eating disorder

Get Through December Without Bingeing Day 28

get-through-december-without-bingeing-day-28

Here we are – just 4 days before 2017 starts. How has December been going for you so far?

Todays Tip

Don’t “last hurrah,” it. These last few days are rough. There are lots of leftovers, lots of big boxes and tins full of cookies and baked goods, and the temptation to say “Screw it, I’ll just binge until New Years Day and then start my diet on January 1st…” is big. The problem with that is – that you feel terrible on New Years Day. You feel sick to your stomach, you are bloated, you are depressed and your body just feels not right. And then you start the whole cycle over again. You tell yourself that this is your year, that in 2017 you’re finally going to lose the weight. And then you diet for the first week or so of January and then you’re bingeing again. You don’t have to do that again. If everything in December leading up to Christmas was about food – everything in December leading up to New Years is about weight loss and fitness. It’s okay to be fit, but fit has nothing to do with pejorative dieting. It’s about creating balance for yourself. It’s about finding within you the most easy way to live both physically and emotionally, it’s about not eating too much and not eating too little. It’s about not going to sleep hungry and distraught or full and distraught. It’s about finding satisfaction in being even. What about deciding not to go on a diet for New Years and not to last hurrah it in the days leading up to New Years? What about saying at this moment that you are finding your balance. Right this second. You don’t have to wait, you can do it immediately. Balance is as simple as quieting down all the talk around you and quieting down the mind that tells you to binge or diet and asking yourself, “what do I need to be the kind of me that makes me feel peaceful? Not too much, not too little, but okay just being me?” and then trust that. You might hear that you need to relax more, you might hear that you need to take more walks, you might hear that you need to drink more water or eat more fruit or talk to your mother more or dance or read or stretch more… What is it that can help you at this very moment be the you that you really are? What is inside of you that helps you be you? Put your hand over your heart and breath deeply and ask yourself, “if my heart knew exactly what I needed right now, what would it tell me?” and then listen to your heart. You will learn something amazing about yourself.

Inspirational Quote

“Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it. M. Scott Peck (From one of my favorite books, the Road Less Traveled)

I love this quote because it reminds us that we waste so much of our time and energy trying to change ourselves. When we value ourselves for who we are, we stop wasting time on trying to make ourselves different. It is only then, out of self-love not self-hate that we transform ourselves. When we try to change ourselves, we come from a place of “I’m not worthy until I lose weight, get thin, fit into a certain size…” and we put off doing our lives. When we value ourselves we use our time now and we participate in our lives now and ironically, that’s how we enhance, improve and evolve.

<<—Go To Day 27

Go To Day 29—>>>

Get Through December without Bingeing Day 22

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Todays Tip

In yesterday’s post, I asked people to send me specific questions that they want addressed in the December series. I got some great questions so I’ll be doing my best to answer over the next few days.

Dear Leora, I am at work, and there is food EVERYWHERE. It’s the holidays, and people have brought in cheesecake, toffee, chocolates, brownies, cookies and cupcakes. I have put on weight because I cannot resist this food, and I feel ugly and terrible about myself. Do you have any advice for *not* eating this stuff?

This is a big one at the holidays. People bring in baked goods and treats all the time. The office is full of sugary treats that make people happy- unless they have a dysfunctional relationship with food. Then it makes work a living hell.

The way I work with clients around this specific issue is to help them create a healthy boundary around the holiday treats.

For example. Someone might tell themselves that their healthy number for holiday treats is two each day. So what they can then do is plan what time they are going to go into the kitchen to get the treat. Perhaps it’s after lunch at 1pm. At 1pm, they walk into the kitchen or staff room and they take a look around and figure out what it is that they really, really want. They take that on their planned break, sit down and allow themselves to enjoy it. To taste it, to chew it to swallow it. Perhaps they enjoy that treat with a cup of tea and some music for a five minute break. Let yourself be satisfied and enjoy. Then, at 4pm, they can do it once more. Then you know that the next day you will have two treats again, so you don’t have to worry about getting everything in all at once. You have to figure out what your number is (maybe it’s one treat a day, maybe it’s three), but it’s important to plan ahead so that you don’t become black and white about it.

If you for instance say that you aren’t going to have any and then you go into the kitchen and accidentally grab something– it might set you into a sneak eating, bingey tailspin.

If you absolutely feel unable to make reasonable boundaries around the holiday treats this year, then you might instead decide to avoid the places where said food lives. For instance– “Bob has candy canes on his desk, can’t go talk to Bob today…” or “No kitchen today, gotta leave the office and get my coffee from Starbucks…”

I do suggest that if you are able to though, if food is honestly everywhere, it would be a relief for you to allow yourself to eat a little bit of it in a controlled and moderate way rather than telling yourself no and then feeling out of control with it.

