binge eating

How to Use Mindful Self Compassion to Help Binge Eating Disorder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Best Friend is Getting Gastric Bypass Surgery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It doesn’t?” she asked.

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

“REALLY?” she asked me,

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eating Disorders Protect You from Thinking Too Much

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

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

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

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

Other Options: 

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

 

How Did I Gain 7 Pounds Overnight?

I Gained Seven Pounds. Oh Sh*t

 

At the gym the other morning, I saw a  young woman hop on the scale, move the weights to a place that apparently she did not like and immediately burst out crying. I was heading toward her to see if she was okay but another woman ran over to her and said, “what’s the matter? are you okay?”  “NO!!!!” She screamed! “I gained seven pounds! SEVEN pounds! Overnight! How did that happen? I’ve been so careful, I’ve been trying to lose weight! How did this happen? How did this happen to me?!!!”  

As you know, this is my territory, this is the population I work with all day, women who are having a really hard time with scales, food, weight, disordered eating, bingeing, purging, restricting, poor self-image and body image.

That scale is evil!

When I walk into the dressing room at the gym and I see it there, I jump away like it’s a snake. I can’t go near that thing. I see other women hopping on and off of it nonchalantly and to me it almost looks like they’re heading to a cigarette machine. For someone with disordered eating, weighing yourself is like an alcoholic walking into a bar. It’s an unhealthy obsession and it will make you feel both crazy and out of control. 

The young woman continued crying, deep heaving wails and sobs. She told the woman who was trying to comfort her that she texted her sister and told her about the seven pounds. That she hated her life. That she didn’t understand why this happened to her…  She then got up and started gathering her things to leave. The woman comforting her said, “wait, aren’t we going to do our workout?” and she said and  “No! Why would I bother? I gained seven pounds!”   and with that, she left.  

She was so upset. She was devastated actually. She had gone to the gym to get her workout in and stepping on that scale ruined a perfectly fine day. She decided not to work out, she went right to black and white thinking.

What do you think would have happened if she hadn’t stepped on the scale? What do you think would have happened if rather than being focused on a specific outcome, she’d just been focused on her day-by-day self care?  I was really sad all day thinking about her, and I wished that I’d had the opportunity to chat with her, but it just wasn’t appropriate. If you are a doctor and someone falls and hurts themselves, you say, “I’m a doctor, let me look at that knee,” but in my case, “I am an eating disorder therapist, I can help you with your cognitive distortion!” As you can imagine,  I really wanted to do that… but it wasn’t appropriate in the moment.  

Later that day, I came across an article about a woman who did an experiment of weighing herself each hour for one whole day to see what happened.   Here’s the general gist of the article. 1. Her weight fluctuated that day by – you guessed it- seven pounds!  And despite the fact that she clearly saw that fluctuation (wait, I haven’t eaten or drunk anything in the past hour, why is my weight up by 2 pounds?) she still started to get really stressed out by the scale!

This is what happens when you start measuring your worth by something that has no use in life other than to measure mass. It doesn’t tell you anything good that you did that day (“I rescued a baby from a burning building!”) It just spits out an arbitrary number. And then you give it the power to make you feel a certain way. This takes you away from having power over your own life. Don’t let a piece of machinery tell you how to feel about yourself. Don’t let it dictate your day. You are worth more than that. I can’t stress enough, the number on the scale has nothing to do with your worth, who you are is perfect, whole and complete at this moment. In another moment your weight might be up five pounds, in another moment it might be down five pounds. But in both those moments, you still are perfect, whole and complete exactly as you are. You haven’t changed. So instead of using this external thing to tell you how you are supposed to feel about yourself, what kind of day you’re supposed to have, instead, do something that makes you have a good day. Buy a meal for a hungry person, dig a sand castle with your neighbor’s kid, plant butterfly fennel in your front yard, say something nice to someone you don’t know… anything else but weigh yourself. The scale is not an accurate measure of your worth, and clearly, it’s not even an accurate measure of your body mass. 

