mindfulness

The vegetables are Dizzy!

Don't make the vegetables dizzyWhen I was home from college one weekend, I walked into the kitchen and lifted the cover off the pan to see what my Mom was cooking us for dinner. Squash, onions,  brown rice, tofu… the usual. I picked up the wooden spoon and began to mix the stir-fry. “Stop,” my mother told me as she gently placed her hand over my wrist, “you don’t want to make the vegetables dizzy.”

My Mom had lots of new-agey philosophies and was always reading a book or  participating in certain spiritual food fads, some which were downright obsessive or unhealthy like  the *master cleanser (lemonade diet that we’ve all come to hate), or *Fletcherism (which means chewing your food 100 times before you swallow it- even your water), or a *liver detox (where you swallow nothing but apple juice and laxatives for a few days) and some that more mainstream and had deeper philosophies like Veganism and eating a seasonal Macrobiotic Diet.  Many of them were just oblique ways of masking disordered eating into a spiritual path- but there were a few things within the many different things that she tried over the years that were valid and made sense.

That moment with Mom pops into my head a lot, where she lovingly put her hand on my wrist and warned me against making the vegetables dizzy. I remember smiling at her in an amused but adoring way. She wanted to keep the energy of the food balanced and stable so that when she fed it to me, the food would help me to remain balanced and stable. Her philosophy at this point in her life had a lot to do with the energy that you put into food and how that energy reflected back on you.  She was ill and wanted to regain health and she felt that this was a path toward that.

She had integrated this Eastern Philosophy of being aware of the Qi (life force) in everything- including her food. She believed that what you put into the world around you, that you would get out of it. So she chose love and kindness toward her food and hoped and believed that it would return to her and to me.

I’ve often felt in the years since I’ve lost my Mom that this might have been a healthy path that she came to too late. I don’t necessarily think that it would have saved her life, but I wonder if it would have saved her lots of fruitless years on senseless diets and food and weight loss fads.

I want to put out an experiment to you. What if you took a day and showed loving kindness to everything you ate? If you can’t do a whole day, what about one meal?  You don’t have to eat just brown rice and kale or green smoothies (making smoothies makes the vegetables dizzy anyway… :) But what if you were to take even a piece of pizza or a cookie and look at it before you ate it and said something like, “You are loved! Thank you for providing me with your nutrients, your yummy taste and the enjoyment I will get from eating you…” what do you think that would do? Do you think it would help you slow down? Do you think that it would alleviate some of the guilt that you might sometimes feel around eating certain foods? Do you think that it would help you to be more mindful about the food that you were eating and the intention that you had around food?  Try it, let me know how it goes.

*Links are provided for reference, but please don’t try these methods 

Q & A Friday- Why Can’t I Eat Just One…

Chasing the TasteThis most recent comes from Jodi a new reader: 

Leora, I am having a hard time with a binge that comes from “just one candy, cookie, etc.” I will be craving something sweet and then say I’ll have one piece of chocolate and then keep going back for more. I don’t know how to avoid that cycle and do something else instead of binging. Sometimes after the one sweet thing I want something salty, too, and then I’ll end up binging by going back and forth between the two foods.  Can you help me?- Jodi

Hi Jodi, I know this problem well!  This is what I call chasing the taste. You end a meal only to need the opposite taste in your mouth. Salty becomes sweet, sweet becomes crunchy and salty, crunchy and salty becomes fatty and warm… there is something that you want but… you can’t  quite find it, and you spend the better part of an hour chasing after a sensation in your mouth to satisfy that desire. Before you know it, you’ve ended up bingeing. I have some tips for this. Try them and let me know how it goes. 

Before you begin eating the desired food that can potentially start a binge, create an intention around it. Tell yourself, “I’m going to eat this piece of chocolate and I’m going to enjoy it and it’s okay for me to do that,”  and then put it on a plate. I would also choose to eat more than one piece, because one small piece of chocolate is not necessarily satisfying. Put a couple of pieces on your plate and put the bag away, close it tight and put it up on a high shelf, one that you have to climb to get to or in the freezer under something else.  

