eating disorder

Why Do We Really Diet?

Dieting hasn't made Kathy any happier, and she's been doing it for decades

Dieting hasn’t made Kathy any happier, and she’s been doing it for decades

The obvious answer is “to lose weight.”

But is that really, really true?  I don’t think it is.

Think about it, when do you start a diet?  Usually it’s after you’ve had a particularly bad day or week or month or you’ve seen a photo of yourself that you don’t like or someone makes a comment about your weight, or you’ve gone clothes shopping and things don’t fit the way you hoped they would, or you’ve broken up with someone…  Or anything that caused you to feel bad.  So, then you thought, “I’m going to start a diet on Monday…” and you chose the diet you were going to start, thought about what foods you were going to eat and were not going to eat and instantly you felt better.

Why? Why did the thought of going on a diet make you feel better?

Because in a time in your life when things around you felt totally out of control, this felt like a way that you could gain some control. And then you felt on top of things rather than underneath the weight of the world.

Dieting is a method that people use to feel as though they have some control. And how long does that last? Usually until you go out to eat or wind up at an event and think, “well just for tonight… then tomorrow I’m back on my diet.” And just like that, you’ve believe that you’ve lost control and you feel bad about yourself. Or worse, the diet controls you. You go out and rather than enjoying your time out, you feel obsessed with staying away from the food you want to eat and then you just can’t stop staring at other people’s food or thinking about what other people are eating or what they weigh or what you weigh.

Does any of this resonate for you?

So how do you gain control and feel better without using dieting? How do you get back on top when you feel that you are underneath the world?

A lot of it is about accepting the place that you are in without trying to make it go away. For example, “Oh, these jeans don’t fit me… I’m so fat, I need to go on a diet so I can fit into these jeans…”  Instead of that saying to yourself, “I’m going to find a pair of jeans that I am comfortable in and make me feel good, I’m not going to let these jeans dictate how I’m supposed to feel about myself and what I’m supposed to do with my time…”  or “I just broke up with my partner and I’m devastated… breakups are terrible and difficult and it’s okay for me to be in pain.”

Being in acceptance of your situation without trying to make the feelings go away is so empowering. It gives you permission to be in your life and be in your feelings without trying to avoid your life and avoid your feelings by dieting.

The next time you are tempted to start a diet, think about what you are trying to accomplish, what feeling are you trying to make go away? (Fat is not a feeling! It’s a description). Is it insecurity? Loneliness? Anger?

This doesn’t mean that you have to sit and dwell on feeling bad, but the irony is, when you accept what is, it makes space for change. Rejecting and not looking at what is real keeps you stuck in it.

Make a Pact to Detox from Looksist Gossip

don't let the media inform you how you're supposed to feel about yourself.

don’t let the media inform you how you’re supposed to feel about yourself.

Can we make a pact? I just did something that made me so mad, and I don’t want to do it again, so I wonder, will you make a pact with me not to support a media that exploits other human beings as a means to achieve their own ends?

This is what I did. I clicked on a link that said something like “14 Famous Celebs with Terrible Teeth.”  I’m not going to link to it.  And for some reason I started clicking through it and it made me angrier and angrier and angrier. Why? Why would someone just make fun of someone else (someone more famous and more accomplished than they are) just to get clicks and to get traffic? Why?  I guess because people click on those kinds of things.

But can we stop? 

 

Because I’m sick of people making money by making fun of other people. And I’m sick of people (celebs and non celebs alike) feeling insecure and ugly and not good enough because it’s somehow socially acceptable and even encouraged to trash on people’s appearances.

So can you join me and vow not to click on links that are purposely defaming people based on what they are wearing, how fat (or skinny) they’ve become, how much they’ve aged, what kind of bad plastic surgery they’ve gotten or whatever else they are gossiping about?

It’s up to us to change the way we are valued by choosing carefully what we pay attention to. And clicking on something is powerful. Choosing not to is more powerful.  When we choose not to click, we keep ourselves safe by not engaging in toxic looksist gossip. We might not be able to put an end to this type of cyber bullying but we may be able to feel better by not engaging in it. We disengage from a paradigm that is critical of ourself and of others.

If we want to really support our own positive body image, we have to stop supporting a media that devalues people based on their outward appearance. So can we make a pact? Can you “sign” this by putting a note in the comments vowing not to support a media that devalues women and men based on their appearances, and pass this along encouraging others to  vow to not click on those mean links.

