health at every size

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

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

Question –

Hi Leora,

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

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

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

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

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

Any thoughts? Thank you Leora,

Answer-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think? Does it makes sense? 

For further reading on the topic,  go to: 

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

Health at Every Size Approach 

Health at Every Size Book 

 

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

Round Up of ICED 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Somebody Promises You Weight Loss, They’re Totally Lying

(Trigger warning- weight, BMI and numbers discussed here)

When someone over the Internet promises  you that they can help you lose weight, click away. Click FAR, FAR AWAY! 

There is not one person who can guarantee you weight loss. Do you know why? Because they don’t know you and they’ve never seen you and they have no idea what is going on with your body. 

Here’s the thing- I’m putting this blog post right out there to the billions of people in the world who might happen to read it. But what if I were to guarantee that I could help you lose weight?  Or what if I told you the opposite, that there was no possible way you’d ever be able to lose weight? What if I told you I had all the answers? If I told you any of these things,  I’d be wrong.  

But then, why would I do that? Why would I possibly tell you that I had all the answers to your weight loss woes? What would make me think that I could promise or even guarantee you weight loss?  

Well, perhaps I’d lost weight and I thought I could help you too, or maybe I’d read a lot about weight loss and I thought I was an expert -except for the fact there are no actual experts on weight loss, if there were, well then we wouldn’t all be out there spending millions looking to lose weight, it’s all very mysterious.  The real truth is,  I don’t know what you weigh, I don’t know what you’ve tried but most of all  I don’t know what your body wants to be like.   So I can’t promise you weight loss (I mean, not that I’d even want to, I think you’re perfect Love!)

Let me give you some concrete examples here: 

 

Example 1: Kristi & Alison

Kristi is a client of mine who desperately wants to lose weight but also can’t seem to stop obsessing about food. She eats an egg and an apple for breakfast, a small green salad with some chicken for lunch and broiled salmon fillet with green beans for dinner and maybe a small glass of red wine. She can’t seem to get her weight under 145 pounds. She’s 5’2″ and according to the (very flawed) BMI – she’s considered “overweight.”  Every day for years- Kristi has been eating basically the same thing. She’s petrified of cheese, she won’t touch bread and she spends at least an hour a day at the gym. She really wants to lose 20 pounds.  She’s met with multiple trainers and weight loss gurus who explain to her what she’s doing wrong, “you need less carbs! you need more kettle bells!”  Sometimes eats just steak and water for  like 2 weeks straight. She loses maybe 1/2 pound but pretty much stays right around the same weight, she blames herself. She feels guilty, she feels ashamed, she feels like she’s doing something wrong.  Kristi’s best friend Alison eats a bowl of  honey nut cheerios every morning for breakfast. Later she’ll have a latte and a cookie, lunch is usually a burrito or some Pad Thai or whatever is easy takeout around her office and dinner is pizza or pasta or nachos or whatever. Allison exercises once in a blue moon, but it’s really not her jam. Allison also weighs 145 pounds, but she’s 5’7.” Which puts her BMI in the “normal” range. Kristi wonders why she has to work her ass off to be “slightly chubby” (her words not mine) while Allison does virtually nothing to stay at a weight that feels comfortable to her.  

What happened here? Let’s dissect this. Kristi’s body type was and always has been more curvy. The truth of the matter is that Kristi could probably eat the same way as Allison and her weight would not change dramatically. Kristi’s extremely healthy body wants to be 5’2″ and 145 pounds. I say extremely healthy because LOOK THERE,  look at what her miraculous body did for her- her metabolism slowed waaaayyyyy down so that she would maintain the weight that is healthy for her.  Now Alison’s body is also most likely at the weight that is healthy for her and so despite the fact that nary a green vegetable passes her lips (really get that girl some broccoli) she still maintains a weight that is “socially desirable.”

