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.
It’s been many weeks since I’ve written a blog post or sent out a newsletter. Oh, it’s not that I have nothing to talk to or that I’m not thinking about you guys or my clients or that I’m not still out there crusading against eating disorders and working to help people find self acceptance and self love, that’s all still going on. It’s not that I don’t have new to anything to tell you. It’s just that I’ve been tripped up. Stuck.
Something happened and I felt like I had to talk about it before I continued my regularly scheduled blogging. But it’s been hard to discuss and I haven’t known how to present it. You see, a friend of mine committed suicide five weeks ago. He wasn’t a super close friend. He was my husband’s friend. His wife and I were pregnant both times at the same time and our kids are the same age. We lived down the street from each other in San Francisco before we all had to up and move out of the city because baby #2 came along and our tiny one bedroom apartments would no longer hold our broods.
My friend’s suicide hit everyone who even remotely knew him extremely hard. Because it was so damn unexpected. Not that suicide is ever expected. But there are signs. Someone is depressed for a long time, their life looks hopeless, even from the outside, terrible and unthinkable things happened to them, they are heavy users of drugs and/or alcohol… suicide isn’t always a huge surprise. We know that someone had been suffering. And we just hope that they are finally free from suffering, that they’ve found peace. But this guy, I’m going to call him Jonathan- he seemed to have it all. A calm peaceful demeanor, a smile on his face, he was easy to be around, lovely really. He had a beautiful wife, and two beautiful children and a big beautiful house that he owned. He was at the top of his game at work. Just an all around enviable life. From the outside. But inside, something else was going on. Something that he didn’t talk about and something that was undetectable, even by his wife and friends. I think that’s the level of depression where you feel trapped. Hopeless. Like you are powerless to change anything around you. And no matter what, you see the world through crap colored glasses. You can be successful, wealthy, devastatingly handsome, but you are deeply wounded and everything around you feels painful. There is no why, no reason, your life and being in it feels like a jail sentence. Feels like there is no way out. Your mind cages you into a horrific bleak world of despair. A dark, dark place.
Jonathan is not the first person I’ve ever seen do this. The last one was Michael. A friend of the family. He took his own life 15 years ago. He was kind, loving, caring, so much fun to be around, so handsome, so funny. But what I remember most about Michael is that he was so comfortable to be around. He was the kind of person who just allowed you to let your guard down and relax and not worry about what you looked like or if you said something stupid. I was 19 when I first met him, and so I was very hyper sensitive to how I might be perceived, but with Michael, he just made me and everyone he met feel comfortable. Even my brother who was six at the time. He was just pleasure to be around. You could let down all your inhibitions and be you. A rare personality to have. Michael was also successful. Both financially and careerwise. He’d made brilliant career moves and could have retired at the age of 30 had he wanted to. But he ended his own life, which was devastating for everyone who knew him, anyone who had even had the honor of spending an afternoon with him. He must have been in pain. In lots of pain.
So I chose to write about this particular suicide first because it’s at the top of my mind. I’m having trouble thinking about much else a lot of the time. Add despite the fact that I’m still going to work and talking to my clients every day and thinking about them and food and eating and bingeing and under eating and everything else that I think about all the time, I need to get this all off my chest before I write anything else. I feel that as a mental health provider that it is my responsibility to acknowledge and discuss these things.
The very first thing I need to remind you of here is that you never know what is going on under the surface. Jonathan and his wife had what I would call an enviable life. He was an architect at the top of his game, he was handsome, he had two healthy children, a big gorgeous house and a smart and “super hot” wife. I’m imagining that there were lots of people who could have looked at them and felt jealous or wished that they had their lives. But we can’t compare our backends to anybody else’s front end. That is, we can’t compare what we are feeling about ourselves to what other people present to the world. Everyone has a significant battle to fight. You are not alone.