Bingeing on Creme Eggs

It was one of my mother’s ex-boyfriends who introduced me to Cadbury Creme eggs. I was seven years old and I was quickly hooked. Never had my mother let me eat anything that was so…. “junky!” as she would say. Nevertheless, he persisted — he kept talking to my Mom about “how can a child possibly get through childhood without eating creme eggs in the Spring?  You can’t just keep giving her carob covered rice cakes and let her think she’s having a childhood! It’s not right.. it’s just not right.” Eventually, his logic won out and I was allowed a creme egg. And I thought it was the ambrosia of the gods and goddesses. Never had I eaten anything like it (cue the rice cakes). So, as it was, annual Spring Creme Egg binges became a thing.

One summer, while I was living in Boston, one of my roommates who had a job at Store24 brought home a gigantic case of mostly stale Creme Eggs (it was July already). And I even ate those. They were so stale. Creme Eggs were like crack for the binge eating disordered soul. I know that I was not alone because every year at this time, I hear news from my clients that they are struggling with the Cadbury Crack.  Because of that, I’ve decided to share an excerpt from Reclaiming Yourself about this very topic…

 

Diane, a 34-year-old woman, believed that once she started eating chocolate, she would not be able to stop until whatever she was eating was gone. Unfortunately, she had the problem of consistently bingeing on chocolate. During a session that we had during the spring, I asked her to bring in one of her binge foods. What she brought was a bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs.

“These do it to me every time!” she told me. “Someone keeps them in the office and I can’t have just one or two; I have to eat until the bowl is gone. It’s so embarrassing. I always have to run out to Walgreens to refill the office bowl.”

She brought them in a small plastic bag. There were about a cup of them in the bag.

“How many do you think is an appropriate serving for you?” I asked her.

asked her. “Maybe about five,” she said.

“Okay, take five out of the bag and put them in your hand.” She looked at me suspiciously. This was not an easy exercise. Diane was letting me in on a very intimate moment; she was with her binge food, her lover, the thing that gave her comfort and safety and I was intruding in their space. She took five mini eggs out of the bag and put them in her hand.

“Now,” I said, “take one and smell it.” She held it up to her nose.

“What are you feeling?” I asked her

“Angry at you. You’re staring at me and judging me and you’re invading my private space. I want to eat this right now. But I feel like you’re not letting me.”

Anger is not an uncommon sensation when someone begins engaging in mindful eating. Depression is said to be anger turned inward. Many of us reclaiming3believe that it’s not okay to be angry. We push anger down with food and turn it in on ourselves. It becomes depression, inner turmoil, pain, and self-loathing. When we stop eating mindlessly and using food to push the anger down, it begins to surface and that is very uncomfortable.

“It’s okay for you to be angry, Diane. Do you know what you’re angry about?”

“I’m angry that you aren’t letting me eat this.”

“Anything else?”

“I had a crappy day at work today.”

“What happened?”

“My boss yelled at me for something I didn’t do, and I just sat there and took it, accepted her rage because there is no use in defending myself. I’ll just come off looking bad.”

“So now you want to crunch down on these chocolate candies and let all the rage melt away.”

“I guess,” she told me.

“Okay, Diane, go ahead and close your eyes. I will close my eyes too so you don’t feel that I am watching you eat, and just take one bite of the egg.”

We both closed our eyes as I heard her crunch down.

“Now as you chew,” I told her, “chew slowly. Notice the feeling of the candy in your mouth. Notice the tastes on your tongue. Notice the thoughts and emotions that come up for you. Let me know after you swallow, but don’t take another bite.”

“Okay, I swallowed,” she told me.

“What did you notice?” I asked her.

“Well,” she said, “it was funny. Even though I was eating and tasting my food, I just wanted to hurry up and swallow so I could take another bite and keep eating. I was barely able to enjoy what I was eating because I just wanted to chase the taste. I just wanted more.”

“What do you think about that?” I asked her.

“It’s definitely interesting,” she said.

“Okay, go ahead and close your eyes, and finish the candy.”

We both closed our eyes and she put the rest of the candy in her mouth. She chewed slowly and swallowed.