It’s often in the restriction and the resistance where we find the most stress. Giving an allowance will reduce that stress.

Another practical tactic is to keep a big bowl of apples on your desk. Here is why, for most people apples are not a binge food. [But If apples are your binge food then read no more. Though in my two decades of treating Binge Eating Disorder I’ve never seen apples be anyone’s binge food, so I’d be surprised. If apples are your binge food, you have to reply and let me know]. But I digress… the bowl of apples on your desk will be easy for you to grab, so if there is binge food all around you and it’s unavoidable, having a non-binge food at your disposal and easily reachable will help you to fend off a binge.

Inspirational Quote

Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.-William Somerset Maugham

I love this humorous quote by Somerset Maugham because it reminds us that sometimes “messing up” is just human. And that it’s the way that we react to the excess that will hurt us more than the excess. For instance, I ate a brownie- I’m so stressed out about it that I’m going to binge on more brownies- rather than- oh, I ate a brownie– it was great- Now I’m going to relax in a nice tube tonight and watch The Gilmore Girls.

 

<<—-Go To Day 22   Go To Day 23–>>

Get Through December Without Bingeing Day 15

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Todays Tip

On Monday, the New York Times ran an article about how weight loss is not a one-stop shop for everyone and that one diet doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. But in the article, what they actually pointed out was that diets work for almost nobody.

“[Dr. Sack’s] study involved 811 overweight and obese adults, randomly assigned to follow one of four diets and undergo behavioral counseling to help them stick to their diets. The diets ranged over the span of what has become popular. Two diets were low in fat but one low-fat diet was high in protein and the other had average amounts of protein. Two others were high in fat and one of those high-fat diets had an average amount of protein while the other was high in protein.

The research was designed to answer the question of whether one diet was any better than another and it provided an answer: None of the diets elicited much weight loss on average, and no diet stood out from the others.”

However, there were a few outliers, a few folks who did lose some weight. Two people used meds and one of those meds eventually stopped working. Two others relentlessly counted calories and were both pretty miserable (know that scenario?) And one other woman implemented the glycemic load theory. In this scenario, she kept her blood sugar stable by eating whatever she wanted but making sure to eat protein first. So if she wanted pasta, she would start her meal with a piece of chicken. She started her day with protein like unflavored Greek yogurt or eggs and avocados before she ate her fruit. Stabilizing her blood sugar enabled her to stabilize her mood and eventually her weight normalized back to what was healthy for her. And she reported finding this way of eating effortless. So she didn’t actually go on a diet or restrict food, she instead added something to keep her brain and her body balanced and that is what got her to a place where she felt great in her body and had no trouble maintaining it.

This theory tends to be what many ED dietitians recommend to their clients. Eat what you want, but eat protein first. Having lots of fluctuations in your blood sugar destabilizes your mood, your hunger cues and your appetite. So simply starting your meal (or snack!) with protein can be extremely helpful in keeping the binge eating down. For instance. Let’s say you are craving something sweet. You go and you eat that thing on an empty stomach. Your blood sugar rises quickly and then drops quickly. With the drop you feel ravenously hungry, you have a headache and you’re a little depressed. What do you do? You go and eat more to make that feeling go away. But if you eat some protein first, your blood sugar tends to be more stabile minimizing the chance of big dips and surges. This then keeps your mood and your hunger more even.

So, eat what you want, but start out with protein to help avoid blood sugar binges. Don’t drink alcohol on an empty stomach and don’t eat sugar on an empty stomach.

Inspirational Quote

When was the last time you woke up and wished you’d had just one more drink the night before? I have never regretted not drinking. Say this to yourself, and you’ll get through anything.” – Meredith Bell —

Change this to “When was the last time you woke up and wished you’d binged the night before? I have never regretted not bingeing…”

I love this quote because it reminds us to always remember the consequences of our desired actions. Think about how you want to feel in the morning and let that vision carry you forward.

<<<—- Go To Day 14  

Go To Day 16—–>>>>

Get Through December Without Bingeing- Day 14

get-through-december-without-bingeing-day-10in-law-editionWe are officially two weeks into December. Almost half way through. How’s it going for you? All good in the hood here.

Todays Tip

Being a visitor at other people’s houses is rough. For those of us with eating issues, control is all part of the psychological schema — being at someone else’s house has us at a loss of control and can create all sorts of anxiety and stress. The food is unfamiliar, the eating times are unfamiliar and there is always that stress of insulting someone if you don’t want to eat what they have made or are serving.