Photo Credit to endlessorigami.com

Ten Myths About Binge Eating Disorder

Ten Myths About Binge Eating1. All binge eaters are obese

Completely untrue. In fact most of the people I see in my practice are considered a “normal weight.”  Food is their drug and bingeing is something they do in private and something people will go at lengths to hide, including maintaining a normal weight. In fact, I’ve  had clients who were downright skinny but who binged on food often and felt completely out of control with it.

2. All obese people are binge eaters

Actually, binge eating affects 8% of the obese population. Which means that 92% of obese people are NOT affected by binge eating.  In fact, despite the media’s belief that all fat people are unhealthy, there are many, many people who are both fat and fit. 

3. People who binge eat need more will power and self-control

People who binge eat usually have incredibly amounts of will power and self control. And though this is not true for every binge eater, for the most part, people who binge eat tend to be extremely high achieving and controlled in many aspects of their lives, including controlling their food. It’s this control that tends to sometimes backfire causing an all out rebellion against  the person’s inner critic. What a person who binge eats actually needs is more self compassion and support, not more rules and self control. Learning to support oneself in a positive way, not in a pejorative way will empower the binge eater feel more comfortable around food and less likely to be overpowered by an all out binge.

4. People who binge eat purge by vomiting

Not everyone who binge eats purges by vomiting. Some people compensate by over exercising, some compensate by fasting, some compensate by dieting, some compensate by taking laxatives, and some don’t compensate at all.

5. Binge eating is a bad habit and not a true disorder

Binge eating is more complex than simply a bad habit, it’s actually an impulse control issue, although it is not technically classified as and impulse control disorder.  However, using similar techniques as are used in certain other ICDs (like compulsive shopping) binge eating can be healed.  I’ve seen wonders done with DBT and mindfulness training.


6. Men don’t binge eat

Actually, Binge Eating Disorder affects 2% of men.  However, men don’t tend to get help as often as women. In fact, it’s stigmatized as a woman’s issues, so men tend to shy away from support and feel that they have to just stop or do it alone. In his blog about healing from binge eating, Alan Standish says, “Guys, Binge Eating Disorder affects us just as much as it does women. Don’t be embarrassed.”

7. Binge eating is incurable

It’s really not as grim as it’s made out to be. In healing from binge eating, you really heal your life in so many different ways. You become more organized in your thinking and more thoughtful and mindful. You can come to a place where you are able to let go of your feelings and fears about food. Food becomes nurturing instead of the enemy. I’ve seen it happen over and over again with my clients and that has certainly been my own experience.

8.Binge eating is caused by chronic emptiness

Just because you are binge eater, it doesn’t mean that you are broken. It doesn’t mean that you have a bottomless pit that you will never fill. However, having binge eating disorder can feel hopeless and you might feel as though you are totally out of control and a total mess. But you’re not. You need support, you need compassion and you need some help to get you passed it.

9. Drinking a glass of wine can help curb binge eating

Sometimes people will have a drink in order to calm down the urge to binge eat. But it often backfires. This is what I call “the solution becoming the problem.” If you drink to feel more in control, your problem might then become the drink. And more often than not, people wind up bingeing if they have drank too much- if not that night, then certainly the next morning to deal with a hangover and the shame that often accompanies it.

10. Quitting carbohydrates can help stop binge eating

No. It doesn’t. It really doesn’t. I’m very much a proponent of eating whole foods as much as possible and eschewing processed foods for the most part. So, eating lots of foods out of a box, probably not the best idea for overall health, however, unless you have sugar issues (as in hypoglycemia or diabetes)- it is not advisable to give up fruits and vegetables- even yams and potatoes. Your body runs more efficiently when you are eating a variety of whole foods. If you wind up on a very low carb diet, it’s likely that you might find yourself bingeing on carbs. It’s not because you have no lack of control, it’s because your cells are screaming for glucose and your body will push you into getting what it  needs for survival!

How to Support National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

 

large_The War On Women's BodiesIt’s that time again! National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. 

What is NEDAwareness Week and why is it important you ask?

I’m glad you asked.  Bringing focus to eating disorders is more than just showing support for those who are struggling with anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder.  The intention here is to show just how pervasive eating disorders are and how much support there is for eating disorders in our culture. Yes, eating disorders are supported, not recovery.   You can see it everywhere. You can see it when you turn on reality television, you can see it in a yogurt commercials or cereal commercials when you are encouraged to give up a meal and replace it with this artificially flavored yogurt or processed cereal to lose weight. You are supporting eating disorders when you sit around with people and talk about how fat you are and what your next diet is or when you start to discuss someone else’s weight gain or weight loss.  All of this behavior supports eating disorders by reinforcing the idea that you are not okay as you are, that you have to do something dramatic to change yourself.

