kiss won’t be worth the binge that you will have that night, that you’d rather have long term recovery and get solid in your recovery this year. It doesn’t mean this is forever, but for right now, you are giving yourself some space to stay safe in order to keep the bingeing at bay.

Tell me, what are some things that you do to keep yourself safe around food during October? 

 

photo credit to Delish

Overeaters Anonymous- The Good, The Bad & The Crazy

Does OA work?

“I don’t eat no matter what… “

or 

IDENMW as they say in certain OA circles.  

I have an extremely complicated history and relationship with Overeaters Anonymous, both as a clinician who treats eating disorders and as a past member. A lot of people ask me “Does Overeaters Anonymous work?” It’s definitely not black and white. It “works” for some but not for others- but you have to define what “works” means.  I want to share with you some of my personal history with it. 

 

My First Experience with OA

Back in the 1990’s,  when we were flannel clad teenagers, my friend Melissa and I sat in a field discussing when we would be able to go off our diets. We’d been drinking Diet Coke since our Bat Mitzvahs and trying to lose weight for longer than that. “Will we ever get there?” we wondered. Our mothers, both in their early 40’s at the time were still dieting. Thin, but dieting. Always dieting. When will it be done?  Doesn’t it seem like dieting should have some defined end? Like that you go on a diet for 6 months, lose your 10 pounds and then you’re not on a diet anymore? But no, we were always dieting, and our mothers- always dieting, and our mothers friends- always dieting and our Aunts and cousins and friends’ mothers – always dieting. It didn’t end.  And so when Melissa ended up dieting herself into a nasty bingeing and purging habit that lasted years, her therapist insisted that she join Overeaters Anonymous to cure her. “It worked.” I say it that way because it worked in the sense that she stopped bingeing and purging. She also finally lost the 10 pounds. Plus more. In fact, at 5’7″ she wound up weighing less than 100 pounds, losing her period and growing a nice coat of *lanugo all over her arms and legs.

I asked her if she was eating and she said, “Oh my god, I eat a ton! Lots of fat and oil and vegetables, and meat. It’s great.”

And then one day, after exactly 478 days of “abstinence”  she binged.

And it wasn’t just a binge- it was a binge that brought down the skies and the heavens and the thunders- one of biblical proportions where hours ran into days ran into weeks ran into months. She stopped answering her phone, she stopped leaving her house except at night to go to the 24 hour grocery store to buy binge foods, she stopped going to work and to school…  It was a binge that cost thousands of dollars,  that clogged her toilet with vomit and it was a binge that hit her with a force that felt unbeatable. She was crushing under the weight of it. She couldn’t stop bingeing, she couldn’t stop purging, she couldn’t stop running to the store to buy more binge foods. She put on 70 pounds in 6 weeks.  “Fuck,” she told me, *”I need help.”

That’s where her relationship with OA ended. Her friends and sponsor dropped her, she couldn’t get back to where she was and she hated herself. She wound up back in treatment but this time without OA. 

My next was sometime right after college.  Although I was no longer dieting, no longer restricting, no longer controlling my food, I still felt trapped in thinking too much about weight, body image and calories. It was making me crazy and I wanted it to stop. I longed to feel peaceful around food and embrace my body. A friend of mine who I respected enormously told me that she had found deep recovery in OA, that she no longer had any desire to count calories, hadn’t binged or purged in over a decade and really felt comfortable in her body. She said she just didn’t worry about anything food related. I wanted what she had. So, together, we went to her home meeting where she  introduced me to  my new sponsor, Kate. When Kate first met me, she looked me up and down, sneered and said, “you’re not fat, why are you here?” I explained to her that I wanted peace around food and my body image. I didn’t want to worry about calories and I was sick of unintentionally doing math in my head all day long- that it was stressful and I just wanted to be free. She gave me a food plan and she assured me that it would cure me but said that  I had to buy an electronic food scale, an electronic human scale, weigh and measure every morsel that I ate and call her at 6am each morning and report my weight and my food into her. I explained to her that I didn’t want to be on a foodplan and I didn’t like to weigh myself. She told me that this was the way that I could have the recovery that I wanted without being willful or being stuck in my disease. She said that the foodplan was the way out- but that I had to follow it perfectly otherwise it wouldn’t work. She told me that there was a line of people waiting to be her sponsee so if I didn’t want help and I didn’t want to recover and if I wanted to spend the rest of my life a compulsive overeater that it was fine, that I should leave.  I felt ashamed and embarrassed. Rather than finding a different sponsor (now I know) I  decided to work with Kate, because after all, it was the only way and she had lines of people behind me begging her to be their sponsor. She must be right. 

