food addiction

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


Taking Care of Your Inner Child


angry inner child

Your eating disorder might feel like a tyrannical dictator, telling you what to eat, what not to eat, pushing you to give in to obsessive cravings, pushing you to purge, pushing you to starve or restrict, but for many  people, that voice is actually a scared little girl (or boy) living inside of you, dressed in adult clothing, trying desperately to get their needs met.

Often, in eating disorders, there is a child inside of you who didn’t get his or her needs met when they were little, perhaps she or he was ignored, or yelled at or abused, perhaps kids at school were mean to him or her, or perhaps she or he was part of a very large family where it was hard to get the attention he or she craved.

What did you desperately need, that you didn’t receive enough of when you were a child?

What helped you then? Was it food? Did you ever use food to make yourself feel better when you were lonely or picked on or ignored? Or did you get attention for not eating? Did you get attention for being the best athlete or the skinniest?  Did putting on weight give you attention?  Did your parents give you food to keep you happy when you weren’t getting enough attention from them or when they didn’t have time to give you what you what you needed?

This can be variable for everyone. But the most important thing is to think about that child who still lives inside of you and desperately needs something from you. Now think about what you would actually give a child who was needy right now. Would you give her a piece of cake if she was sad? Would you tell him to shut up and toughen up and stop crying? Would you sit with her and hold her and give her the attention that she needs? Try to give your child self what he needs. Try to send some compassion to the part of you that feels very angry and mean, but is just trying desperately to get her needs met.

Think about what you needed as a child but you didn’t get. How can you give it to yourself?

I regret eating that… dealing with food regret

regret bingeing

“You’ll never regret the things you do; only the things you don’t.” This quote doesn’t necessarily work with food though, does it?  With food, you won’t necessarily regret the food that you pass up, but the food that you choose to eat, the binge that you choose to have might lead to some regrets.

I began thinking about this over the weekend. I was out to lunch with some friends, including a dear friend of mine who continues to struggle with food issues, let’s call her “Liz.”  We all put our orders in, and even though Liz had ordered something  healthy, when others’ orders came out, she began to regret her order. She looked at another friend’s less healthy choice and decided that she wanted that. She said, “I’m having orderers’ remorse,” and changed her order to the same thing that the other friend who ordered the less healthy choice.

I had a feeling that I knew what she was feeling at that moment. It seemed that she was dealing with food regret. At that point, the food choice in that moment became overwhelming to her and she was unable to contain the compulsivity of the want. The truth is, had she told herself, “this is what I ordered and this is what I’m eating now, there’s always another meal later or tomorrow when I can choose something different…” she probably would have been fine. She wouldn’t have spent the whole afternoon sitting around regretting that she’d eaten the healthier choice– she probably would have forgotten about it in fact, or even felt satisfied that she’d been able to make a good choice for her body and well-being and not given into that compulsive in-the-moment urge.

That’s the thing about food choices. Sometimes they can feel very, very dire. Ordering that double bacon cheeseburger with fries when you had intended to order the veggie omelet with fruit and whole wheat toast can seem like it’s the most important thing in the world– AT THAT MOMENT. And it probably will. It will be very hard, but for people with binge eating disorder, often, ordering options that they hadn’t planned on can set off a binge.  The regret then will not be what you did not eat, but what you did eat. You might have a binge, do a behavioral chain analysis and realize that your binge was set off by choosing to give into a compulsion rather than sticking with a choice that might have felt less exciting.  Compulsions are challenging because they don’t always feel as though they’re in your control. They don’t feel like you can actually make a choice outside of the compulsion. Compulsions feel like they’re in charge. The truth is though, no matter how strong the compulsion feels, you ARE in charge!