Remind yourself that there have been times when eating one piece of chocolate has led you to chasing the taste and looking for something else, but that you are choosing a different behavior now. 

Sit down with your chocolate slowly. Taste it in your mouth. Feel the sensation of the chocolate melting on your tongue. Notice what it feels like and notice what you feel like when you are eating it. When you are finished, note any sensations that you are having to run back to the kitchen and get more or something else. Ask yourself if you are chasing the taste. If you are, either drink a glass of water, or walk into the bathroom and brush your teeth, or rinse with some mouth wash… anything to change the taste in your mouth and help you to interrupt the compulsion of chasing the taste and using food to elicit different taste sensations or sensory experiences for yourself.  After you’ve changed the sensations in your mouth and tongue, sit for a moment and do some breathing- breathe into your nose to the count of ten, hold it and exhale to the count of ten. Do this 6 times to give yourself 2 minutes of breathing. This will calm your amygdala, bring more oxygen to your brain, help you to regain your senses rather than letting the food cravings hijack your brain and suck you into a binge. You now have more authority and a choice about what you want to do. The fact that you’ve put the food in a hard to reach place will also help to interrupt the compulsion to keep eating. 

I hope that helps you J! 

Take good care of you and I’ll talk to you soon. 
Warmly, 

Leora

 

Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating? 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 or coaching to deal with your eating disorder? Please contact me to discuss getting started. 

How to Raise Your Self Esteem in 10 Easy Steps

how to raise your self esteem

Last week, one of my clients said to me, “Leora, can you just teach me how to gain self-esteem? If I just had some self esteem my life would be so different…”  I knew what she meant. She tries to use her eating disorder to give her self confidence. She believes that if she were thin enough that she would be worthwhile and important, but if she is not thin enough, she is a worthless human being with no value. But she is never thin enough. And so her life has been spent waiting to feel valuable and trying to be good enough. Her focus is always on her weight and never on anything else. Her critic is always telling her that she will be better, more people will like her and she will be happier when she is thinner. She is already very, very thin.

What she thought was that she could “get self esteem,” like gain something that she’s never had before, something new.  The truth is, having self esteem isn’t about harnessing some mystical force or  acquiring 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.  Self acceptance can often become confused with settling for something that you don’t like. But that’s not what self esteem is about. It’s about accepting who you are in the moment and accepting that it’s okay to be who you are as you go toward  greatness (even more greatness!) and allowing yourself to evolve, but caring for yourself and being kind to yourself and even 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.  It’s about knowing what your values are and doing your best to uphold those values. So, when you hear the voices telling you that you’re not okay and that you won’t be okay until you… CLIMB MT. EVEREST, RUN A MARATHON, LOSE WEIGHT, FIT INTO A SIZE XX JEANS, READ WAR & PEACE, WRITE YOUR FIRST NOVEL, BECOME A BEST SELLING AUTHOR, MAKE 6 FIGURES, GET MARRIED, HAVE A BABY, QUIT DRINKING,  QUIT SMOKING, QUIT EATING CARBS, EAT NOTHING BUT KALE SMOOTHIES AND SUNFLOWER SEEDS, BECOME A VEGAN, HAVE CLEAR SKIN, GET YOUR MBA… Or whatever those voices are telling you, remember that you don’t have to engage with those thoughts. It’s not true and it’s not real. It’s okay to be okay with who you are in the moment instead of after you’ve done these things. People confuse acceptance with resignation and defeat.  Acceptance doesn’t mean resigning yourself to being stuck in your circumstances. It means accepting that you are in the place that you’re in now and you don’t have to wait to be who your are until after you’ve changed your circumstances. It means that you can be yourself now and thrive and be in the world while at the same time improving your circumstances. We all have goals to achieve, that’s part of what makes us psychologically healthy and what helps us move forward in life. But when you get into the cycle of “I won’t be okay until…” you set yourself to be unhappy and you have a very hard time finding happiness… because it’s never enough.