How can you support National Eating Disorder Awareness?

1. Choose not to engage in Fat Chat- that means, don’t base a friendly conversation around how much weight you need to lose or how much weight others need to lose or who looks like what right now. You have better things to do with your time and more important things to discuss. If someone tries to engage you in their own conversation about their body or someone else’s body, be kind and explain to them what you’re trying to do, “I’m trying this new thing where I don’t speak disparagingly about my own body or anyone else’s. And I don’t want to engage in any negative conversation about your body. My hope is to change the conversation and society’s focus on women’s bodies. Are you onboard?”

2. Don’t buy women’s magazines, especially diet magazines that are disguised as health magazines.

3. Check out NEDA’s How to page- to help you support eating disorder recovery

 

Friday Q & A- Help, I’m obsessed with food

eating disorder therapyQuestion: Help! I saw your blog and realized that a lot of my odd habits have to do with my unhealthy association with food, but I do not know how to stop it. I am constantly thinking about food, looking for food, and seeing where I can get free food. When I’m at work, I look for places where there is free food available, even if it is not on my floor/department. When there are samples, I can’t help but take more than one. I sometimes even go to places like Costco, just to get the free food samples. At times I have fallen so low as to “try” other people’s food from the fridge without asking. I managed to stop this for a while, but now I have started to feel the urge again.

How do I stop these embarrassing habits? Part of it has to do with the fact that I love to try new things, and a little of different things. Also, I’d like to “sample” some items, but know I don’t want to buy the whole container of it to take home.  However, a part of it, I know deals with the fact that I don’t allow myself to eat some of these foods, like take out, because it is not good.
I feel like these habits have started to interfere with my life, and don’t know how to stop exactly. Any advice would be appreciated.
Thank You,
Nadia
Answer: Hi Nadia, thank you so much for your question. I feel for you. It sounds like food obsession is taking over your life and your mind.
I imagine that there are a few things going on here. The first is that you have these big conflicting emotions about food. One is excitement and curiosity– but the other is fear. So you allow yourself to find ways to keep food limited for you. You don’t trust yourself to set your own limits, so you find places to that will set those limits for you. You go to places where there are free samples so you don’t have to deal with setting your own limits.
The other thing that I am thinking is, I wonder what you would be thinking about if you weren’t thinking about food? Is there something else that’s going on that you might be avoiding? Is obsession with food helping you to look toward something easier than what is really going on?
I think that the answer for you is two-fold, first to practice limit setting and second to figure out what it is that you’re avoiding. For instance, find a safe person and tell them that you are experimenting allowing yourself to buy and eat new foods in a healthy way. Then, think about what it is that you’re wanting to eat. Is it a pretzel? Can you go out and buy a pretzel and bring it home and eat it very slowly, mindfully and allow yourself to enjoy it? Can you stop when you are done? I recommend that you have your safe person there with you so that you have someone to talk to if you feel like bingeing or if you feel out of control. You might want to try a mindful eating download.
When you find yourself obsessing or scavenging for food, ask yourself, “what might I be avoiding? Is there something underneath these thoughts of food that I’m thinking about or needing?”
I do think that eating disorder therapy would be super beneficial for you to help you explore these questions. Check out edreferral.com for a therapist in your area. 
Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating disorders? 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 to deal with your eating disorder? Please see my website or email me to discuss getting started. 

10 Reasons Not To Diet

With much love and credit to the nearsighted owl. http://www.nearsightedowl.com/

With much love and credit to the nearsighted owl. http://www.nearsightedowl.com/

1. Dieting is a temporary state of deprivation and therefore an ineffective way to lose weight. As soon as you return to your normal eating habits, you will regain the weight.

2. If dieting was a solution to a problem, most people would only ever have to diet one time in their lives ever. But it’s not.

3. Dieting makes you grumpy and unpleasant.

4. Dieting turns people without binge eating issues into people with binge eating issues.

5. Dieting takes your mind off of more important pursuits of life and turns you into someone hyper-focused and even obsessed with losing weight.

6. Dieting can cause you to stop doing things you used to find enjoyable, such as spending time with friends or at social events because you dread being around non-diet friendly foods.

7. Diets teach you to measure your worth in terms of numbers on the scale, calorie counts and grams of carbohydrates instead of nurturing the lovely person that you are.