The first day on my meal plan,  I was so hungry that I ate an extra apple between breakfast and lunch. Kate scolded me and told me that it showed a defect of character. If I was hungry I needed to drink black coffee, black tea, diet coke or chew sugar free gum.  Each night I went to bed feeling starved, with my hands on my belly feeling my ribs for inspiration and saying “I don’t eat no matter what- I don’t eat no matter what…” as I tried desperately to go to sleep. My eating disorder hands and eyes were reactivated as I felt the outlines of my bones and stepped on the scale every morning. The obsession was familiar and it was easy. It was easy to get pulled back into that vortex. Only this time, my Eating Disorder wasn’t inside my head- it was Kate. I’d allowed her to be the voice of Ed- dictating my behaviors for me and shaming me if I went off program by taking a bite of a carrot while I was prepping my lunch – and sending me back to day 1. I felt like Sisyphus.

I drank gallons of diet coke each day and chewed packs of sugar free gum. My stomach swelled up from the aspartame and carbonation- I wasn’t able to run or swim or exercise at all- I found myself breathless,  my thought process was often slowed down and to be frank, I hated my sponsor.  It was this one day that I was sitting there and more than anything I wanted to put some milk into my tea. My stomach was so bloated and I was so hungry. I called my sponsor to tell her how stressed out I was- how I wanted to go for a run but I had no energy, that I wanted to hang out with my friends but they were going out to a cafe and I couldn’t sit around all that latte’s without wanting one,  that I was depressed, that I hated the way I felt. She told me that I should be grateful for being abstinent, that I shouldn’t think about running or socializing or exercise, that it was the time to figure out my food shit, to go to a meeting, that my complaining was showing a defect of character. I just wanted to put some goddamned milk in my tea. And that’s when I realized it, this group was insane and it was driving me crazy as well. I knew that putting milk in my tea wasn’t worse than drinking liters and liters of diet coke a day. Yet in this sect of OA- putting milk in my tea meant I had a character defect, but drinking liters of diet coke every day was okay- chewing gobs of gum was okay.  Honestly – there wasn’t much payoff for me- Besides an initial couple of pounds, I wasn’t losing much weight at all- which in retrospect, I understand was a good thing- my body was at a healthy weight and my metabolism had slowed way down to compensate for the restriction of calories- the numbers in my mind had only gotten worse. I called Kate and told her that was leaving the program that moment.

Being an OA drop out was a no-brainer for me. But it’s not like that for everybody. 

I have seen people go in and lose 100’s of pounds for the first time in their lives- and then feel like they owed that organization their life. But when they decided to go off plan or put weight back on (which lots of folks do) all the people who supported them, the most important people in their lives turned their back on them, shamed them. Made them feel like they were bad people. Because they ate cake or because they wanted something different. I’ve seen women who haven’t had periods for years- and have that be supported by the group, with many women telling them, “yeah, that’s normal, nobody here gets their period…”  In some cases of OA- eating disorders are supported and it just becomes a huge support for ED under the cloak of recovery. 

And that’s part of what makes OA so confusing. 

My next experience with OA was when I was a graduate student in Psychology learning how to treat Eating Disorders. I interned at an Intensive Outpatient Treatment Center for women with Eating Disorders. The protocol was that every client needed to go to 3 OA meetings a week- no arguments – or they were out of treatment. It was rough. Although many clients were  getting amazing recovery, finding lots of support and fellowship in the rooms,  some were feeling traumatized, pained and so wounded by the program, but they couldn’t leave otherwise they’d be kicked out of treatment and then where would they go? It was definitely extremely difficult to watch and be a part of. I knew how wounding OA could be and I saw that their choices were being taken away from them. Sometimes in recovery, taking away choices is liberating- that way the patient has nothing to focus on except themselves, but other times it is extremely harmful. No two people or recovery stories looks the same so you have to find what works for you – for your mind, body and spirit wholly. 