So, how do you do this? I’ve created 10 tangible steps to achieving self-esteem. You don’t have to do all of them right now. But just try one this week and see how it goes. When you start to feel a difference, try another one. I know that doing these exercises will be life-changing for you.  

1. Make a List of What your Values Are 

Think about what is fundamentally important to you and write it down. This could be being a kind and compassionate person, being the kind of person people turn to when they are having troubles, not judging or criticizing other people, living with integrity, having positive intentions. Knowing that you are never going to be 100% at all these things, when you are feeling badly about yourself, check in and ask yourself if you are doing your best to live in accordance with your values. If you are, then you can fall back on that foundation of strong values and strength. If you are not, give yourself a reminder of what your values are and try to live according to them. So, if someone does or says something to you that hurts your feelings or if you yourself say or do something to yourself that hurts your feelings, check in with yourself and ask, “am I living according to my values? Am I behaving and acting in a way that I can feel good about? Am I acting like the kind of person that I would want to have as a friend?”  And remember, we always forget to do these things and fail at them sometimes, and that’s normal, but having your values written down in a list form can be a great reference for you to come back to. It will help you remember what is truly important to you and when you remember and when you live according to those values, you find self-efficacy.

2. Don’t Compare Yourself To Other People

Your values and your dharma (path) are different than anyone else’s, so you just can’t compare. You can’t compare your money situation to anyone else’s, your relationships, your jean size… we were all born with our own individual paths. When you begin to look at other people’s paths and think that you should be like them or different from who you are, you fail to move along your own, or you reject your path. This inherently makes you feel bad. This keeps you from moving forward.  You also shouldn’t be comparing your backend to anyone else’s front end. Meaning, you can’t compare the knowledge that you have about your own situation to what someone else is outwardly showing you about their own. You never know what is going on with someone else. As M. Scott Peck says in The Road Less Traveled, life is hard for everyone, not just you. And once you remember that life is hard across the board, you can transcend the existential angst and pain that comes with the difficulties of life. You can understand that when things happen (you get a parking ticket, break your arm, get into a car accident, lose a parent) that it’s painful and it’s difficult- but you are not alone, that bad and difficult things happen to everyone who chooses a life of being human.

3. Do Things for other People Often

Performing acts of kindness actually makes you happier and boosts your self esteem, making you feel more valuable and more at peace. A study published in the Journal of Social Psychology showed that participants who performed directed acts of kindness every day for 10 days in a row showed an increased level of life satisfaction. Self-esteem comes from life satisfaction and feeling your value in the world. Doing things for other people can be as small as smiling at someone when you are walking down the street or as big as volunteering your time to help someone out. It can also be remembering to give loved ones around you big hugs, kisses and compliments and reminding them why you love them so much and telling them how proud you are of them.

4. Live Mindfully  – Mindful living is about being aware of your body, being aware of your choices, your environment, being mindful or your choices, your environment, your bodily sensations, your thoughts, your actions and your fears. Often, people who are suffering with eating disorders have a really rough time living mindfully. They reject their true needs to focus on the goal of weight loss or looking better and  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. When you are living mindfully, you are working to honor the needs of your body.

If you are signed up for the newsletter, you should have received your free mindful eating meditation. If not, sign up here to get it. You might also like the loving your body and letting go of negative body image meditation.  

Do check out this article on mindful living. 

5. Learn Self Acceptance:  Part of self acceptance is knowing what your strengths are and honing in on those and not punishing yourself for things that you are still working on. Make a list of things that you are good at and that you like about yourself. Be with that list and do more of those things. Make another list of things that you are not so happy with and that you want to change. Tell yourself that it is okay that you are where you are. And that it doesn’t make you bad and you can still like yourself and care for yourself as you are working to change those things. Get love and support and help for changing the things that you want to change. Change and healing is difficult all alone and in a void. But when you find other people who are working on the same change together, you have a group of encouraging, loving folks to keep you accountable and to be kind to you when you fall down. You can also do the same for others which will help you (see #3!)

