Question: 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.
Do 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.
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!
I always explain to my clients that raising or gaining your self esteem isn’t about harnessing some unknown force or creating something that doesn’t exist or gaining something new– rather than gaining something new, it’s about letting go of something old– old messages that tell you that you’re not okay, that you have to be better than you are, that there is something wrong with you. Self esteem is about being kind to yourself, accepting and loving yourself even if you’re not perfect. It’s about going toward greatness and allowing yourself to evolve, but loving yourself in that process. It’s about holding yourself with integrity to the best of your ability, always being kind, thoughtful, compassionate and loving to the people around you and to yourself. So, when you hear the voices telling you that you’re not okay, telling those voices that there is no room for them or that you don’t have to engage with those thoughts as you strengthen those that serve you. Try this guided meditation download to help you to let go of those old non-serving thoughts and bring in higher more function feelings about yourself.
In 1994, Nathanial Branden wrote The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem which is considered the definitive work on Self-Esteem. Branden believes that to have self esteem, you need both self-efficacy and self- respect. Having self-efficacy is the knowledge that you have everything inside of you that you need to survive no matter what. Self-respect is being aligned with your values and knowing that because you are, you deserve to be loved, respected and cared for and to be happy no matter what.
When you have self-efficacy, you’re not afraid of being alone, you’re not afraid of being left because you know that you have everything that you need inside of you to survive. You have confidence in your own abilities to navigate life rather than fear of being in the world. When you have self respect, you know what your values are (for me they are always being kind and treating everyone around me with respect and compassion and consideration, not gossiping or spreading rumors, not judging or criticizing and living with integrity) and you do your best to live in alignment with those values. When you live a life aligned with your values, you feel better about yourself and being in the world.
Branden identifies six philosophies that he believes are integral to living with self esteem. They are: living consciously, being self accepting, taking responsibility for oneself, being assertive, living with purpose and holding strong personal integrity
Living Consciously is about being aware of your body, being aware of your choices, your environment, being mindful or your choices, your enviornment, your bodily sensations, your thoughts, your actions and your fears.
Those who have eating disorders don’t live consciously. They either binge or starve themselves, they don’t honor their appetites, they hate their bodies because they believe that there is something wrong with them. They completely reject themselves.
Check out guided visualizations on eating mindfully and loving your body and letting go of negative body image.
Being Self Accepting: When you accept yourself, you stop trying to be someone else, you embrace your strengths. Rather than comparing what you don’t have to what other people do have, you celebrate and strengthen what you do have. Check out these great tips on being self accepting.
Taking Responsibility for Yourself: This is about not blaming other people for choices you made. Understanding that you have power and that you are not stuck and that just because you made a bad choice, you are not stuck in it because you have the power to constantly be rethinking and recreating your life.
Being Self Assertive: When you are self assertive, you stand up for yourself. You always treat other people with respect and you do not allow other people to talk down to you or to treat you poorly. If you have a boss, for instance who is verbally abusing you or yelling at you, it’s okay to look at them and say, “it’s not okay to talk to me that way.” It’s about standing up for others who might not have the ability to voice their own needs.
Living with Purpose:
When you live with purpose, you take care of yourself, but your main purpose in life isn’t about getting thin or getting pretty or making money or trying to impress or look good to other people. It’s about having goals that feel purposeful, meaningful to you.
Having Strong Personal Integrity:
What is it to live with integrity? In my opinion, it’s to be as honest as you can without being hurtful. Being honest doesn’t mean telling someone that they look fat in their new dress or that they’re acting like a jerk. That’s not honest, that’s your subjective opinion. Being honest is more like telling someone that your feelings were hurt when they didn’t answer your phone calls or respond to your messages. Being honest is not stealing, not lying, not purposely saying things to hurt people, not spreading hurtful rumors, and not using other people to achieve your own means. It’s about being kind, being helpful, but also not sacrificing yourself or your own needs for the sake of others. Personal integrity is about knowing what your values are trying to live up to them. What are your values? When you identify your values and do your best to live up to them, you will always know that you are okay and you won’t have to worry about what other people think about you.
For more help on improving self esteem, check out some of Nathaniel Branden’s sentence completion exercises.
1. 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.
What if instead of being afraid of food or trying to control food or yourself, what if you made friends with food? What if he who was once the enemy became your friend?