  • If you are a visitor, the best thing to do is to make your eating structured in a way that feels comfortable for you. Make sure that you are getting your 3 meals a day and snacks if you need them.
  • Don’t be afraid to say, “Hey I have to eat.” You need to take care of yourself.
  • Practice saying, “That looks great, but no thank you.” Don’t let people push food on you. If they don’t respect your “no thank you,” look them straight in the eyes and don’t smile and say, “Thank you. I’m fine,” and if they still push, be firm. “Thank you, but really. I said no.” Don’t let anyone push you to eat something you don’t want to. It might seem to be out of love but it’s more out of control and strong-arming and it’s poor boundaries and it’s inconsiderate.
  • Not only that, but don’t let someone’s judgement about what you ARE eating or how much you are eating make you stop eating. For instance, your mother-in-law looks you up and down. “Wow Jenny, that cake that I made looks great on your thighs!” (what kind of person says something like this?) anyway, turn around and say, “Thanks, I think so too.” Don’t let anyone fat shame you or food shame you. You have a right to eat.
  • Remember that your needs are important. That includes needs for space, for meals and to choose what you want to eat.
  • Don’t sacrifice your needs for the sake of others (unless those others are your young children or unable to do things for themselves ie: elderly, disabled). If someone needsyou to cook the (insert binge food) but you know that being alone with (that binge food) is not going to be a good situation for you – it’s okay to say “no.” It’s okay to take care of yourself.
  • It’s okay to take care of yourself. It’s not selfish. Saying no to an able bodied person is not selfish if you know that you have to do it to preserve your sanity. Self care is not selfish. It’s necessary to help you feel more at peace and thus the people around you.

Inspirational Quote

I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” –Brene Brown

I love this quote because it reminds us that relationships are about give and take and that when you take care of yourself, if someone gets angry or judges you– it’s not a relationship. Relationships should be reciprocal and enjoyable.

 

 

<<—Go to Day 13      Go to Day 15—->>>

 

 

 

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 Eight

get-through-decemberwithout-binge-eatingI’m happy you’re still reading my daily series on how to get through December without bingeing. What a week! So happy it’s Friday!

We are getting knee deep into holiday parties so remember to keep coming here for tips and inspiration.

Todays Tip

Did you know that often, in the Winter, people binge eat because they are cold? FACT.

Eating raises your metabolism and warms you up. So other things to do when you have the urge to binge because you’re cold? Drink a cup of tea, take a hot bath or shower, do 30 jumping jacks, cuddle under a blanket, stretch your body, turn the heat up, put on extra sweaters… This is a physical reason for bingeing and one leftover from evolution. We no longer need to bulk up for Winter because we have coats and heat and houses to keep us warm. We don’t have to cuddle up under animal pelts in caves. Don’t blame yourself! It’s biology’s fault.

Inspirational Quote

“You must do the things you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

This is an important one– because we are only limited by our own beliefs. When you challenge those beliefs, the world becomes completely open to you.

Click here to Ready Day 9

Is Going Vegan Helpful For Binge Eating Disorder?

Is going vegan best for binge eating
Friday Q & A
It’s not Friday! But I’m doing my Q & A today anyway because this was an important one.  This is a topic that I’ve been avoiding since I’ve been blogging (10+ years on this site). Why have I been avoiding it? Because it’s so emotionally charged and so controversial and I didn’t want to isolate anyone. However, I’ve been getting many, many emails and comments about this topic lately so I realized that it was time for me to tell my story. This email came through the other day and it felt important to answer sooner rather than later. 
Question: 

Dear Leora,
I have been in recovery for a few months (seeing a therapist). Within that time frame I watched a documentary that turned me vegan overnight. I am now realizing that it is feeling very restrictive and socially affecting my life. From the advice of my therapist, she said that it’s only fueling my fire with my obsession with food and having to prep and to focus on it more than i should be right now, and I agreed. So a couple days ago I decided to incorporate meat and dairy back into my diet. I feel so guilty about eating the animals as I became vegan only for ethical reason. I feeling very conflicted about what I should do. I like the feeling of not worrying about what I’m eating but I now know how the animals were killed so that I can eat them and it’s messing with my head!!! The food almost grosses me out but I eat it anyway, and it does taste good. It’s hard turning a blind eye though and pretending I don’t care. Any advice on this topic or do u know anyone else who’s been through this? 

Best Wishes, Kathryn (Minnesota)
My Answer to Kathryn. 
Hi Kathryn,

Thank you so much for this very important question. Believe it or not, I have extreme personal experience with this one. I was raised vegetarian from age 10 and turned strict vegan on my own at the age of 20. Being vegetarian and vegan were extreme ethical decisions for me. I was a member of LEAP ( league of environmental and animal protection) for my high school’s chapter (LEAP was the late 80’s version of PETA-). 

I turned vegetarian the summer of 1984.  I had always been extremely sensitive and never liked the idea of meat and where it came from. Due to my family and my upbringing, I was also a child who felt overwhelmed by food and my fear of fat.  That summer, in camp, my counselor Betsy was a vegetarian.

