how to stop binge eating

How To Shut Down Without Food

15 Ways to Shut Down Without Using FoodThere is a theme in my practice this week. All of my clients came in telling me that one of their biggest problems in healing from binge eating is that they feel like they NEED food to just…shut…down.  Sheila, an extremely busy attorney explained to me that in the evenings, after working a 12-14 hour day, she looks forward to coming home, sitting in front of the television and being able to eat, it’s the way she shuts down after a crazy day. Lindsey, a mom of twin 3 year olds told me that at night, after she gets the kids to sleep, but before her husband comes home, she just NEEDS to sit down with a pint of ice cream and Netflix to shake off the day, that the thought of it is the only thing that keeps her going throughout her evening. This is not new, I’ve been hearing this from my clients fo decades. Food serves a very important purpose- it is soothing, it’s calming and it helps signal the end of the day. It gives you that much coveted self time that you were missing all day.
IT IS SOOOOOOOO important to soothe yourself after a long day of work and kids and stress and everything that you do. You need to be calmed, you need to be soothed, you need a separation between you and the day. Food is what has been doing that for you.  But there are some other things that you can do at end of the day that are not binge eating and will help you shut down.  
And, I’ve compiled a list of my favorites for you: 
  1. Take a hot bath with Epsom Salts. Hot water is good medicine. And the magnesium in Epsom salts will relax your muscles and allow you to get the peace you need between work and sleep. It will also lull you into a deep and lovely sleep.
  2. Read a book that has nothing thought provoking in it. Remember, this is about shutting down. Really turning your mind off, so get into bed with a book that is fun, engrossing and captivating. No books on tape. You need to be using your hands to hold the book- this integrates your tactile senses and satisfies your sensory needs to eat.
  3. Meditate or do a guided visualization. No need to silence your mind or take too much effort. Close your eyes, lay down and breath in through your nose for 10 seconds, hold it and breath out through your nose for 10 seconds. You can also check out wellness hypnotherapy to find specific guided meditations for different subjects (binge eating, relaxation, anxiety, etc.)
  4. Do a Savasana- the most relaxing yoga pose (also called corpse pose) usually done at the end of a yoga class to help you take space between your yoga practice and getting back to your day. It’s so easy. The Savasna pose is really lovely because it just relaxes your whole body. You can use a bolster or a lavender scented eye pillow as shown here- or if you don’t have those things, you can bunch up some towels to put under your knees and heat a wet wash cloth in microwave to put over your eyes. But you really don’t even need all of that, you can just lay on the floor with your arms out, your legs separated, relax your jaw, relax your forehead, just let your body find peace. Make sure that the lights are dimmed, your eyes are closed and even have some quiet music on.  I do however, highly recommend the eye pillow. I use this with all my hypnotherapy clients and I find it helps them to relax very, very deeply. (Photo credit to Suza FrancinaSavasana or -corpse pose- will help you turn your mind off!
  5. Take a restorative yoga class or do some restorative yoga. Restorative yoga is ecstasy grade relaxation. It’s not power yoga, it’s not about fitness, it’s about really relaxing your body and releasing very, very deep tension both in your muscles and in your mind. You don’t have to be a yoga guru to do it either. It’s for every level, even someone who has never done yoga before. When I was in graduate school, I took a one-credit weekend long class on how to relax with restorative yoga poses. A French Psychologist yoga teacher flew in to teach the class- which was about six of us in a big studio in Mill Valley. We each had a big collection of bolsters and pillows and some rope around us that we used to drape ourselves over and around. After getting into each pose, we’d meditate for about 45 minutes to an hour. This was for 9 hours each day. When the weekend ended I felt like my body was jelly and there was no way any worry could ever get into my mind or body. I felt like I was levitating. I don’t even know how I drove home- I think I might have floated.  If you can dim the lights and light some candles and have some nice smelling aromatherapy around you- even better. In San Francisco they offer some evening restorative yoga classes and I’m sure they do in other parts of the country and in certain parts of Europe- but if that’s not an option, definitely check out YouTube and see if you can find some good classes.
  6. Get Body work. I know you can’t go get a massage every day before bed, but you can every once in a while- and if not, try some self massage
  7. Watching television can be rough because lots of people binge in front of the TV- however, if you can do something else while you’re watching tv, like give yourself a manicure, pedicure, hot oil treatment, face mask- something loving and self nurturing that occupies your hands and mouth.
  8. Adult coloring books – can be more relaxing than meditation. It calms your mind and gives you a very similar effect that you’re looking for with food- it gives you another way to  shut down after a long day.
  9. Make jewelry. Seriously, making beaded necklaces or bracelets is an extraordinary way to occupy your hands, relax your mind, and feel that high that you get from your reward centers lighting up when you accomplish a goal or task. It’s easy to do, just have your beading kits right there so you can grab them, sit down on the floor, put on some relaxing music and make some pretty jewelry. Give it as gifts, wear it, or sell it on Etsy.
  10. Knit. Knitting is actually used by occupational therapists to help people alleviate stress, relax, and focus their brains. 