So this is the big problem – when someone promises you weight loss, there is just no guarantee that your body will comply. Your body might also need more calories than someone else’s body or more carbs so when you dramatically reduce these things– what happens? You binge- you don’t want to binge- you just. cant. not.  Your body really needs more because you were meant to be who you are. 

Example 2: Stacy & Lori

My friends Stacy and Lori are identical twins. Real identical, not that Olsen Twin fraternal twin business, these girls used to be ONE ZYGOTE. Anyway, Stacy does Tae Kwon Do three days a week, she’s a second degree black belt and she can do like 500 push ups in a minute. She bikes all over San Francisco and has two kids that she pushes up and down those hills in a double stroller. She’s vegan too, did I mention that?  Her sister Lori is different. She’s not a vegan, and she lives in the suburbs, so the most strength training she gets is lifting her kiddos up into their SUV. There’s no bike, there’s no pushing strollers up hills for her- she shleps her kids around town in a Honda Pilot, they go to pizza parties (Lori eats pizza).   So the verdict? What are Stacy and Lori’s bodies like?   

They are exactly the same.

They share clothes. They go shopping together and one tries something on for the other and then turns around so she can see how her butt would look in it. Their bodies are EXACTLY the same, because they have the same DNA. And Stacy is always exercising and fills up on mung beans and raw foods.  Lori is never exercising and eats a lot less restrictively. But they look the same. 

Summer Inannen recently wrote a post on Refinery 29 about how Paleo basically stole her life.     And that’s really the thing,  Someone can tell you that they have all the answers to your woes, that they can help you lose weight, that they can help you be naturally thin, that their answer is the best answer, that the food they are telling you to eat will give you tons of health, vitality, energy, help you lose weight, feel amazing and look years younger.   But really, the answer is in your DNA.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t eat well. You should try to eat well. You should eat lots of yummy, high density nutrient foods that your body wants and that feel good in your body. But only you know what that is. So eat, see what feels good in your body. Give your body lots of love and respect.

Don’t let anyone else tell you that you’re not doing it right or that you’re not doing enough. Anyone who tells you that has no idea about what your body needs. It’s not that I think people have nefarious intentions or that they even believe that they’re lying to you- but case after case has proven that even the most famous, highest ranking, highest paid, smartest weight loss guru can’t force your body into submission and make it lose weight if it’s where it wants to be and it’s healthy. You know what I’m saying, right Oprah? 

Your body knows what it wants to be and it will tell you what it wants and what it needs. Listen to it, focus on feeling good and feeling healthy rather than changing the way it looks.  So go now, eat, be strong, be happy, be kind to you. 

Related Articles: If I Can’t Diet, How Can I Lose Weight? 

What “I Feel Fat!” Really Means.

I feel fat

Do you ever wake up “feeling fat?” You just feel gross. Your body feels like it has too many layers, you’re uncomfortable in your skin, you feel bloated, your clothes don’t fit, you just want to go back under the covers and go to sleep for  a year… and then you hear the words, “Fat is Not a Feeling…” in your head and you think, “yes, it is because I feel fat right now, whoever says that fat is not a feeling is dead wrong.”

Even though it can really feel like it,  FAT is not a feeling.  Feelings are emotions like happy, sad, angry and scared… but fat is a noun- a macronutrient and sometimes an adjective. The problem is that we as a culture assign lots of meaning to the word fat. Fat is not just adipose tissue to us – it means something else. It means not good enough, not disciplined enough, not worthy enough….  So when you say, “I feel fat,” you are meaning something different. You are probably meaning, “I feel afraid that people will look at me today and judge me, I feel ashamed, I feel bad about myself, I feel not good enough…” 

When you say “I feel fat,” you only give yourself one choice, which is to battle and fight with your adipose tissue. To go on a diet  to make that difficult feeling of feeling not good enough go away – which then drops you right into the diet mind frame. And what happens when you go into the dieting mode? You know, you diet, you binge, you hate yourself, you “feel fat,” you diet, you binge, etc…

So what to do when you “feel fat?” Remind yourself that fat is not a feeling and ask yourself, “what is underneath that? what am I really feeling? Am I feeling afraid of judgment, am I afraid that others will see me and judge me? Do I feel ashamed of myself because I believe that I’m not good enough? That I’ve failed?”  Then, I want you to forgive yourself for not accepting that you are in the perfect place in this moment.  Everything that you are and that has led you up to this moment is perfect. Give yourself permission to be who you are today. And then you can think about what you are really feeling and help take care of yourself with compassion.

