fitness

Friday Q & A- Cheat Days Have Turned into Binge Days

i binge on my cheat daysQuestion:

My name is Elizabeth. I am from Australia and have been struggling with binge eating just over 6 months now.
It started when I competed as a Fitness Model– I was on a very restrictive diet and was allowed “cheat meals” once per week- these cheat meals became binges. After my comp the cheat meals/binges became more regular now they are just a way of life. I get stressed out easily and am often alone- my partner works away, I look forward to eating & get enjoyment & a thrill out of it. I can’t go into the city without visiting my favourite chocolate store and that leads me to a binge. I can’t seem to find any help or anywhere that doesn’t cost a fortune! My binging is affecting my self esteem, my career and my relationship.
What should I do to stop this cycle?

Answer:

I want you to begin by looking at semantics here. When we begin to use words such as “cheat” to describe food and what is essentially giving ourselves nourishment and keeping ourselves alive, we begin to think of eating as a game. Eating is not a game and it’s not a competition, it is one of the ways that we stay alive, along with breathing and elimination. Eating and cheating should not be in the same realm. You eat to stay alive, you cheat to gain an advantage over someone dishonestly  or deceptively. So how is eating cheating?

It is not. You are never cheating by eating. You are working to stay alive and ultimately healthy.

 

Given that change in definition, let’s begin to look at how your mind has formed an expectation around your eating. You think that you are only supposed to be eating a certain way, however, you then begin to think of food as a competition, as something you need to get ahead in. That makes sense given the fact that you compete with your body for a living. You then have to “cheat” to get ahead, you believe that have to cheat in order to give yourself appropriate nourishment.  In order to begin healing this, I’d like you to begin to not think of food in terms of cheat foods or safe foods. All foods should be allowed, however, you need to learn to put boundaries on them. So instead of one day a week having a cheat food, telling yourself that you are allowed to have chocolate every single day, but not a binge amount, an appropriate serving. An appropriate serving is 1-2 squares. Tell yourself that you can have one square at lunch and one at dinner, or whatever is deemed appropriate. Your food should be mostly for nourishment and healing, but indulging in foods that are pleasurable is always okay. It is okay to eat for pleasure!   But pleasure and bingeing are two different things. Eating for pleasure is mindful eating. You sit down, you put that piece of chocolate in your mouth and you really taste it. Try a mindful eating meditation. You feel the sensation of the chocolate on your tongue, you let that taste sensation go to your brain. You allow your senses to take it in. You breathe into it. Binge eating would taking that chocolate, shoving it in your mouth, barely tasting it and scavenging for more in attempts to escape feeling a certain way.  Try to reframe your thoughts around food to healing and nurturing and nothing is off limits or cheating. However, there are some foods that would not be nurturing to you. For instance, perhaps things made with  gluten give you a stomach ache. Before you eat something, ask yourself, “is this nurturing or punishing?” then, depending on the answer, decide what you’re going to do. Chocolate might be nurturing in some instances and punishing in others. For instance, if you know that you are going to eat chocolate in an abusive way (ie: binge, then beat yourself up for bingeing) it’s punishing. But you might be able to eat chocolate in a way that is nurturing, (ie: sitting, savoring and enjoying a small amount then walking away from it.)

The way you talk to yourself about food is the first step in healing.  I hope that this was helpful to you. Please do comment and let me know how you’re doing.

 

Warmly,

 

Leora

 

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 Ways to Get a Healthy Body Now

10 ways to get a healthy body1. Eat mostly minimally processed and whole foods. This means choosing to actually eat a piece of chicken and broccoli that you get from the store rather than picking up a chicken and broccoli Lean Cuisine and having it pass for dinner. You want your food to have as few ingredients as possible. A steak is healthier than a 100 calorie snack pack. A baked potato is healthier than a slice of low fat  processed American cheese. You get what I’m saying. Try to keep it as simple as possible. It’s actually easier and will improve your health a million-fold. Check out these articles on the benefits of eating whole foods.