6. 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. If you make a mistake, don’t shift the blame. Don’t say that you did this thing or said this thing because someone made you. For example, “I’m sorry I yelled at you, but if you weren’t acting so irrational, I wouldn’t have.” You have just negated your apology and given away your power. Always take ownership for your actions. Knowing that you have it in you to make your own decisions based on your own values (see #1) is part of what gives you self efficacy and self-esteem. Saying that someone else made you yell or act mean or say something wrong basically says that you have no power to make your own decisions about how you behave. Remember that you almost always have the power to undo a decision that you made. 

7. Be an Advocate for Yourself:  When you have self-advocacy, 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.” You also stand up for others who might not have the ability to voice their own needs. If you are unable to stand up for your own needs and have your own voice, you find someone who can be an advocate for you. 

8. Live with Purpose: 

Consider your life’s purpose. When you begin to 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 long term feel important and meaningful to you and using your life to work on these goals that help the world at large. 

9. Have Lots of 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.  (See #1). 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.

10. Challenge Your Inner Critic- 

What would it be like to gently let go of the old thought patterns that you are so intensely holding onto? As I said earlier, self-esteem isn’t about gaining or building and changing, it’s about letting go. Imagine the beliefs that you have that plague you and make you feel bad,  (ie: “I have to be thinner, I have to be smarter, I have to be cleaner, I have to be richer, I have to be prettier…) and just choosing to disengage with them. Choosing instead to engage with the above ideas that are helpful and help you to feel better about yourself than the thoughts that intrude into your mind and keep you from living your life with zest and enjoyment.  That doesn’t mean you won’t have these thoughts pop up. They are old and part of old patterns. However, what about trying to hear them like background noise (like a fire engine siren outside) but not follow them. Let them fly through your mind, notice them and rather than grasping onto them, think about doing things that align with what makes you feel good about yourself. 

For more help on improving self esteem, check out some of Nathaniel Branden’s sentence completion exercises. 

What about you? What are some things that you have done that helped you feel into your self esteem? 

 

10 New Years Resolutions that Will Change Your Life

new years resolutions

 

Want some New Years Resolutions that can actually change your life? Not one of them involves losing weight.

 

 

 

 

 

1. Resolve to stop supporting a media that devalues women.

How to do it: Stop buying fashion magazines and “health and fitness” magazines that tout the same tired articles on how to lose 10 pounds this month or how to torch 500 calories in one workout, and how to get rid of cellulite for good and those that use diet pills, powders and potions as their sponsors.  There are only so many diets and so many workouts, yet these magazines seem to be able to repackage the same information over and over again for years on end.

How it will change your life:  You will save money on magazines, you will create more time and space for yourself to think about other things and to enjoy your life. You will get rid of the clutter in your house. You will stop beating yourself up for not following varying and contradictory advice that those magazine give.  You will find relief of feeling as though you should be something else, you will stop dealing with the stress of seeing digitally enhanced images that portray an unrealistic version of what a woman is supposed to look like.  You’ll  be able to relax and just breathe and just be you…

 

2. Resolve to stop comparing yourself to other people. 

How to do it: When you find yourself going to the place of, “”my life would be so much better if I made as much money as…”  or “everyone has someone to spend Valentines Day with except for me…”  stop yourself immediately. Think of a big stop sign in your mind and say to yourself, “no. I’m not going there.” Remember that everyone has their own path, their own Dharma. When you look to someone else’s path you stop moving along your own. You become paralyzed and you’re unable to allow your life unfold the way beautifully and the way it’s supposed to.

How it will change your life: You will actually be able to focus on going forward in your life given what you have. You will be able to appreciate and enjoy the things and the people who are in your life rather than feeling disconnected to what you do have. You will find that when you look at and enjoy what you do have rather than what you don’t have you will generally be happier. You will also be able to enhance and make more of the good things in your life because you will be moving forward in joy and able to appreciate those around you rather than stuck in envy.

 

3. Resolve to stop spending buying money on miracle potions. 

How to do it: Stop looking for the next miracle skin cream or beauty potion that will make you perfect. Stick to one simple skin care regimen that you enjoy and that’s not too expensive. Keep your diet healthy (lots of fresh fruits and vegetables) and get fresh air and exercise.