 I didn’t know any strict vegetarians back then. It seemed exotic and cool and I really admired Betsy. She ate the mashed potatoes off the top of the Shepherd’s Pie,  dined on salads and carrot sticks while the rest of us were chowing down on bug juice and Kosher hot dogs, and chewed on apples while the rest of us ate ice cream and brownies.
Betsy was quiet and kind and seemed almost ethereal, like you could see through her. These were all things I admired and wanted to be. I wanted to float through life without necessarily having to solidly be in life. Looking back it was probably a combination of my fear of being noticed coupled with my fear of not being noticed. I thought that if I didn’t eat meat anymore, I could embody Betsy. I would be sweet, kind, sort of float through space and time and I wouldn’t have to worry about choosing what foods to eat because my choices would be inherently limited. It seemed like a win-win situation.
So that August, when I came home from summer camp, I announced to my mother that I wanted to be a vegetarian.  As you might know from previous posts, my mother was extremely restrictive with our food, and she was absolutely thrilled by this.  She was already in a spiritual lifestyle (back then they called it “new age,”) and this fit perfectly for her. She was able to keep both our diets “clean,” and embody the life that she thought she should have. 

When I was 28, my mother was seemingly the “healthiest” person I knew. Her diet was soooooo clean. For the past twenty years, all I’d ever saw her eat was brown rice, tofu, steamed squash, raw vegetables, fruit, mineral water, quinoa, kale (before kale was what kale is now, it was impossible to find back then, we had to travel to a health food store 40 miles away)…. you get my point.  She never drank alcohol, never smoked, never did drugs… her apartment was meticulous, she was perfect… neat, clean, meditated daily, did yoga like the Maharishi (She’d been doing it since the 1960’s).   In her early 40’s, she was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease called PBC (Primary Biliary Cirrhosis) where the bile ducts destroyed her liver. She died super young (54 years old). And when she was dying, she told me that she thought maybe I should try eating meat. She said “what if I was wrong about all this?  I want you to try it…”  

And then my mother died. And I was left depressed and with this ethical dilemma. I hadn’t touched meat or eggs for almost 20 years and hadn’t touched dairy for more than eight years. I had principals.  Being a strict vegan also felt like my identity. I didn’t know what or who I was without my veganism. I know that it might seem strange, but for those of us with eating disorders (and maybe you can relate to this), so much of our identity is tied up in the way we eat or with our eating disorder, or with our body size. But my mother had made a deathbed wish to me (she also asked me to let my hair grow long, but that’s a different story for another post)… 
A few months into my Mom’s death, I was sitting out by the river thinking about what she said.  At that moment, a fish jumped out of the water. Literally jumped. It felt like a sign. I mean, fish don’t jump out of the Hudson River everyday.   I felt like that fish was saying “it’s okay.” Perhaps I was looking for signs. As we know, when you are looking, you will find.

 

My boyfriend at the time and I went to a fish restaurant (he was so excited because he was very NOT vegan) and we ordered fish. I remember my order. It was a tilapia plain with butter and lemon. I remember eating it with no consequence. No stomach aches, no illness, no bad reaction, nothing.  I was nervous because I had read so many accounts of long term vegetarians and vegans eating animal products again and getting sick, but that didn’t happen to me. 

Well, at this point I just started trying things. Next thing up was pizza. I was ecstatic. Real pizza, with cheese! Not just a cheeseless pizza with sauce and eggplant (there were few options for vegans back then), eggs came next, and then after a few months, chicken, and then red meat. I tried to eat as  ethically as I could (grass fed, organic, etc. which I was/am privileged to be able to do. I realize that it’s not an option for everyone,)  and it was hard for me emotionally but physically lots of things changed. And they changed quickly: 

1. When I was vegan,  I walked around dizzy all the time. I didn’t really know any difference, I thought that that was just how people felt. However, when I started eating meat, that stopped. 
2. I had more endurance and I was able to exercise with ease and actually enjoy it. When I was vegan I pushed myself through exercise. 
3. My anxiety went away. 
4. My binge eating urges decreased immensely. Almost completely. In fact, I binged A LOT when I was vegan. A lot a lot a lot.  I think it’s partially because my body just wasn’t getting the nutrition that it needed because my diet was so restrictive. 
5. My concentration levels sharpened.  I was able to sail through grad school in a way that I couldn’t in undergrad. Focus and concentration were just so much easier for me. 
6. I felt more content, my mood improved dramatically. 
7. And I hesitate to write this, but the truth is that I dropped a significant amount of weight when I stopped being vegan.  This won’t necessarily happen for everyone as we all have different body types and needs. 