How do you take care of yourself with compassion?

1. Pull the word fat out of the equation. Instead of “I feel fat,” ask yourself what you are really feeling. Am I feeling afraid of others judgment? Am I feeling ashamed of myself? Am I feeling angry at myself? Am I feeling afraid that I will be rejected or snubbed or not worthy of love or respect? Am I afraid that I’m not good enough? Am I feeling my own judgment coming up and spilling all over myself? 

2. Think about that part of yourself that is feeling ashamed or sad or bad and imagine that it’s your best friend or a child.  How would you talk to a little girl or your best friend who was feeling ashamed? Would you tell her that she was fat? Or would you tell her that she was perfect and wonderful and that you loved her? Would you give her a hug and tell her all the amazing things about her? That’s how you should talk to yourself. You are worth it. 

3. Implement some good self care stat. Take a bath, a shower, book a manicure, a pedicure or a haircut or facial. Get dressed in clean clothes that make you feel good- and even if you can’t feel good, at least put on clothes that make you feel comfortable. 

4. Control things that you can in a healthy way-  make your bed, take 15 minutes to tidy up around your house, clean out your car, your wallet or your purse— just help your surroundings feel more organized. There’s this way that when you are feeling fragmented and your brain is getting down on you that organizing your surroundings can help you feel a little more grounded and peaceful.  

 

5. Do the next right thing rather than thinking big about everything that you have to do, just think of the very next thing to do that will help you feel peaceful. No diets, no beating yourself up, no regrets, just going forward in peace and recovery. 

How to Stop Dieting

bingeeatingtherapy.com“As soon as I stopped focusing on losing weight, I healed from my eating disorder…”  or “As soon as I stopped dieting I lost weight…” I’ve heard this from clients again, and again and again and again. 

Why do you think that this is true for so many people? I know that focusing on weight loss keeps people pulled into the bingeing and restricting cycle and pulled into the “I’ll be better when…” syndrome (and there’s never an ending to the when…), but it’s also because the focus on weight loss is always inherently focusing on something negative… losing instead of gaining. One thing that I help people do in their recovery is to focus on adding  instead of subtracting and gaining instead of losing.  Like adding healthy, life affirming foods instead of taking unhealthy foods away, like gaining strength and health instead of losing pounds, like adding positive behaviors instead of subtracting negative behaviors away. The hope is that the positive behaviors and thoughts will eventually crowd out the less desirable behaviors and thoughts… and it works! And it’s so much more enjoyable to feed yourself healthy, loving foods, thoughts, and actions than punishing yourself, criticizing yourself or restricting yourself. 

What would it be like if you took JUST ONE WEEK and decided to not focus on weight loss at all, to not even think about it.

It’s my one week challenge to you.  See what happens and then report back. 

What are some things you can focus on instead of losing weight? I’m glad you asked: 

1. Gaining strength
2. Gaining inner peace and calmness
3. Being self loving
4. Going toward health and well being 
5. Filling your evenings with self-soothing rituals (ie: baths, good books, foot massages and cuddles)
6. Breathing into your belly or meditating when you are feeling stressed or anxious  
7. Getting more sleep

There. There are seven things you can focus on for the next seven days. Each day choose one and by the end of next week, see how you are feeling, see what it was like to spend a week totally not focusing on weight loss. 