2. Don’t obsess about it.  So, eat processed foods most of the time, but say if a bag of cheez-its should pass your lips, you’re not going to ruin it all. You don’t have to binge on processed foods all day long and then vow to only eat apples and broccoli and chicken for the rest of your life. You’ve set up a baseline of healthy with eating mostly whole foods. So if you can eat healthy most of the time, you can have a little bit of the not so healthy every so often. It’s okay. It’s fine in fact. This is the way I suggest working it. When you see something that you really want, allow yourself to have it. But, first, go for the whole unprocessed so that you know you’re giving your body something healthy. Like if there is a choice between a fruit salad and a piece of (unhomemade/supermarket bought) cake, opt for both, but eat the fruit salad first, then eat the cake. You get your healthy food in, you don’t forgo one for the other. There’s no deprivation there and you are letting yourself eat for both health and enjoyment.  When you give yourself the healthy food first, there is also less opportunity for bingeing because you’re hungry or depriving yourself.  I differentiate between a piece of supermarket bought cake because I really believe that I homemade cake is healthier. There is less likely to be lots of artificial ingredients and preservatives and more love and whole ingredients added.

Obsessing about eating whole foods is just another diet. You don’t want that. You want to eat for health and for enjoyment — it’s okay to eat for enjoyment!  Obsessing will also set you up for failure. Think of eating whole foods as your way of nurturing yourself, not punishing.

3. Exercise with love- Forget about reading about the best ways to lose weight or how to get a ripped physique and think of exercise as something to bring you pleasure and to help you destress. If you like to run, then run. If you like to swim, then swim. If power lifting is your thing, more power to you.  If you like to take long leisurely strolls, then do that. If  you love yoga, do yoga.  If dance classes bring you joy, do that. You don’t have to exercise hard, you just have to get out and move several times a week. And seriously, you don’t have to power through your exercise, moving can be slow.  It can be a nice walk through the park with a friend or pushing a stroller or listening to a podcast or book on tape. Think of exercise as quality time with yourself rather than something you have to do. If you can exercise outside and get a little vitamin D grade sunshine, it’s a bonus.

4. Sleep at night. – Seriously get your sleep in order.

One of the ways to begin to encourage good health into your life is to start with your sleep.  Sleep and mood go together. When your sleep is off, your mood is off. When your mood is off and your sleep is off, your immune system is compromised and your emotional stability is off. You then become more susceptible to colds, flu, disease, as well as anxiety, depression, and car accidents. Sleeping too much or too little sleep can both be hazardous to your health. Healthy adults need 7-8 hours each night. My husband, who lived for years with chronic insomnia was helped greatly by this book.

Make your bed a welcoming place.   Go out and buy a nice, comfortable set of sheets and a new comforter and lots of fluffy pillows. Make your bed someplace that is inviting and luxurious. If you can’t afford new sheets right now, wash your current sheets and bedding and fluff it up, spray it with some lavender and try to give it a little bit of new life. At night, an hour before you think you should go to sleep, get into bed. Let’s say you want to be asleep at 11, get into bed at 10. Don’t turn your TV on, don’t bring your computer into bed with you. Bring a book, or a magazine, or your iPod. Listen to some relaxing music with your eyes closed or listen to a guided visualization, and just begin to let yourself relax. This isn’t about sleep, this is about relaxing your body. Sleep is a natural biological process that your body can do once you begin to relax your body and your mind. You might also want to get into the bath about 90 minutes before you want to be asleep. A hot bath with Epson Salts is a great way to relax your muscles and calm your mind and warm your body up for sleep. Try to think of a nice bedtime routine that you can do every night that will help you fall into a restful sleep. You might draw for 1/2 hour before you get into bed, you might bathe, you might write in your journal, but find something that works for you and do it nightly.

If you find that sleep is impossible, there are lots of natural sleep solutions such as taking extra magnesium supplements at night or checking out herbal sleep aids out there such as valerian, chamomile and skullcap as well as amino acids like 5-HTP and L-Tryptophan or a synthetic hormone of melatonin. Definitely ask your doctor or Naturopath about supplementation for help with sleep before you take anything. There are also over the counter solutions as well as prescription solutions that your doctor can help you sort through. There’s no shame in finding something to help you sleep. Being sleep deprived leads to poor decision making, especially around food choices. It also leaves you looking for more energy and many people use caffeine and sugar to achieve this.

5. Floss Your Teeth– Did you know that having good oral hygiene is a way to keep your heart healthy? Gum-disease-causing bacteria can contribute to cardiovascular disease. This may work through inflammation; people with more gum disease bacteria also had more white blood cells circulating in their blood because white blood cells are part of the body’s response to infection.  So floss daily!