“What came up for you?” I asked her.

reclaiming“Well,” she said, “I started thinking about my Aunt Meryl. Every Easter she would have an Easter Egg hunt for us kids. Me and all my cousins would spend the day outside playing and running around and looking for eggs. The days had just started getting longer and I knew that summer was around the corner. We would play until dusk then sit around and have a gigantic Easter feast. Of course then, it took my father forever to get me into the house to eat. Back then I loved to play… now, it’s all about the food… now I’d be waiting impatiently for the food to be served. Anyway, back then I just loved being away from my dad and my stepmother’s house. My aunt was so warm and loving. I loved to play with my cousins. Then she’d send me home with a giant Easter basket, back to the lonely dysfunction of my dad’s house. I’d sit alone in my room sad that the day was over. The candy in my basket gave me comfort.”

Diane realized at that moment how much her food and her eating were connected to her feelings. I asked her to take another egg, close her eyes, and put it in her mouth. As she did, I reminded her to really taste it in her mouth, feel the texture on her tongue, the flavors on her taste buds and the sensations of chewing on her jaw and in her teeth. After she swallowed, she opened her eyes and said, “It didn’t taste that great.”

“What do you mean?” I asked her.

“Well, it wasn’t really anything. I feel like I’d go ahead and keep eating to try and recreate the first bite, but when I really pay attention, I didn’t really need any more than the initial bite to receive the pleasure. Anything after that, I was just chasing the flavor.”

I asked her if she wanted any more. “No,” she said, “I’m good for now.”

 

To read more of Reclaiming Yourself from Binge Eatingorder it here. 

The Most Important Piece of Nutritional Advice You Need

There are a lot of “nutrition experts” out there. Everyone fancies themselves a nutrition guru. I see these folks all over the Internet, amateur nutritionologists- they give weight loss advice, they tell people what to include in their diets and what they should absolutely NEVER eat. But here’s the thing. They’re not really nutrition experts. I’m sure that many of them have read everything they possibly can on the Internet about nutrition, I’m sure that they are avid readers and self-experimenters (I won’t say researchers, researchers are in labs) many have taken classes on nutrition, or have a certification in health coaching from an online coaching school…  and I’m sure that they truly believe that they are nutrition experts.

The truth is though, that the highest, highest level researchers in the field of nutrition, molecular biology and metabolism– I’m talking people with multiple PhDs and years of research– those people know that they are not nutrition experts either. This is because the fields of nutrition and metabolism are largely mysterious and untapped as of right now.  The people with the highest degrees and research backgrounds are the ones who are most willing to admit how little they know about nutrition. 

If you are dubious, let’s do a comparison. Here is a list of the classes needed to become a PhD in nutrition and metabolism at Boston University, and here is a list of the classes needed to get a degree from Health Coach Institute. Of note, the PhD in nutrition is a six year program and the coaching certification is a six month program. In looking at the curriculum of the coaching program, only one of those modules is dedicated to actually learning about nutrition, the other five months are coaching and business skills. I don’t necessarily think that health coaching is a bad thing;  there are people who can certainly benefit from learning to eat healthy whole foods, how to shop for them, and how to look inside themselves with a support person to help them understand what foods will help them feel their most optimal. But nobody can actually tell you that. That’s because nutrition and metabolism are extremely complicated.  For instance, there are some foods that are considered anti-inflammatory that will interact horrifically with one person’s constitution and will be great for another person’s constitution. Not even someone with a PhD in nutrition can tell you what foods are best for your body and how specific molecules will interact with different molecules given any particular time in your cycle, or given how much or little exercise or sleep you’ve gotten, where in the world you live, what genetic components your Grandmother was made of… etc. There are a billion different variables that make up how you will react to a certain food at a certain time. Don’t look outside yourself for nutritional advice, look within.

Here’s what inspired me to write this post.