I felt as though my body really needed it, and given how different I felt, it began to make me think that maybe part of science, nature, the food chain, the universe etc, meant for this to be.

I truly believe that we all have different nutritional needs for our bodies.  Like animals, some humans do better as herbivores, some do better as omnivores. That’s why it makes me so angry when people make the blanket statement that veganism is the best diet for everyone. For some people it’s fantastic but for some it’s not.

Veganism literally made my body and my mind sick and ineffective.  My best advice is to watch your body closely. If you feel that you are not feeling well as a vegan, that your body is not getting what it needs, that you have more urges to binge, that you’re tired more of the time than not, that you’re cold more of the time than not, then try implementing different options.  See what a bit of animal products does. If it doesn’t work for you either physically or emotionally, experiment with getting more protein and fat through plant sources.  It’s a very difficult line to walk, but you have to find out what is most right for your body. 

I know that there is this “vegan glow” that people talk about. I have a hunch that it’s because vegans tend to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables. It’s not so much about what they’re leaving out, but about what they’re taking in. I know for sure that when I was a vegan I had no glow. My skin was dry, my hair was dry,  I was tired and hungry and anxious.  If I am being perfectly honest with myself, when I look back now, I believe that my vegetarianism and veganism was a “legal” way for me to restrict my food and keep my eating disorder under wraps but still alive. Restricting my food kept me feeling virtuous and honest.  Recently someone who I hadn’t seen in more than a decade told me how great I looked and that I had that “vegan glow.” I said, “funny because I eat meat and dairy and chocolate and everything now.” 

Again, I know that this article will anger many people, but I felt that it was important to tell my story and give my personal truth.  This doesn’t mean that I believe it’s everybody’s truth, but everybody’s truth is different and it’s up to you to find out what your personal needs really are.  Nobody else can tell you this.

  Related: When Someone Promises That They Can Help You Lose Weight, They’re Totally Lying to You. 

I hope that you’ve found this helpful and I appreciate the question.

Warmly, 
Leora

How To Not Binge Eat on Thanksgiving

how not to binge at thanksgivingA long, long time ago, in a lifetime that is so far from the one I’m currently in, I had one of my first major, major forays into deeply disordered eating on Thanksgiving. It was 1986, I was twelve years old (12 YEARS OLD!!!!) and we were having our Thanksgiving dinner at my Grandmother’s boyfriend’s daughter’s house. Said boyfriend’s daughter also had a daughter who was about the same age as I was, only she was a much better person than I was. I knew this because my grandmother kept insisting “why can’t you be more like Allison?”

I didn’t realize it then, but there was no way I could be more like Allison. Allison had a mother and father who lived under the same roof, she lived in a house in the suburbs in Connecticut and money, cool clothes and lots of friends weren’t an issue for her. And, not to mention, she was tall and thin. I lived in a tiny apartment alone with my mother in the Bronx, we didn’t have money for Guess jeans and Swatches and being the total nerd girl that I was, I was more interested in books and my saxophone than boys and clothes. I was also painfully shy, so even if I wanted to make friends and have a cool TV life like Justine Bateman in Family Ties or Rickie Shroder in Silver Spoons.. it just wasn’t in the cards for me. I was too different. I didn’t have the look, I didn’t have the house, I didn’t have the family structure. No brothers or sisters, no two parent household, no house with a yard, no mother baking me cookies when I got home from school, just one totally stressed out Mom who came home after dark totally frazzled, angry and needing a break but not getting one.

Anyway, it was a huge set up for me. We’d go to these people’s house in the suburbs and I’d feel so different. My mother would be annoyed, and my grandmother would be pinching me and whispering to me, “why can’t you be more like Allison?” This particular year, when I was twelve, I remember everyone gushing about how tall and thin and beautiful Allison was. And I felt short and not thin and ugly. So I ate lots of yummy Thanksgiving food to help me feel better. Allison’s mother could cook and cook and cook for days and make the most delicious meals. My mother didn’t have the time to cook those kinds of meals– what we mostly ate at home was brown rice and squash and tofu.  I remember that particular Thanksgiving my grandmother jabbing me when I was on my second piece of pie and whispering “Stop eating piggy… don’t you want to be thin and beautiful like Allison?” All of my shame came flooding into me. I couldn’t win.  I went up to the bathroom and I don’t even know how at age 12 I knew how to do this, but I looked for laxatives in their medicine cabinet. I took a bunch of ex-lax right there in that Connecticut bathroom and that night, after we went home and my mother had gone to sleep, I dragged her bathroom scale into my room and stayed up all night with stomach pain and cramping and using the bathroom. And every time I went to the bathroom, I would note that I was down another notch on the scale. I did this until it was light out and the Star Spangled Banner was on television and then I went to sleep, feeling light, empty and proud of myself for all the great work I’d done. (????)