So what about you? Can you add to this list? What are some positive ways you shut down without going to food? 

Eating Disorders and Black and White thinking

black and white thinking binge eatingLast month, my husband, kids and I went to the beach to get our last days of summer in. When we got there, I realized that I packed my sons’ suits and my husband’s suits but failed to pack my own. I was super disappointed-to say the least,  there’s nothing better than swimming in Tomales Bay on a hot day. But I made the best of it and rolled up my cutoffs and waded in the water with my two year old. At one point, I squatted down to show him a tide pool and the back of my shorts got a little wet- I thought to myself, “Oh well, I’m already wet, I might as well jump into the water.” I took a deep breath and paused. I didn’t jump into the water, but I noticed, “wow, there is my black and white thinking just popping up again.” I have recovered from multiple disordered eating issues- but my thinking instincts still  remain. My brain is still organized in that way. I didn’t react to the compulsion- I didn’t jump into the bay just because my shorts were a little wet because rationally I knew that they’d be dry in a half hour or so, but that if I jumped into the water- despite the fact that it would be super fun and satisfying for a few moments- I’d be uncomfortable in wet denim, I’d have sand stuck to me, and I’d have a long car ride  home in dirty wet clothes.  But I was extremely interested in the fact that so many years deep into my recovery- my thinking patterns remain the same. I was still vulnerable to polarized thinking. This is what black and white thinking (polarized thinking) is. It’s all or nothing.


Overeating is a super common binge triggerit’s part of the cognitive distortion known as polarized thinking.

For instance- I ate two cookies with my coffee for breakfast, I might as well spend the rest of the day eating cake and cookies- I can’t eat something like a salad for lunch because I already “ruined” the dayOr I ate all my ww points for the day but then I went over a few points- I might as well binge or I don’t eat white flour or sugar, but I had a small bite of my boyfriend’s croissant. The day is ruined- Now I have to spend the day, the week, the month bingeing… or I ate two mini halloween candies, I have to spend the rest of the night testing every single candy and goodie that’s hereOr however your polarized thinking manifests for you. Bingeing because you overate is like seeing that you have one flat tire, getting out of your car and slashing  the other three. It is not rational or logical.

Polarized thinking it is a process where you feel like you don’t have any choices.  Had I not been able to recognize my thought patterns in that moment, I would have felt like I had to jump in the water. That I had no other choice since my shorts were already wet. This is a thinking process organized around perfection. “I have to be perfect or I’m nothing-I’m ruined.” There is no middle ground or allowance to be a normal human being who gets their shorts wet, spills coffee on themselves, or eats a bagel for breakfast. You believe that your choices are not your own. You might even feel paralyzed a lot of the time because you believe that if you cannot do it perfectly- you are afraid of doing it at all.  

Now here is the thing about polarized thinking- you don’t have to let it affect your behaviors. Just because your mind becomes organized in that way doesn’t mean you have to follow your impulses down the rabbit hole. Part of mindfulness practice is slowing yourself down enough to notice your thoughts and then have the ability to change your action or reaction to your thought. Remember that thoughts are just electronic impulses, and we have 50,000- 70,000 thoughts each day. You can notice those thoughts before you react to them. You can choose the thoughts that you’re going to react to. For instance the thought, “I went out with friends tonight and I overate tortilla chips at this restaurant, I am full,” can often precede the behavior of going home by yourself and bingeing on lots of other foods. You are angry at yourself because you feel that you ate too much- but rather than sit with the fullness until it passes (like letting my shorts dry for a half hour rather than jumping into the bay with all my clothes on) you might believe that you have no other choice than to binge. But you actually do have a choice. Let yourself slow down and notice your thinking without reacting to it. If you eat a roll at dinner even though you didn’t intend to, remind yourself that eating the rest of the basket of rolls or going home and bingeing would be a lot like jumping into the bay with all your clothes on. No human being is perfect- and when you hold yourself up to that standard, you can often feel very limited by your choices and your ability to enjoy being in the world.  