And then of course there’s the suicide. There’s something about suicide that make people so angry and ashamed. There’s this way that people think that suicide is selfish, that leaving your family and your friends is selfish. And though it can be perceived as such, remember that we all have the inherent drive to live, no matter what the circumstances around us are. So if someone is suddenly feeling the opposite, the urge to die, especially when their circumstances seem fine, well then we have to understand that their brain is sick. They actually believe that the world would be better off without them. That their children would be better off without them. Their beliefs are completely distorted, some kind of zombie brain (depression) is taking over their brain, like their reality is being seen through a funhouse mirror, but they believe that they are stuck in that funhouse forever. Like a Twilight Zone episode. When someone is feeling suicidal, they see the world through depressed colored glasses. Successes don’t feel exciting, they feel tired, they feel hopeless, they feel trapped, they feel like nothing around them is good. They feel powerless to change their circumstances. The thing is, in many cases that it’s not about the circumstances outside of them, it’s about the way they are looking at the world. I’ve seen people lose their children, their spouses, all their money, their homes and not commit suicide. Life can be extraordinarily difficult for everyone, yet suicide tends to only be an option for some people. Because we are born with the will and the drive to survive.
So if you come to a place where you don’t want to live anymore, when you are seriously choosing to take your own life, please forgive yourself for having those thoughts and remember that your brain is playing tricks on you. What you are seeing is not real, it’s just your perception of what’s real. And you can get help for that. You can get out of this without committing suicide. You aren’t trapped by your circumstances, you are trapped by your own mind. But you’re not really trapped. There is a path and a way out, one that’s different than suicide and you just need to ask for help, for someone to help lead you on this path.
If you are considering suicide, please get help. Please talk to a doctor, psychiatrist, therapist, peer counselor, friend or call the suicide hotline. You will get the help you need. Suicide is not the way out.
Now, as it goes, soon I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled topics. I just…. really had to get that out.
P.S. If you would like to donate to the family who lost their father please email me privately and I will send you the link.
When I was home from college one weekend, I walked into the kitchen and lifted the cover off the pan to see what my Mom was cooking us for dinner. Squash, onions, brown rice, tofu… the usual. I picked up the wooden spoon and began to mix the stir-fry. “Stop,” my mother told me as she gently placed her hand over my wrist, “you don’t want to make the vegetables dizzy.”
My Mom had lots of new-agey philosophies and was always reading a book or participating in certain spiritual food fads, some which were downright obsessive or unhealthy like the *master cleanser (lemonade diet that we’ve all come to hate), or *Fletcherism (which means chewing your food 100 times before you swallow it- even your water), or a *liver detox (where you swallow nothing but apple juice and laxatives for a few days) and some that more mainstream and had deeper philosophies like Veganism and eating a seasonal Macrobiotic Diet. Many of them were just oblique ways of masking disordered eating into a spiritual path- but there were a few things within the many different things that she tried over the years that were valid and made sense.
That moment with Mom pops into my head a lot, where she lovingly put her hand on my wrist and warned me against making the vegetables dizzy. I remember smiling at her in an amused but adoring way. She wanted to keep the energy of the food balanced and stable so that when she fed it to me, the food would help me to remain balanced and stable. Her philosophy at this point in her life had a lot to do with the energy that you put into food and how that energy reflected back on you. She was ill and wanted to regain health and she felt that this was a path toward that.
She had integrated this Eastern Philosophy of being aware of the Qi (life force) in everything- including her food. She believed that what you put into the world around you, that you would get out of it. So she chose love and kindness toward her food and hoped and believed that it would return to her and to me.
I’ve often felt in the years since I’ve lost my Mom that this might have been a healthy path that she came to too late. I don’t necessarily think that it would have saved her life, but I wonder if it would have saved her lots of fruitless years on senseless diets and food and weight loss fads.
I want to put out an experiment to you. What if you took a day and showed loving kindness to everything you ate? If you can’t do a whole day, what about one meal? You don’t have to eat just brown rice and kale or green smoothies (making smoothies makes the vegetables dizzy anyway… But what if you were to take even a piece of pizza or a cookie and look at it before you ate it and said something like, “You are loved! Thank you for providing me with your nutrients, your yummy taste and the enjoyment I will get from eating you…” what do you think that would do? Do you think it would help you slow down? Do you think that it would alleviate some of the guilt that you might sometimes feel around eating certain foods? Do you think that it would help you to be more mindful about the food that you were eating and the intention that you had around food? Try it, let me know how it goes.