There were so many things that Thanksgiving that triggered my disordered eating episode. The food was inconsequential in a sense… it was just there to soothe me. There was my shame, my comparative thinking, my family, my sadness/loneliness, my usual restrictive way of eating that was so different from what was being served.. Given this scenario, I was set up for a really bad night.  I can think of a lot of cases where there are a million set ups for disordered eating on Thanksgiving, and it’s not just because the food is there.  

  In my first semester of graduate school, right before we left for Thanksgiving break, one of my professors asked who was headed home for the break. Most of us raised our hands. “Well,” he said, “I don’t care how much therapy you’ve had, I don’t care how much you meditate, I don’t care how much healing you’ve done, when you go home, you are going to be that same twelve-year old kid that you used to be. Same family of origin issues, same role in your family… so be prepared and expect it when it happens.”

I want to support you in having a really fantastic Thanksgiving this year, one without disordered eating, without self-hatred, comparative thinking or severe loneliness. And so what if all of these difficult feelings come up? It’s okay, let’s see if we can create some strategies around not acting out in your eating disorder.

When I think about family systems, I imagine a giant machine with gears that all work together to create one fluid movement. This is what happens in families, we all have an agreed upon role. If one person were to change, it would gum up the works and the machine would begin to move differently… not necessarily worse, just differently. And not everyone has agreed to change so we wind up just back in our old fixed gear position, no matter how many changes we’ve made.

When you are back at your childhood home, or with people you knew from way back or even around food that is old and familiar, you will likely notice  some phantom urges.

It’s weird. Out of nowhere,  you might notice old thought patterns just popping into your head, like, “when everyone goes to sleep, I will turn the television on and sit by myself and binge and purge…” but these aren’t necessarily attached to desire… they are just sort of old passing phantom thoughts and feelings because  you’re being reminded of a scenario that triggered disordered eating back when it all started for you.  It might just be old thought energies popping into your mind triggered by being in an old situation with the same old smells and sights and people and feelings. The phenomena of phantom limbs is when someone feels pain in a limb that has been amputated. This was the same thing- feeling a pain that had no attachments or groundings. In this time of travel and family, you might find yourself having lots of old urges coming up again and again. It’s okay. This is to be expected. Ask yourself, “is this a present day urge or is this old material presenting itself.” It’s like this, let’s say you went home and found your seventh grade diary and started reading through it. You come to the part about your big crush– the boy who sat next to you in sixth period. You read about how he ignored you or never noticed you and how you felt so sad and rejected and how more than anything you just wanted him to notice you. When you read that, you might notice some old feelings of pain and longing come up, but you wouldn’t feel the actually desire to be with this boy. That’s because the feeling no longer exists, it’s just old material. When you go home, you are confronted by a lot of old material that triggers old feelings. Remind yourself, “this feels really real, but it’s old, it’s no longer a valid truth, this isn’t relevant to today’s circumstances…” You might go home and feel like a twelve year old, but you won’t actually be a twelve year old. You are an intact adult who can handle the difficult emotions, even if they are difficult.

Remember to breath and tell yourself that just because the old energy is coming back, you can still bring in the new energy just by breathing it in and remembering that it is there for you. Put your hand on your heart and be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that being human is so, so very messy and human emotions are not rational or linear and that everyone has them, everyone feels completely alone and sad and messy at some point. Tell yourself that i’s okay and that you are perfect and whole and complete exactly as you are in this moment, even if you’re messy, even if things feel out of control, it’s okay… being human is never easy for anyone (I bet even for Allison wherever she is)…

The Thanksgiving meal day itself is something that is always difficult, so I’ve compiled a list of things to help you stay in your recovery during that time:

How To Not Binge Eat on Thanksgiving

1. Have an intention around not bingeing, but not around food. Let yourself eat whatever you want, but tell yourself that you’re not planning on bingeing on it. This is because if you tell yourself no sweets, but then you have one bite of pecan pie, there’s a good chance that you’ll binge on it and not stop bingeing. Know that you can have potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie, all of it! Anytime of year, or even the next day for lunch. This is not all or nothing and it doesn’t have to be a binge, it can be a meal where you eat what you want until you feel satisfied. 

2. DO NOT SET UP, CLEAN UP OR COOK BY YOURSELF! Being alone is a huge set up for sneak eating or eating compulsively. Make sure that you either have someone to do this for you or that you at least have help or even someone in the kitchen with you so that you’re not alone. Let yourself get support  too, let the person who is with you know that you’re trying to avoid sneak eating or disordered behaviors around food so you’d feel better if they were with you. 

3. Tell your family about your Eating Disorder recovery. I always encourage my clients to let their family know how their recovery has been going when they go home for holidays. It both gives them accountability as well as love and support from the family. 