Intuitive Eating Will Make You Skinny and Other Myths

can you really lose weight with intuitive eating?This was a guest post that I originally wrote for the wonderful and supportive blog from the  BingeBehavior Community.

He stood on the scale with wide, nervous eyes as the doctor shook her head and tsk tsked.

“He’s overweight,” she told me, “you need to put your cat on a diet.”

“But I don’t believe in diets,” I told her.

“Well how much do you feed him?”

“I don’t know, I just put food in his bowl. He eats it when he’s hungry and walks away from it when he’s satisfied… we believe in intuitive eating in my house, my cat practices it too.”

“No,” she told me, “you can’t do that, he gets a set amount and a set time to eat, he can’t just graze all day, obesity is no good for a cat.”

I know that what she was saying was true.  My brother, a veterinarian warned and warned and warned my parents about overfeeding their cats and he is now lassoed with their insulin dependent cat Creamsicle when they couldn’t manage his diabetes.  Let’s move past the irony of a diabetic cat named Creamsicle.

I thought about it for a while.  Cats are natural hunters.  They spend their days outside looking for small birds and rodents and then they kill and eat them.  A domestic lifestyle, though lovely, is not their physiologically natural state, so it would make sense that their bodies tend not to do as well on a steady diet of processed food at their beck and call.

So what does my cat’s woes have to do with the price of wine in Napa? Well, a lot.

See, I’ve been seeing a lot of people out there promising you that when you learn intuitive eating and mindful eating, that you will lose weight or even some people make the promise that you will be like your “naturally skinny friends”.

Let’s dissect Intuitive eating and Mindful eating for a moment. Intuitive eating is following the natural instincts of your body to eat when you are hungry and to stop when you are satisfied. It is about listening to your body and giving it what it needs. Mindful eating is the practice that you take on to become an intuitive eater.  However, eating is a survival mechanism.

Let’s go back to caveman times, as they like to discuss in certain food cult circles, and acknowledge that our instincts are designed to grab as much food as we can when it is scarce.  Cavemen didn’t have pantries or supermarkets so they spent much of their days hunting and gathering in case there was a famine or a long winter or disease killing off the food supply.  The instinct would be to grab onto and eat as much food as they possibly could in a sitting, lest it be eaten by someone else or another animal.

So here is where things get confusing, our intuitive eating also follows a pattern of bingeing.  Yes. Binge eating is intuitive but, as I stated above, the bingeing happened when the food supply was greatly diminished; it was a survival mechanism.

We have evolved greatly past the days of hunter/gatherer societies.  Cavemen didn’t have apps on their iPhones to order dinner and cavemen didn’t have mothers telling them to go on diets. They lived in a completely alternate reality and so we can’t expect to live or eat like them.

So let’s talk about intuitive eating.

You probably started out as an intuitive eater, you ate what you wanted when you wanted without too much thought on the matter – until the first time someone called attention to your weight.

Maybe you were 14, maybe you were 4, but someone said you were chubby or you could stand to lose a few and so you went on your first diet, or someone put you on your first diet.  Your intuitive sense told you that you would be deprived of food and so you binged in secret and this became a perpetuating cycle of bingeing and restricting.

What would have happened if you never went on that first diet? What would happen if you ate when you were hungry and stopped when you were satisfied. Would you be skinny?  Maybe or maybe not.  You would probably be a weight that was right for you, and that perhaps is not skinny. Your natural weight might just be a little thicker, or little softer, or a little rounder.

That’s why it makes me crazy when I hear, “Your naturally skinny friends can eat whatever they want whenever they want because they are intuitive eaters.   They eat when they are hungry and stop when they are satisfied.”

It’s not true. My naturally skinny friends can eat whatever they want because they are naturally skinny. It’s just their body type.