*Links are provided for reference, but please don’t try these methods
Leora, I am having a hard time with a binge that comes from “just one candy, cookie, etc.” I will be craving something sweet and then say I’ll have one piece of chocolate and then keep going back for more. I don’t know how to avoid that cycle and do something else instead of binging. Sometimes after the one sweet thing I want something salty, too, and then I’ll end up binging by going back and forth between the two foods. Can you help me?- Jodi
Hi Jodi, I know this problem well! This is what I call chasing the taste. You end a meal only to need the opposite taste in your mouth. Salty becomes sweet, sweet becomes crunchy and salty, crunchy and salty becomes fatty and warm… there is something that you want but… you can’t quite find it, and you spend the better part of an hour chasing after a sensation in your mouth to satisfy that desire. Before you know it, you’ve ended up bingeing. I have some tips for this. Try them and let me know how it goes.
Before you begin eating the desired food that can potentially start a binge, create an intention around it. Tell yourself, “I’m going to eat this piece of chocolate and I’m going to enjoy it and it’s okay for me to do that,” and then put it on a plate. I would also choose to eat more than one piece, because one small piece of chocolate is not necessarily satisfying. Put a couple of pieces on your plate and put the bag away, close it tight and put it up on a high shelf, one that you have to climb to get to or in the freezer under something else.
Remind yourself that there have been times when eating one piece of chocolate has led you to chasing the taste and looking for something else, but that you are choosing a different behavior now.
Sit down with your chocolate slowly. Taste it in your mouth. Feel the sensation of the chocolate melting on your tongue. Notice what it feels like and notice what you feel like when you are eating it. When you are finished, note any sensations that you are having to run back to the kitchen and get more or something else. Ask yourself if you are chasing the taste. If you are, either drink a glass of water, or walk into the bathroom and brush your teeth, or rinse with some mouth wash… anything to change the taste in your mouth and help you to interrupt the compulsion of chasing the taste and using food to elicit different taste sensations or sensory experiences for yourself. After you’ve changed the sensations in your mouth and tongue, sit for a moment and do some breathing- breathe into your nose to the count of ten, hold it and exhale to the count of ten. Do this 6 times to give yourself 2 minutes of breathing. This will calm your amygdala, bring more oxygen to your brain, help you to regain your senses rather than letting the food cravings hijack your brain and suck you into a binge. You now have more authority and a choice about what you want to do. The fact that you’ve put the food in a hard to reach place will also help to interrupt the compulsion to keep eating.
I hope that helps you J!
Take good care of you and I’ll talk to you soon.
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.
Last week, one of my clients said to me, “Leora, can you just teach me how to gain self-esteem? If I just had some self esteem my life would be so different…” I knew what she meant. She tries to use her eating disorder to give her self confidence. She believes that if she were thin enough that she would be worthwhile and important, but if she is not thin enough, she is a worthless human being with no value. But she is never thin enough. And so her life has been spent waiting to feel valuable and trying to be good enough. Her focus is always on her weight and never on anything else. Her critic is always telling her that she will be better, more people will like her and she will be happier when she is thinner. She is already very, very thin.
What she thought was that she could “get self esteem,” like gain something that she’s never had before, something new. The truth is, having self esteem isn’t about harnessing some mystical force or acquiring something new- it’s about letting go of something old– old messages that tell you that you’re not okay, that you have to be better than you are, that there is something wrong with you. Self esteem is about being kind to yourself, accepting and loving yourself even if you’re not perfect. Self acceptance can often become confused with settling for something that you don’t like. But that’s not what self esteem is about. It’s about accepting who you are in the moment and accepting that it’s okay to be who you are as you go toward greatness (even more greatness!) and allowing yourself to evolve, but caring for yourself and being kind to yourself and even loving yourself in that process. It’s about holding yourself with integrity to the best of your ability, always being kind, thoughtful, compassionate and loving to the people around you and to yourself. It’s about knowing what your values are and doing your best to uphold those values. So, when you hear the voices telling you that you’re not okay and that you won’t be okay until you… CLIMB MT. EVEREST, RUN A MARATHON, LOSE WEIGHT, FIT INTO A SIZE XX JEANS, READ WAR & PEACE, WRITE YOUR FIRST NOVEL, BECOME A BEST SELLING AUTHOR, MAKE 6 FIGURES, GET MARRIED, HAVE A BABY, QUIT DRINKING, QUIT SMOKING, QUIT EATING CARBS, EAT NOTHING BUT KALE SMOOTHIES AND SUNFLOWER SEEDS, BECOME A VEGAN, HAVE CLEAR SKIN, GET YOUR MBA… Or whatever those voices are telling you, remember that you don’t have to engage with those thoughts. It’s not true and it’s not real. It’s okay to be okay with who you are in the moment instead of after you’ve done these things. People confuse acceptance with resignation and defeat. Acceptance doesn’t mean resigning yourself to being stuck in your circumstances. It means accepting that you are in the place that you’re in now and you don’t have to wait to be who your are until after you’ve changed your circumstances. It means that you can be yourself now and thrive and be in the world while at the same time improving your circumstances. We all have goals to achieve, that’s part of what makes us psychologically healthy and what helps us move forward in life. But when you get into the cycle of “I won’t be okay until…” you set yourself to be unhappy and you have a very hard time finding happiness… because it’s never enough.