8. Diets force you to reject your current life and look toward a different life that you might never have. They cause you to wait to live your life with passion until you are thin. You don’t have to wait, you can choose be happy now.

9. Diets can drain you financially, especially if you’re constantly spending money on new diet books, or diet foods or special foods or training programs.

10. Diets can set you up for self-esteem issues. Because they are a set-up for failure for 98% of the people who diet, each time a diet doesn’t work, it causes you to evaluate your self worth according to a system that is set up for you to fail.

 

What should I do instead?

Think about making a lifestyle change and just make one small change a week. For instance:

Week One: Add a fruit to your breakfast each morning.

Week Two: Add a salad or a vegetable to your lunch each day.

Week Three: Cut down from 3 sodas per day to 1 sodas per day and substitute with water.

Week Four: Take a walk each afternoon after your lunch.

etc.

 

Make it work for you and your schedule. Think about what you could do for the rest of your life and each week add one small thing to make that change sustainable. Slow methodical change is the way to make change last a lifetime. Sudden unsustainable change is the way to set yourself up for failure.

Check out this old post, how can I lose weight without dieting? 

Need help to stop dieting? Try this hypnosis session to help you stop dieting and start eating intuitively. 

 

CREDIT TO THE NEARSIGHTED OWL FOR PHOTO.

How To Be a Better Person

You don't have to run yourself into the ground to be a good person. Save some life for you!

You don’t have to run yourself into the ground to be a good person. Save some life for you!

I have this client who is really afraid that she’s not a good enough person. But here’s the thing, she’s a really good person. But she’s always afraid that she’s not good enough. She’s almost “too good,” she does everything for everyone else,  she covers other people’s shifts when she’s tired, she cooks dinner for her family every night despite having been on her feet for 12 hours (she’s an ER nurse) she takes in strays (people, pets, and projects), she listens for hours on the phone while her friends cry about the pain of life. She’s a perfect mom, friend and wife. She never says no to anyone. She is the President of the PTA, she does every cancer walk, AIDS run, she heads every committee, has big glorious parties, belongs to three different book clubs and she sacrifices her own needs for the sake of others constantly. She’s really that good. And she’s exhausted. She has explained to me several times that she’s not this good out of an altruistic sense. It doesn’t come easily to her. She feels that she has to be that good otherwise she’ll be abandoned, fired, divorced, rejected, cast aside. She wants people to like her and she believes that who she inherently is has no value so she has to constantly do and be better than everyone else to make herself invaluable and indispensable. She fears that without this quality, she would be nothing.

The title of my blog post is more irony, because I have seen in my practice that many people suffering from eating disorders have the co-occurring obsessive desire to be be good. To be better. To be better than anyone else. To be a precious commodity.

It is possible to be a really, really, really good person while still holding yourself and your health in highest regard. So how do you do that? How do you choose to be a good person without sacrificing your own self?

1. Set boundaries. Rather than saying “yes” right away, whenever you are asked to do something let people know that you will see and you’ll get back to them in 24 hours. Then, in those 24 hours, ask yourself the following questions.

a. Do I really want to do this?

b. If so, why do I want to do this? Do I want to do this for the accolades that I will get or for my own personal enjoyment? If it’s for the accolade, if you are trying to control or manipulate what other people are thinking about you, you should experiment with saying “no.”

 

2. Ask yourself this, “If I don’t do it will I feel guilty? If I do do it, will I feel resentful?” If it is a choice between guilt and resentment, go with the guilt. There’s no reason to do something for someone just to resent them afterwards. Sit with and work through your own guilt. This is about you and your need to be better.

 

3. Do things that are in line with your goals and desires for who you want to be. For instance, if you feel as though being kind and non-judgmental and holding yourself with integrity is important, then know that as long as you stick to that goal, you’ll be fine. Getting angry at someone and talking about them behind their back while still driving them to the airport won’t necessarily make you a better person. Telling them that you’re not able to and being an advocate for yourself will. Don’t worry, they will find another way to get to the airport. I promise!   You are invaluable and indispensable for who you are, not for what you do, so when you choose to be aligned with the qualities of high integrity, you just feel strong within yourself. You don’t need to constantly do for others to be better.

 

4. Always be kind. That doesn’t mean always do everything that people ask you to. It means being okay with people’s requests and being kind and compassionate when you tell them you cannot.

Book Review: Healing your Hungry Heart

Healing Your Hungry HeartJoanna Poppink is an eating disorder therapist down in Southern California whose blog I’ve been following for awhile. Her book Healing Your Hungry Heart was released in late 2011 and I truly think that everyone who suffers from any kind of food issue should read it.