Next time you have a compulsion to eat something that you know will trigger your eating disorder, remember, “I’ll never regret what I don’t eat… This is just a compulsion, it’s strong,  and it’s hard, but I’ll never regret not letting it have control. I might regret if I do give this compulsion control.” That’s why it’s so hard. Compulsions feel as though you can’t make an alternate choice. They feel as though that’s the only choice. But it’s not. It’s not about willpower, it’s about knowing that this strong feeling is only temporary. You can sit with the fear of regret. And you won’t actually feel regret about choosing not to eat something that feels unhealthy or feels as though it might trigger a binge.

Six Elements of Recovery from Binge Eating

Recovery from any eating disorder takes time, patience, self love, support, and has several layers to it. The deeper you go, the more you find, and the more whole you become as you heal those deep inner wounds.

However, there are six elements to recovery that must be tended to in order to find deep recovery.

1.) Relearn how to eat regular meals.  Eat three healthy meals per day, no restricting, no dieting, no skipping meals, no calorie counting, no carb counting.

2.)Learn to hear and honor the wisdom of your  body. Ask your body what it needs in terms of nutrition and exercise and listen for an answer.

3.)Learn how to distinguish real hunger from boredom, sadness, loneliness,  anxiety and other feelings that are hard to feel.

4.)Learn how to sit with these feelings without judgment and to allow yourself to feel what you need to feel. Understanding that feelings, all of them, are okay can help you to cope with them without using food to  avoid them.

5.) Learn to accept your body the way it is. Understand that you are more than a body. You are a mind, a spirit, a soul, a being, and you have a lot to offer. Your value isn’t tied up in the size of your jeans.

6.)Cultivate interests and hobbies that make you more of who you are, so that your true SELF is who you really are, not the numbers on a scale.




Sex, Love, & Food

Geneen Roth wrote a book almost 20 years ago called When Food Is Love. Of course,  this is using food when what you are really craving is love. A common theme that I’ve noticed in women with eating disorders is this  sense of unworthiness or a belief that they are not loveable. It’s incredible to notice that what you might do with your food is what you might do with your life. Binge eating and binge loving are one in the same. Real love vs. fake love is similar to real food vs. fake food. We can tend to binge on the fake stuff more easily than the real stuff.

Real Love vs. Fake Love:

Real love grows slowly and is based on years of trust, problems, fun,  tragedy, grief, drama, trauma, blessings, caring for one another and learning about one another. Real love is deep, lasting, and unpainful. Fake love is a quick flash in the pan that feels like being very, very drunk. It’s intoxicating and uncomfortable and painful and urgent.  Then you have a terrible hangover from it. Then it’s over. And you realize that it wasn’t actually love. It was chemicals, hormones, anxiety, and fear. It was something that you were using to help you to feel better about  something else that was going on in your life (kind of like the way binge eaters and bulimics use food!) The problem with real love vs. fake love is that fake love is so intense and uncomfortable, that comparing it to real love, which tends to be much easier and sedating can really mess with your perception of what is real.  Real love can begin to not  feel like love at all anymore because it doesn’t have that intense edge, it’s doesn’t elicit the same chemicals.

I have seen a great deal of overlap in my practice with women who use food to help them to escape and women who use love and sex to help them escape. There are often affairs, infidelity or just becoming obsessed with unavailable people. These affairs are short lived and problematic to either a marriage or a psyche. Women who become obsessed with unavailable men are escaping from their lives and obsessing on something that is just not going to happen. This can bring forth so much pain, stress and anxiety. It can also keep them from nurturing healthy relationships with otherwise available people or with their husbands or partners.  Those fake love chemicals are just so strong that people can feel high from them. Comparing fake love to real love is like comparing the high you get from doing yoga and meditating to staying up all night blowing lines of coke and doing shots of tequila. One is healthy, and something that you can do forever, it’s a long lasting but less intense high. The other is dangerous, depressing,  intense, and probably feels wonderful briefly. But if you really are craving a high, you’re going to opt for the latter. All you can do after that night is recover.

