intuitve eating

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 skinnyunless 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.

Friday Q & A- Help I’m addicted to sugar! How can I stop eating sugar?

sugar addictionThis comes to us from a reader in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Q- So I’m pretty sure that I’m a sugar addict. I’ve been in treatment for years to deal with my eating disorder. It started as anorexia when I was in high school. Spun into bulimia when I was in college. When I was 22, I went into  rehab for my eating disorder where all sugar was off limits. When I got out of treatment, I stayed off of sugar for like 4 years. For the past year and a half, I’ve been eating sugar again, and not in a healthy way. I’ve been bingeing on it. I’m not purging, which is great, but every time I try to get back off sugar, I last for like maybe 2 or 3 days, then I’ll have an insane binge. I want to quit again for good. My current therapist says that sugar addiction is a myth and wants me to learn to eat it in moderation. But I can’t! I really can’t. And I definitely feel better when I’m off sugar. When I’m eating sugar, my head is foggy, I’m bloated and tired, I think about it all the time, where to get it, what I’m going to do with it, how to stop eating it,  my skin breaks out, and I’m lethargic. When I’m off sugar, I’m calmer, more relaxed, more focused and happier. Do you think that sugar addiction real?  How can I give up sugar once and for all? -Rebecca

Answer:  Hi Rebecca, thanks so much for your question and I want to tell you that there is no easy answer to this. I understand your therapist’s perspective on this.  Many eating disorder treatment programs shun the addiction model and believe that restricting particular foods is what leads to bingeing, purging, and anorexia. Many programs will even take patients out for dinner as part of treatment and have them order dessert to learn to integrate sweets in a healthy and moderate way.   However, the 12-step model of recovery does believe in the addiction model and programs like OA will support abstinence not just from a behavior, but also from a particular substance (sugar, white flour, etc.)  The recovery community is at odds as to which model to follow.  There have been many studies done,  but there has been no consensus on whether sugar addiction is real or not.

That being said,  there is evidence of sugar addiction.  In a 2003 study published in Brain Briefings, it was found that rats exhibited identical behaviors toward sugar that follow the addiction model in humans, which are bingeing, withdrawal and craving.  They doubled their intake and began bingeing on it after having it restricted from them, which of course it what happens to people when they diet and restrict calories then come in contact with lots of candy, ice cream or baked goods. According to Takash Yamamoto, in his  May 2003 study “Brain mechanisms of sweetness and palatability of sugars” published in Nutrition Reviews, Sugar and the taste of sweet stimulate the brain by activating beta endorphin receptor sites, which are the same chemicals activated by heroin and morphine. However, a literature review published in 2010,  in Clinical Nutrition Journal states that there is no support  that sugar may be physically addictive or that addiction to sugar plays a role in eating disorders.

So, although there’s no real consensus from the scientific community, in your email you state When I’m eating sugar, my head is foggy, I’m bloated and tired, I think about it all the time, where to get it, what I’m going to do with it, how to stop eating it..  That statement alone can describe someone dealing with a crippling addiction.  So, is sugar addiction real? I think that for you it certainly feels real.

So that brings us to another question, do you have to give up sugar completely? I am always hesitant to go for the all-or-nothing approach. I do like to encourage people to learn to eat sugar moderately. Sometimes I’ll have someone bring in their binge food to the office and eat it slowly, very slowly to see what comes up for them emotionally when they eat that food. We then discuss it, and as they s-l-o-w-l-y eat the food, they begin to take the power away from it and reclaim their own power. They then make a plan as to how they will eat the rest of the night and what they will do to take care of themselves. This act of eating sugar in a contemplative way, without the fury and the madness, and then walking away from it, can change your belief about yourself around it. If you can physically walk away from it, even once, then the addiction is broken. Then you know that you have the power, not the sugar.   That’s an exercise in mindfulness.

But it is true that some people find avoiding sugar altogether much easier than using mindfulness to gain power over the sugar. And it’s true, it’s a practice.  But it is possible to find peace around sugar whether you decide to give it up completely or to find some moderation with it.  Below is a list I created to help you to give up sugar if that’s what you would truly like to do.

How to Give Up Sugar

1.)Eat fruit! Your body needs glucose. Some anti-sugar advocates will say that you need nothing but meat. Even our first food, breast milk is very, very sweet. We need glucose to give us energy, rebuild our cells and keep us going. Don’t eschew fruit in attempts to let go of sugar.