How it will change your life: It will take away the stress and anxiety about buying something every time you see a commercial or read an article about how different your skin will look and be when you get this one product. It will reduce waste in your life and it will keep you from spending excessive cash on something disposable.

 

4. Resolve to let go of gossip and criticizing other people

How to do it:  So, that means even if you happen to be present for a conversation where someone starts talking about someone else, you make the decision not to engage in that conversation and you don’t allow someone to chide you into idle gossip. You choose not to criticize people around you either to their faces or behind their backs. You don’t talk about how someone looks, about their life choices, about their parenting skills, you just let people live their lives and you live yours with kindness and integrity. If people start to talk about others around you, you can just say, “I have this New Years resolution to let go of judgment and criticism of others, so I don’t want to go there.”

How it will change your life:   Letting go of negativity and criticism will feel better in your body. You will feel lighter and better. You will also find that people around you trust you more. They will know that their secrets are safe with you and that they are able to talk to you without fear of judgement or criticism. It will take a big weight off of you and give you more mind space to concentrate on yourself and your own needs. The people around you might just decide to jump on your bandwagon making your circle more pleasant to be around.

 

5. Resolve to stop engaging in Fat Chat

How to do it: Stop talking about how fat you are. Stop talking about how much weight you need to lose. Stop talking about diets. Stop talking about who has gained or lost weight. Stop commenting on other people’s weight either to their face or behind their back, even if it’s “omg you lost so much weight…”  Just stop. Check out this article on letting go of fat chat. 

How it Will Change your life: You are choosing not to participate in a society that judges women for the way their bodies look and for how much they weigh.  You create a positive example for those around you and you have done something to change the way people judge people by looking at how much they weigh. When you engage in fat chat, you are contributing to the continuing exploitation of women’s bodies, making it okay for the media to perpetuate the myth of the perfect female form.  Change starts with you.

 

6. Resolve to do the things you love more often

How to do it: Make doing things that you love a priority. Carve out time for them every day. If you love to write, give yourself 1/2 hour a day to write. If you love to knit, or sew, or ride your motorcycle, or take photographs, or garden or play with your cat, or go swimming, or draw, paint or sculpt, or sing, make sure that it is something that you do several times a week. It’s so common that people prioritize cleaning the house and paying the bills and never feel like you never have time to do the things that you love. You have the power to make your life enjoyable. When you go into super-functional mode and stop paying attention to the things that give you pleasure, you feel sad, as though you’re just moving through life crossing things off your “to do” list. Some things should be done not to get them done, but for pure pleasure. Don’t reward yourself by vowing to draw after the dishes are done, make drawing a priority. Put it on your list for sometime during the day, not in the evening after all your chores are done. Do it on your lunch break. Make time for you.

How It Will Change Your Life: It will help you to appreciate and enjoy your life, it will make you an active participant in your life so that you can enjoy the day-by-day, not be bored waiting for the next thing to happen.

 

7.Resolve to work on letting go of what other people think of you

How to do it:  Remember that nobody’s opinion is any more important or any better than your own. So try to have a high opinion of yourself. Hold yourself with integrity– become the person who you admire. When you are holding yourself with integrity (that means being compassionate, kind, not lying or stealing or hurting anyone, holding the highest intention for good), you will know that nobody else’s opinion of you matters because you are a good person.  Remember that most people don’t have the time or the energy to spend time thinking about you– they are spending most of their time thinking about themselves. If they are wasting their time thinking about you, well then congratulations,  you’ve got lots of power!

How it Will Change Your Life:  You will have the freedom to live your life the way you want without the weight of the fear of criticism of others. You will feel lighter and enjoy life more.

 

8. Resolve to spend more time with people or animals who have less than you

How to do It: Do volunteer work at the SPCA or your local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Find something that you’d be interested in doing at Volunteer Match.

How it Will Change Your Life:  Studies have actually found that people who volunteer have lower mortality rates and less chronic pain and heart disease. This is because of the sense of community and sharing volunteer work creates. It also reduces isolation (key in healing from eating issues) and increases self esteem and life satisfaction. Read more about the benefits of volunteer work here.