Real Food vs. Fake Food

As we know, either obsessing about eating food, or not eating food (dieting), having a perfect body or finding the perfect binge food or the perfect time to binge,– is an effective escape from reality. Fake food like donuts and Cheetos and Pepsi might be more appealing to binge on than yogurt, wheat germ, alfalfa sprouts and broccoli. The fake food gives you a quick seratonin boost and makes you temporarily numb to anything else going on the world. While the real food, though not as exciting provides real nurturing and can help you to be healthy both physically and emotionally.

Do you ever binge on fake food when you’re actually needing real love? Do you ever binge on fake love when you’re actually looking to escape?

It’s more difficult to distinguish fake love from fake food, but the following questions related to figuring out if it’s fake food or not, might also help you to figure out the love thing.

Is it something that will nurture your body and your spirit?

Could you eat this every day for the rest of your life?

Will your body feel uncomfortable after eating this food?

Can you eat just the right amount of it without bingeing on it?

Are you eating this food in private (are you isolating with it?) or is it okay to eat this right out in the open?

Is this food nourishing? Will it help you grow or heal?

Stop what you’re doing for a second just to think about what you’re doing. Not just with eating, but with everything. It can often be illuminating.

The holidays are coming. Again.

Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Junkfood around your office… Oh how the holidays bring anything but joy for someone with an eating disorder…

Starting in October, when sweaters get bulkier and winter clothes get bigger, all of sudden appears bowls of candy corns, nestles crunch, kit kats, twix and whatever else around the office.  Some people find it a minor annoyance, but with an eating disorder, it’s like being stuck in the middle of a battlefield with nowhere to hide.

These food centered holidays bring all sorts of anxieties for those who suffer from food and body image issues.  There are two things that you need to be successful during the holidays.

#1.) A plan.

#2.)A safe person.

A plan isn’t a diet plan. It’s a strategy on how to deal with what comes up for you when you see all this candy around. For some, the resist all day long, then at night, when they are alone, and all that energy of resisting takes a quit break, it all crumbles. Sometimes a binge will happen at the end of the day after everyone has left the office. Sometimes it’s not even safe after you’ve left the office. A backlash happens and you might find yourself at the store buying in bulk all the candy that you’ve been trying so hard to avoid all day long.  You need to understand YOU. Is resisting going to create a binge for you? If so, you might want to give yourself a loving limit– such as one or two bite sized pieces each day after lunch. This is reasonable. If you feel as though you don’t have the eyes or the sense right now at this point in your recovery to know what’s reasonable or normal, you might want to ask someone you trust.  If you feel as though at this point it’s better if you don’t start at all, you will probably want to create some good strategies for that as well. You might tell the people in your office that it’s your intention not to start in on the candy this year. If anyone offers it to you, it’s okay for you to say, “no thank you.” If someone pushes the issue, it’s okay to look them in the eye and firmly repeat your stance. “I don’t want any. Thank you for asking.” You don’t owe anyone any further explanation about what you are or are not willing to eat. That’s your business.  Another strategy is to keep food on your desk that you know you won’t binge on. For example, a giant bowl of apples might be helpful. Here’s a food that you can linger on, munch through and feel good about eating, but probably won’t binge on. Think about what safe foods you might be able to keep around to snack on when you think that you might be heading in that direction.

You definitely need a safe person. A safe person is a buddy who you are accountable to. Tell them your intention, whatever it is,  not to binge on office candy this year. If you find that you are getting to the point where it seems as though it’s going to happen, you can email, call or text them and let them know that you are wanting to get into the food. Ask them to help you relax and breathe through it. Then, allow yourself to just sit and breathe for five minutes. Take a breath into your belly to the count of five, then exhale to the count of five. Do this for five minutes. It will help you to slow down, reduce anxiety and help you to refocus your energy off the binge and onto you.  Then you can decipher, am I hungry or bingey? If you’re hungry, go eat something healthy! If you’re bingey, think about what purpose the binge would serve. Would it relax you? Could a quick walk outside your office do something similar? Could a good laugh at a You tube video be relaxing?  Really help yourself think about what you need.

The office candy doesn’t have to attack you. You can choose a healthy body healthy mind in this case.


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.