If you have an eating disorder, you probably notice that a lot of what you deal with is fear. Fear of food, fear of parties with food, fear of being out in the world, fear of what people think of you, fear of how you look or how other people see you, fear of being liked or not being liked, fear of being good enough, fear of pain or emotional hurt, fear of gaining weight, fear of losing weight, fear of fat, fear of eating, fear of not eating…
But what if you disempowered the fear of food by making friend with it?
The other day, a client of mine was telling me that after every public speaking event that she speaks at, she sits down alone and eats an apple because she is so revved up and the apple helps her calm down. She said, “I know it’s just an apple, but still, I’m using food to dampen my feelings…” But here’s the thing. Food IS nurturing. It keeps you alive and nourishes your body. I asked her what it would be like to smile at that apple and say, “thank you for sitting with me and helping me to decompress after my event,” and then enjoy the apple. We then took that a step further and discussed what it would be like to talk to her food all the time. Like say, “hey brownie, I really want to eat you, but I’m afraid you might lead to a binge…” and then listen to what the brownie had to say. Maybe it would say, “I think that today I’m going to lead you into a binge, so maybe you should just avoid me right now,” or maybe it would say, “Yes, sit down and eat me slowly, I’m not binge food today,” or maybe it would say, “Eat half of me now and half of me later!” Or whatever it is.
This is obviously another exercise in mindfulness and intuitive eating, but it’s a fun way to embrace your food rather than fear it. It’s a way to think about what you’re putting in your mouth and a way to learn to create limits and boundaries around food.
So, next time you are ready to eat, sit down and check in with your food, “are you what’s healthy for me right now? if not, what do you think I need?” Food is something that is here to sustain and love you. Your body deserves love and the food that you eat should be loving. Try it!
This question comes to us from Aubrey in Missouri.
Because you shouldn’t.
“But carbohydrates make me fat!”
I’ve had several clients over the years come in believing this very thing, that eating carbohydrates would make them fat. So, what they would do was go on these all high-protein and high-fat diets, eating only eggs, bacon, butter, steak, water, vodka, and whatever else had very low or no carbohydrates in it for a few days, sometimes a week or two, then having a carb binge, only to beat up on themselves again and again, hating themselves for doing “the wrong thing.” Have you ever done this, or some variation on this?
Well, the truth of the matter is this, you can lose weight very quickly on an extremely low-carb diet. To say that’s not true would be a lie. However, it’s a bad idea. And it almost never works. And I know that because if it did, people would go on a very low-carb diet once, lose all the weight they wanted in a few weeks or months, and never look back.
Your body wants carbohydrates. It really does, and it runs more efficiently on carbohydrates and protein than on protein alone. Which is why starving yourself of carbohydrates will inevitably result in a carbohydrate binge (not to mention the strain it will put on your organs), and for most people, this isn’t usually a binge on garbanzo beans and yams, but on processed boxed foods (think Chips Ahoy, Twinkies, and Ben & Jerry’s).
Let’s look at why very low-carb diets result in quick weight loss. Your body relies on carbohydrates as quick energy, when you starve your body of carbohydrates, it’s going to have to go into your fat stores to burn for energy. Theoretically this sounds great. But, most people don’t get there. This is later on, after a few days when your kidneys have let go of all the water in your body. The initial dramatic weight-loss you experience is water weight, which is why if you eat like one potato chip, and knock your body out of ketosis (a state that very low-carb dieters strive for), and you will hold onto water again and feel as though you’ve gained all the weight back that you lost. This creates a really intense cat & mouse game between you and carbohydrates.
When you don’t supply your body with any carbohydrates, it needs to slow down to preserve energy. This is why when people dramatically restrict their carbohydrates, they find that they are unable to exercise very much at all, they find that they are constipated due to lack of fiber, and they often become nauseated from ketosis. Because glucose stabilizes serotonin levels, some folks might find that they are depressed. Because your body runs so inefficiently on a very low carb diet, you will probably find yourself rebounding at some point with a carbohydrate binge. This sets up a cycle, again and again.