So, how do you do this? I’ve created 10 tangible steps to achieving self-esteem. You don’t have to do all of them right now. But just try one this week and see how it goes. When you start to feel a difference, try another one. I know that doing these exercises will be life-changing for you.
1. Make a List of What your Values Are
Think about what is fundamentally important to you and write it down. This could be being a kind and compassionate person, being the kind of person people turn to when they are having troubles, not judging or criticizing other people, living with integrity, having positive intentions. Knowing that you are never going to be 100% at all these things, when you are feeling badly about yourself, check in and ask yourself if you are doing your best to live in accordance with your values. If you are, then you can fall back on that foundation of strong values and strength. If you are not, give yourself a reminder of what your values are and try to live according to them. So, if someone does or says something to you that hurts your feelings or if you yourself say or do something to yourself that hurts your feelings, check in with yourself and ask, “am I living according to my values? Am I behaving and acting in a way that I can feel good about? Am I acting like the kind of person that I would want to have as a friend?” And remember, we always forget to do these things and fail at them sometimes, and that’s normal, but having your values written down in a list form can be a great reference for you to come back to. It will help you remember what is truly important to you and when you remember and when you live according to those values, you find self-efficacy.
2. Don’t Compare Yourself To Other People
Your values and your dharma (path) are different than anyone else’s, so you just can’t compare. You can’t compare your money situation to anyone else’s, your relationships, your jean size… we were all born with our own individual paths. When you begin to look at other people’s paths and think that you should be like them or different from who you are, you fail to move along your own, or you reject your path. This inherently makes you feel bad. This keeps you from moving forward. You also shouldn’t be comparing your backend to anyone else’s front end. Meaning, you can’t compare the knowledge that you have about your own situation to what someone else is outwardly showing you about their own. You never know what is going on with someone else. As M. Scott Peck says in The Road Less Traveled, life is hard for everyone, not just you. And once you remember that life is hard across the board, you can transcend the existential angst and pain that comes with the difficulties of life. You can understand that when things happen (you get a parking ticket, break your arm, get into a car accident, lose a parent) that it’s painful and it’s difficult- but you are not alone, that bad and difficult things happen to everyone who chooses a life of being human.
3. Do Things for other People Often
Performing acts of kindness actually makes you happier and boosts your self esteem, making you feel more valuable and more at peace. A study published in the Journal of Social Psychology showed that participants who performed directed acts of kindness every day for 10 days in a row showed an increased level of life satisfaction. Self-esteem comes from life satisfaction and feeling your value in the world. Doing things for other people can be as small as smiling at someone when you are walking down the street or as big as volunteering your time to help someone out. It can also be remembering to give loved ones around you big hugs, kisses and compliments and reminding them why you love them so much and telling them how proud you are of them.
4. Live Mindfully – Mindful living is about being aware of your body, being aware of your choices, your environment, being mindful or your choices, your environment, your bodily sensations, your thoughts, your actions and your fears. Often, people who are suffering with eating disorders have a really rough time living mindfully. They reject their true needs to focus on the goal of weight loss or looking better and either binge or starve themselves, they don’t honor their appetites, they hate their bodies because they believe that there is something wrong with them. They completely reject themselves. When you are living mindfully, you are working to honor the needs of your body.
If you are signed up for the newsletter, you should have received your free mindful eating meditation. If not, sign up here to get it. You might also like the loving your body and letting go of negative body image meditation.
Do check out this article on mindful living.