2.)Take it one day at a time. Don’t say, “I am giving up sugar forever,” say “I won’t eat sugar just for today.”

3.)Don’t be all-or-nothing about it. Just because you eat one cookie, that doesn’t mean that your body has to continue on a sugar binge. You can choose to make the next thing that you put in your mouth be something healthy, or nothing at all for a few hours until you’re ready for your next meal.

4.)Meditate! Try hypnosis for sugar addiction.

5.)Try to get more healthy fats into your diet. By adding Omega-3 fatty acids, or olive oil to your salads, or even a teaspoon of extra virgin coconut oil, you might find that your cravings decrease.

6.)Try supplements:

B-Vitamins help regulate serotonin levels to elevate mood and decrease binge episodes

Chromium 200 mcg per day – when needed for sugar cravings. Helps insulin to get into your cells to regulate glucose so that your hormones stop sending messages to your brain that you need more sugar.

Manganese- 10 Mg per day helps the transport and metabolism of glucose. It stabilizes blood sugar to reduce sugar cravings

Magnesium- 500 mg per day- calms the body and the brain while stabilizing glucose levels which can wildly fluctuate when a person is bingeing on sugar. When magnesium levels are stable, cravings decrease.

Zinc- 15mg- per day- helps to regulate appetite

5-HTP- 200 mg per day in the evening- or whenever you have the urge to binge. The precursor to serotonin will  suppress your appetite and relax you to take the anxiety away from the binge.

L-Glutamine- 500 mg when needed no more than 3 times per day. When you are having a strong sugar craving, take 500 mg of L-Glutamine or open a capsule and put the powder on your tongue. L-glutamine is an amino acid that is converted into food for the brain.

7.)Stabilize your blood sugar by eating protein with every meal and eating bits of protein between meals. When you’re not having blood sugar dips, your body won’t crave sugar.

8.)Drink teas, like peppermint or chamomile when you’re having a sugar craving.

9.)Get support. Consider joining a group like Overeaters Anonymous to help you get through.

10.)Use fruit like raisins and bananas and spices like cinnamon and cloves to “sweeten” things like plain yogurt or oatmeal.

Thank you for your question, and I hope that this has been helpful.

Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating disorders? 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.

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

 

Friday Q & A- I feel that food is overpowering my life

don't let food be your evil dictator

don’t let food be your evil dictator

Question:

Hi,

I stumbled upon your website and figured I’d shoot you an email. I’m 24, and my relationship with food is absolutely horrific. I find that for several months I can stick to an eating plan (such as weight watchers) get down to a normal weight for myself, become incredibly happy, until I fall into a hole again. It’s as if I have no consistency with the presence of this disorder. I have been out of control again since August and have gained 20 pounds or so. Nothing fits me, I’m miserable, and mostly prefer to hide in shame. I can’t stick to an eating plan even for a day. I don’t ever remember feeling this helpless with my food issues. Usually I can kick myself in the butt and start making changes, but they never -ever last. My weight has fluctuated my entire life and I simply cannot be happy at this weight. It’s seriously concerning me that I can’t even seem to stick to something like counting calories or Weight Watchers even for a day at this point.

Several months ago I was seeing a therapist, who was treating me for OCD with medication. I have since, under her suggestion stopped the medication because I was experiencing terrible side effects. I haven’t met with her in some months because I can’t afford the sessions right now, and I would really love to learn how to handle this on my own -without medication. I have considered attending an OA meeting for some support because I just don’t know what to do.

I wake up every morning fearing what my food choices will be. It seriously controls my entire life. Right now as I’m typing this email to you I’m wondering what I have in my house. I’m aware of what drives me to overeat, it’s stopping it and making a habit of intervening -a habit to last a lifetime, that out of 24 years I can’t seem to make happen.

What can I do?

Thank you,

Kate

 

Answer:

Kate,  Thank you so much for your question. You put so much feeling and honesty into your question and I can really hear how much you are struggling. I’m sorry that you were not able to manage your OCD behaviors with medication and that there were so many side effects. That can be disappointing- when you think you’ve found an answer and it backfires.

You didn’t talk very much about your OCD and how it manifests, but I suspect that Overeaters Anonymous  might be a good place for you to land and settle in. Because they are a very structured group, and because OCD symptoms tend to do well with structure, I imagine it would be very helpful. This is why, it seems as though a group like weight watchers has been helpful for you in the past. However, weight watchers is a group that helps people who have difficulty understanding the right amount of calories in and calories out.  Given  your history with food, I imagine that you’re not much less of a Phd in calories, carbs and fat. Women who have struggled with their weight and with food issues for a long time don’t need to learn about how to lose weight. They know.