I had a client come in telling me, “I once lost 10 pounds in two weeks eating just steak and red wine, I know I can do it again…” and despite how much we worked on integrating healthy carbohydrates into her diet, her belief was that all carbs, in any amount were bad. So if she woke up in the morning and “accidentally” had a piece of toast with her eggs, she believed that her whole day was ruined and would continue throughout the day by eating ice cream, cake, cereal, pasta, whatever she could get her hands on, then use that as proof that carbohydrates were the problem. She would then hate herself. It wasn’t that one piece of toast that started the binge, despite the fact that she told herself that she couldn’t eat any carbohydrates because she was addicted. It was the belief that she couldn’t eat any carbohydrates and the black and white thinking that triggered the binge. She got so angry at herself every time she ate anything with carbohydrates in it and she got so angry at herself for the binges. Each time she started her diet again, she believed that this time it would be different. This time she could stick to it. Her body didn’t want her to stick to it. And when she didn’t, she blamed herself and her lack of willpower. Finally, after many, many years of this cycle, she agreed to try something different. She saw that she’d been doing this for so long and now weighed more than she ever had. She agreed that for just one month, just 30 days, she’d work in some balance. “I’m still not eating pasta or bread!” she told me. “That’s fine,” I told her, “but what about some apples, some sweet potatoes, some onions and peppers, some beans…” She agreed and began bringing unprocessed carbohydrates into her regimen. She decided that for the month she would “eat anything that grew,” which was something that she’d read in Louis Hay’s You can Heal Your Life. Not forever, just for 30 days.
Our start date for her experiment was April 1st of last year and she agreed to go until May 1st without succumbing to the lure of a no-carb diet. Despite the fact that she was allowing herself to eat more, each day was a struggle because she really wanted to give in to her desire to reject carbs. As we discussed it over the month, she realized that a huge part of her wanting to control her carbs so intensely was also a desire to have some control in her life. When she gave that up, it opened up more space for us to discuss in therapy what was actually going on in her life that felt totally out of control, such as her career, her relationship, and some of her friendships. As carbohydrates stopped being the center of her focus, her real life, which was admittedly difficult, became something that she was actually able to focus on in therapy. Each day in April she let herself experiment with different whole food carbohydrates, such as potatoes and sweet potatoes, yams, apples, bananas, avocados, sushi with the rice, and she even ate pasta once or twice without bingeing on it, which shocked her.
The magic that happened in that month was the letting go. As she was able to work on what was really going on inside of her and allow herself to eat really healthy whole foods, she began to let go of bingeing. Those ten pounds that had been haunting her for years didn’t magically fall off in a month, but about 2 or 3 pounds did. No, it wasn’t the ten pounds in two weeks that she was hoping for, but the promise of that was what kept piling the pounds on year after year after year.
As of right now, she’s not on a no-carb diet, and she’s not on a high carb diet. She is just trying to be nutritionally savvy. She eats whole foods, and exercises and has recently began to feel at peace with her body. She has certainly lost weight and come to a comfortable place for herself physically, but that’s not what makes this important, what makes it important is that when she stopped obsessing, she was able to come home to herself.
That doesn’t mean that taking care of yourself by choosing not to eat certain refined carbohydrates is a bad thing, however it might be good to reframe your thinking not as a “low-carb” diet but as a “whole foods” way of eating. Allowing yourself healthy whole foods will do nothing but nourish your body. And if you wind up eating a piece of cake or some pasta once in a while, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed miserably, you haven’t knocked yourself out of ketosis and you don’t have to binge. This is just about being good to your body by choosing to bring in healthy whole foods rather than reject carbohydrates totally.
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.
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.
Here is a quick little round up of different ways to heal from binge eating. Several of these tips are longer posts in other parts on this blog, so you can bookmark this page and come back and read more when you are ready or just go through the tips quickly. Enjoy!
1.)Eat a balanced, healthy breakfast with protein every morning. Starting your day off with a solid meal will stave off hunger and mindless eating during the day that can trigger binge eating.
3.)Get Support. Binge eating is a disease of isolation and secrets. When you attempt to recover in private, you perpetuate the isolation that drives the disorder. Getting support helps you to be accountable and helps you to talk it out with other people who are going through the same issues. Good places to go to for support: A therapist, a 12 step group, an online support forum, online or telephone meetings.
4.)Don’t let yourself get very hungry. When you let yourself get very hungry, your blood sugar drops which in impairs cognitive skills. Your body just needs glucose and it needs it now, so instinctively, you will start to grab for anything you can to raise blood sugar. Instead, use the hunger and satiety scale to help yourself eat what your body needs.
5.)Learn intuitive eating. This is the opposite of dieting, where your body is the wise one that lets you know what, how much, and when you need to eat. Your body wants to be healthy, so learning to listen and respond to it, will help you to find peace with food and with your body.