4. Get support to manage your social anxiety. One of the more challenging parts of these holiday dinners is being around lots and lots of people and just feeling overwhelmed. One of your instincts might be to dissociate this is where you sort of disconnect from your body so you don’t have to deal with your anxiety and all the people around you. At this point you might find yourself just eating and eating and eating to deal with your discomfort. A good thing to do is to ground yourself and come back to your body. Feel your feet on the floor, look around, see who you see and come back to your body. When you leave your body– you have no one there to to be present and let you know whether you actually want to eat or if you’re just using a coping mechanism. Find yourself physically and emotionally, remind yourself that you might be feeling overwhelmed and shy and that’s okay, (no shame in being who you are) do what you need to comfort yourself. Take a walk, go to the bathroom and breath or drink some water just to feel present again. Find a safe person to anchor you and to help you feel comfortable. 

5. If you don’t have anyone supportive at the Thanksgiving meal, find a support buddy to text or even see if you can bring a a support resource with you, a friend who might be going through recovery with you or someone you feel safe with. If you cannot do that, have a support person who you can talk to on the phone intermittently throughout the meal.

6. Make sure that you eat a good solid breakfast before you go to Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t show up hungry. If you do, your hunger might take over and squelch your intention. Our culture is so entrenched in diet culture that the idea of not eating, doing a “turkey trot” and then bingeing at Thanksgiving dinner has been normalized. But it’s not normal and it’s not good for people with disordered eating as it costs much more than it’s worth. Try to make it into a somewhat normal eating day for you so that you don’t have to take a step back in your recovery.  

7. Eat whatever you want, no food is bad, but do try to  incorporate a solid nutrient dense meal, with protein, vegetables and a starch. If you just snack or graze on a bunch of different foods, you will inevitably wind up feeling unsatisfied, as though you’ve not really had a meal. This could lead to feeling too full and trigger a binge. I really like the one plate theory for big buffets and dinner. Decide that you are going to just have one plateful of food and choose whatever it is that you want to eat on that plate. But when that plate is done, you’re done. That should take the stress away from the after effects of eating and the bingeing that happens when you are uncomfortable and unsure after you eat your meal.

8. Take breaks.  Go into the bathroom and breathe deeply while you’re eating. This will help you digest your meal and to stay calm. Suit up for winter and get outside into the cool air for a walk around the neighborhood. Change your environment a bit so you don’t get lost in it or in your reaction to it. Let yourself get away from the stress of the food and the stress of family that sometimes exists.  If it’s too cold or not realistic for you to leave, take your cell phone into another room and say you need to make an important call and talk to your support person.

9. Talk to people in rooms away from food. You don’t have to sit on a couch in front of a giant platter of cheese and crackers and nuts and hors d’œuvres talking to your aunt as it might take away from your conversation. Try to concentrate on conversations with  people and really engage, really make connections with people who you’ve not spent time talking to in a while.

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

11. Don’t compulsively overexercise in anticipation of “eating extra calories.”  It will leave you very tired and hungry, again, unable to empower yourself to hold your intention.

12. Bring your journal with you so that you can sit and relax and process your feelings during the meal rather in case you are feeling like you need to stuff down your feelings with food.  

13. Listen to mediations or relaxing music that puts you in a calm mood before you go. 

14. Make a gratitude list before you go.  Think of 10 things that you are truly grateful for. Research shows that creating gratitude lists can decrease anxiety, increase positive relationships, improve physical and psychological health, increase empathy and compassion and increase self esteem. 

15. Engage with the very young and the very old.  If there are children there, spend time playing with them. If there are elders there, spend time talking to and getting to know them. Both things that will be enriching and get your mind off of food. 

16. Mediate. Sit quietly in the bathroom for five minutes and take deep slow breaths into your belly. Inhale slowly  to the count of five and exhale slowly to the count of five. This will calm your body and allow you to let go of any stress or anxiety that your body is holding on to.

17. Remember that if it seems like it might be too hard this year,  you don’t have to go. It’s true, you might let some people down. But you can always explain to them that it’s important for you to take care of yourself in this way this year. If you don’t think that they’d be amenable to this, or you think that they will accuse you of being self centered or self absorbed, don’t offer any explanation that might leave you vulnerable to being shamed or insulted. Creating boundaries with people is important. You don’t have to worry about letting people down wben you need to do things that preserve your SELF. Your sanity is the most important thing to keep you safe and at peace. 

