online help for binge eating

Friday Q&A – I Can’t Stop Eating at Night


Q & A Friday

Today’s question is a pretty common one: 

Question:

Dear Leora,

My problem is that I do awesome all day, I don’t binge at all and I eat three solid meals and I exercise moderately, I’m not restricting, I’m not dieting… none of that.  Night times suck though. I’ve finished eating, I’m not hungry at all, I sit down and put on Netflix and before I know it, I’m at the refrigerator. First it’s a piece of cake or some ice cream or a bowl of cereal, and then I’m up again. I’m up and down about ten times and I can’t stop myself. Before I know it, it’s after 10,  I’m totally full, I’m nauseous and I go to sleep depressed. What am I going to do? Can you help me?

-Karen from New Orleans

Answer

Hi Karen,

You are not alone.  This evening eating is definitely a tough one for many people who have binge eating issues. There are a few different ways to go about it. First off, we have to consider what is going on at night.

1. There are some theories that for some people, serotonin dips at night and so they binge eat to help them raise their serotonin levels. Eating high carbohydrate foods increases serotonin levels because it makes tryptophan more readily available which is an amino acid which is a pre-cursor to serotonin. Other ways to naturally increase serotonin levels are to eat tryptophan rich foods– which would be a glass of (full fat) milk, pumpkin seeds, mozzarella cheese or turkey. Here is a list of high tryptophan foods.

Another possibility is to talk to your health care provider about taking a supplement such as 5-HTP or Tryptophan which are both amino acids that are precursors to serotonin. These can help you relax in the evening when you have that anxious need to binge. Definitely check with your doctor before taking these, especially if you are already on an anti-depressant or other medication.

2. Your pattern seems habitual also. In the evenings you have a routine. You have become habituated to bingeing at night to help you get to sleep. So in some sense, you have to let yourself be uncomfortable for a while as you break that habit. Ways to break habits including interrupting your routine. And for that, you need to make a plan and put effort into it. For instance, if you want to start a new habit of going to the gym every morning, it’s much easier to do that if you put your gym clothes out at night and pack your gym bag before you go to sleep. Then in the morning, it’s much easier to follow the breadcrumbs of getting up and going.  So, think about other ways to break up your routine after diner. For instance, instead of sitting on the couch watching Netflix, perhaps you can get into a bath with epsom salts (this is my very favorite thing to do at night) or lay down in your room and read a book. Make sure that’s all set up for you– that’s how you can follow the breadcrumbs– put the epsom salts in the bathroom, put the book on your bed. Or, you can make plans ahead of time to meet someone after dinner or have a phone/Skype date planned. You definitely want to something that breaks up the routine of the things that you had previously been doing.  You also want to make sure that you have the plan in place ahead of time, otherwise you’re more likely to follow the path (routine) that you’re used to.

3. Look underneath the habit and think about what it is that you are trying to gain by bingeing. Are you actually hungry? Did you not eat enough that day? Are you trying to calm down your body and mind? Are you trying to quell anxiety? The truth of the matter is that most addictive behaviors are used to try to manage anxiety. So think about other ways that you can let go of anxiety in the present. Because eating is a sensory experience, doing things that involve moving your body reduce anxiety and urges to binge. There are a few yoga poses that are easy and release anxiety.

The first is child’s pose which is super calming for both your mind and for your digestion:yoga to stop binge eating

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then there is Viparita Karani (legs up on the wall) as simple as it sounds which good for reducing anxiety, depression and insomnia:

yoga for binge eating

 

 

 

 

I also recommend checking out 10 Ways To Shut Down at Night without Binge Eating.  Try some of these things out and let me know how you’re doing. If things don’t improve, email me again and we’ll brainstorm.

I hope that this response was helpful for you. 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. 

Eating Disorders and Black and White thinking

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

 

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

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

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

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

To deal with polarized thinking: 

1. Slow down and notice your thoughts

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

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

4. Try to implement that choice. 

5. Notice how you feel the next day. 

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

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

How to Get through the Halloween Season without Bingeing

bingeing on pumkin spice lattesI walked into Target last week and was blasted by the obscene display of mini candy bars up and down the aisles, everywhere I  looked.  I don’t even like candy bars- that has never been my jam, but still, I found myself thinking, “gosh, an almond joy would be pretty good about now…” It’s October. Which means that all of a sudden all the comfort foods are making their way into your hearts and bellies.