What I love so much about this book is how relatable it is. Joanna writes as if she’s sitting there in the room with you, holding your hand and saying, “yes, I’ve been there, I know what it’s like, but look at me, I’ve really found peace with food, it’s so hard, but I know that you can do it too, and I’m here to help you.”  She shares her own personal experiences with a crippling case of bulimia that followed her all the way to her early 40′s. She goes deeply in depth to discuss the issues that are underneath the eating disorder such as not understanding how to adhere to boundaries and why that might be so. She discusses shame, anxiety, depression, sadness, angst, fear, distress, abuse, secrets and how you might be using food to heal yourself. She helps you with gentle exercises (meditation, breath work, affirmations) to cope with the intensity of life without food. This book is so gentle and very calming and soothing, it’s like having someone right there with you, compassionately guiding you.

There is so much wisdom in this book, you’ll have to read it several times, and each time you read it, you will discover something that you hadn’t or weren’t ready to grasp the first time, for example, In chapter 8, Joanna writes: Openness, so different from secretiveness allows you to see what you couldn’t see, understand what you couldn’t understand, forgive what you couldn’t acknowledge. Your openness and willingness to explore your true nature allows you to give yourself compassion and the desire to care for your authentic self. You learn to appreciate the consequences of your actions and attitudes over a lifetime

This contemplation allows you to open your heart and mind to the people around you, to those who were around you in the past, and those who are yet to come into your life. You have the opportunity to become free as imperfect beings in an imperfect world where you are surrounded by imperfect others and can recognize, give, and receive love and respect.

This way of being in the world is very different than the life you lead with your eating disorder. Please remember, this is a glimpse of what can come for you in recovery. Contemplation and mindfulness practices, jibing and journaling, and mindful breathing and doing your affirmations gradually but inexorably will heal you and bring you health and freedom.

 

I love that passage. Just imagine that, a life where you were free not just of judgement of yourself, but of criticism toward other people. Imagine freeing up all that mindspace, all that incessant chatter that drives you to stay in your eating disorder. imagine freedom. It’s not about being skinnier, it’s about being lighter.  It’s about extricating yourself from the tyranny of your inner critic who so ruthlessly destroys you and everyone around you.  This book is just full of amazing gems like that and ways to achieve this lightness. I wholeheartedly recommend it!

Power to the What?

Before I had my son last fall I was petite but also strong  and healthy. I ate my three healthy meals a day, I ran  3-4 miles 3-4 times a week, I meditated daily, had a pretty good Vinyasa Yoga practice going, I ate ice cream, drank wine, and ate chocolate in moderate amounts.  I had a solid psychotherapy practice, a solid marriage and was enjoying a pleasant rhythm of life. I liked my body, I liked my routine and things felt relatively comfortable and easy. And then, after a few years of false starts, I finally got pregnant. and we were happy, my husband and I.

But pregnancy is not easy on a woman’s body. I developed a condition very early in my pregnancy called a subchorionic hematoma, which put me on moderate bedrest for the first half of my pregnancy. Which meant no running, no yoga (not even gentle restorative yoga), and pretty much doing nothing when I wasn’t at work other than laying in my bed. And I was hungry. I mean, I was really, really, really hungry. I was so hungry that I would be hungry while I was eating, I would be hungry after I finished a meal. The portions that I was used to eating were no match for my intense hunger. And forget eating fish, turkey, lean meats and vegetables. All I could stomach was fruit, pasta, grains, bread, juice and more fruit. I would sit down and ravage two whole mangoes in a few minutes. I would chug down watermelon juice. My body was totally rejecting protein and just begging for intensely sweet fruit. The only protein that I could manage to choke down was tofu. I would wake up in the middle of the night in agony because I was so hungry. The only way I’d fall back to sleep was by drinking milk and eating peanut butter. I was so hungry that I would sometimes cry because I just couldn’t quell this hunger. As he got bigger, there was less and less room. So I’d be ravenously hungry and uncomfortably full all at the same time.  I felt so different than I ever had in my body. It wasn’t like I was binge eating or restricting, it was like I was no longer driving the car. I just was not in charge. And, I gained weight. Because that is what happens when you get pregnant. You gain weight. And sometimes, a lot of weight.