If you cannot afford individual therapy, I’d recommend group therapy in addition to OA in order to have people to talk to about what you’re going through. Having a group process and talking to other women about your issues can be helpful. Check out ANAD for free therapy groups as well as EDReferral for other therapy groups.

I also think that given your symptoms, you might be a great candidate for learning intuitive eating. Try to ritualize stopping before you eat anything, taking a breath and checking in with your body. Figure out whether or not you are hungry. If you are, check in with your body and ask what it needs, then, when you are ready, eat something, but eat it slowly. Taste every morsel, notice the texture, the taste, the way it feels in your mouth. Take breaths in between bites.  Check out this post on intuitive eating which explains it in more depth. Get some support from the intuitive eating community. You might also download a hypnotherapy session on how to stop dieting and start eating intuitively. 

 

Thank you for sending your question in and I hope that this was helpful.

 

Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating disorders? 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 to deal with your eating disorder? Please see my website or email me to discuss getting started. 

Friday Q & A- Help, I’m obsessed with food

eating disorder therapyQuestion: Help! I saw your blog and realized that a lot of my odd habits have to do with my unhealthy association with food, but I do not know how to stop it. I am constantly thinking about food, looking for food, and seeing where I can get free food. When I’m at work, I look for places where there is free food available, even if it is not on my floor/department. When there are samples, I can’t help but take more than one. I sometimes even go to places like Costco, just to get the free food samples. At times I have fallen so low as to “try” other people’s food from the fridge without asking. I managed to stop this for a while, but now I have started to feel the urge again.

How do I stop these embarrassing habits? Part of it has to do with the fact that I love to try new things, and a little of different things. Also, I’d like to “sample” some items, but know I don’t want to buy the whole container of it to take home.  However, a part of it, I know deals with the fact that I don’t allow myself to eat some of these foods, like take out, because it is not good.
I feel like these habits have started to interfere with my life, and don’t know how to stop exactly. Any advice would be appreciated.
Thank You,
Nadia
Answer: Hi Nadia, thank you so much for your question. I feel for you. It sounds like food obsession is taking over your life and your mind.
I imagine that there are a few things going on here. The first is that you have these big conflicting emotions about food. One is excitement and curiosity– but the other is fear. So you allow yourself to find ways to keep food limited for you. You don’t trust yourself to set your own limits, so you find places to that will set those limits for you. You go to places where there are free samples so you don’t have to deal with setting your own limits.
The other thing that I am thinking is, I wonder what you would be thinking about if you weren’t thinking about food? Is there something else that’s going on that you might be avoiding? Is obsession with food helping you to look toward something easier than what is really going on?
I think that the answer for you is two-fold, first to practice limit setting and second to figure out what it is that you’re avoiding. For instance, find a safe person and tell them that you are experimenting allowing yourself to buy and eat new foods in a healthy way. Then, think about what it is that you’re wanting to eat. Is it a pretzel? Can you go out and buy a pretzel and bring it home and eat it very slowly, mindfully and allow yourself to enjoy it? Can you stop when you are done? I recommend that you have your safe person there with you so that you have someone to talk to if you feel like bingeing or if you feel out of control. You might want to try a mindful eating download.
When you find yourself obsessing or scavenging for food, ask yourself, “what might I be avoiding? Is there something underneath these thoughts of food that I’m thinking about or needing?”
I do think that eating disorder therapy would be super beneficial for you to help you explore these questions. Check out edreferral.com for a therapist in your area. 
Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating disorders? 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 to deal with your eating disorder? Please see my website or email me to discuss getting started. 

How to Stop Calorie Counting

how to stop calorie countingDo you ever feel like counting and numbers are taking over your life and your mind? Are you constantly counting pounds on the scale? Weighing and measuring your food? Do you know the number of calories in every food and the grams of carbs in everything that you put in your mouth? Is this obsession driving you crazy?

Many of my clients come in feeling as though they’d love to stop counting calories, but they don’t know how, they feel as though if they did, they’d totally lose control. Counting calories helps give them a sense of control and satisfaction.