I remember my friend Pam visiting me for long weekends when we were in our 20s. She was always so much thinner than I, yet she was always hungry and ate so much more than me.  To my spinach salad with chopped eggs and chicken with a light vinaigrette, she’d order a giant falafel with french fries stuffed in it. Later in the afternoon, she would bring out chocolate and red wine to snack on.  She’d never been on a diet.  She loved food and indulged in it and it didn’t make her fat.

So what does any of this have to do with intuitive eating? I think we have to reacquaint ourselves with true intuitive eating.

Remember, intuitive eating is the practice of eating what your body needs as informed by your practice of mindful eating.  Mindful eating is noticing your body’s need for foods, your hunger and satiety and your body’s physical reactions to certain types of food.  As you become more mindful and understanding about your needs, you hone your intuition about food.

It’s a practice.  It’s not easy because we are born with an internalized instinct to binge when food becomes scarce.  But food is no longer scarce, so we are teaching ourselves to evolve with the world around us.

But make no mistake, mindfulness and intuitive eating won’t make you skinny– unless you are naturally skinny, and we are not all naturally skinny.

Maybe French women don’t get fat because they are French.  My roots are mostly Austrian and Russian and most of the women in my family are shaped in the same way.  We’re short and petite with wide hips.; close to the ground so we can squat down and birth those babies, then get back to work on the farm.

My friend Pam, remember her, the one who eats falafel and wine and chocolate all day?  She’s all Italian. Have you ever been to Rome? Most of the women there are petite and they eat spaghetti and gelato and wine all day!

We’ve discussed what mindfulness and intuitive eating won’t do for you, so what will it do for you? 

The very first thing it will do is inform you to stop any restrictive diet that you’ve been on.  You will then begin the practice of mindful eating.

You will begin to slow down and check in with your body, a lot.  And this doesn’t come naturally.  It’s a practice, just like meditation.  You begin to learn what your body likes and what your body reacts poorly to and you maintain the practice of honoring your body with those pieces of information. That’s how intuitive eating becomes part of your makeup. You remember that food is plentiful and that you can make choices based on what your body actually needs, not choices based on what other people tell you your body needs.

When you are eating intuitively, your body will most likely settle into a place that is healthy for your body.

This might be different than what the BMI says is healthy but you know when you are healthy. Can you sleep? Do you have energy? Can you find enjoyable movement? Can you enjoy your life? Are you happy?

What you can really gain by practicing mindful eating and learning intuitive eating is a deep sense of emotional peace around food and your body. 

Imagine what it would be like to feel at ease in that way. No fighting, no debates in your head, no stress about what you are eating.

Wouldn’t it be nice to feed your body in a way that feels nourishing and a way where you feel comfortable in your body?  That’s where the mindfulness comes in.  This is where we honor our bodies, no matter what size, what shape, we lavish our bodies with attention and affection. Then we ask our bodies what they need.

We eat some tomatoes and then we have a bellyache.  Notice it.  Make a mental note that “tomatoes might be too acidic on my belly for awhile”. Your unconscious takes that note and you notice that you are intuitively avoiding the tomatoes in your salad.

Intuitive eating will not make you skinny, nor will it make you taller because skinny is a body type. Some of us are skinny; in America most of us are not.   Unfortunately, not being skinny because it is the American ideal has pushed us into a world of dieting and bingeing (because that’s the instinctual result of dieting).

Mindfulness practice will give you the awareness of your body’s needs, it will not fulfill what the world around you says your body should look like. Integrate mindfulness to help yourself become more intuitive about what you need.

Intuitive eating will make your body feel better because you will be more aware of what you need and what you don’t need. It will give you the sense that you don’t need to grab food and run away. You can be present for yourself and for the world around you.  It will help you find a place of calm that you hadn’t had before.

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.

Top Ten Myths about Obese Women

Who you are is beautiful: photo credit to: http://ineedfatacceptance.tumblr.com/

Who you are is beautiful: photo credit to: http://ineedfatacceptance.tumblr.com/

 

Okay, I’m really sick of hearing people talk about how if so and so knew what she was doing to her health, she would just stop eating and start exercising, or why can’t so and so stop eating, or so and so is setting such a bad example for her children.  Let’s set the record straight. Here are the top ten stupid-ass things that I’ve heard people say (otherwise known as myths).