5. Learn Self Acceptance: Part of self acceptance is knowing what your strengths are and honing in on those and not punishing yourself for things that you are still working on. Make a list of things that you are good at and that you like about yourself. Be with that list and do more of those things. Make another list of things that you are not so happy with and that you want to change. Tell yourself that it is okay that you are where you are. And that it doesn’t make you bad and you can still like yourself and care for yourself as you are working to change those things. Get love and support and help for changing the things that you want to change. Change and healing is difficult all alone and in a void. But when you find other people who are working on the same change together, you have a group of encouraging, loving folks to keep you accountable and to be kind to you when you fall down. You can also do the same for others which will help you (see #3!)
6. Take Responsibility for Yourself: This is about not blaming other people for choices you made. Understanding that you have power and that you are not stuck and that just because you made a bad choice, you are not stuck in it because you have the power to constantly be rethinking and recreating your life. If you make a mistake, don’t shift the blame. Don’t say that you did this thing or said this thing because someone made you. For example, “I’m sorry I yelled at you, but if you weren’t acting so irrational, I wouldn’t have.” You have just negated your apology and given away your power. Always take ownership for your actions. Knowing that you have it in you to make your own decisions based on your own values (see #1) is part of what gives you self efficacy and self-esteem. Saying that someone else made you yell or act mean or say something wrong basically says that you have no power to make your own decisions about how you behave. Remember that you almost always have the power to undo a decision that you made.
7. Be an Advocate for Yourself: When you have self-advocacy, you always treat other people with respect and you do not allow other people to talk down to you or to treat you poorly. If you have a boss, for instance who is verbally abusing you or yelling at you, it’s okay to look at them and say, “it’s not okay to talk to me that way.” You also stand up for others who might not have the ability to voice their own needs. If you are unable to stand up for your own needs and have your own voice, you find someone who can be an advocate for you.
8. Live with Purpose:
Consider your life’s purpose. When you begin to live with purpose, you take care of yourself, but your main purpose in life isn’t about getting thin or getting pretty or making money or trying to impress or look good to other people. It’s about having goals that long term feel important and meaningful to you and using your life to work on these goals that help the world at large.
9. Have Lots of Integrity:
What is it to live with integrity? In my opinion, it’s to be as honest as you can without being hurtful. Being honest doesn’t mean telling someone that they look fat in their new dress or that they’re acting like a jerk. That’s not honest, that’s your subjective opinion. Being honest is more like telling someone that your feelings were hurt when they didn’t answer your phone calls or respond to your messages. Being honest is not stealing, not lying, not purposely saying things to hurt people, not spreading hurtful rumors, and not using other people to achieve your own means. It’s about being kind, being helpful, but also not sacrificing yourself or your own needs for the sake of others. Personal integrity is about knowing what your values are trying to live up to them. (See #1). When you identify your values and do your best to live up to them, you will always know that you are okay and you won’t have to worry about what other people think about you.
10. Challenge Your Inner Critic-
What would it be like to gently let go of the old thought patterns that you are so intensely holding onto? As I said earlier, self-esteem isn’t about gaining or building and changing, it’s about letting go. Imagine the beliefs that you have that plague you and make you feel bad, (ie: “I have to be thinner, I have to be smarter, I have to be cleaner, I have to be richer, I have to be prettier…) and just choosing to disengage with them. Choosing instead to engage with the above ideas that are helpful and help you to feel better about yourself than the thoughts that intrude into your mind and keep you from living your life with zest and enjoyment. That doesn’t mean you won’t have these thoughts pop up. They are old and part of old patterns. However, what about trying to hear them like background noise (like a fire engine siren outside) but not follow them. Let them fly through your mind, notice them and rather than grasping onto them, think about doing things that align with what makes you feel good about yourself.
For more help on improving self esteem, check out some of Nathaniel Branden’s sentence completion exercises.
What about you? What are some things that you have done that helped you feel into your self esteem?
I’ve had a lot of people ask me to talk about Vyvanse, which is being touted as the new miracle drug for binge eating. The New York Times ran an article about it last month and lots of folks have been calling me and asking me if I recommend it.
Before I discuss my thoughts and feelings about the drug itself, lets discuss what it is. Vyvanse is an ADHD drug and it’s an amphetamine. It’s been used for years for folks with ADHD. So, these ADHD drugs are cognitive enhancers, meaning they increase focus and decrease impulsive behaviors. If you’ve ever seen a kid before and after his (or her) ADHD meds, you know how different they show up with an amphetamine in their system. It works the same with BED, it increases focus and decreases impulsive behaviors, so one is less driven by their desires and urges, and for many folks it will decrease bingeing and help them find some peace around food.