 

9. Resolve to take at least one month to go on a “spending fast.”

How to do it: Take 30 days to go on a spending fast where you buy nothing except for true essentials, such as food and hygienic products; no fancy bottled water, no takeout, no fancy meals, no bottles of wine, no fancy soaps, no new clothes, no new jewelry, nothing– just what you really really need.

How it Will Change Your Life: You will find some relief in not having to worry about what dress to buy but knowing that you have a dress at home. You won’t worry about walking into Target for a bottle of shampoo and coming out having spent $150 on razors and lotion, and you won’t have to deal with a late night pizza binge. You will find relief in not having to think too much about what to buy. A spending fast, even for a month is a huge relief.

 

10. Learn to Recognize Your Emotional State

How to do it: Use mindfulness to check in with yourself throughout the day. Set a timer on your phone to go off once every few hours. When it goes off, stop and ask yourself, “what am I feeling?” If you don’t know, check this list of feelings.  Then practice just sitting with that feeling without doing anything to change it.

How it Will Change Your Life: As you learn to be aware of what you are feeling throughout the day, you won’t surprisingly find yourself engaged in activities that you have previously done to avoid feeling, for instance, you won’t find yourself eating when you are anxious because you will know that you have the capacity to sit with uncomfortable feelings.

 

 

How does mindfulness help binge eating?

mindfulness binge eating

You know how sometimes it’s not even noon but you know that you are going to have a binge when you get home from work that night? You begin planning it, thinking about what stores you’re going to go to, what foods you’re going to get, where you are going to eat it, what you’re going to do when you eat it, what it will feel like in your mouth, what you will be doing while you’re bingeing (will you be watching television? will you be searching the web? will you be on the phone? or will you just be sitting alone with the food?) You begin to get excited and your amygdala (the part of your brain responsible for emotional reaction) lights up with excitement. Just the anticipation and desire of a binge creates activity in your brain that basically brings you to the binge. So your actual binge starts about 6-8 hours before the binge starts. It’s those first thoughts about it, the anticipation which just carries itself and basically makes you feel as though you don’t have a choice. The thoughts of bingeing carry you straight to your binge.

 

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

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

So what can you do?

1. First, recognize “oh, I’m having THOSE thoughts again…”

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

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

4. Remind yourself why you don’t want to be on the other side of the binge

5. Think about alternatives, think about what it would be like to wake up the next morning without a binge, let that process excite your mind

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

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

8. Get on this forum and ask for support.

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

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

Eating disorders are notoriously rough because they hit you on lots of different levels, process addiction, food/sugar addiction, trauma relief, bad habit… there are a million different reasons that people binge, but if you can bring some mindfulness into the equation, you have a great chance of recovering.

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 skinny– unless 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.

Ten Differences Between Compulsive Eating and Mindful Eating

It’s not super easy to recognize when you are eating compulsively. Sometimes we get so entrenched in our habits and our lives that we just forget about taking time to really nurture ourselves.  Food and eating becomes habitual, mindless, and unhealthy. Of course it’s normal that you are not going to be eating mindfully all the time, sometimes life dictates that we have to eat in the car, or we have to get takeout or use the microwave. However, if you find that in your life you are mostly doing compulsive or mindless eating, it might be time to look closer at that and try to make a change toward mindful eating.

courtesy of eatingmindfully.com

courtesy of eatingmindfully.com

 

1. When you are eating  compulsively you: Scarf your food down quickly and without thought and without noticing what you just ate.

When you are practicing mindful eating you: Eat slowly noticing the tastes and textures of your food and take note of the way it feels in your body. You also notice what your body feels like and how much you actually need.

 

2. When you are eating  compulsively you: Eat while you are driving.

When you are practicing mindful eating you: Do your best to create time and a break for yourself to sit and eat your food.

 

 

3. When you are eating  compulsively you:  Eat in front of the TV, eat in front of your open laptop, or eat while staring and thumbing through your iPhone.