6. Hug Someone-Believe it or not, hugs can reduce stress. Hug your Mom, your Dad, your Rabbi, your Pastor, your Son or Daughter, even hug your dog or you cat. Human love, compassion, and touch can be so healing.  In fact, A University of Virginia neuroscientist has found that women under stress who hold their husbands’ hands show signs of immediate relief, which can clearly be seen on their brain scans.

7. Stop drinking, or cut down dramatically if you are drinking daily-  I’m sorry to report that drinking alcohol daily dramatically increases your risk for cancer.  A new study shows that even as little as 1 drink per day increases your risk for breast cancer, mouth and throat cancers and stomach cancers. I wasn’t super surprised to hear this. I have a close friend who is an oncology nurse, who told me that what she often sees on people’s assessment forms is that they drink excessively. She said that it’s the one thing that is confirmed to her over and over and over again, that alcohol use and cancer have a very strong correlation.  Sorry folks. If you’re trying to quit drinking, I highly suggest checking out an AA meeting or a Smart Recovery. You might even try hypnosis to help you stop drinking.

8. Take a vitamin D3 supplement– We are super vitamin D deficient. If you don’t want to take something without getting first checked, ask your doctor to run a lab to check your level. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to infertility, breast cancer, depression, colon cancer, anxiety, heart disease, obesity, recurrent miscarriage, and all sorts of other crappy things. Studies also show that folks who have higher vitamin D levels have lower risk of disease in general and better immune function.  However, the best way to integrate Vitamin D is with sunshine, so get out into the sun and soak up some vitamin D. Mushrooms are also a great source of vitamin D, so don’t be shy about your fungi.

9.Have Lots of Sex– You will be happier, calmer, you will sleep better and you will reduce your risk of heart disease, depression and anxiety. Now, if you don’t have a partner, going out and having sex with strangers probably won’t improve your health (or self esteem). However, there are proven benefits to having a healthy sexual relationship with yourself! 

10. Drink Honey and Cinnamon- Each morning, make a mixture of raw honey and organic cinnamon in a cup of warm water and drink it down for good health. This has long been a folk remedy that claims you can lose weight, decrease insomnia, fight anxiety, ward off cancer and heart disease and keep your skin clear and supple.  Is it true? Maybe a little. Snopes says sort of true.  But, it’s a pleasant morning drink if anything. If you see an improvement in whatever ails you in a few weeks, great, if not, stop drinking it.

Anxiety

I can’t tell you that I fully understand anxiety.  I’m not sure why some people are controlled by their anxiety and some people are fully able integrate life into their day-to-day without being ruled by anxiety.

Anxiety is fear on caffeine pills.

Often times, binges come out of anxiety. The flood of seratonin that you get from the binge will help calm you down. Hellish bliss. Because then, comes all the anxiety from the binge.  Did I just make myself fat? Am I fat? Should I purge? What should I do? I just ruined it!

Anxiety is not simple. And it’s sneaky. Even if you try to interupt your thoughts, it will come back in other ways.

Delving into the anxiety is one way that I believe it will begin to dissipate.

Sometimes a thought pops up. And then, before you know it, your head is in the refrigerator. Possibly going back to the thought again and again and being with the anxiety a bit until the shock of it dulls a bit.

And then following the anxiety to the source of it.

for example: “I look fat… If I look fat, people won’t like me. If people don’t like me, no one will want to be around me. My boyfriend/girlfriend will leave me, I’ll never find someone to love me, I’ll be completely alone and then I’ll die alone and rats will eat my decaying body…”

Most anxiety, in it’s truest form is existential angst, the fear of death or being alone and dying alone.  Anything that we can do to lessen that fear, (which puts us in a place of uncomfortable, heightened state of vigilance) we will do. Bingeing is certainly one way to lessen anxiety.  But clearly not the healthiest. And it becomes a vicious cycle.

Other ways to work with anxiety.

1. Acceptance– when you accept that you have no control over life, an amazing sense of peace drapes over you. Also known as surrender.

2. Meditation— lessens anxiety. Allows you to be in the present moment.

3. Exercise– being in your body and in the moment gets you out of your head and helps you stop “future tripping.”

4. Sleep– getting enough sleep balances brain chemistry to help lessen anxiety as well.