To deal with polarized thinking: 

1. Slow down and notice your thoughts

2. Notice how your instincts want to react to those thoughts

3. Think about whether or not there is a different choice- a choice that’s more like allowing your shorts to dry and feeling comfortable again. 

4. Try to implement that choice. 

5. Notice how you feel the next day. 

When you have black and white thinking, you believe that you have no choice and you have to take the extreme path. Recovery doesn’t mean that you will never have black and white thinking again- but it means that you will notice it more for what it is- a thought and a suggestion rather than a hardline on what you have to do. 

What do you think? How are some ways that you’ve dealt with your polarized thinking? 

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 Do I Tell My Husband about My Eating Disorder?

How to tell my husband about my eating disorder

This one comes from a reader in Australia…


I’m in a bind. How do I tell my husband about my eating disorder?

I want to tell my husband about my eating disorder but I’m so stressed out because I really don’t know how to tell my husband about my eating disorder.   I know things have to change. I don’t know how to have this conversation, how to start it or where to get help. I’ve had this since I was 17 and i’m 29 now I really don’t want to go on like this.

Answer: I’m so sorry that you’re dealing with this, but I want to commend you on putting it out there and dedicating yourself to recovery. It’s extremely difficult to tell your husband about your eating disorder for so many reasons.

  1. You might feel embarrassed and ashamed and not want him to see you in a new light
  2. You might feel that if you tell him about your eating disorder that he might try to stop you
  3. Your eating disorder is so private and such a precious thing (even though we hate having them) disclosure would be exposing and difficult. 
  4. You might be afraid of his reaction since you don’t know how he’s going to react. 

Here are some ideas on how to tell your husband about your eating disorder. 

  1. Consider the worst case scenario. How will he react? What is the worst thing he will do? Will he leave you? Will he divorce you? In most situations, probably not, but really sit and think about what the worst thing can be. 
  2. After thinking about this, consider bringing your husband with you into your therapist (if you have one) or if not, check out ED referral and see if you can find an eating disorder therapist to bring your partner to. It might be easier if you have a professional there.  If you are not interesting in discussing it with a therapist, no problem at all. You can do this alone. 
  3. Set aside a day and time to tell him. Make sure that it’s not over a meal and make sure that it’s not at night. Your husband will likely have many questions and will spend a long time asking you. 
  4. Make sure that he knows that it’s not his fault and make sure that he knows that you are looking for help.
  5. Make sure that he knows that you don’t expect him to be the one to cure you. 
  6. Sit down with him or take a walk with him and gently explain that you’ve been dealing with this for a long time and you’re ready to reach out for support. You can say something like, “When I was 17 years old I started to make myself vomit after I ate. This habit sort of spun out of control.  I have spent the past 12 years dealing with this horrible secret and trying to stop on my own. I haven’t told you because I’m so embarrassed and so ashamed, but I don’t want to have secrets from you, and I don’t want to live like this anymore. I want treatment and I want to stop. And all I need from you is love and support. I know that I can beat this now that it’s out in the open and I’m asking for help.”
  7. Tell him that your eating issues have nothing to do with him. 
  8. Tell him that you don’t need him to “fix” you.
  9. Tell him not to tell you what to eat or what not to eat, that’s your responsibility, and it’s not good for your relationship. 
  10. Tell him what he can do to support you. Maybe that’s talking about feelings more often or helping you find a therapist or treatment program or driving you to treatment.
  11. Ask him not to talk about diets, calories, burning calories, losing weight, or what your body looks like.
  12. If there are some foods that you don’t want him to have in the house,  ask him to support you in that way
  13. Request that if he catches you in a binge, it’s not his responsibility to make you stop doing it, nor should he take food away from you, nor should he shame you. Instead, maybe he can say something like, “hey, is everything okay? do you want to talk? I’m here for you.”
  14. Ask him not to be your food police.
  15. Give him space to talk about his feelings and what it’s like for him to learn this about you.
  16. Give him the opportunity to ask you questions. If you feel uncomfortable with certain questions, let him know that you’re not ready to answer them yet or that you don’t know the answer right now,  but as you work through recovery, you will let him know what emerges for you.
  17. Ask him to READ THIS and to READ THIS