When you are practicing mindful eating you: Are paying attention to your food, your thoughts, your feelings, and taking time to savor the moments of peacefulness and quietude that you have to yourself or on pleasant conversation with another human being.

4.When you are eating  compulsively you: Heat up your food in the microwave.        

 When you are practicing mindful eating you: Take time to cook or heat up your food in the oven or on the stove.

5. When you are eating  compulsively you: Grab take-out or fast food most of the time

When you are practicing mindful eating you: Take time to shop for and cook with fresh or seasonal ingredients.

6. When you are eating compulsively you:  Automatically get food whether you actually want it or not out of habit

When you are practicing mindful eating you: Assess whether or not  you are hungry and whether you actually want the food that you are going for rather than eating it out of habit (like grabbing popcorn at the movies).

7. When you are eating compulsively you: Eat until you are uncomfortably full

When you are practicing mindful eating you: Pay attention to your body and stop eating when you are comfortable, satisfied, and before you are full.

8. When you are eating compulsively you: Often eat food that is devoid of nutrition

When you are practicing mindful eating you: Eat food that is nurturing to your body and contributing to your overall health

9. When you are eating compulsively you: Often didn’t even notice that you ate something and then find that you’ve devoured the whole thing and you’re sitting with an empty plate, you wonder, “did I just eat that? I barely noticed.”

When you are practicing mindful eating you: Focus on the intention of eating and notice how much you are eating, how quickly you are eating and  figure out if you’d like to slow down or not, you think about whether or not you are enjoying the meal.

10. When you are eating compulsively you: Munch on snacks that are set out in bowls in front of you just because they are in front of you, such as pretzels, M&Ms, peanuts, hard candies, whatever…

When you are practicing mindful eating you: Think about whether or not you’d like to be eating what’s in those bowls, whether or not you are hungry for these things or if you want to eat these things or not.  If you don’t want to eat those foods and you are finding that you are feeling too impulsive when they are in front of you, you either move to bowl or move away from the bowl.

To start out with a mindful eating practice, just set one intention before a meal. That intention can be anything, such as “I’m going to let myself taste my food and experience it more fully,” or “I’m going to eat slowly,” or “I’m going to notice my hunger and satiety in this meal.”  Maybe at your next meal you will set a different intention. Just try it once and see how it goes for you. Once you become mindful and conscious of your eating, things totally change. Food no longer has a hold over you because you have brought consciousness to what was once a compulsive or unconscious behavior.

You might additionally check out:

Guided Visualization for Integrating Mindful Eating

The Center for Mindful Eating

Dr. Susan Albers Blog (Psychologist specializing in treating eating disorders using mindfulness)

Mindful Eating as a Way to Fight Bingeing

 

Nervous Eating, Right out of the Freezer

i eat my food still frozen

 

Have you ever wanted “to eat” so badly that rather than heating food up, you have stood in front of the refrigerator eating it cold? Have you ever been standing at your kitchen counter pounding a fork into a frozen cheesecake, even though you could have waited for it to thaw until the next day? Have you ever not finished heating something through because you just wanted it now, and even though it would have been more enjoyable with another 15 minutes in the toaster oven? Have you ever cooked something in the microwave because it was going to take 45 minutes in the oven buy only 5 minutes in the microwave even though in the microwave it would come out mushy and unappetizing?  That’s compulsive eating.

The next time you find yourself eating something cold that would taste better warm, you have a good clue that you are eating for eating’s sake, not for enjoyment or nutrition. You then you know that you are engaging in a pattern or a behavior that is unhealthy. Try to stop, take a breath and tell yourself that the food will be better and you will enjoy yourself more if you heat it up, even if it takes time. If you don’t have the time to heat it up, wait until you do rather than compulsively eating something that is frozen or unappetizing.   If you eat something cold or frozen or mushy, it will ultimately be unsatisfying and cause you to continue or spiral into a binge behavior– you will be chasing the taste that you are looking for. In the time that it takes to heat up your food, try to sit and breath for a few moments and ask yourself, “am I okay?”  The simple act of heating your food can begin to turn you from a disordered eater to a mindful eater.

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!