My own personal experience with OA had really skewed my feelings about the fellowship. The problem is that Overeaters Anonymous tells people how to eat and teaches them not to trust their instincts. And that’s really the concept that they are coming from, “you are a compulsive eater and so you can’t trust your instincts because your instincts will always be to overeat.” This is a cognitive distortion known as emotional reasoning.  You believe something to be true and so it is.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”
Henry Ford

You believe that you cannot stop after one bite of chocolate – or that if you eat flour or sugar- it will lead you to binge eat and you’ll never be able to stop, so the best thing to do is not eat it at all. This belief triggers black and white thinking for most.

In OA- where people count days of “abstinence” from their drug of choice (food), they have to start their day count all over again if they eat even a cracker or a slice of white bread. So, let’s say you were in OA and you had 100 days off of sugar and flour. Then one day you had a small bite of birthday cake. You would have to start on day one the next day- so you ruined your abstinence already- why wouldn’t you go to the store and buy a gallon of ice cream and cake- you’ve ruined your abstinence and have to start on day one tomorrow anyway. OA is a huge setup for binge eating. They will tell you that you cannot eat birthday cake because it will trigger a binge for you. You then believe that one bite of sugar will trigger a binge for you and so it does. And it should because your belief is that your day count is ruined and after today you won’t be able to have any cake again, so you might as well binge on all the cake you can. See what I’m getting at? Certain sects of OA keeps people in huge diet mentality and shames them (it’s a defect of character) if they eat off program. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. You think that one bite of white bread or a bite of birthday cake will lead to a gigantic binge and so it does- and all the parameters for that to happen are set up in the OA infrastructure.  And then, a binge eating habit or disorder gets activated.

I’ve had hundreds of clients over the years come in both damaged and traumatized by groups like OA, Greysheets, HOW, and Food Addicts Anonymous. They are in a place where they can’t stop bingeing and they are feeling shamed and angry at themselves. They just want to get their abstinence back- but they can’t. They can do 10 days or 2 weeks – but they seem to just not be able to get to that multi-year abstinence that “everyone else” has. Oh yeah, that’s the other thing- they somehow believe that they are alone in their struggles with OA.  They believe that they are the only ones and that they are bad. The feel ashamed. OA then becomes their own inner critic and often takes the place of their own over-critical parent.  It’s retraumatizing. They’ve given their own inner critic an office and a team. And the worst part is feeling totally alone, without your tribe, your village.  If you are someone who feels  this way, you are not alone. I see multiple OA/FA drop outs each year who have scars and trauma from the fellowship, who have been rejected by this “family” because they cannot get their abstinence back. You are not alone. If you are not comfortable with the group and you have an instinct that something is wrong, their probably is. 

But is there any good to OA? 

YES! Definitely. OA is a fellowship where you can find other folks struggling with the same issues that  you are. One of the best things that you can do for recovery is get support and OA definitely has support. There are some amazing OA groups out there- where you will find smart, kind people who want to help you recover spiritually and not make it all about the food.   There are some people who have life long amazing recovery in the rooms.  Though I’ve seen people find pain in OA, I’ve also seen people find amazing recovery. There are some really amazing fellowships out there that don’t rely on food plans, or rigid rules. You have to find what works for you. As they say, take what you need and leave the rest.

If you want to find some recovery in OA here are my suggestions- this is what I’ve seen that really helps people recover in OA.  

1. Don’t define your abstinence as abstinence from a food. Define it as abstinence from a process. For example: Abstinent from obsessing about food and calories. Abstinent from dieting. Abstinent from bingeing. But never abstinent from flour or sugar or anything like that. That puts you right back into diet mode. 

2. Find a sponsor who will work on you with your steps – but not with a food plan- don’t call your food into anyone. If you need a food plan for recovery- please see a registered dietician who specializes in treating eating disorders. Find one here or here.

