body image

When Your Critic Won’t Stop Attacking You

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You’re so fat! Look at the size of your thighs, your butt is huge… what is wrong with you? Why do you have to be so…so…  so what? 

There’s that voice that sits inside your head and tells you that there is something wrong with you. The inner critic. The part of you that tells you that in order to be liked by people, you have to be thinner, smarter, faster, stronger, and if you’re not, you’re worthless.  Do you know how many people deal with that voice? Many. Probably at least half (or more) of the people you talk to daily. 

The problem with the inner critic is that she won’t be silenced by obeying her, it just makes her stronger.  When the you inside of you punishes you for being you… you’re in trouble ALL THE TIME. 

So what to do when you live with a punisher inside your head? 

Dismantle the critic. 

Step One: Analyze the statement with writing. Write down the day, time, and the event that was happening right before your inner critic began yelling at you. 

Step Two: When you hear the critic saying something to you, try to think about what her purpose is. What reason does she have to tell you she’s telling you? What is underneath the statement? 

Example: It’s Thursday afternoon at 1pm, you are on your lunch break and are scrolling through Facebook and you see that one of your best friends from college just got engaged. You get a pit in your stomach and you start hearing yourself saying “you need to lose weight, you have to go on a diet, there’s something wrong with you…” you instantly throw your burrito in the garbage can and berate yourself for not getting a salad instead. What happened there? Maybe you saw that your friend was getting engaged and it reminded you that you’re not currently in a relationship and that you want to me. Maybe you felt scared that you’d never be in a relationship. Maybe your fear of being alone for the rest of your life made you decide to take it out on your body, that the only way you could remedy dying alone was by beating yourself up. Beating yourself up isn’t going to solve the fears that you have. Telling yourself that there is something wrong with you and that you need to diet isn’t going to make you not scared. It’s just going to add an abuser into the life of an already scared person. What do you really need? 

Step Three: Replace your abuser with a kinder, gentler voice. Now that you know why you were so upset and abusing yourself, find the loving Mom inside of you, the one who holds you and wipes your tears and tells you that you matter, tells you that you are perfect, whole and complete just the way you are. Because you do matter and you are perfect, whole and complete just the way you are. 

Step Four: Disengage from the abusive voice. Just because you hear it, doesn’t mean you have to listen to it. Think of it as an irritating noise in the background that you tune out, like construction outside your office, or a siren zooming by. You can hear it, but you don’t have to chase it. You can choose to ignore it.

Step Five:  If the voice persists, tell yourself, “this is unhelpful and unneeded.” You might even picture a giant stop sign in your mind. Just tell the voice to stop. Tell the voice that there’s no room for it. This is part of cognitive behavioral therapy.  In behavioral therapy, we have urges or desires but we learn not to act on them or to stop them before they take over. In cognitive behavioral therapy, we take the cognitions (or the thoughts) and we choose not to follow them and not to allow them to control us. The principle is that controlling the  behavior of the thought will help to calm the difficult feelings  that follow the thought. When you disengage with painful thoughts, painful feelings decrease. And when the painful feelings decrease, you begin to live your life in authenticity, in the way that you know is valuable for both yourself and the people around you.

You deserve to be treated with respect by yourself and by the people around you. But you can’t control the people around you, so let’s start with you.  (Your next step is to disengage with toxic people.  As long you are choosing not to treat yourself poorly, no one else should be able to make you feel like crap either.)

 

10 New Years Resolutions that Will Actually Change your Life. And not one of them involves losing weight.

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Did you know that each year 62%  of Americans make New Years Resolutions and of those 62% only 8% are able to stick to them? That means that almost 197 million people make resolutions and 140 million of those people give up on those. This makes setting resolutions a pretty big set-up for failure and unhappiness.  

Do you know what the number one most common New Years resolution?

I’m sure you can guess that one easily — lose weight!

Unfortunately though, despite your best intentions for improving your life, New Years resolutions tend to make people miserable as people usually fail at them by the second week in January. 