The leaves are falling, the apple orchards and pumpkin patches are being picked over, the kids are back into the swing of back-to-school, and Starbucks is offering its limited time Pumpkin Lattes.

It makes sense that binge eating behavior would start to surface. Scarcity creates demand. And the idea that these special coffee drinks will only be around for a limited time can drive anyone toward a full on binge.

It’s totally okay to eat mini almond joys and Pumpkin Latte’s, but let’s discuss how to make October a safe month for you without falling prey to the now or never binge mentality. 

1.)Understand whether you really want the food or if you are being manipulated by scarcity marketing. Ask yourself “would I eat this if I could have it any time?” 

2.)If you feel good about it – go for it! But definitely set some loving boundaries around it and enjoy it, it it mindfully.  For instance, decide to let yourself have that latte’, but rather than a tall or a Grande, order the short. If you want a pumpkin pie, don’t buy a whole pumpkin pie yourself, see if you can buy a slice and save it for desert after dinner. Or you can even bake a pumpkin pie and have people over for it. When you eat it, don’t eat it impulsively but sit down and ENJOY it! Really let yourself smell it, enjoy the aroma, taste it and digest it. 

3.) If you truly believe that eating this food will set up a binge, then tell yourself that it’s okay not to have it right now, either not today or not this week or maybe not even this year. If you are feeling wonky in your recovery and know that it’s not the right time, honor that with compassion. You don’t have to eat it or drink it if you are nervous about it. 

4.)If you find that you are very anxious about bingeing on mini candy bars and Halloween candy, choose not to have it in the house this year. That’s totally okay to keep yourself safe when you need to. If you were a cocaine addict in recovery, you wouldn’t have piles of cocaine in your kitchen. It’s the same with food. It’s okay to not keep something around that makes you anxious. My mom used to give out little Halloween goody bags with boxes of raisins, spooky pencils and pennies on Halloween. It was totally embarrassing for me as the kids would look in there bags and say, “Oh Man! Raisins and pennies!” Back then I thought that she was forcing her health food paradigm on the world, but now I understand why she did it. She didn’t want the binge food on hand and she didn’t feel right contributing to unhealthy eating. A lot of it for her was about integrity as well as protecting herself and her family from junk food.

I have clients who are still bingeing on  their kids Halloween candy in January, so I do think it’s better to just get it out of the house. There is a dentist in my neighborhood who has a Halloween candy buy back program. He gives a dollar a pound for Halloween candy to kids and sends out care packages to the troops. You can do something like this with your kids- buy back their Halloween candy from them or make care packages to send out to others. If there is no way that you can get rid of the candy in your house- put it on a high shelf out of reach. This will at least break the compulsion of grabbing mini candy bars all the time. 

Other alternatives to candy for Halloween are:

– Halloween Toys or Stickers

Halloween Pencils

-You can make a bunch of oragami fortune tellers with your kids or your friends or your parents or nieces and nephew and give those out.

-Glow Sticks and Glow Jewelry!

Or, if you can’t forgo the candy, try these more healthy treats.

For many people, buying Halloween candy can trigger a binge. Plenty of people wind up with tons of leftovers that they wind up bingeing on. Kids get enough candy from your neighbors, it’s okay to take care of yourself by giving kids something different and fun.

5.)If you find yourself tempted in stores where all the Halloween candy is out, make sure that you have a plan before you go into those stores. Make a list of what you need to buy and leave your ATM card at home. Bring cash so that you can’t compulsively grab something. And don’t go shopping hungry! Not even at Walgreens or Target

6.)If there is candy sitting in bowls at the office, again, if it won’t trigger a binge and you know that you can eat one or two pieces in a healthy way, then allow yourself a set number in a day (like two pieces of candy). Don’t eat them standing up by the bowl, bring them back to your desk. Eat one and save the other for later. Make sure that you don’t substitute candy for lunch. If you think that eating that candy will trigger a binge, stay away from the bowl. Have a plan and be mindful when you have to pass that bowl.  Keep a bowl of non binge foods available for yourself such as a bowl of apples or almonds or oranges. If the bowl is haunting you, calling to you throughout the day, try to talk back to it. Tell it that you’re trying to prevent yourself from bingeing and the instant gratification that you will get from a Hershey’s Kiss won’t be worth the binge that you will have that night, that you’d rather have long term recovery and get solid in your recovery this year. It doesn’t mean this is forever, but for right now, you are giving yourself some space to stay safe in order to keep the bingeing at bay.