3. Find like minded people who report a recovery of self love, kindness and  a mind body and spirit connection. Try to stay away from the weight loss and dieting parts of OA. 

4. Go to several different meetings until you find one that really resonates with you. 

5. Consider eating disorders anonymous as well. Their principals are more aligned with eating disorders as a process and dieting as part of that process.

6. Understand that everyone is doing the best that they can– have compassion for everyone around you and honor their process. Don’t judge people’s choices in OA nor their relapses, it’s always important to have oodles and oodles of compassion for yourself and for those around you. Honoring your own process might mean that your needs change at different times.  

The situation is not black and white. There are many people who have found complete peace with food and their body image in OA- however there are as many who have not. If it feels right and good and your are happy- stay. But if it feels bad – listen to your instincts. You have everything you need inside of you to know what you need. 

Articles about OA worth reading.

Why OA Doesn’t Work

Why I left Overeaters Anonymous

Inside Overeaters Anonymous

Power, Control, & Overeaters Anonymous

How Overeaters Anonymous Saved Me

Using OA after Bariatric Surgery

 

 

*Lanugo is soft light blond peach fuzz that grows on women who have anorexia

*After years of treatment, both in patient and therapy- her bulimia is in full remission, she is on the other side of recovery and she’s a successful surgeon.

What “I Feel Fat!” Really Means.

I feel fat

Do you ever wake up “feeling fat?” You just feel gross. Your body feels like it has too many layers, you’re uncomfortable in your skin, you feel bloated, your clothes don’t fit, you just want to go back under the covers and go to sleep for  a year… and then you hear the words, “Fat is Not a Feeling…” in your head and you think, “yes, it is because I feel fat right now, whoever says that fat is not a feeling is dead wrong.”

Even though it can really feel like it,  FAT is not a feeling.  Feelings are emotions like happy, sad, angry and scared… but fat is a noun- a macronutrient and sometimes an adjective. The problem is that we as a culture assign lots of meaning to the word fat. Fat is not just adipose tissue to us – it means something else. It means not good enough, not disciplined enough, not worthy enough….  So when you say, “I feel fat,” you are meaning something different. You are probably meaning, “I feel afraid that people will look at me today and judge me, I feel ashamed, I feel bad about myself, I feel not good enough…” 

When you say “I feel fat,” you only give yourself one choice, which is to battle and fight with your adipose tissue. To go on a diet  to make that difficult feeling of feeling not good enough go away – which then drops you right into the diet mind frame. And what happens when you go into the dieting mode? You know, you diet, you binge, you hate yourself, you “feel fat,” you diet, you binge, etc…

So what to do when you “feel fat?” Remind yourself that fat is not a feeling and ask yourself, “what is underneath that? what am I really feeling? Am I feeling afraid of judgment, am I afraid that others will see me and judge me? Do I feel ashamed of myself because I believe that I’m not good enough? That I’ve failed?”  Then, I want you to forgive yourself for not accepting that you are in the perfect place in this moment.  Everything that you are and that has led you up to this moment is perfect. Give yourself permission to be who you are today. And then you can think about what you are really feeling and help take care of yourself with compassion.

How do you take care of yourself with compassion?

1. Pull the word fat out of the equation. Instead of “I feel fat,” ask yourself what you are really feeling. Am I feeling afraid of others judgment? Am I feeling ashamed of myself? Am I feeling angry at myself? Am I feeling afraid that I will be rejected or snubbed or not worthy of love or respect? Am I afraid that I’m not good enough? Am I feeling my own judgment coming up and spilling all over myself? 

2. Think about that part of yourself that is feeling ashamed or sad or bad and imagine that it’s your best friend or a child.  How would you talk to a little girl or your best friend who was feeling ashamed? Would you tell her that she was fat? Or would you tell her that she was perfect and wonderful and that you loved her? Would you give her a hug and tell her all the amazing things about her? That’s how you should talk to yourself. You are worth it. 

3. Implement some good self care stat. Take a bath, a shower, book a manicure, a pedicure or a haircut or facial. Get dressed in clean clothes that make you feel good- and even if you can’t feel good, at least put on clothes that make you feel comfortable. 