My client (we’ll call her) Jenny. Jenny’s boyfriend is super into bulletproof coffee (hey we’re in the Bay Area, it’s a thing here..) anyway, her boyfriend swears by drinking his coffee with yak butter and coconut oil and raw cocoa every morning. He swears that it gives him mental clarity and that he can run 15 miles without eating anything other than his coffee drenched in high quality fats. He keeps on convincing Jenny to drink bulletproof coffee with him so that she too can lose weight and feel great. So Jenny keeps drinking bulletproof coffee… and she hates it. It makes her have diarrhea every.single.morning.  But she continues to drink it because of what the “experts” on the bulletproof forums say. She feels that she is not doing the right thing by being miserable drinking it, she feels bad about herself. The experts on the forums keep tell her to push through this “break-in” phase where your body has to get used to the coffee and eventually it will habituate. You know what else does that? Laxatives. That’s why laxative dependent bulimia sufferers keep upping their dose of laxatives. Jenny’s body is telling her something pretty significant, yet she’s ignoring it and listening to the advice of “experts.” She doesn’t trust herself or her body, she trusts strangers who don’t live inside of her body. 

My other client (we’ll call her) Debbie.  Debbie was told by her health coach that if she gave up gluten, grains, sugar and dairy that she would feel amazing. So Debbie gave up all those things and she did in fact feel amazing. Wanna hear another thing about Debbie? She’s a recovering anorexic. So being restrictive in her eating complements her psychological schema of feeling amazing when being totally in control and deprived of food. Oh and the other thing about Debbie… after four years of recovery, she started bingeing and purging again.  Her health coach keeps telling her that if she stays away from those four things that her system will heal and that her brain chemistry will even out and she won’t binge and purge anymore. The truth is, when Debbie’s not restricting, her eating disorder is fine. It was her depression that led her to look for nutritional alternatives to Prozac. She then started restricting again, which was of course helpful for her depression because she used her eating disorder to manage her depression symptoms. But now she’s bingeing and purging again. It makes sense… depression is super painful and distressing and anything we can do to make it go away quickly feels better than working with it directly. So the eating disorder comes back and we are distracted from the depression because we have to work on the ED symptomatology. See how that happened? 

If you want to work with someone around nutrition, the best way to do it is to start to focus on what your body tells you that you need. Your body knows. YOUR BODY KNOWS!  

When two of my girlfriends came back from being in the Peace Corps in Mali for two years, one came back super curvy and the other came back super skinny. They told me that they were both eating the same things (lots of rice) but one lost copious amounts of weight on a low protein high-carbohydrate while the other gained weight on the same diet. Two different ways of processing nutrients.

Sit with your food after you eat it and see how your body feels. Are you energetic? Does your belly hurt? Do your joints hurt? Do you have rashes? Are you sleepy? Are you anxious? Are you happy? Looking within and feeling your feelings both emotional and physical is the only way to know what foods are helping your body and what foods are hurting you.  Your body wants you to take care of it, and when you listen carefully to it, it will give you the right messages. Let the wisdom of your body be your nutritional expert. 

How to Stop Night Eating

How to Stop Night Eating

 

How to Stop Night Eating

How to Stop Night Eating

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 train your brain on how to stop night eating:

1. The first thing I ask people when I know that they are struggling with night eating is “are you getting enough food throughout the day?” and “Are you struggling with trying to be good during the day only to “ruin” all your “good work” from the day with an evening binge? If so, your daytime strategies of morally pure eating might be contributing to your binges. When you loosen the reins during the day and allow yourself to eat what your body wants and needs, you are less likely to binge at night when the guards are tired and asleep at the gate.

                       Make sure that you are getting at least three, hearty and healthy meals each day with snacks                          when you need them.  

                      Definitely make sure to eat breakfast.  This can help to establish healthy daytime eating                                 patterns to ensure that blood sugar and serotonin levels remain steady throughout the day.

Generally, many 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. Just ensuring that you are getting appropriate and proper nutrition during the day can help you stop night eating. 

2.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.  My favorite it Coconut Cream Chocolate Pudding. This has a good mixture of fat and carbohydrates that will stave off sugar cravings and lull you into a nice sleep. To make this put coconut cream into a blender with 3-4 medjool dates and a tablespoon of sugar free cocoa. Blend it all together for 2-3 minutes. You’ll have a nourishing desert that will also prevent binges. 

3. Keep a journal next to your bed and each night, before you go to sleep, write in it.  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. Hot water is good medicine and the epsom salts will relax your muscles to ensure restful sleep. 