18.  Create loving boundaries for yourself. Think of your inner child and think about how you would help your child if they wanted to eat all the pie and all the mashed potatoes. You would be kind and understanding but explain to them that you didn’t want them to get a bellyache! So of course they are allowed to eat pie and mashed potatoes, but in moderate amounts. A good rule of thumb, keep portion sizes for your Thanksgiving treats to about the size of the palm of your hand. Don’t try to restrict desert because that can be a setup for a binge. Instead, tell yourself that you can sample 2-4 different deserts but take smaller pieces, so that you get to eat some of everything!  Whatever works to put on one desert plate. It’s so important that you let yourself have what you want so that you don’t leave feeling deprived and wanting to binge later. 

19. Consider refraining from taking home leftovers if you feel they will trigger a binge. That doesn’t mean not to take home leftovers, but ask yourself, will I be safe with this food or not so much? You know yourself best.  

20. Plan for what you will do for the rest of the evening– feeling full can trigger a binge in many people – so plan to do something relaxing (conversation with good friend, watching a good movie on Netflix, etc.) when you get home that night and be done eating. 

21. Listen to last year’s Recovery Warriors podcast where Jessica talks to me about Thanksgiving! 

22. Be kind and gentle with yourself. In most people with BED, being too full triggers a binge. Remind yourself that getting too full on Thanksgiving is what most of America goes through and not to beat yourself up and that it doesn’t have to trigger a binge. 

23. And what if you do all these things and you still wind up bingeing? Forgive yourself. It’s okay. The last thing I want for you is to continue this binge for the rest of the week and into December. See How To Recover from a Binge.

But I’m all alone on Thanksgiving- what should I do? 

Being alone on Thanksgiving is isolating, lonely and challenging. But there are many things that you can do to counter that. 

1. Volunteer to serve meals at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen

2. Get away- get out of the house and travel and spend the day doing something you love, hiking, or exploring. 

3. Go out and see a movie marathon

4. Get online and see if there are any meet-ups for people alone on Thanksgiving

5. Spend the day doing things that feel organizing and energizing, cleaning and organizing your house, giving yourself a facial or hot oil treatment, relaxing and catching up on your favorite movies or podcasts. 

Are you traveling for Thanksgiving? Please read HOW TO AVOID BINGEING AT THE AIRPORT

Sign up for our newsletter to get tips on how to stop bingeing and receive an email every single day during the month of December to help you get through the month without binge eating.  This is a rough time of year.  The Fall is always difficult for people with any kind of dysfunctional relationship with food… It starts with Halloween which is a super scary holiday for binge eaters and emotional eaters because candy is all over the place and then it lingers for weeks and months afterwards. I remember once having a client who was still bingeing on her kids’ Halloween candy in January!

That brings us to now, Thanksgiving the full out binge holiday – it brings with it family drama, mashed potatoes and phantom urges, and then there is December. December is the worst! There are constant parties, constant drinking, there are cookie swaps, latke feasts, gift baskets full of peppermint brownies sent to the office every minute, baked goods in the staff cafeteria almost daily… and then there’s that “well just screw it, I’ll go on a juice fast starting on January 1st and then after 3 days I’ll go Paleo…” and then you binge your way through December feeling awful, sick to your stomach, uncontrollable, uncomfortable and holding on to the promise that 2018 is going to be different. It’s going to be your year and then by January 2nd- you’re back on the cycle and you already feel as though you’ve ruined the whole year!

LET’S NOT DO THAT THIS YEAR!

Let’s have a peaceful, calm, easy and moderate Fall this year. I want to support you in being kind to your mind and body. No crazy diets, no intense binges. And if you slip up, I want reach out to help you stand up quickly and not slide down that slippery slope of end of the year madness.

I invite you to join for LIFETIME ACCESS to the 5 week program so that you can get the support you need for the holidays.

Here’s what you get –

  • The FULL 5 Week Step-by-Step Program to Stop Binge Eating For Good and everything that comes with it for a LIFETIME! It’s always yours.
  • The Facebook support group that comes with it.
  • Holiday Buddy support. So during the holidays, I help people match up with buddies so that they have extra support and someone (or a group) to text with so they can get help to stay safe and moderate and comfortable with their eating.
  • I will be doing weekly Facebook lives which are interactive all through the Fall until New Years. With these you can ask and answer questions.
  • A few “group therapy sessions” online. Those will be small groups available on a first come first serve basis.
  • An email every single day in December to help you stay focused on your goal of self-kindness, self-compassion, eating with kindness and love, not over-eating, not restricting, but enjoying your food and not beating yourself up over what you might have done or not done with eating and your food.
  • I want you to start 2018 strong. I don’t want you to start 2018 thinking “this is the year I finally tackle my food issues,” I want you start 2018 feeling calm and relaxed and not feeling like you have to make any big changes. I want you Fall to be lovely, peaceful, enjoyable and full of joy instead of angst over food.

 I do hope that you will join the program. Feel free to check out the testimonials to learn more!!!

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.