That being said, I do have some feelings about it. The very first is that amphetamines have been prescribed and abused for weight loss for decades. Most people with BED don’t purely have Binge Eating Disorder, they also deal with severe food restriction, exercise addiction and obsessive dieting, so being on this drug might feed their desire to restrict. Without the drive to eat, they might find themselves depriving themselves of food or not eating at all.
And although I’m saying this theoretically – the truth is, that I know of a lot of women who abused drugs like Ritalin and Adderal to keep themselves from eating- and when I was in college, I was definitely one of them.
If someone is taking this to stop binge eating, they will also need to learn how to use mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy to stop binge eating because when they stop taking the medication, their impulses will return because they are not getting the dopamine effect that they were getting from the drug.
Next, it’s not a benign drug, it’s an amphetamine which does have addictive consequences, so people with BED might be switching out one addiction for another. There are also side effects to consider like sleeping issues, anxiety, constipation, and others, but those are the main side effects that have a massive contraindication for people with BED.
So do I recommend it? I don’t know. I have heard from a few women that it’s been heaven for them- that they feel finally free of their urges to binge. As with all medicine, you have to weigh the risks with the benefits. I definitely wouldn’t say that I’m against it, but I think it would better for very short term use, to get over the hump of BED and teach you that you actually can be free those urges and impulses, but at the same time, learn through therapy how to stop those behaviors.
If you have tried Vyvanse for binge eating- please do share your experiences and what it’s been like for you in the comments. Thanks!
You know how sometimes it’s not even noon but you know that you are going to have a binge when you get home from work that night? You begin planning it, thinking about what stores you’re going to go to, what foods you’re going to get, where you are going to eat it, what you’re going to do when you eat it, what it will feel like in your mouth, what you will be doing while you’re bingeing (will you be watching television? will you be searching the web? will you be on the phone? or will you just be sitting alone with the food?) You begin to get excited and your amygdala (the part of your brain responsible for emotional reaction) lights up with excitement. Just the anticipation and desire of a binge creates activity in your brain that basically brings you to the binge. So your actual binge starts about hours, sometimes even days before the binge starts. It’s those first thoughts about it, the anticipation which just carries itself and basically makes you feel as though you don’t have a choice. The thoughts of bingeing carry you straight to your binge. But that’s not the only thing that the anticipation does. Just think about food and you flood dopamine into your nucleus accumbens (the pleasure center of the brain) which then excites you, calms you and motivates you to go for the food that you are thinking about. Just like the drug addict who starts to think about cocaine which then motivates them to score their drug of choice despite whatever dangers lurk. So, not only are you addicted to the binge, and those pleasurable feelings that come with it, but you are actually addicted to the process of bingeing, the thoughts about food, the plans that you make to get food, the thoughts about food. Each thought that you have has a biochemical reaction.
Which makes quitting binge eating as difficult (or more difficult) than quitting heroin or cocaine. When food is your drug of choice, you can’t just stop eating, you have to learn to stop abusing.
SO HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE ADDICTION OF OVEREATING?
When you first have those thoughts and the pleasure center in your brain begins to light up with anticipation (it’s not unlike the process of flirting, or hooking up with someone pre-sex or orgasm), it feels as though it’s over. You’re going to binge. However, when you check in with yourself and say, “oh yeah, there are those thoughts again, I’m planning my binge…” you can slow yourself down. You can tell yourself that just because you are planning your binge, doesn’t mean that you have to go through with it. Just because the process part of the addiction has begun does not mean that you have to go through with it. Remember, this is the SAME EXACT function that cocaine addicts go through before they score their drug, it’s the same process that sex addicts go through when they are looking for a prostitute, it’s the same process that gambling addicts go through when they are selling their wedding ring for money to put in a slot machine.
So what we want to do here is slow your brain waaaayyyy down. Even though it’s just noon and you are at work in front of your computer, your mind is at home in the refrigerator or in front of the television with a pizza.
So what can you do?
1. First, recognize “oh, I’m having THOSE thoughts again…” And say it out loud, “there is that urge to binge…”
2. Remind yourself, “I’m not in the middle of the binge yet, I’m right here at my desk.”
3. Ground yourself, look at your feet on the floor, look at your hands, put your hand over your heart and breath into your belly. Be where you are, not where your mind is taking you.