Let’s not do that same game again. Let’s forget about any resolution that has you thinking in terms of all-or-nothing.  Instead,  I want to you to 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 fitness magazines and supporting “health and fitness” sites that tout the same tired articles on how to: lose 10 pounds this month!  Torch 500 calories in one workout!!  Finally! get rid of cellulite for good- the new secret workout that plastic surgeons don’t want you to know about.  There are only so many diets and  workouts available, yet these magazines and websites seem to be able to repackage the same information over and over again for years and decades on end. 

How it will change your life:  You will save money on magazines,  you will save the earth by not contributing to waste and 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 you can afford. 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, this means that 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 more at peace. 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 “Wow you lost so much weight…”  Make a choice to not engage with any talk about other people’s bodies or your own.  

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 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 [http://www.volunteermatch.org/]

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. 

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.

What do you think, can you make a few of these changes? You don’t have to be perfect or do them all the time, but I’m betting that if you chose even just one of these, it would make significant positive changes in your life. Try it! Let me know how it goes. 

Get Through December Without Bingeing Day 23

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Are you deep into the December crazies yet? Where you feel as though you are jumping out of your skin waiting for Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanza et al? Either you’re super excited or super dreading it. But whatever it is, I’m betting you’re a little stir crazy by now.

Todays Tip

When you have nothing to wear. Hi Leora, Any advice about when the stress comes from not having anything appropriate to wear because nothing fits? It’s just about feeling bad about myself and not wanting to socialize. It takes so much energy.

I have been there. My body and my clothes have been many, many, many different sizes throughout my disordered eating. This is what I have to say to you. As part of your recovery process, find clothes that fit you and are comfortable and make you feel beautiful. I know that shopping can be triggering in its own way when you are uncomfortable in your body, but I find it crucial in terms of self care to have things that fit you and that you love. You don’t have to lose weight to buy clothes, you just have to find clothes that fit you. When you are actively engaged in recovery, your body will return to its right and perfect size and will stay there and then you can have all the same clothes for as long as you want to. But don’t punish yourself by having ill-fitting clothes that are not comfortable in your house. That’s both punishing and depressing, of course you don’t want to go out when nothing fits you. Treat yourself and love yourself. You deserve it. You really do, no matter what size your body is at.

Inspirational Quote

“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.” Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

<<<—-Go To Day 22

Get Through December Without Bingeing Day 21

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I am getting through December. Are you? I’ve had a migraine that started on Sunday and lasted through Tuesday morning. I am finally better but I was a true wreck. Not the most patient Mom on the planet or the most helpful wife. Far from it. I spent most of the time sprawled out in bed or on the couch. I attempted a viewing of The Sound of Music with my 5 year old son, but the pure grumpiness and pain that coursed through my veins into a pulsating mess in my right eye made me unable to feel anything but anger at the young and innocent Rolf as I knew what was to come. So by 16 going on 17 I was done.

I’m sure that many of you are going home to families that might be dysfunctional this week. Really, most families are dysfunctional (or perhaps I have a skewed sample set as a Psychotherapist) – and I want to help you to navigate your recovery and stay strong while you’re there. Please don’t hesitate to reply to this email with any questions. I’ll anonymously post the answer in tip form in upcoming get through December newsletters.

Todays Tip

For the past few weeks in the 5 Week Program, we’ve been talking a lot about guilt and obligation. Many have been telling me that their families are stressful for them because they are constantly doing for everyone in the family and they don’t know how to say no. They feel guilty for saying no and have no good reason to say no. I have what I call the codependency litmus test here. If you say no will you feel guilty and if you say yes will you feel resentful? If the answer is yes and yes, take the choice to go with the guilt. The guilt is yours, that’s something you can work with. Those of us with the disordered eating schema tend to spend a lot of time trying to please people and to be the best us that we possibly can be. We sacrifice our own needs for the sake of others. Then, eventually, in your family, you become the person who everyone expects to make sacrifices. When you don’t, when you choose to take care of yourself, people get angry. This is common. That’s because we don’t like change. We hide from it. And when we change, we force other people to change too. Change causes an effect of change all around. For instance, your sister asks you to take her shopping because she wants to have wine in the afternoon and doesn’t want to drive. You don’t feel like taking her to the market. You’re tired, you’ve been working all week, you finally have a rest. If you tell her no, she will get angry. She will get angry because then she has to do something that she doesn’t want to do. She is forced to make a healthier choice because you are choosing not to sacrifice your needs for her needs. You are choosing to care for yourself. Change is hard, but necessary. We were all given our own lives and the ability to do things for ourselves. If you don’t give someone else they opportunity to care for themselves when they can, (unless they are children or elderly or disabled) you are cheating both yourself and them. Take care of yourself and everyone else is forced to do the same. That’s change that can be good!

