health at every size

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

 

10 Reasons Not To Diet

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

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

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

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

3. Dieting makes you grumpy and unpleasant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What should I do instead?

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

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

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

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

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

etc.

 

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

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

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

 

CREDIT TO THE NEARSIGHTED OWL FOR PHOTO.

Bullying and Overweight – It’s Not Okay

I came across this post which explains how a news station in Wisconsin received a scathing email about Jennifer Livingston, one of their anchors who happens to be a woman of size.  I’m so impressed by her response. In the media, it seems to me that women often send the message that being plus sized is not okay, something they have to change about themselves, (Jennifer Hudson, Oprah, Kirstie Alley, Jessica Simpson). It bothers me a lot, because it sends the message that women are not okay as they are. They will be better thinner. I love this because she doesn’t apologize for who she is. She doesn’t say that she needs to change. She turns around and tells the person that he is a bully and to get over himself. Kind of cool. It’s a great message for everyone. Embrace and love who you are as you are. You don’t have to wait until you are thin to love yourself, stick up for yourself, be confident about who you are and be successful.

15 Ways to be in your body

If you are suffering with an eating disorder, you might feel disembodied. Lots of people tend to be in their heads, but those who suffer with eating disorders really avoid being in their bodies and spend lots of time up in their heads. Many try and avoid the feelings that they have in their body and even avoid the fact that they have a body because it’s so fraught. My clients with eating disorders are often very intelligent, intellectual, and constantly going over things in their heads, some would say, “thinking too much.”  One client reported that she feels so wrapped up in her thoughts that she believes she’s missing the world around her. She told me that  people often say “hi” to her in the street or at work, and she doesn’t even notice because she’s so lost in thought– soooo in her head.

But when you’re up in your head… who’s minding the store? If you’re constantly in your head, when do you get to be in your body.   Are you avoiding your body? How can you you take care of a body when you’re not present for it?

I was talking to a client  who said that she didn’t want to be in her body until her body is perfect. “But your body is perfect and needs love and support now,”

“No, after I lose 50 pounds, then my body will be perfect… then I can let myself meditate, do yoga, be in my body, but I don’t want to be in my body now. Yuck.”

And that’s the irony. She believed that she couldn’t be in her body until it was perfect, but unless you loved and respected your body, at any size, then how could you treat it well? How could you nurture and treat something with respect that you avoid, neglect, and hate?  You can’t change something in order to make yourself like it. You know that with people, partners, and you know that with yourself. But unlike toxic people, you can’t avoid your body. It’s there, it’s yours. It’s important to embrace it. Or just be in it, not avoid it. Your body needs to be cared for and treated with love and respect.

So here’s a little exercise for you to learn to be more in your body.

1. Take 5 minutes, close your eyes and breathe. Notice the position that you’re in. Notice your feet on the floor, the bend of your knees in the chair that you’re in, the way your head feels… really let yourself feel what it’s like to be in your body. Stretch if your body wants to stretch, bend if your body wants to bend, roll your wrists, your neck, your ankles, whatever you need…

2. Next, do a body scan- Start by noticing the bottoms of your feet and slowly make your way to the top of your head  feeling into each part of your body and noticing what’s happening. Itches? Cricks? Muscle tightness? aches? soreness? tingles? See what feeling (physical) is screaming out to you, trying to get your attention,  and just be with that feeling for a few moments, without judging it, without trying to change it. Name it. For instance, your nose is itching, breathe into it and say, “itchy nose.” If your shoulders are tight breathe into them saying, “tight shoulders,” and just breathe for a few moments into whatever part wants your attention.

3. Then ask your body, “what do you need?” Your body might say, “more water,” or “more kindness,” or “more vegetable,” or “more fresh air…” whatever. When you are in your body, you know exactly what you need.

When you are in your body, you are more likely to nurture and care for it rather than treat it poorly with bingeing, restricting, too much exercise, too little exercise…

Try to do this a couple of times each week and see how your view of your body changes. All bodies deserve love, no matter what.

 

Other ways to be in your body:

  1. Dance!
  2. Go for a sensory walk– touch things around you, smell the smells, notice what you see… use all five senses.
  3. Get a massage
  4. Walk up a hill or go on a hike and feel your muscles working
  5. Drink a glass of water and feel the water going down through your digestive tract.
  6. Rub lotion into your hands and feel the sensation of rubbing your hands. Use scented lotion and smell your hands.
  7. Smell essential oils
  8. Give yourself a foot rub
  9. Give yourself a scalp massage
  10. Take a bath and close your eyes and feel the warm water on your body
  11. Jump into cold water. Jump into hot water. Jump into cold water.
  12. Touch your face and feel your hands on your face, massage your jaw. Your jaw is the strongest muscle in your body. Because of that it tends to hold a lot of tension. Sometimes people binge eat to relieve that tension.
  13. Brush your hair.
  14. Jump up and down on your bed

What are some things you do to be in your body?