My baby was born via C-Section at a whopping 8 pounds 8 oz and 21 inches long. And everything was great. But we were tired. Really, really, really tired. And the only thing I could get myself to eat was pasta and chocolate. It was easy, it was quick energy and it was all that I was craving. Really? Me, after years of eating a very balanced diet of mostly high quality proteins and unprocessed carbohydrates, I was all about spaghetti and chocolate.  I just couldn’t help it. I couldn’t be mindful about my eating, I was trying to keep this very demanding creature alive by using nothing more than my body. I fed him with my body all day long. And if he didn’t eat every two hours for an hour at a time, day or night, he would scream. I had no time to cut vegetables. I had no time to cook meat. I had no time to go to the farmer’s market and pour over beautiful organic produce. All I could do was breastfeed my baby, eat chocolate, eat spaghetti, change diapers, and if I was lucky, every once in a while, I’d get an hour of sleep. But that was rare.

So, let’s get back to my body. My stomach, which was once  tight and taught was  now completely stretched out. There was lots of loose skin, And, because I am a small woman who had a large baby,   my stomach muscles had split in half and my intestines were hanging out and pushing through the flesh of my stomach. And let’s not even mention the gigantic incision from my C-Section.  I also wound up having to have surgery to fix two hernias and now have three scars between my belly-button and pelvis. All just from becoming a Mom. Gross, right? Totally gross.

But not really.

To tell you the truth, I have never loved and been as proud of my body as I am today. I’m kind of in awe of it actually. It’s a workhorse. I can’t believe that my body managed to not only create a whole human being, but I’ve been able to make food for this baby in my body and keep building him for the past 11 months. I can’t believe that my body can create and grow and sustain a whole person! It’s amazing to me. To that end, I can’t believe that women’s bodies are exploited the way they are. Mens’ bodies should really be the display pieces, I mean, their nipples are vestigial.

So, do I still run several days a week and do yoga and have a great deal of consciousness about everything I eat? No. No. and No. But I’m not concerned. I imagine that when my baby isn’t a baby and longer, I’ll have time to do those things. Right now he is bringing me pleasure. He is my workout. He is my downtime and my fulltime job. My meditation and mindfulness practice still exists, though, not to the extent that it did. My baby is what I’m mindful of. I’ve definitely had to cut down my Psychotherapy practice a great deal, as I run home to nurse my baby between patients, and have to be home in the evenings to feed, bathe, and nurse him to sleep. And I’m happy. And very, very, very tired. But happy.

So what spurred me to write all this? It was this ad that I came across the other day: If you can’t read it, it says: Kick-start your day. Focus. Hit your stride. Breath. Change your pace. Change the oil. Make a difference. Make a home. Be courageous. Encourage others. Stay fit. Fit it all in. Breathe. Hug a kid. Kid around. Run your life. Run your heart out. Power to the She.

I know it’s supposed to be inspiring, but this ad made me really, really angry. It’s not new news that the media is detrimental to women, but this particular ad really rubbed me the wrong way. More than the ancient herion chic Calvin Klein ads with waifish Kate Moss, more than the diet pill ads, more than the Chanel ads of tiny women weighed down by big jewelry– I’ve become immune to all those ads and the messages they send. This one however, it really got to me, because it sends the message to women that not only do we have to be skinny, not only to we have to be perfect, but we have to be everything to everyone and nothing less is acceptable. We have to be to be Real Women.

What happened to us as women that we are expected to do all this? I mean, that is a lot to do in a day. When do I get to take a bath? When do I get to sit and eat a meal? When do I get to go to the bathroom? When do I get to check my email? Talk on the phone to my girlfriends? When do I get to relax with a glass of wine and watch reruns of Sex & the City on E!?   Obviously I don’t, because I’m busy running, doing laundry, cooking dinner for my husband, taking care of my kid, making sure that I don’t “lose my figure,” taking care of people around me, doing volunteer work, and being in complete control of everything around me– Running my life. But rejecting myself.

It’s just not okay. We as women have always been the ones who take care of everything. And we are expected to. This ad sends a message not  that we can have it all, but that we should be everyone to everything and still manage to workout all the time.  It sends a message to women that they have to be on top of things all the time, they can’t stop for themselves, it’s not okay to be tired, to be run down, to relax, to lose their shit, to freak out, to be sad, angry, lazy, or to be messy. This ad tells me that the “Power to the She”– Being a woman, is about being totally perfect, being in control all the time, and sacrificing my needs so that I can spend my days being everything to everyone. And skinny.