Inspirational Quote

Relationships are where we take our recovery on the road. – Melody Beattie

I love this quote. It reminds us that we didn’t get sick in a void and we can’t recover in a void. We have to reclaim ourselves in the system that we became who we are in. That means work and change and doing something scary. But it’s the kind of necessary work that makes life-long change.

<—Go To Day 20       Go to Day 22—>>>

Get Through December without Bingeing -Day 13


feeling-out-of-control-with-food-3Todays Tip

Today I spoke with a 5 week program member over the phone. She was feeling a lot of anxiety over all the “lose weight,” or “maintain weight” over the holidays. She told me that she’s been seeing postings all over the Internet. She asked, “I know that I need to lose weight for my health, how can I do that mindfully?”

So therein lies the issue. Anyone who has issues with disordered eating has tried not once, but probably hundreds if not thousands of times to lose weight.

Don’t try to lose weight. Trying to lose weight for someone with a tendency toward disordered eating is like trying to drink moderately for someone with alcoholism. Diets and weight loss striving are what contribute to your disordered eating.

What I would like you to strive for instead is satisfaction. No. Not moderation. SATISFACTION.

When you eat and feel dissatisfied with what you ate, you will be driven to binge.

First, think about what satisfaction means to you. Does it mean finishing your meal feeling as though you were nourished? Having your body feel full but not uncomfortable? Knowing that you ate what your body wanted? What does it mean to you? Consider what satisfaction means to you. Write it down and strive for it!

I PROMISE YOU that when you stop dieting, when you stop focusing on weight loss, when you eat when your body needs food and when you are not bingeing — your body will come to its natural weight. Will you be skinny? If skinny is not your natural weight you likely won’t be. Will you be fat? If fat is not your natural weight, you likely won’t be. If you think about those times when you first started dieting because you thought you were fat and what that turned into — imagine what it would have been like if someone told you that you were perfect, to trust your body, that your body would run most efficiently when you fed it what it needed when it needed it instead of telling you that you were… whatever made you think you needed to be different.

This is hard because people keep promising you that if you do a certain way of eating that you’ll be so thin and fit… but they don’t know you and how your mind and body react to diets.

Again… I PROMISE YOU that when you are not dieting and not bingeing your weight will stabilize and it will likely be comfortable and pleasing to you because it is the weight that your body wants to be at. It won’t be quick like a diet. But it will be less painful than years of dieting and bingeing and you will spend years of your life feeling satisfied and at peace rather than stressed out and dieting and gaining weight.

And to answer the question that I get all the time, why can other people be Paleo/grain-free/Atkins, etc for years on end and lose weight but you can’t? It’s because you react differently to diets. When you diet you develop an eating disorder. Some people can’t drink alcohol because when they do they become an alcoholic, others can drink and take it or leave it. Think of diets as your vice and your trigger and your booze. Diets aren’t safe for people with tendencies toward disordered eating. Anyone who tells you that they know how to help you lose weight is lying to you.

Todays Inspiration

“What is addiction, really? It is a sign, a signal, a symptom of distress. It is a language that tells us about a plight that must be understood.” – Alice Miller

When your addiction is to dieting and the pursuit of weight loss, it’s a symptom of wanting to fit in, to be loved, to feel like everyone else. But when you work on your own self care and kindness toward yourself and your body, you naturally just begin feeling better instead of trying to mold yourself into something that you believe is more socially acceptable.

<<—– Go to Day 12

Get Through December Without Bingeing- Day 12

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Todays Tip

You that whole thing that happens when you entertain and you feel like you have to be perfect? That your house has to be perfect, that your food has to be perfect and that your hair, your clothes and your kids have to be perfect? And then something inevitably goes wrong, your tomato aspic comes out looking like an Alpo ad rather than a Martha Steward centerpiece… And you feel sad and you beat yourself up and the whole party is ruined…. 