10 Ways to Train your Brain to Stop Overeating

10 Ways to Train your Brain to Stop Overeating

top ten ways to train your brain

train your brain to stop overeating


You know how sometimes it’s not even noon but you know that you are going to have a binge when you get home from work that night? You begin planning it, thinking about what stores you’re going to go to, what foods you’re going to get, where you are going to eat it, what you’re going to do when you eat it, what it will feel like in your mouth, what you will be doing while you’re bingeing (will you be watching television? will you be searching the web? will you be on the phone? or will you just be sitting alone with the food?) You begin to get excited and your amygdala (the part of your brain responsible for emotional reaction) lights up with excitement. Just the anticipation and desire of a binge creates activity in your brain that basically brings you to the binge. So your actual binge starts about hours, sometimes even days before the binge starts. It’s those first thoughts about it, the anticipation which just carries itself and basically makes you feel as though you don’t have a choice. The thoughts of bingeing carry you straight to your binge. But that’s not the only thing that the anticipation does. Just think about food and you flood dopamine into your nucleus accumbens (the pleasure center of the brain) which then excites you, calms you and motivates you to go for the food that you are thinking about.  Just like the drug addict who starts to think about cocaine which then motivates them to score their drug of choice despite whatever dangers lurk. So, not only are you addicted to the binge, and those pleasurable feelings that come with it, but you are actually addicted to the process of bingeing, the thoughts about food, the plans that you make to get food, the thoughts about food. Each thought that you have has a biochemical reaction.

Which makes quitting binge eating as difficult (or more difficult) than quitting heroin or cocaine. When food is your drug of choice, you can’t just stop eating, you have to learn to stop overeating and stop abusing food.


When you first have those thoughts and the pleasure center in your brain begins to light up with anticipation (it’s not unlike the process of flirting, or hooking up with someone pre-sex or orgasm), it feels as though it’s over. You’re going to binge. However, when you check in with yourself and say, “oh yeah, there are those thoughts again, I’m planning my binge…” you can slow yourself down. You can tell yourself that just because you are planning your binge, doesn’t mean that you have to go through with it. Just because the process part of the addiction has begun does not mean that you have to go through with it. Remember, this is the SAME EXACT function that cocaine addicts go through before they score their drug, it’s the same process that sex addicts go through when they are looking for a prostitute, it’s the same process that gambling addicts go through when they are selling their wedding ring for money to put in a slot machine.

So what we want to do here is slow your brain waaaayyyy down. Even though it’s just noon and you are at work in front of your computer, your mind is at home in the refrigerator or in front of the television with a pizza.

So what can you do?

1. First, recognize “oh, I’m having THOSE thoughts again…” And say it out loud, “there is that urge to binge…”

2. Remind yourself, “I’m not in the middle of the binge yet, I’m right here at my desk.”

3. Ground yourself, look at your feet on the floor, look at your hands, put your hand over your heart and breath into your belly. Be where you are, not where your mind is taking you.

4. Remind yourself why you don’t want to be on the other side of the binge. Think to yourself, “I don’t want to be in bed tonight with my belly hurting, feeling bloated and uncomfortable, I don’t want to wake up tomorrow morning feeling bad.” Then let yourself feel those bad feelings of how you feel after a binge. Reliving them will be a deterrent for you.

5. Think about alternatives, think about what it would be like to wake up the next morning without a binge, let that process excite your mind. Imagine yourself eating a healthy dinner in a healthy way and see yourself in bed that night feeling comfortable and waking up the next morning with a spring in your step.

6. Plan something equally relaxing for that evening ie: date with friend, bubble bath, taking a long walk outside while listening to music or podcast

7. Call someone and tell them that you have a binge planned and you don’t want to go through with it.

8. Get on the forum and ask for support.

9. Remind yourself that you have a choice. It doesn’t feel like you do, but you do, the thoughts and the desire can’t make you binge, they are just thoughts and desire. You have thoughts and desires a million times a day that you don’t act on.

10. Calm your brain down and slow down your thinking with deep breathing and meditation.

Eating disorders are notoriously rough because they hit you on lots of different levels, process addiction, food/sugar addiction, trauma relief, bad habit… there are a million different reasons that people binge, but if you can bring some mindfulness into the equation, you have an amazing chance of not only being able to stop overeating over and over, but also from recovering and not having to deal with the urges and the pain of bingeing anymore.