Usually, when I begin people on the road to intuitive eating and mindful eating, I help them wean off of calorie counting by using numbers to help them assess their appetites. It’s actually a lot more challenging than calorie counting, but ultimately more useful. It increases mindfulness and helps you to actually get in touch with the needs of your body.

How to do it: 

1. Learn the hunger and satiety scale.

 

0 Starvation mode. Void of feelings. No energy, tired, empty.
1 Ravenous. Feeling uncomfortably hungry. Dizzy, grumpy.
2 Very Hungry, unable to focus on work or conversation.
3 Hungry. Stomach is beginning to growl, you are beginning to lose focus.
4 Getting Hungry. First thoughts of food begin.
5 Neutral. Not hungry, not full. Not obsessing about food. Nurtured, productive, able to focus. If you are eating, you can still eat more.
6 Satisfied. You’ve eaten enough to be content. You are not uncomfortable, yet you do not need more.
7 Slightly Full. A bit more than satisfied. You might feel like you had a bit too much.
8 Very Full. You begin to feel bloated as though you’ve had too much.
9 Uncomfortably full. You just want to go to sleep. You might feel depressed or regretful.
10 Completely Stuffed. You feel like you might throw up. You are in pain, you can’t focus, and you don’t know how you got here.

2. Decide to  learn to not let yourself drop below a 3 and not go above a 7.

3. Check in with yourself throughout the day. When you find yourself at a 4, it’s time to think about getting a meal.

4. Before each meal, note or write down where you are on the hunger and satiety scale.

5. Eat your food slowly and mindfully and stop right in the middle. When you stop, note or write down where you are. If you are at a 5, you know that you can eat a bit more. Stop again and if you are at a 6 or a 7, stop eating.

It’s that simple. But it’s not simple really because you are using the wisdom of your body to tell you how much or how little you should be eating rather than an arbitrary number that doesn’t necessarily relate to what your body needs. Keeping track of the numbers on the hunger and satiety scale will help you to feel as though you are in control in a way that calorie counting did only it’s also a way to increase mindfulness. After a while, you will be able to stop using the numbers because you will intuitively know when to eat and when to stop eating.

Start by trying it for one meal a day. You can also check in with yourself every 1-2 hours and ask yourself where you are on the hunger and satiety scale.

You might try some hypnosis to help you stop dieting and to eat more mindfully for your body and less by someone else’s calorie chart.

Interested in doing a  seven day experiment? Try it and link to this blog post, I’d love to see how it goes for people!

10 Ways to Get a Healthy Body Now

10 ways to get a healthy body1. Eat mostly minimally processed and whole foods. This means choosing to actually eat a piece of chicken and broccoli that you get from the store rather than picking up a chicken and broccoli Lean Cuisine and having it pass for dinner. You want your food to have as few ingredients as possible. A steak is healthier than a 100 calorie snack pack. A baked potato is healthier than a slice of low fat  processed American cheese. You get what I’m saying. Try to keep it as simple as possible. It’s actually easier and will improve your health a million-fold. Check out these articles on the benefits of eating whole foods.

2. Don’t obsess about it.  So, eat processed foods most of the time, but say if a bag of cheez-its should pass your lips, you’re not going to ruin it all. You don’t have to binge on processed foods all day long and then vow to only eat apples and broccoli and chicken for the rest of your life. You’ve set up a baseline of healthy with eating mostly whole foods. So if you can eat healthy most of the time, you can have a little bit of the not so healthy every so often. It’s okay. It’s fine in fact. This is the way I suggest working it. When you see something that you really want, allow yourself to have it. But, first, go for the whole unprocessed so that you know you’re giving your body something healthy. Like if there is a choice between a fruit salad and a piece of (unhomemade/supermarket bought) cake, opt for both, but eat the fruit salad first, then eat the cake. You get your healthy food in, you don’t forgo one for the other. There’s no deprivation there and you are letting yourself eat for both health and enjoyment.  When you give yourself the healthy food first, there is also less opportunity for bingeing because you’re hungry or depriving yourself.  I differentiate between a piece of supermarket bought cake because I really believe that I homemade cake is healthier. There is less likely to be lots of artificial ingredients and preservatives and more love and whole ingredients added.

Obsessing about eating whole foods is just another diet. You don’t want that. You want to eat for health and for enjoyment — it’s okay to eat for enjoyment!  Obsessing will also set you up for failure. Think of eating whole foods as your way of nurturing yourself, not punishing.