4. Control things that you can in a healthy way-  make your bed, take 15 minutes to tidy up around your house, clean out your car, your wallet or your purse— just help your surroundings feel more organized. There’s this way that when you are feeling fragmented and your brain is getting down on you that organizing your surroundings can help you feel a little more grounded and peaceful.  

 

5. Do the next right thing rather than thinking big about everything that you have to do, just think of the very next thing to do that will help you feel peaceful. No diets, no beating yourself up, no regrets, just going forward in peace and recovery. 

How Do I Tell My Husband about My Eating Disorder?

How to tell my husband about my eating disorder

This one comes from a reader in Australia…

Question:

I’m in a bind. How do I tell my husband about my eating disorder?

I want to tell my husband about my eating disorder but I’m so stressed out because I really don’t know how to tell my husband about my eating disorder.   I know things have to change. I don’t know how to have this conversation, how to start it or where to get help. I’ve had this since I was 17 and i’m 29 now I really don’t want to go on like this.

Answer: I’m so sorry that you’re dealing with this, but I want to commend you on putting it out there and dedicating yourself to recovery. It’s extremely difficult to tell your husband about your eating disorder for so many reasons.

  1. You might feel embarrassed and ashamed and not want him to see you in a new light
  2. You might feel that if you tell him about your eating disorder that he might try to stop you
  3. Your eating disorder is so private and such a precious thing (even though we hate having them) disclosure would be exposing and difficult. 
  4. You might be afraid of his reaction since you don’t know how he’s going to react. 

Here are some ideas on how to tell your husband about your eating disorder. 

  1. Consider the worst case scenario. How will he react? What is the worst thing he will do? Will he leave you? Will he divorce you? In most situations, probably not, but really sit and think about what the worst thing can be. 
  2. After thinking about this, consider bringing your husband with you into your therapist (if you have one) or if not, check out ED referral and see if you can find an eating disorder therapist to bring your partner to. It might be easier if you have a professional there.  If you are not interesting in discussing it with a therapist, no problem at all. You can do this alone. 
  3. Set aside a day and time to tell him. Make sure that it’s not over a meal and make sure that it’s not at night. Your husband will likely have many questions and will spend a long time asking you. 
  4. Make sure that he knows that it’s not his fault and make sure that he knows that you are looking for help.
  5. Make sure that he knows that you don’t expect him to be the one to cure you. 
  6. Sit down with him or take a walk with him and gently explain that you’ve been dealing with this for a long time and you’re ready to reach out for support. You can say something like, “When I was 17 years old I started to make myself vomit after I ate. This habit sort of spun out of control.  I have spent the past 12 years dealing with this horrible secret and trying to stop on my own. I haven’t told you because I’m so embarrassed and so ashamed, but I don’t want to have secrets from you, and I don’t want to live like this anymore. I want treatment and I want to stop. And all I need from you is love and support. I know that I can beat this now that it’s out in the open and I’m asking for help.”
  7. Tell him that your eating issues have nothing to do with him. 
  8. Tell him that you don’t need him to “fix” you.
  9. Tell him not to tell you what to eat or what not to eat, that’s your responsibility, and it’s not good for your relationship. 
  10. Tell him what he can do to support you. Maybe that’s talking about feelings more often or helping you find a therapist or treatment program or driving you to treatment.
  11. Ask him not to talk about diets, calories, burning calories, losing weight, or what your body looks like.
  12. If there are some foods that you don’t want him to have in the house,  ask him to support you in that way
  13. Request that if he catches you in a binge, it’s not his responsibility to make you stop doing it, nor should he take food away from you, nor should he shame you. Instead, maybe he can say something like, “hey, is everything okay? do you want to talk? I’m here for you.”
  14. Ask him not to be your food police.
  15. Give him space to talk about his feelings and what it’s like for him to learn this about you.
  16. Give him the opportunity to ask you questions. If you feel uncomfortable with certain questions, let him know that you’re not ready to answer them yet or that you don’t know the answer right now,  but as you work through recovery, you will let him know what emerges for you.
  17. Ask him to READ THIS and to READ THIS