But it’s not. But that’s part of what the ED tells us. That we have to be everything or we’re nothing. 

One of the motivating forces behind eating disorders is the drive to be perfect. People hope for a perfect body, perfect eating habits, flawless skin,  trying to act perfect by always saying the right thing, they try to keep a perfectly clean home and car, and  on and on and on– whatever the individual definition of perfection is . This season is particularly triggering because there is this air of mythical innocence and perfection to Christmas to be like Donna Reed in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (I have a client who will be laughing if she reads this because she thinks I make too many It’s a Wonderful Life” references.) The problem is of course, that nobody is perfect so in the strive for perfection, failure is inevitable.  And this season is inherently messy.  Often, because of that, trying to make things perfect becomes a frustrating let down, as well as a horrible blow to self esteem. “I messed up, therefore I’m a failure, I suck, I’m a horrible person…” and descent into depression or further into eating disorder behavior, or other compulsive behaviors follow.  Some people have such high expectations of themselves that they feel paralyzed. They can barely function because their belief of what they have to be is unattainable so they figure “why bother?”and live in a stuck place where they are unable to go forward with their lives because they hate themselves so much for what they are not. Other people are not so dichotomous and strive toward perfection, but punish themselves when they fail. Like people who have very rigid eating regimens and so if they eat something off their plan they binge, and figure they’ll start all over again the next day. Or they might punish themselves by purging or doing excruciating exercise.

Letting go of the myth of perfection is not easy. So many folks have their heads wrapped around that goal that they believe their lives will be meaningless without it.

  • Remember that perfection is a myth. No one is meant to be perfect, that’s not the way life is. We evolve, learn and grow. Nobody can sit down having never played the piano before and play a perfect concerto. You must start from scratch, learn, practice, and make mistakes.
  • If you never made any mistakes, you would never learn anything. Mistakes are the way we learn. If you can learn from your mistakes rather than making the same mistake over and over again without learning anything, you are evolving.
  • Perfection is not a human or even animal trait. There is no such thing as perfection. That’s not why we exist on this planet. Of course  I don’t know why we exist, but I’m betting that being perfect is not at the top of the list. Especially considering that it’s so subjective.
  • Life is not exciting when our goal is to be perfect because we are unable to take in the intricacies of life. We become so stressed out when we “mess up” that we aren’t able to appreciate what is happening in the moment.
  • Having personal goals and striving toward them is crucial for happiness and joy. However, if the end goal is so rigid, the journey there won’t be enjoyable. The end goal might not even be attained, but what you can learn as you travel through can be more enlightening than what you even set out to achieve.
  • If you find yourself paralyzed, try to take one small step forward. Rather than thinking that you can’t do this overwhelming task perfectly, make small goals that will enable you to move forward.  For example, If you think that you have 200 pounds to lose, that’s very daunting and probably very difficult to begin. However, if your goal is something less daunting, like “try a new vegetable once a week” or “try and get some movement in every day” or “eat at least one fresh fruit and one fresh vegetable each day,” or “make an appointment with a registered dietician” you will find that it’s not too daunting. And if you go a day without getting movement or without eating a fresh fruit, you can always make up for it the next day, rather than thinking, “this is too hard, I can’t do it, I’ll just have to give up.”  It’s possible that you might not reach your original end goal, but when your end goal is really health, that is something you can achieve by letting go of perfection and by integrating loving, healthy habits- this is where you will find improved health.  If you have a very messy house that seems overwhelming to clean, just do one drawer or one surface at a time. It might take you many weeks or months to complete the task, but cleaning one drawer or one section of your closet, or one corner of a room is a lot more doable than cleaning a whole house.
  • Rather than striving for perfection, think about what you can do each day that helps you to be the person that you like. Think about the things that you do that make you like yourself and try to do more of it.  You don’t want to do an overhaul and completely change the person you are, that’s a recipe for self defeatism and self deprecation, not to mention a complete self esteem killer.

Being who you are is what makes you perfect. No one can be a more perfect version of you than you.

Inspirational Quote for the Day

“Perfectionism is self-abuse of the highest order.” – Anne Wilson Schaef I love this quote because it’s so cute, the pursuit of perfection is nothing more than a way to abuse ourselves. The pursuit of health and self-love however are much more worthwhile pursuits. 