3. Exercise with love- Forget about reading about the best ways to lose weight or how to get a ripped physique and think of exercise as something to bring you pleasure and to help you destress. If you like to run, then run. If you like to swim, then swim. If power lifting is your thing, more power to you.  If you like to take long leisurely strolls, then do that. If  you love yoga, do yoga.  If dance classes bring you joy, do that. You don’t have to exercise hard, you just have to get out and move several times a week. And seriously, you don’t have to power through your exercise, moving can be slow.  It can be a nice walk through the park with a friend or pushing a stroller or listening to a podcast or book on tape. Think of exercise as quality time with yourself rather than something you have to do. If you can exercise outside and get a little vitamin D grade sunshine, it’s a bonus.

4. Sleep at night. - Seriously get your sleep in order.

One of the ways to begin to encourage good health into your life is to start with your sleep.  Sleep and mood go together. When your sleep is off, your mood is off. When your mood is off and your sleep is off, your immune system is compromised and your emotional stability is off. You then become more susceptible to colds, flu, disease, as well as anxiety, depression, and car accidents. Sleeping too much or too little sleep can both be hazardous to your health. Healthy adults need 7-8 hours each night. My husband, who lived for years with chronic insomnia was helped greatly by this book.

Make your bed a welcoming place.   Go out and buy a nice, comfortable set of sheets and a new comforter and lots of fluffy pillows. Make your bed someplace that is inviting and luxurious. If you can’t afford new sheets right now, wash your current sheets and bedding and fluff it up, spray it with some lavender and try to give it a little bit of new life. At night, an hour before you think you should go to sleep, get into bed. Let’s say you want to be asleep at 11, get into bed at 10. Don’t turn your TV on, don’t bring your computer into bed with you. Bring a book, or a magazine, or your iPod. Listen to some relaxing music with your eyes closed or listen to a guided visualization, and just begin to let yourself relax. This isn’t about sleep, this is about relaxing your body. Sleep is a natural biological process that your body can do once you begin to relax your body and your mind. You might also want to get into the bath about 90 minutes before you want to be asleep. A hot bath with Epson Salts is a great way to relax your muscles and calm your mind and warm your body up for sleep. Try to think of a nice bedtime routine that you can do every night that will help you fall into a restful sleep. You might draw for 1/2 hour before you get into bed, you might bathe, you might write in your journal, but find something that works for you and do it nightly.

If you find that sleep is impossible, there are lots of natural sleep solutions such as taking extra magnesium supplements at night or checking out herbal sleep aids out there such as valerian, chamomile and skullcap as well as amino acids like 5-HTP and L-Tryptophan or a synthetic hormone of melatonin. Definitely ask your doctor or Naturopath about supplementation for help with sleep before you take anything. There are also over the counter solutions as well as prescription solutions that your doctor can help you sort through. There’s no shame in finding something to help you sleep. Being sleep deprived leads to poor decision making, especially around food choices. It also leaves you looking for more energy and many people use caffeine and sugar to achieve this.

5. Floss Your Teeth- Did you know that having good oral hygiene is a way to keep your heart healthy? Gum-disease-causing bacteria can contribute to cardiovascular disease. This may work through inflammation; people with more gum disease bacteria also had more white blood cells circulating in their blood because white blood cells are part of the body’s response to infection.  So floss daily!

6. Hug Someone-Believe it or not, hugs can reduce stress. Hug your Mom, your Dad, your Rabbi, your Pastor, your Son or Daughter, even hug your dog or you cat. Human love, compassion, and touch can be so healing.  In fact, A University of Virginia neuroscientist has found that women under stress who hold their husbands’ hands show signs of immediate relief, which can clearly be seen on their brain scans.

7. Stop drinking, or cut down dramatically if you are drinking daily-  I’m sorry to report that drinking alcohol daily dramatically increases your risk for cancer.  A new study shows that even as little as 1 drink per day increases your risk for breast cancer, mouth and throat cancers and stomach cancers. I wasn’t super surprised to hear this. I have a close friend who is an oncology nurse, who told me that what she often sees on people’s assessment forms is that they drink excessively. She said that it’s the one thing that is confirmed to her over and over and over again, that alcohol use and cancer have a very strong correlation.  Sorry folks. If you’re trying to quit drinking, I highly suggest checking out an AA meeting or a Smart Recovery. You might even try hypnosis to help you stop drinking.