4. Remind yourself why you don’t want to be on the other side of the binge. Think to yourself, “I don’t want to be in bed tonight with my belly hurting, feeling bloated and uncomfortable, I don’t want to wake up tomorrow morning feeling bad.” Then let yourself feel those bad feelings of how you feel after a binge. Reliving them will be a deterrent for you.
5. Think about alternatives, think about what it would be like to wake up the next morning without a binge, let that process excite your mind. Imagine yourself eating a healthy dinner in a healthy way and see yourself in bed that night feeling comfortable and waking up the next morning with a spring in your step.
6. Plan something equally relaxing for that evening ie: date with friend, bubble bath, taking a long walk outside while listening to music or podcast
7. Call someone and tell them that you have a binge planned and you don’t want to go through with it.
9. Remind yourself that you have a choice. It doesn’t feel like you do, but you do, the thoughts and the desire can’t make you binge, they are just thoughts and desire. You have thoughts and desires a million times a day that you don’t act on.
10. Calm your brain down and slow down your thinking with deep breathing and meditation.
Eating disorders are notoriously rough because they hit you on lots of different levels, process addiction, food/sugar addiction, trauma relief, bad habit… there are a million different reasons that people binge, but if you can bring some mindfulness into the equation, you have an amazing chance of recovering and not having to deal with the urges and the pain of bingeing anymore.
When I was in college, I knew a beautiful woman. She was beautiful because she was kind and thoughtful and she spent her summers in Haiti helping young pregnant women and new young single Mommies. She also spent many afternoons playing with children in a nearby shelter. She was raucously hilarious, and scary smart in a Bill Gates/Steve Jobs sort of way but with social panache and kindness. She was (is) incredibly adorable and honest and everything that you’d want in a friend, a good listener, a confidante and loyal to the end.
But each morning, when I asked her how she was doing, she would say, “I don’t know yet…” and then she would go weigh herself. If the weight was above a certain number, she was doing crappy. She was depressed, she was quiet, she wouldn’t eat, she had a terrible day. If it was below a certain number, she was good. She could like herself and go on with her day.
Despite the fact that she was an incredible person, beautiful inside and out and everyone knew it, she still used the scale as a meter to tell her how she should feel about herself. Then she used that number to abuse herself.
If your scale tells you the way that you are supposed to feel about yourself, you should just throw it out. THE NUMBER ON THE SCALE IS NOT AN INDICATION OF YOUR WORTH. Some people look at the number on a scale and it tells them one thing, it tells them how much they weigh. That’s it.
However, it doesn’t work that way with lots of folks.
Do you know what I’m talking about? Does this describe you? If the scale is 1, 2, or 5 more pounds than you wanted it to be, do you have a terrible day? Do you hate yourself? Do you wind up crying, bingeing, purging or just feeling plain crummy?
If so, then it’s just not worth it.
Don’t let the number on the scale tell you how to feel about yourself. Some people can look at the scale and it means nothing other than what it means, that they weigh x number of pounds. If you are not one of those people, then throw out your scale. If your scale tells you whether or not you are going to have a good day, then It has too much power over you and you need to get rid of it. You need to take care of your body to the best of your ability by nurturing it with healthy food and healthy exercise and healthy thoughts and healthy habits.
How do you think my friend’s life and her days would have been different if she had not weighed herself every day? She probably would have been able to like herself more without an arbitrary piece of machinery to dictate her feelings for her. She probably would have had more good days. She probably wouldn’t have spent so much time beating herself up because she felt that she didn’t measure up.
I’m happy to say that this friend has since recovered from her body image and eating issues, and she’s still a beautiful person inside and out. I asked her if she weighed herself anymore and she told me that the freedom that she feels without a scale in her life is like being out of an abusive relationship. She can really live again and feel like it’s okay for her to make her own decisions about how she is feeling.
What do you think? Can you go a week or a month without your scale?
I just can’t seem to want to take care of myself all the time. It’s just easier to not think about whether or not I’m hungry, so if I’m stressed, or particularly tired, or angry at the world, that’s what I do. Things are fine when I care about myself, when I’m focused on listening to my body. But I can’t seem to stay in that frame of mind. I feel so good maybe Monday through Thursday, and things fall apart over the weekend and I binge eat and self-loathe. This seems to be a pattern for me; without the structure of school I often fall apart and fall deep into hating myself and deal with this by eating a lot. I hate going through these self-destructive phases every so often, but I can’t seem to break the cycle. How can I stay positive more consistently?
