health at every size

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. I

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.

108

This is a more personal post, but a story that I think is important to tell.

My Mom was an amazing woman. She was smart, beautiful, kind, and cared about everyone she came into contact with. She was a dedicated junior high school teacher in the South Bronx in New York City and spent an incredible amount of her time taking care of her kids. She called all her students her kids. She loved them and they loved her. She was just an awesome person.

My mother however was not perfect- none of us are. She had an obsessive relationship with her body and a rigid relationship with food. Her meals and her diet were macrobiotic vegan and she was unwilling to waver and eat a piece of cake or drink a glass of wine or eat nachos or anything not considered healthy once in a while.

She also had an obsession with a number. The number.

A very petite 5’2″ and 112 pounds, my mother believed that she should weigh 108 pounds.  For as long as I can remember, every morning she would wake up, pull the scale out from under her armoire, step on it, curse and kick it back under. She hated that scale. She hated being 112 pounds. And so she obsessed. She did everything she possibly could to lose those 4 pounds. She ordered Sweatin to the Oldies, the Abdominizer, the Gazelle, Oxycise and other things that I forget and probably never knew about. And keep in mind, we had a small apartment in NYC, not a lot of room for these devises and contraptions. But she was a woman obsessed and the elusive 108 lbs was the object of her desire.

I remember her routine of  cursing and kicking the scale  as early as age 4. She did this for my whole life. By the time I was 28, my Mom became ill. Very ill in fact. Not from her food issues, but from a random autoimmune disease that life threw her way.  She lost a lot of weight very quickly. Her whole body deflated. She was nothing more than bones with skin hanging on it. I think that her final weight in her hospital bed was 68 pounds.   But that number, 108, it haunted her for most of her life. She was never quite satisfied with what she had because she was fighting so arduously for 108. But then, at 54 years old, her life was over. And she never got to her “goal weight.”

What the hell is a “goal weight?” It makes me so mad. It makes me SO mad. Because it makes me think of my mother and her obsession with her goal weight, and her inability to be happy with a body that worked. A goal weight is an arbitrary number that’s not grounded in reality. Who tells you what your goal weight should be? How is that realistic?

If you are a normal weight, and your body holds onto it, despite what you do to it,  you have to know that this is a healthy response from a healthy body. You are blessed. A healthy body wants to maintain the homeostasis.

You can run millions of miles, you can binge, you can starve, you can purge, you can diet, you can use laxatives, but no matter how much you abuse your body, a healthy body will do what it can to maintain the homeostasis.

So throw out your scale. Throw out your goal weight. Your goal should be health. Your goal should be a long healthy life with love, with adventure, with fun, with pain, with sorrow, with self love, with self criticism, with anger, with sadness, with joy, with excitement, with ups, with downs. But your goals should have nothing to do with sizes and numbers.

If you are healthy, your body will do what it can to get to its healthy number, and that might have nothing to do with what the BMI says, or with what Hollywood says or with what Met Life height and weight chart says.  When your body is healthy, it knows where it should go. All you have to do is treat it with love and respect. Feed it, exercise it, water it. Give it lots of fruit, lots of veggies, lots of protein, and even let it have a piece of cake or slice of pizza or a glass of wine every now and again.

I know it’s not this simple. It wasn’t for my Mom, nor for many, many people.  But it’s your one life. Take just one day or even one week if it’s doable to let go of your number and embrace health.

What is Intuitive Eating?

When you let go of dieting, you incorporate intuitive eating. Intuitive eating doesn’t mean eating a whole pan of brownies when you want to. If you want that pan of brownies, think to yourself, “will this trigger a binge, or will I be able to eat one in a healthy way?” If you intuitively know that right now, baking brownies is not a good idea for your recovery, then you need to let go of it. For now, not forever. It’s understanding NOT just what your body needs, but what your psyche needs and how you will react to certain foods. This is about trusting the wisdom of your body and trusting the wisdom of your wise mind and allowing them to synergistically work together.  There is often a misconception that intuitive eating is eating whatever you want whenever you want and as much of it as you want. That’s just not true. As children, we need healthy and loving boundaries from our parents. As adults, if we can healthily  internalize that loving voice, we can learn to place loving, healthy boundaries on ourselves around food. So it’s not, “I want that entire box of girl scout cookies and I’m going to eat them now,” it’s, “I will have two now and know that I can have some more tomorrow.”  In intuitive eating, we don’t put pejorative restrictions on ourselves, we set healthy boundaries for ourselves. We do that all the time as adults. We try to drink moderately, to spend moderately, to drive safely. If we went with our desires all the time, we might be drinking and driving, driving too fast, charging up our credit cards and going into debt. Intuitive eating is NOT about giving into your compulsive desires. It’s about noting them with consciousness and love, and having our adult self come out and allow us what we want with a rational mind. It’s about mindfulness and attention and close thought.

By following intuitive eating principals, your weight will normalize, or come to the place that your body is meant to be at, and you will begin to feel safer around food.