<<—Go To Day 11     Go To Day 13—>>

Get Through December Without Bingeing Day 11

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Sunday morning. Is it possible that you drank a little too much last night? Too much holiday indulgence and now you’re feeling a little hangover?

Todays Tip

Avoiding the dreaded hangover next day binge. A few years ago, there was a report that linked binge drinking to binge eating for the next 24 hours. If you have overindulged on alcohol, there is a pretty big chance that you will want to wake up and care for your body by eating a lot of greasy food and that it will then trigger a binge for you.

There are a few things to do that can help you to feel better without bingeing.

1. Drink lots of water to rehydrate yourself. You can also do coconut water which is a natural rehydration booster. If that’s not your thing, go for the gatorade or the Pedialyte.

2.Eat eggs (add tomatoes, avocados and spinach!) Eggs have cysteine, which is an amino acid that increases glutathione and reduces the acetaldehyde toxicity which causes a hangover. Tomatoes, avocados and spinach all contain high levels of glutathione which detoxify the liver and help you to feel better.

3.Black tea – As soon as you are feeling rehydrated, sipping on black tea might help your body feel more awake and alive and sooth your belly.

Bonus Tip: Get out in nature or at least into some fresh air and take a walk. It will invigorate you and help you to feel better!!!

Inspirational Quote

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent Van Gogh

So, for Eating Disorder recovery let’s change that a little. If you hear a voice that says “you’re too fat to be happy…” go out and do the things you love, let yourself enjoy your life and that voice will be silenced.

 

<—- Go to Day 10 

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

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

Question –

Hi Leora,

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

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

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

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

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

Any thoughts? Thank you Leora,

Answer-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think? Does it makes sense? 

For further reading on the topic,  go to: 

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

Health at Every Size Approach 

Health at Every Size Book 

 

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

Thunder Thighs and Other “Problem Areas”

*PHOTO CREDITS TO MODELS FLUVIA LACERA AND TARA LYNN
Summer style guideMany years ago, when my cousin had her first baby, her husband, as he held this gorgeous nine month old baby, squeezed on of her plump little thighs and said, “I can already see that this is going to be a problem area for her, we’re going to have to watch that…” (don’t worry,  my cousin divorced him). 

Problem area. I asked him what he meant by “problem area,” he said, “her thighs are fat, and they’re going to be a sticking point for her…” All the women in my family have thighs that are thick, strong, and sturdy. Including his wife. And he said it was a problem. SHE WAS AN INFANT!!!!! I have been thinking about this moment 15 years ago for days now. Because I know how these eating disorders get started. A baby girl is born perfect and her dad, her mom, society, a boyfriend, a teacher, whomever, says she has a “problem spot.” And then, she sees what she was born with, what is naturally in her DNA as a problem. And she diets. She starves, she gets sick, she binges, maybe she purges, takes laxatives, maybe she runs miles and miles and miles and miles and miles to make that “problem” go away. And she blames herself when it doesn’t. She blames herself for having no willpower, she blames herself for not exercising enough, for eating too many carbs, for the birthday cake she ate at her best friend’s birthday party. 

 

Like most every woman in my family, I was born with “problem” thighs. I knew they were a problem because my mother had the same thighs and she did everything under the sun to make them go away. Her mother also believed that she had the same problem. I know that because after my mother died, I found this book upon her stacks of books. It was published in 1952, when my mother was 4 years old and my grandmother was about 30.  This deceptive book was created to make women believe that the size of their thighs was their fault. IMG_3051

 

Here, let me cite the first sentence of the intro for you: “The woman with shapely legs and attractive curves is more likely to get ahead socially, in business and in love. Heavy legs, regardless of other attractions are a handicap that is hard to overcome….”   So here we begin, if you have thin thighs, you will get ahead in life but with thicker thighs,  your life will (and should) suck. If you have body image issues, don’t blame yourself this myth has been perpetuated by misogynists for years.  Now, let me continue with this brilliant piece of literary master… “Hollywood legs, for which some of the screen stars are famous, attract a large audience. Many movie actresses take systematic exercises to develop shapely limbs because they realize that the beauty of their legs may make the difference between success and failure…”  If you have thin thighs you can become famous! And most movie stars make sure to exercise their legs because genetically, this does not come naturally– you are responsible for the DNA you were born with. images