I’m so glad that you reached out for support. You ask “how can I stay positive more consistently?” and I will address that, but I’d like to break your question down a little bit because there are a few different things at play here:
- Despite the fact that you want to participate in self care rituals, you feel like often you just can’t when you are too tired to.
- Weekends are a huge trigger for you because of the vast amounts of unstructured time.
I’ll address the first part, which is you being angry at yourself because you are not consistent with the way you care for yourself. I think that it’s really easy to get caught up in the “shoulds” of recovery, “I should always be paying attention to my cues for hunger and satiety, I should never binge, I should always be on it…” etc. But the problem is, that recovery is not perfect, and sometimes you just don’t feel strong enough to do the things that you need to do to recover. And that is okay. In those moments, the most important thing that you can do for yourself is be kind, not beat yourself up and forgive yourself, because that is what recovery is about- learning compassion and kindness for self. So when you are tired, stressed and angry at the world, you might ask yourself, “what can I do right now? what do I have the strength for?” perhaps you have the strength to sit back and relax and watch a TV show that will change your focus, perhaps you can call an inspirational friend, and perhaps you don’t have the strength for anything. If you can’t do anything, that’s okay. In that moment you can just acknowledge it and forgive yourself. Self love and self directed kindness is a way to be more positive more often. When you are kind to yourself you feel better. And when you feel better you become stronger and your recovery becomes stronger.
Weekends are an extremely difficult time for many people in recovery because of how open it is. I am of the mind that planning ahead is the easiest way to bypass a binge. Since you know that weekends are your trigger, it might be a good idea for you to write out a loose plan on Thursday evenings of what your weekend is going to look like, what activities you have planned and also to plan your meals. You can also try to make sure that you have lots of activities with good friends to keep you busy. Connection is the opposite of isolation and eating disorders thrive in isolation. If you need to study over the weekend, plan study dates and always get out of your space and go to a library to study. Make sure that you schedule in lunch breaks with actual time parameters around them. Such as: 10am-11- work on x project 11:00-12:30- work on x 12:30-1:30 lunch. 1:30-4pm – work on x project. Planning in this way will help you to feel more structured and less antsy/bingey.
I hope that this was helpful and Thank you for your question.
You might be at a superbowl party right now feeling totally anxious about the giant display of 7 layer dip, tons of chips and ridiculous amount of beer, wings, pizza and whatever else there is there. You might not even care about football but be more interested in the food display. Okay. Stop and take a deep breath and step away from the food table. Let’s strategize a little bit here.
How Not to Binge on Super Bowl Sunday
1. Start by assessing the situation.
2. Look around at the snacks and decide what is it that you really want to eat.
3. Look around at the snacks and decide what you don’t want to eat.
4. Think about what sized portion you will eat, eyeball it by thinking about the size of the palm of your hand (fingers not included) and use that as a serving size.
5. Don’t eat more food than will comfortably fit on one plate. One plateful of superbowl goodies is enough to get a sampling and not deprive yourself or restrict, but not too much that you will wind up bingeing.
6. Don’t sit right in front of the food. Choose a place to sit that is away from the food, where you would have to get up to get something. This will cause you to interrupt the compulsion to eat food just because it’s there.
7. When you eat, try to eat S.L.O.W.L.Y.
8. If there is fruit or crudite there, get that into your system first. This way you are getting your vitamins and fiber in before you eat the typical superbowl less than healthy fare. Starting out healthy just changes your mind-set to, “I want to keep this healthy and safe.”
9. Enjoy the game! And if you’re not interested, find someone else who is not interested to chat with or find someone who is interested to explain it to you.
10. Bookend your game with supportive phone calls. Call someone and tell them that you are not going to binge at the game, give them your strategy and then call them back later and tell them how it went, it will give you some accountability. Don’t have anyone to call? Call me. 415-820-1478 Call me and leave me a voicemail telling me what your no binge game plan is. Then, after the game is over, call me back and tell me how you did. Seriously!
11. After the party, when you go home, eat a HEALTHY and light dinner, like a salad with some protein or a rich full of veggie stir-fry, drink some tea and go to sleep feeling good.