MYTH #1.  Obese women should be educated on how to eat right. 

Not true, In fact, because popular society is constantly reinforcing that being a women of size is undesirable, many women of size have a Phd knowledge of food, calories and exercise. When you are an obese woman, you are reminded of it constantly. Your doctors tell you that any ailment will be solved with exercise and proper diet, sometimes people yell shitty things at you in the street, friends try to be “helpful” by giving you pointers. Trust me, a woman who has been dealing with obesity knows more than her doctor does about nutrition so having information and knowledge about calories, carbs, fat, etc. isn’t what she needs more of.

MYTH #2. Obese women should just get to the gym and exercise. 

Totally lame. First off, there is such a thing as being fit and fat. In fact the Health at Every Size movement tells us that it’s okay to stop focusing on weight loss and let yourself be healthy first and foremost. Many women of size are fit and do exercise often. Why don’t you see many fat people at the gym or out jogging? Gee I don’t know, maybe some people don’t like being stared at, or condescended to, “hey buddy good job, you’re doing great… you go girl…”  Not helpful.

MYTH #3. Obese women are “easy”

This is disgusting. I take a lot of issue with any woman no matter what her size being called easy or slutty or anything like that. I can’t even go into why this misperception makes me so angry. A women of size won’t just take any scraps she can get just because of her size. Why does that stupid idea persist? I don’t know, but I want to go on record saying that a woman of size has as much discretion and intelligence as a skinny woman. Most women want to find a kind, loving partner to be with. And if a woman happens to have a one night stand  with a d-bag (who hasn’t?) the woman of size happens to stand out more. There are no statistics available that obese women have more promiscuous sex than smaller women.

MYTH #4. Obese women are setting terrible examples for their children

Being self-hating, self-berating, and self-critical is setting a poor example for their children. She doesn’t have to be obese to do that. Making an effort to love yourself and love your children and let your children see you love yourself is a great example. When you love yourself you will take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean being skinny, it means eating lots of healthy food often and less healthy food in moderation and getting out into the fresh air and being kind to yourself both physically and psychologically.

MYTH #5. Obese women are very unhealthy

Not true, in fact women who are considered overweight (according to the BMI) with a BMI between 25-30 have the same relative risk of death as women who are in what’s considered a “normal” BMI.  You can’t judge how healthy someone is by looking at them or weighing them. Blood tests, energy levels and quality of life is a better indicator or health.

MYTH #6. Obese women all binge eat

Not true. The research says that 20% of obese folks suffer with Binge eating disorder, which means 80% of obese folks are not binge eating.

MYTH #7. Obese women have no willpower

I’d venture to say that the opposite it true. As I said in myth #1, many women of size have been on multiple diets and willed themselves down over and over and over again. But as we know, restrictive diets don’t  work in the long term. 

MYTH #8. Obese women have a low self esteem

Lots of women have low self esteems, not because they are fat, but because we are constantly bombarded by a media that tells us we are not good enough. Being thin doesn’t make a woman immune to low self-esteem and being larger doesn’t make a woman more likely to have it. Self-esteem is an inside job. It’s a practice of letting go of beliefs about yourself that the outside world has given you that tells you it’s not okay to be you.  You don’t need to let go of weight to let go of beliefs.

MYTH #9. No one will marry an obese woman

That’s just  fucking stupid.

MYTH #10. Obese women should go on diets 

No one should go on a diet ever.  95% of people who go on diets will gain the weight back. In fact, many people who start out at a lower weight go on diets which then creates eating disorders and weight gain.

 

 

PHOTO IMAGE CREDIT TO: I NEED FAT ACCEPTANCE

 

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