8. Take a vitamin D3 supplement- We are super vitamin D deficient. If you don’t want to take something without getting first checked, ask your doctor to run a lab to check your level. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to infertility, breast cancer, depression, colon cancer, anxiety, heart disease, obesity, recurrent miscarriage, and all sorts of other crappy things. Studies also show that folks who have higher vitamin D levels have lower risk of disease in general and better immune function.  However, the best way to integrate Vitamin D is with sunshine, so get out into the sun and soak up some vitamin D. Mushrooms are also a great source of vitamin D, so don’t be shy about your fungi.

9.Have Lots of Sex- You will be happier, calmer, you will sleep better and you will reduce your risk of heart disease, depression and anxiety. Now, if you don’t have a partner, going out and having sex with strangers probably won’t improve your health (or self esteem). However, there are proven benefits to having a healthy sexual relationship with yourself! 

10. Drink Honey and Cinnamon- Each morning, make a mixture of raw honey and organic cinnamon in a cup of warm water and drink it down for good health. This has long been a folk remedy that claims you can lose weight, decrease insomnia, fight anxiety, ward off cancer and heart disease and keep your skin clear and supple.  Is it true? Maybe a little. Snopes says sort of true.  But, it’s a pleasant morning drink if anything. If you see an improvement in whatever ails you in a few weeks, great, if not, stop drinking it.

Friday Q & A- How can I become motivated to lose weight?

courtesy of http://foodgloriousfood-toto.blogspot.com/

courtesy of http://foodgloriousfood-toto.blogspot.com/

Question:

This is from Sunshine:

Hi! I LOVE reading all of your posts! I still have the same problem. I am NOT motivated to lose weight and I sure would like to be. What should I do??? I don’t want to exercise or at least not very much. I don’t want to write down and track what I eat. But I DO want to lose weight. I just don’t have the desire or motivation to do it. HELP!!

 

 

Answer:

Hi Sunshine,

My question to you is, who would ever be motivated to lose weight? Yuck! That sounds awful… the deprivation, the scales, the months of restricting, dieting, stressing, obsessing… I don’t blame you for having no desire to do this. What I would recommend is that you reframe your thinking from looking to lose weight to either

-The motivation to GAIN health.

-The motivation to LOSE your obsession with food

- The motivation to GAIN self love, and self esteem

-The motivation to GAIN body trust.

-The motivation to GAIN freedom from the restraints that hating your body puts on you

Are any of these interesting to you? If so, you might want to make a list.  What would be positive about gaining health? What would be positive about letting go of my obsession with food? What would be positive about staying where I am right now and accepting it?  Think through all of these different ideas, and then decide what it is that you want to do.  I’m always a fan of intuitive eating. Tuning in to your body to eat what you need when you need it and forgiving yourself when you slip up and moving past it.   You might want to check out this blog about extreme intuitive eating.  Love your body for what it can do, not for what it looks like or what size it is. Love it and nurture it and give it what it needs. If it needs kale and egg whites, feed it kale and egg whites, if it needs a buttery english muffin, do the same. But let go of the idea of losing weight.  Let go of diets. Let go of your need to control. Let go of the idea of losing weight. You say in your email that you don’t have the desire to lose weight. So just let it go, I promise you will be a lot happier.

 

 

 

Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating disorders? 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.

Rule Number One. Never Undo the Binge

i binged now what?The most important move to make in healing from binge eating or bulimia is to always move forward past the binge.  So, next time you binge, rather than saying to yourself, “okay, no dinner.” or “now I have to go to the gym for the next 3 hours to work it off…” or “no carbohydrates for the next three days,” or “now I can’t eat for another 24 hours…”  or, “okay, i’m going to binge for the rest of the day since today is shot…” instead you say to yourself, “okay. I binged. I need to leave the binge here and go forward. My next meal is going to be a healthy one.”

Because when you try to undo a binge, you stay in it. You are stuck in the past trying to make it not have happened and then you get yourself into a cycle, either a binge-restrict cycle, a binge-purge cycle, or a binge-exercise cycle. And all those cycles lead to more bingeing. You want to get out of bingeing and the only way to do that is to leave the binge where it is, in the past– without compensating for it, and without undoing it.

So, if there were any Saturday night binges let go of the idea of  any big diets today. Instead, today, vow to take care of yourself. Eat a healthy breakfast, drink lots of water, take a nice walk, get some fresh air, give yourself kind words, forgive yourself for bingeing, be compassionate with yourself and move past it into health and normalcy.