I call bullshit. I don’t think that these are feminist beliefs. I don’t think that men are held to these standards. My husband goes to work everyday, he’s a wonderful man and he’s a great Dad, but he’s not up three times each night breast feeding our son. He doesn’t run home several times during the day to nurse him and play with him and to make sure that he’s feeling safe and secure. Yet, because I’m the woman, I’m still expected to keep our house clean and cared for,  maintain my career and still go out for a run? No not in our house. Not ever.  I think that women are held to much, much higher standards, nearly impossible standards, lest they be judged. Women who stay home are lazy, women who work are neglectful, women who don’t exercise are lazy, woman should bear children, then still stay in shape to be sex symbols for their husbands, go to work, and still do the laundry.

No. That is not power to the she. Power to the she is responsibility to self first.  And that means not beating yourself up if you can’t be everything to everyone and still have a hot bod. It means splitting up your responsibility with your husband or partner.   It means taking care of your kids if you have them, taking care of your needs and asking for help if you need it. It’s not about being an island. It’s not about being perfect. That’s just a dangerous message. That’s just a woman trying to control herself and her environment to such an extreme extent that she’s not left anymore. She becomes what she does rather than who she is.

My feelings? As a woman, power to the she is taking care of what you need to and taking care of yourself first. Eating real food and honoring your hunger and your nutritional needs when you are pregnant and breastfeeding. Having integrity, being kind, and saying no to things that are too much. Knowing what is too much and being able to create boundaries. You don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to beat yourself up if you can’t.

A lot of my clients feel so driven to be everything, that they wind up having these secret binge or binge and purge episodes or starving themselves, or exercising themselves into the ground. This isn’t okay. Women are being given the message that they have to be everything and they are hurting themselves to be so.

Power to the She? I’m rewriting this ad.

Be powerful, be strong, be good to yourself,  be everything that you can be, be proud of yourself, be encouraging to yourself and others, be loving to yourself, be loving to people around you, be kind to yourself, be compassionate to yourself, be calm, be bitchy, be happy, be sad, surrender control, honor your appetite, be in the moment, laugh, cry, let go, smell the roses, eat ice cream, drink wine, exercise when you can and try to relax and be you. 

 

 

 

A recovery story

I’ve been seeing *Emily in therapy for four years. She has written her recovery story and agreed to have it posted.

I actually remember the first time I binged and purged. I was in eighth grade and we were at Thanksgiving dinner at my grandparents’ house. My grandma used to make these huge elaborate meals, with like 5 or 6 different pies and all sorts of mashed potatoes and stuffing. My cousin Jenny, who is a year older than me, was there. She was like, everyone’s princess.  Everyone was soooo excited because Jenny had  made the cheerleading squad at her high school and she was in the homecoming court. Up until that year, me and Jenny had always sat there during Thanksgiving and giggle and eat all the pies together. But this year, she barely paid attention to me.  She wore these tight  jeans and kept her portions small. She was like a real teenager.  My mother looked at her admirably and said she was so proud of how beautiful Jenny had become. She also said that it was smart to watch her figure now that she was no longer a little girl. My mom then looked at me and said nothing as I scarfed down my third piece of pie. I had never really thought about it before. I mean that’s what we did on Thanksgiving. We ate my Grandma’s pies. Even my Grandma turned against me. “Eat less pie Emily! Be more like Jenny. Look how thin and gorgeous she is now!”  I felt horrible. My own (not name brand) jeans were unbuttoned to make room for my swollen belly and I felt how greasy my hair and skin had become.  After dinner, I excused myself to the bathroom and I don’t know how or why, but I began searching through the medicine cabinet. That’s when I saw the chocolate ex-lax. I knew what they did and I knew that I could use them to get rid of the pie. I don’t know how I knew to use them. I guess I’d heard of it somewhere… and so I took three pills. I remember thinking that I should take more than it said on the back, but I didn’t want anyone to notice that they were gone.  The laxatives kicked in that night. I sat up all night running to the bathroom. And although my stomach felt ravaged and I was in terrible pain, after my bathroom  trips, I would step on the scale and see how much weight I’d lost. It was amazing to me that the pounds were just dropping off. And that’s how it started.  Later that week, I made myself throw up after eating a milkshake and onion rings from Burger King.