  1. Eat When You are Hungry. This is challenging for someone with binge eating disorder because sometimes real hunger and emotional hunger can get confused. Check out this post to learn more about hunger.
  2. Stop When you Are Satisfied. You don’t have to eat until you are full. Eat slowly and mindfully and listen for physical cues that tell you that you are not hungry any longer. Stop in the middle of a meal or food and ask yourself how hungry you are, how much more food you need, how the food tastes and how you are feeling. Many people eat until they are full or until they can’t eat anymore. You should definitely not leave a meal hungry. But if you can let yourself stop before you get full, your body will readjust to smaller portions allowing for weight loss. Try to go for 80% full. You could still eat more, but you’re not uncomfortable. Remember that you still have your next meal. No restricting here, there’s always a next meal to do it again. If you feel that you haven’t done it right, you always have another one to try again with.
  3. Enjoy your Food. Eat slowly, don’t rush through your meals. Avoid eating standing up in front of the refrigerator, eating while driving, eating while walking, or eating in front of the television. Sit down and make a ritual out of each meal.
  4. Don’t Stuff your Feelings with Food. Anger, sadness, anxiety, loneliness and boredom are all normal feelings. They’re not good, and they’re not bad. They just are. However, sometimes emotions are very challenging to sit through and eating will just make them go away—quickly!  However, it won’t fix any problems associated with these feelings. It might temporarily soothe you, or numb you, but the problem will still be there after you’ve binged, and it will feel worse
  5. Respect Your Body. As you learn to give your body love and respect, you will find that you begin to feel more of who you are and better about that person.
  6. Exercise with Love. Find a way to move your body that you enjoy. Yoga, pilates, walking, jogging, swimming, any way that you enjoy moving your body will help you to find body love. It’s important that exercise isn’t punishing or compulsive. It should be enjoyable and something that makes you feel strong and great. Not tired and uncomfortable.
  7. Try Meditation.This guided visualization can help you to integrate intuitive eating into your daily consciousness in order to help you learn intuitive eating.

Book Review–703: How I Lost More Than a Quarter Ton and Gained a Life

I haven’t done a book review on this site before, but I just finished reading 703: How I Lost More Than a Quarter Ton and Gained a Life.

In her memoir, Nancy Makin describes what life was like for her as a 703 pound woman. Besides the intense physical trauma that her body suffered from holding that weight, the emotional trauma that she endured was tremendous. She was ostracized by the people in her building, and teased and taunted by complete strangers. As she became heavier, she isolated more and more. Eventually, she became a shut-in and stayed that way for more than a decade. Of course it was painful to go out into the world because of the reactions of others, but physically, movement was barely possible. She lived on disability in subsidized housing. If she had to leave her home, she  needed the help of her friends or family as well as a double wide wheelchair just to go to the doctor. She slept sitting up, and showered sitting down, and would only leave her house at night when she was less likely to see encounter other people. She does not go into detail about what she was eating or how much she was eating. However, she does a great job of evoking the emotions involved, the loneliness she felt, and how she used food to cope with her feelings that seemed intolerable.

What I loved about the book is that she never discusses dieting, weight loss regimens, or what she did or did not eat. She never even specifically tells the reader exactly how much weight she lost (more than 500 pounds, we know that). That’s because the weight and the numbers were unimportant. This isn’t a book about weight loss, it’s journey to find self love and discover a sense of worth.  Nancy never planned on losing weight. She was almost committing psychic suicide, by letting herself be taken over by her food issues. Randomly, her sister brought her over a computer with internet access. She started  connecting with people in chat rooms, and as she became more active, she began to feel a sense of connection. People looked to her for support and guidance and as she gave that help to people through chats, emails, and personal insights, she began to feel a sense of purpose. She began to find her worth and her value in the world. When she began to have purpose,  food became less important to her. It wasn’t her world any longer. She was spending so much time nurturing these relationships and receiving nurturing, that she stopped using food to take care of herself with. She noticed one day that she was losing weight. As the weight came off and she started feeling better about herself, not just physically, but really liking herself as a person,  she realized that she wanted to be out in the world. She wanted to live, she chose life and love and self love. In this, she began to make choices that were healthier for her. She does not directly go into what kind of choices she made or what she actually did to lose weight. It’s not a “how to” book, but it’s more about the experience of discovering what was good about her, rather than focusing on what was not.  So many people focus on what’s wrong with them when they are trying to lose weight, that they lose sight of what’s amazing about them. What she discovers is that self love is what made weight loss possible. Not self hatred. Not self criticism. When she criticized herself and restricted her food, she wound up bingeing more. When she felt that she had a purpose (beyond being on a diet and losing weight) food held less of a hold on her, it was less important. She was able to focus on her and that is what helped her to find health.

So many people are  afraid that if  they choose to love and accept themselves as they are, they will gain weight or give up on trying to lose weight. They believe that self love and self acceptance are a recipe for disaster. I think it’s the opposite. When you choose to love and accept yourself, it gives you more space to care and nurture yourself. Nancy really makes that apparent in her book. It’s not about numbers on scale or numbers of calories in a piece of toast. It’s about choosing you. When you choose you you choose health, life and self love.