 

 

Top Ten Online Resources for Binge Eaters

All Bodies Are Beautiful From around the web, different wonderful resources to help you with eating and body image issues.

1.) Something Fishy - Wonderful Pro recovery site with forums, resources, and online support

2.) ED Referral – Not all therapists know how to treat eating disorders, and not all know how to recognize binge eating disorder. If you are looking for someone who understands your needs, this is a great resource.

3.)National Eating Disorder Association- A non-profit group aimed at healing EDs. Lots of inspirational stories, as well as posted research and events.

4.)Binge Eating Disorder Association- An organization aimed at helping people heal from Binge Eating Disorder using a non-diet approach

5. )Pale Reflections- Online support Community

6.) National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders-  A non profit that provides free support groups as well as informational pamphlets and literature.

7.)Association of Professionals Treating Eating Disorders- This is primarily a Bay Area resource that provides low fee treatment for EDs.

8.)Health at Every Size- A group aimed at improving your self love and body acceptance as well as encouraging healthy  eating and exercising habits without dieting or idealizing a different body size or shape.

9.)The Body Positive- An organization aimed at love and positivity toward yourself and your body. It’s aim is to help you gain self love, happiness and good health without telling you that you need to diet in order to get those things.

10.)Beauty is Contagious- Not a resource, but a wonderful Tumblr with lots of images of beautiful bodies in every size and shape.

Bonus 11.)Recover- Shameless Plug! Blog with lots of different article and posts geared at helping you find ways to heal from binge eating and body image issues.

Would You Rather Be a Mermaid or a Whale?

via: Delphine Fieberg on Facebook

the photo is French model Tara Lynn

A while back, at the entrance of a gym, there was a picture of a very thin and beautiful woman. The caption was “This summer, do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?”

The story goes, a woman (of clothing size unknown) answered the following way:

“Dear people, whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, seals, curious humans), they are sexually active and raise their children with great tenderness.
They entertain like crazy with dolphins and eat lots of prawns. They swim all day and travel to fantastic places like Patagonia, the Barents Sea or the coral reefs of Polynesia.
They sing incredibly well and sometimes even are on cds. They are impressive and dearly loved animals, which everyone defend and admires.

Mermaids do not exist.

But if they existed, they would line up to see a psychologist because of a problem of split personality: woman or fish?
They would have no sex life and could not bear children.
Yes, they would be lovely, but lonely and sad.
And, who wants a girl that smells like fish by his side?

Without a doubt, I’d rather be a whale.

At a time when the media tells us that only thin is beautiful, I prefer to eat ice cream with my kids, to have dinner with my husband, to eat and drink and have fun with my friends.

We women, we gain weight because we accumulate so much wisdom and knowledge that there isn’t enough space in our heads, and it spreads all over our bodies.
We are not fat, we are greatly cultivated.
Every time I see my curves in the mirror, I tell myself: “How amazing am I ?! ”

 

How amazing are you? Do tell in the comments!

It Gets Better

Image taken from JenVenegas.com

I think that one of the very challenging things about eating disorder recovery are all the thoughts that come with the behavior.  Most often in EDs, the thoughts come first, ie: “I’m not pretty enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not good enough, I’m not special enough, I’m not thin enough…” and dieting seems like a solution to these problems. Dieting of course then leads to bingeing leads to starving leads to bingeing leads to purging leads to full blown ED.

But it gets better. I don’t want to tell you that as soon as you stop dieting and begin to embrace what your body needs that you’ll begin to love your body and have an amazing relationship with it and feel beautiful and wonderful all the time. That’s magical thinking. The problems that resulted in dieting will still be there when you stop dieting, just as the problems that you thought would be solved by dieting were still there despite the fact that you were dieting. American society will still tell you that “thin is in,” and that this very last diet will solve all your problems. Super models will still be tiny. None of that will change. And it will probably still be difficult in certain ways. But that’s when you begin dealing with the feelings that lead to the eating disorder. That’s when you begin dealing with insecurity, that’s when you begin learning to tolerate your body size, that’s when you begin leaning on your internal and external resources for support rather than food or diets.

And, after you’ve stopped bingeing/purging/dieting/starving/spitting & chewing/overexercising… whatever, even on the days that you feel horrible about yourself, even on the days that you feel bloated, or too large, or your clothes don’t fit, or someone rejected you, or you had a bad day at work or school, you won’t go back to your eating disorder because you will remember how much worse it felt to be using these behaviors to chase away these feelings. You’ll remember how horrible the eating disorder was. And you’ll get support for your feelings in different ways. You’ll talk to friends that you love and who love you. You’ll do something to take care of yourself. You’ll understand that just because you are feeling badly, you don’t need to find a solution because the problem is internal. It needs love and support and kindness. Not another diet.

Yes, it will still hurt. Society will still give you messages. You will still feel unhappy sometimes. It’s hard to believe right now, but there is relief on the other side. The eating disorder just won’t bring it.