6.)Exercise Daily. This doesn’t mean spending arduous hours at the gym or running 5 miles a day. This is about moving your body. The more you move it, the more aware of it you are, and the better you begin to treat it. This can mean anything from 30 minutes of walking each day, to doing yoga, or going on a jog, or lifting weights or even just window shopping. But moving and being out in the world is crucial. Need some motivation to exercise? Try this.
7.)Learn Mindful Eating. Mindful eating is the act of slowing down and actually noticing, tasting and being with your food. Mindfulness is about being in the here and now. Binge eating is about chasing the taste. You don’t necessarily taste your food when you’re bingeing because your waiting for the next taste, the next bite, and this hunger is insatiable. When you incorporate mindful eating, you learn how to stop and interrupt a binge. Mindful eating is peaceful, yet it is an amazingly effective tool in fighting binge eating. Check out a guided visualization to learn mindful eating.
8.)Add more protein. Nutritionally, protein will feed your brain, keep you feeling fuller longer and it will help your brain to function better so that you can make better choices about what kinds of food to eat. This doesn’t mean eschewing carbohydrates, but eat your protein first so that you can make better choices about the next bite.
9.)Set a timer. When you feel the urge to binge, set a timer for 20 minutes, in that time, do something different other than binge. Let yourself know that you can binge if you still want to in 20 minutes. Often the very act of interrupting the compulsion will stop it.
10.)Meditate. Daily meditation will help you to slow down so that you can think about what you’re doing. You don’t even have to do it every day or make a big deal about having a practice. You can spend a few minutes each day breathing. Even in the middle of a work day, you can escape to the bathroom, close your eyes and breath for a few minutes to help slow down and ward off stress. You might want to download meditations to stop binge eating.
11.)Eat by the clock. If you are too entrenched in binge eating, the when part of intuitive eating might be difficult. So, at the beginning, when you are first starting to recover, you might want to set some parameters around when to eat. Example. Breakfast 8am. Snack 11am Lunch 1pm. Snack 4pm. Dinner 8pm. Or whatever feels right for your. Don’t forget to include at least three meals per day.
12.)Give Up Diet Coke. A lot of people who suffer from Eating Disorders are addicted to Diet Coke. There are some theories that postulate that diet drinks cause weight gain. That may or may not be true. But what is true is that many binge eaters attempt to substitute food with diet soda. This causes bloating, discomfort and lethargy, all of which contribute to body disconnection making binge eating more palatable.
13.)Remind yourself “I can always have it later.” Because binge eaters view food as so black and white (this is a special occasion, I have to eat it now) they tend to justify their binges. Just because it’s Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you have to eat Pumpkin Pie. Seriously. You will not stay up all night regretting what you chose not to binge on. This isn’t the last time that you can eat ice cream, it’s not black and white, it’s not all or nothing, that pumpkin pie will always exist. But do you need it right now? Can you have it tomorrow instead? Think about what your body needs in the moment.
14.)Know your triggers. Does going to the movies make you binge on popcorn? Does Halloween make you binge on Almond Joys? Does going to your parents house make you binge on bread? Does looking at facebook cause you to binge on candy? Does looking at fashion magazines cause you to binge on pasta? Get to know why and when you binge and intercept these events at the pass. Find ways to deal with the binge before it happens. For instance, if you know that going to the movies causes you to binge on popcorn, get there without time to go to the concession stand.
15.)Get more sleep. Being tired can cause binge eating. Again, being more cognizant and mindful of what you are doing can help you to extinguish these behaviors.
16.)Treat yourself with Love. Remember to do nice things for yourself at least once a day. This could be showering, taking care of your nails, your hair, your skin, making your bed. Being self nurturing will remind you of your own value so that you can feel better about yourself.
17.)Don’t compare yourself to others. You have your own path and your own dharma. Comparing yourself to others takes you off your path and stunts you. Try to look forward and move forward on your path rather than stopping yourself by looking longingly at other people’s paths.
18.)Be kind to your body. Learn how to love your body. Don’t say mean things to your body, don’t call it fat. Don’t engage in fat chat with other people. Don’t bond with others by discussing how fat you are or what different diets your going to go on. Don’t talk about other people’s bodys’ no matter what they look like.
19.)Learn how to fight the urge to binge eat. Remember that wanting to binge isn’t enough of a reason to binge. Even if it feels overhwhelming. Remember that you are stronger than the urge to binge.
20.)You are not perfect. If you have a slip, just start again. You don’t have to wait for the next day, you have millions of moments to start over. Start over immediately. Wash your hands, wash your face, take a shower and just recover from the binge. You can do that in any given moment.