Here’s an interview with Marilyn Monroe where she says “I never really gave much thought to my body, I just tried to make sure I was eating enough… I never bothered with exercise, but now I exercise for about 10 minutes each morning…” Genetics. Marilyn had no hours at the gym trying to tame her body into submission– it just was what it was. Now, let me continue with our fine piece of literature… “We may also mention tennis legs, meaning that shapely limbs of the women who compete at Forest Hills every year for the championship of the United States. Many of these contestants have become famous for the beauty of their legs…”  Finally- a statement I can get behind– with our very own 2016 Wimbledon Champ. Though, somehow I have a feeling that the author of this book was not picturing our gorgeous Serena Williams when he wrote those words. bikini-babes-blunders-serena-williams

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, here is a real gem- the intro of the book, where the author describes in a factual way how we should view women with heavy legs…  “Women with heavy legs are not to be admired… In the minds of many men, such limbs are associated with the peasant type and are commonly called ‘piano legs.’ The woman with heavy, clumsy legs makes little impression on the opposite sex. One need only mention the popularity of certain movie stars who are famous for their beautiful legs. In fact, some of them have traveled to Europe and Korea as part of the war effort to keep up the morale of our troops… yet we see so many women with stout (heavy limbs) everywhere we go: on the street, at parties, in the theatre and in church. Some of them have beautiful faces, but their over-sized legs make them look clumsy. If they would only realize what they are losing in life, these women would gladly take the exercises described in this book for slenderizing heavy legs…”  There’s much more, but I won’t bore you with it. He then goes on to discuss his amazing credentials as a Physical Therapist and a man who appreciates thin thighs. Again, this was 1952.    

IMG_3052

So let’s see, what does he do here? He first tells women that it’s better to have thin thighs because if you do, you get to be virtuous and entertain troops and do something valuable with your life. He then goes on to say that he doesn’t quite understand why if it’s so easy to have thin thighs, then why do most women go around thick legged. Surely it’s their fault for being lazy and slovenly and not doing the (bizarre and unnatural exercises) described in his book, he then goes on to describe that men will not care for a woman with thick thighs. Though I’m sure our friend Sir Mix-A-Lot would disagree with Sir Henry Milchenstein (the bright box who authored this book).  So, although our society has changed a lot in the last 65 years since this stupid book was published– these messages, though not spoken out loud and with such candor still permeate the collective unconscious. But most of us cannot look this way, yet we are made to believe that not only can we, we should and it’s our responsibility to go out and make it happen. 

It seems that my Mom had her moments somewhere between the ages of 4 or 5 years old where she told Milchenstein to go screw himself as seen in these pictures… IMG_3054IMG_3053

Unfortunately, these horrific messages became strong starting with whatever possessed Milchenstein to write this piece of crapola then down  to my grandmother and to larger society and then down to my mother. She struggled and struggled and struggled with her own thighs, doing every exercise that she could to slim them down. She really felt that she had a problem — she felt that she had a problem and she told me that I too had the problem. The inherited curse.   So I tried and I tried and I tried to make them go away. I went days, weeks, months without eating. I ran 10, 20 miles at a time several days a week, I lifted weights, I stopped lifting weights, I ate no carbs or sugar ever. I ate no meat, chicken, fish, eggs, or dairy ever, I went on juice fasts, I went on master cleanser fasts, I wrapped my thighs in seaweed, I sat in saunas, I sat in steam rooms, I did leg lifts every day from the time I was 9 years old. In fact, I owned the book Thin Thighs in 30 Days as a 3rd grader. It was my bible. I did the exercises faithfully in hopes that my “problem” would go away. I was so ashamed of myself. Why couldn’t I beat this? Why couldn’t I have legs like other girls in my school? It eluded me and so I tried harder and harder and harder. I tried as hard as I could to get thin thighs. To rid myself of saddle bags and jeans that fit loose in the waist but tight in the legs. I was built like, like, like… like a woman! 

The truth of the matter is, I have never had thin thighs. Even at an anorexic weight, even when I was running marathons, even when I wasn’t menstruating. My body isn’t a problem and my thighs are not a problem. But I was taught to believe they were and I was at fault.