And that was my descent into the dark years of bingeing, purging, taking laxatives, and starving myself. I kept trying to be more like my cousin Jenny who showed up at Thanksgiving every year more and more beautiful, with perfect grades, the captain of cheerleading, with a football player boyfriend. And me, I became more and more isolated. I had put on a lot of weight and I wore all black, smoked cigarettes and had kept my hair dyed black and pierced everything I could. I didn’t really have a boyfriend, though I did sleep with a lot of boys, but no one wanted to get serious with me. I kidded myself into thinking that I didn’t care. But I was depressed. Really depressed. I used to cut myself on the arms and legs sometimes, just so that I could emote because I felt, I believed that I was completely alone. My grandparents seemed to tolerate me, but didn’t have a lot of interest or pride in me. And my mother sort of seemed disgusted by me. She knew about my activities with boys and told me that I had no self-respect.  Food was a lot of what comforted me. I would eat full pizzas on my own after school and wash them down with diet cokes. I’d go days eating nothing, just drinking coffee and diet coke and eating pixie sticks to keep me going. Then I’d collapse, cut school and go to the donut store and eat a dozen donuts in the parking lot, wash them down with diet coke and laxatives, then throw up in the bathroom of the gas station, and then drive around town buying food to binge on and find gas station bathrooms to purge in.  I just wanted to be normal. I wanted to be like my cousin Jenny. I wanted people to love me and I wanted to be beautiful and cared for. I thought that if I could get thin enough, I’d be okay. But my bingeing and purging  continued all through high school, and shockingly, I still was able to get good enough grades to get into college.

I stopped purging in college, but became addicted to diet pills, marijuana, and sometimes even cocaine to keep me from eating. I finally lost all the weight I wanted to, but my body was breaking down. I suffered three fractures by the second semester of my sophomore year. I realized then that I had to stop with my eating disorder. But I couldn’t. I had no idea how to eat normally. I tried to eat three meals a day, but it always ended with me bingeing. I managed to stop purging, but I was still bingeing and then restricting. I did manage to graduate from college, but my grades really weren’t very good. I barely went to class and when I did, I didn’t pay attention or get much out of my classes. I really wasted my mother’s money.

After college, I tried a variety of things to help me lose weight. I tried different diets, I tried nutritionists, I tried a 12 step group with a food plan. But all of those things made me just binge when I fell off my food plans or diets.  Eventually, I decided to start seeing a therapist. I knew I had an eating disorder and was ready for help. It was really hard at first because I felt like my therapist just couldn’t help me with the thing I most needed help with– I wanted to lose weight, I wanted to stop bingeing. I told her to just tell me what to do and fix me. She gave me lots of assignments, many of them were about eating 3 meals a day, whatever I wanted, but I had to eat mindfully. She sent me to a nutritionist who specialized in treating eating disorders, and she also recommended that I see a psychiatrist to help me get some meds that might help with my depression.  I spent a lot of money. A serious amount of money between all those specialists. But I was desperate. 

Talking to my therapist really felt like a relief. We talked through a lot of the pain, depression, and through a lot of my childhood.  I realized that a lot of my eating disorder wasn’t about the food and it wasn’t about me getting thin. It was about me feeling really badly about myself. My Dad left my Mom and I when I was 5 years old, and I always thought it was my fault. The more I began to understand how I felt completely flawed my whole life, the more I understand that it was a myth– a story that I told myself. And that through that myth that I had conceptualized in my 5 year old mind, I began to act the way I believed I was. I tried desperately to get love and attention from men, but ultimately, I felt so worthless, that I let them treat me like crap– letting them have sex with me then ignore me the next day. My mother said I had no self respect, and she was right. But she never taught me how to respect myself. She never quite let me think I was worthy of love and admiration. I wasn’t any less smart or less beautiful than Jenny, I just believed I was. She had a mother and a father at home. I had no Dad and a Mom who was angry and felt rejected and resentful. She came into therapy with me several times as we discussed her own feelings of being worthless after my Dad left her for a much younger woman.   As I began to understand my own sense of worth, I started to try and take better care of myself. I learned to sit with my feelings, I learned to HOLD myself with respect. That was huge. I didn’t have to be super witty, nor did I have to do everything for everybody to make them like me. I didn’t have to be anything. I just had to respect myself. And so as I did, my eating disorder began to have less of a hold on me. As I talked through all those things, I realized that the drive to be thin was really just a drive to be accepted. So I learned to accept myself. It has been really hard for me to accept all those lost years, it’s like my whole teen years and most of my 20s were stolen by my eating disorder. But in learning to accept, I’m just trying to respectfully mourn those lost years.

I’ve been 100% free from any eating disorder behaviors since September 18th, 2010. That was the day before my 28th birthday. I am not afraid of Ed any longer. I know that I have the tools to work through whatever life should hand me. And if I do relapse, I know that I can’t lose the recovery that I have. 

*Name has been changed.

If you have a recovery story that you would like to be published, please send it to bingeeatingtherapy (at) gmail.com