Tell me, what are some things that you do to keep yourself safe around food during October? 

 

photo credit to Delish

Vitamins and Supplements to Help With Binge Eating

Vitamins and Supplements to Help With Binge Eating

Vitamins and Supplements to Help with Binge Eating


There are some ingredients that go pretty well together. Those ingredients are: Anxiety,  stress, insomnia, and sleeplessness. Put them all together and you have a great recipe for binge eating. 

Why is that? Well, there are several reasons. First off many people try to mitigate their stress and anxiety with food. Lots of women hold the feelings of anxiety in their bellies and their stress in their jaws. What helps? Eating. Chewing helps to release the stress that you’re holding in your jaw and having food in your belly keeps the anxiety from presenting itself. It stays “pushed down.” 
Another reason is that many women (and men) cannot sleep without pushing themselves to sleep by eating themselves into a food coma. The natural serotonin boost from bingeing helps to calm down your brain and help you sleep. 
However, there are some natural remedies to deal with anxiety, stress, sleep issues and urges to binge and sugar cravings.
 Definitely check with your physician before  starting a supplement regimen, and if you are on any other medications, please discuss possible interactions or problems with taking these particular supplements. Here is a great list of alternative remedies for stress, anxiety, depression and vitamins and supplements to help with binge eating.  Many people consider several of these to be natural alternatives to Xanax!

 

B-Vitaminshelp 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 Glycinate– 500 mg in the evening- calms the body and the brain while stabilizing glucose levels which can wildly fluctuate when a person is binge eating.  When magnesium levels are stable, cravings decrease. This is also great for night time sleep. 

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.

Fermented Cod Liver Oil To help with anxiety, stress and for immune support and strength.

Ashwaganda–  Ashwaganda has been found to be very helpful to calm anxiety.

Relora Decreases stress related eating 

Kava Kava Kava has been traditionally used in the South Pacific (I first found out about it on my Honeymoon in a Kava Bar in Hawaii). It has a calming effect that relieves anxiety, insomnia and stress-related symptoms such as muscle tension or spasm. It  may also relieve pain. When taken for insomnia,  kava promotes deep sleep without affecting REM sleep.

Prebiotics– Yes, that’s prebotics, not probiotics. Prebiotics are pretty amazing. Taken daily prebiotics severely reduce anxiety and depression. I first learned about this at an eating disorder conference within the last few years. The theory is that bacteria living in your gut can affect your brain chemistry and research backs it up.  Anecdotally I can tell you that in the times that I’ve used it, my sense of well-being and feeling complete joy has been extremely palpable. 

Inositol – Inositol has been shown to be extremely helpful for women who have depression, anxiety and mood fluctuations prior to menstruation (PMS). As we know, PMS leads many women to binge eat and have sugar cravings due to increased estrogen levels. However, it has been shown that women who take inositol show clinically significant improvements in PMS symptoms.

Epsom Salt Bath–   A hot epsom salt bath for 20 minutes before bedtime will help relax your muscles and decrease anxiety. This is because the magnesium in the epsom salts is a natural stress reliever. I know that you will sleep like a baby after one of these mineral baths. Hot water is good medicine. 

Gotu Kola–  This herb has been used for more than 2000 years for everything from anxiety to leprosy!  It also has great mental benefits including as the power to improve cognitive abilities, reduce anxiety and decrease severe stress. 

Jarrow Sleep Med-  This is a light little sleep med with a very low does of melatonin plus tryptophan, valerian and GABA.  The low dose of melatonin is much better for sleep than the typical high doses that can often trigger insomnia. 

Self-Hypnosis and Mediation has been shown to immediately decrease anxiety and increase well-being. In fact, it’s the only thing that has immediate effects of well-being and increasing joy.