And most of you were probably taught to believe the same thing. How normal is the cultural discourse about “problem areas.” And if you have bought into this belief–  it’s not your fault. We all fall for it. We all believe we have “problem areas.” But a problem area is a cyst on your ovary, a tumor on your breast, a splinter under your fingernail. Yet the collectively accepted conversation is that we have “problem areas” that aren’t actual problems. Now that is a FUCKING PROBLEM! 

When I was at the most recent International Eating Disorder Conference (ICED 2016), there was a lot of discussion on body image. I sat with several body image experts and I asked them how they helped women deal with body image issues and how they helped them to change their mindset. Many of the answers I got were similar, “In someone with poor body image, you cannot change it, it’s the message of the culture they grew up in and live in. It’s too late. The only thing we can do is help them heal from their eating disorders, and help to empower the next generation of women to accept and love their bodies. Though  we cannot save those who already hate their bodies,  we can empower them to change the status quo and work to help change the cultural discourse around the tyranny of thin.”

Maybe this is true.

But I accept that answer as much as I accept the answer that once you have an eating disorder you will always have an eating disorder and that it’s unchangeable. I have seen so, so, so many women recover 100% from their eating disorders and I’ve seen them go on to lead full lives without the tyranny of diets and weight loss and purging and bingeing beckoning at them.  But  best of all,  I have seen women make the decision to let go of the thoughts that keep them there. So many of those thoughts are, “you have to be different, you are not enough.”

But I have a little truth for you– and that is: Who you are right now in this very moment is enough. You are enough. You might not think that you’re perfect. You might not think that your body is beautiful, you might think that you have “problem areas” and lots of “flaws,” and that’s okay. If you can take one moment, one second each day to think to yourself, “who I am is enough,” and maybe make that second last a little longer each day. And let yourself feel it, you might start to believe it soon.

I will never have thin thighs. I can read every book, do every exercise, go on every diet, lose my period, vomit everything I eat, and my thighs will never be thin. And I can blame it on myself, for not being enough, not doing enough for doing everything wrong. I can do that. And I have done that. I’ve done a lot of that. But I am done. That is not a life that I want for myself.

That is a life that I do not want for YOU.

That is a life that I don’t want for any woman or any young girl or boy or young man or anyone growing up right now believing that they are not enough. 

I want you to know that you are enough. I want you to know that the way you are shaped and built is not your fault and it’s NOT BAD! YOU ARE NOT A PROBLEM. You are a human. And your DNA is what created you. You are enough. And you have so much to live for and so much to do in the world that has nothing to do with the size of your thighs (or belly or arms or tush)… You are not flawed. The world is flawed. Your body did not fail you, society failed you. You did not mess up, the social norm messed up.

Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do? Anything at all that you just never did? What would it be like to focus on that? What would it be like if you could take your focus off your “flaws” and focus on something totally arbitrary? Like I don’t know, learning how to play the saxophone (that’s totally my next venture) or writing a children’s book, or painting with acrylics, or taking a chemistry class, or learning about black holes, or collecting rocks, or doing pottery, or learning how to salsa dance, or doing nail art or blowing glass, or playing tennis, or going to medical school, or learning furniture design, or taking a martial arts class, or starting your own pet grooming business, or reading tarot cards, or learning to sail, or going to beauty school, or knitting socks, or playing guitar or starting a garden, or or, or…. anything! Anything other than spending all your time and your mind and energy thinking about what you should be doing in terms of changing your body into something that society deems acceptable. Because the truth is, according to a 1997 Body Shop ad, there are 3 billion women who don’t look like super models and only 8 who do. So find a habit that you enjoy more, that you can really go forward with, that is meaningful to you– because chasing the illusion of the perfect body will keep you in a state of sadness for as long as you stay in it. 

I love you people and I want you to love yourselves or at least try to enjoy this one life you’re given. 

Round Up of ICED 2016

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It’s been more than a week since I’ve returned from the International Academy of Eating Disorders annual conference (though returned is really a silly word as it was only 12 miles from my house this year), and I’m finally able to sit down and gather my thoughts about it. If you’ve never been, even if you’re not a clinician, I highly recommend. There is a lot of advocacy and research there and many things to learn.  Next year it’s going to be in Prague! I certainly won’t be able to go, but I was psyched to have an opportunity to go this year as it was in San Francisco. With two littles at home, big travel is hard.