5. If you wake up in the middle of the night, before you get out of bed, grab for your journal and write in it. You might write your dreams, your thoughts, your anxiety… whatever it is, just get it out and then lay back down. 

6. 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.

7. 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 large BREATHE sign on or in your refrigerator so that you can remember to stop, take a breath and think about what you’re doing, think about whether you are hungry or just doing this out of habit. 

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. 

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.

12. Try this guided meditation for insomnia. 

Learning to stop 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.

Q & A Friday- How Do I Stop My Urge To Binge Eat?

The Urge To Binge Is Making Me Crazy

 

Today’s Q&A Friday is from Jessica in Memphis!!! 

Dear Leora, 
I’m so overwhelmed by my urges to binge. How can I stop them?

*The urge to binge eat doesn’t have to dictate your behaviors. 

 

Hi Jessica, 

That’s a really good question. In recovery, we don’t really “stop” urges, learn how to react differently to them. In addiction, when you have an urge or a craving, you believe that you have to act on that urge or craving. However, when you learn to recover, you learn that the urge is just an urge and that you don’t have to follow it down the rabbit hole. Urges are nothing to be afraid of or to be worried about, everyone has them. The difference between someone who is compulsive and someone who is not though, is whether or not they choose to act on all of their urges. When an urge comes up, it feels like there is no choice,  but there actually is.  

The very first thing to do is to look at your urge to binge and ask yourself, “am I actually hungry?” If you are, then ask your body “and what is it that we need to give you to nurture you?”  If you’re not hungry, you can remember, “okay this is an urge, I don’t have to let the urge lead me, I can choose to use the wisdom of my intact adult brain.” This meditation can help you with that too. 

As you begin to react to your urges in  a way that feels appropriate, you don’t have to be afraid of them. As you become less afraid of them, they will have less of a charge.  Once the urges are less charged, you will begin to notice them less and then they will begin to fade.  

*You get to choose your own reactions to your feelings.

Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating? Send an email to leora at bingeeatingtherapy  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 individual therapy or online coaching sessions  to deal with your binge eating? Please contact me to discuss getting started.

Q & A Friday – Help My Boyfriend Eats Too Much Fast Food

My Boyfriend Eats Too Much Fast Food

My boyfriend eats too much fast food and I’m sick of it.

My Boyfriend Eats Too Much Fast Food…

Today’s question is a very common issue that many people go through when they get into a new relationship.

Question:

Recently I started dating a guy who really loves going out to eat. And as much as I enjoy spending time with him, I’m sick of of the fast food and unhealthy dinners. My boyfriend eats too much fast food and it makes me  feel as though I’m losing control of what I worked so hard to achieve. Its not just the fear of gaining weight or losing control, I just feel unhealthy in myself with this change in diet. I wanna spend time with him but how do I avoid the dinner thing when its always an unplanned event. Also he doesn’t mind this kind of diet, it works for him. But it doesn’t work for me. I don’t want it to be an issue in our relationship and I definitely don’t want to start resenting him because of it. What do I do?

Mary in Missouri

My answer: 

Hi Mary, 

This is not an uncommon situation. We often tend to do this thing in relationships where we “fuse” with our significant other. As this continues we start to lose our individuality and forget who we are and what choices we actually have. We begin to feel stuck, which then often leads to depression and resentment. It’s important that you remember that you are two individuals with individual separate needs. Let him do what he wants to do but state your own needs as well. For instance “oh your going to grab fast food? That’s fine, I have food at home that I’d rather eat.” And if he questions you on it, just explain to him the way you prefer to eat. Let him know that your preferences have nothing to do with him and you’re not forcing him or even asking him to change his habits or behaviors, and that you too have your own habits and behaviors that make you feel like yourself.  Individuation (being your own person and not just part of a couple) is so important in a relationship in order for you to feel solid, grounded and close to yourself. This is how you stay whole and complete and true to yourself, which always feels better. 

What do you think? Is this something that you can do? 

Related: When Food Is the Third Person In Your Relationship

 Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating? Send an email to leora at bingeeatingtherapy  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, or if you don’t want to meet individually and would prefer to follow a self-guided recover plan, check out Recover From Binge Eating.