There were  a few main themes ICED 2016 (International Conference of Eating Disorders) that were floating around:

Eating disorder research and treatment vs. obesity research and treatment.  Wow. There was serious, serious controversy there. This is because obesity researchers as well as state funded grants (think NIH) are still using ideas such as food restriction, caloric restriction and BMI to measure recovery. All eating disorder clinicians and researchers have evidence that all of this, dietary restriction, BMI, “weight management” and dieting all lead to disordered eating patterns. Obesity researchers believe that obesity has to be treated because it leads to heart disease, Type II diabetes, etc. But Eating Disorder researchers and clinicians (and me too!) believe that when you focus on the obesity as the health problem, you are doing a disservice to the patient – you should be focusing on health and treating the specific disease. “Treating Obesity” continually leads to failure. Obesity isn’t a disease, but heart disease is.

Next off we discussed ADVOCACY a whole lot. People often think of eating disorders as a white woman’s disease, but the truth is that EDs hit not just white women, but women AND MEN across all races. In fact, Latina women have a higher incidence of eating disorders than white women. But most people of color or folks who aren’t cisgender tend to shy away from treatment – for many reasons. It’s not accessible (affordable), it’s not relatable- treatment is geared toward one gender and one race, and it’s stigmatized and unsupported by family and community. For instance, many years ago I had a client who, despite the fact that she had a horrific case of bulimia, her family would not support her treatment because they said it was a “white women’s disease.” She did come in for treatment and got great support from our treatment center and the treatment community but not from her family or her own community. This is not an uncommon situation. The fact that she came in for treatment is really fantastic, but most people don’t.  The conference spoke a lot about getting it out there that EDs strike everyone everywhere and nobody should be ashamed to try and get help. And, as a community of ED professionals- we have to provide more help in different and more accessible ways. So lots to do there. And a note, if you are a human being who is not a white woman and you are suffering from an ED- please do reach out (you can even reply to this post) and I’ll point you in the right direction for treatment- thanks to this conference I have some really great resources now.

I met some of my heros of Eating Disorders, like Deb Burgard – and I was really seriously starstruck and took a selfie with her- it was more exciting to me than meeting say Johnny Depp (but honestly that would excite me too).  If you don’t know about Deb, please click her name above and check out her work. She is a brilliant Psychologist, speaker and advocate for size diversity and Health at Every Size.  I also got to meet Lizabeth Wesely-Casella from Bingebehavior.com – (have you read that blog? It’s awesome). And that was really exciting as well. Such amazing people do this work – it’s good work, and it’s hard work. 

Body Positivity – A lot of people ask me why as a a clinician treating Eating Disorders I advocate for Health at Every Size and why it’s important. The answer is easy- almost every eating disorder started with a diet. If we can eradicate people being told that they are not good enough and they need to diet, we can deeply change the internalized messages that dieting is the only way out – we then allow people to live in bodies that were meant for them. Those bodies might be big or they might be small- but what we want them to focus on is their true health. True health isn’t about getting on a scale to measure your health. It’s about giving your body what it needs- good healthy food and good healthy movement (where you can), but of course movement and exercise can be difficult for those in larger bodies because of the social stigma. So it’s all very challenging and there needs to be a lot more kindness and acceptance out there.  And the obesity paradox actually says that people in the “overweight” BMI category live longer and are healthier. So there you go. There’s no good science around these debates yet.

Body Image – The body image part was interesting. I talked to a lot of different experts on it. The consensus is really that body image is deeply ingrained and that we should be working on prevention more than anything else. The body project is a good example of that kind of early intervention.

I went to a ton of neuropsych panels that were fascinating, but I’ll metabolize them into a different and accessible post soon enough.

Eating disorders are notoriously difficult to both treat and understand, but people are working really hard to make it happen and to find help for those suffering. Fortunately many people have gotten to the other side of their EDs and recovery is possible. If you need help, please reach out, you can reply to this post, email me directly or go directly to NEDA or call 800-931-2237.