pregnancy

Q&A Friday- I want to get pregnant but I can’t stop binge eating

 

i want to get pregnant but i can't stop binge eatingJust a note, I’m working through my backlog of questions. If you’ve emailed me a question and haven’t heard back, please don’t think I’m ignoring you… I’ll get to it! 

Hi,

I have been binge eating for a good 10 years and my weight has fluctuated up and down about 10kgs. I know that might not seem like a lot, but the continuous yo-yo affect is not good physically and emotionally. I cannot pin point what made me start binge eating, but it is definitely an emotional aspect. I do no purge and strangely enough I have an intense fear of vomiting. So I will binge and feel very full to the point I cannot move and it is uncomfortable to lie down and the next day I will be extremely healthy and exercise. The days that I don’t binge are not extreme starvation-I will consume about 1200-1500 calories and on a binge day I can consume over 4000calories, if not more (it’s hard to be honest about that)
I am happily married and I want to start trying to get pregnant so my binging needs to stop. I know it will take a while, but I cannot afford to feel depressed and binge eat when I am pregnant as my baby comes first.

Your help and advise would be so appreciated. I have never seemed advise before because I have been so embarrassed about my disorder, but after doing research I see I am not alone.

Many thanks,
Stephanie

 

Hi Steph,

 

Thank you so much for reaching out, and no you are most certainly not alone or even close to it.

I want to encourage you to reframe your thoughts from trying to lose weight to trying to get healthy. I know that you want your body to be healthy so that you can start your pregnancy from a place of strength.

First of all, it seems like you’re not eating enough calories. You say that the days that you are not bingeing, you are eating 1200-1500 calories a day. That’s not enough. Your body is trying to stabilize by eating more calories those next days. Because you are not giving yourself enough calories on those days, your body goes into fear mode. It fears that it has to “stock up” on calories and then you wind up losing control. What you need to do is stop counting calories and start helping your eating to stabilize.  In order to do that, think about giving your body what it needs every day. Make sure that you are eating three meals each day and giving yourself a protein, a fat and a carbohydrate at every single meal.

That could look something like this:

Breakfast: 2-3 eggs scrambled with cheese and a fruit salad.

Snack: handful of nuts, hummus, carrots, grapes

Lunch: A chunky bowl of beef stew filled with veggies and meat.

Snack: A Lara bar, or some cheese and fruit.

Dinner: A heaping bowl of spinach salad, a yam with butter, a piece of salmon or chicken.

Desert: A bowl of frozen yogurt or ice cream or a fruit salad or something that you enjoy but only one regular sized portion if you can do so without bingeing. A portion of ice cream is 1/2 cup or one scoop. A bowl of fruit is just one soup or salad bowl half filled.

This is just a loose guide of a way to eat that will help you to be eating healthy by getting all of your proper nutrients.  Making sure to eat three healthy meals each day will be stabilizing both emotionally and nutritionally. You will feel more solid.  If that seems overwhelming to you, vow to try this just for a week. Three meals a day plus a snack for just seven days. If you mess up one day, you can just start again the very next day.   I think you might find that one week of steady eating will help you feel more stable.

That being said, you don’t have to be perfect to get pregnant. As long as you are working on it you’ll be fine.

You’re right that it’s important to address the emotional aspects of binge eating as well. You might try to take a 15-60 minute walk each day, just outside by yourself. While you’re walking just allow yourself to slow down and process. Think about your day, think about your thoughts, think about your feelings. Talk to your higher power if you have one (or to yourself, your wise mind, or someone you know who has passed away, or someone alive whom you admire). I also think that setting up some time to talk to a therapist is always helpful to sort through whatever is going on for you emotionally.

I hope that I’ve answered your question and that you’ve found some pieces of help in this post. Happy Holidays to you Steph.

Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating disorders? Send an email to bingeeatingtherapy  at gmail dot com. All questions will be kept confidential. Include your first name or the name you want to be referred to as and your location. Are you interested in online therapy to deal with your eating disorder? Please see my website or email me to discuss getting started. 

Power to the What?

Before I had my son last fall I was petite but also strong  and healthy. I ate my three healthy meals a day, I ran  3-4 miles 3-4 times a week, I meditated daily, had a pretty good Vinyasa Yoga practice going, I ate ice cream, drank wine, and ate chocolate in moderate amounts.  I had a solid psychotherapy practice, a solid marriage and was enjoying a pleasant rhythm of life. I liked my body, I liked my routine and things felt relatively comfortable and easy. And then, after a few years of false starts, I finally got pregnant. and we were happy, my husband and I.

But pregnancy is not easy on a woman’s body. I developed a condition very early in my pregnancy called a subchorionic hematoma, which put me on moderate bedrest for the first half of my pregnancy. Which meant no running, no yoga (not even gentle restorative yoga), and pretty much doing nothing when I wasn’t at work other than laying in my bed. And I was hungry. I mean, I was really, really, really hungry. I was so hungry that I would be hungry while I was eating, I would be hungry after I finished a meal. The portions that I was used to eating were no match for my intense hunger. And forget eating fish, turkey, lean meats and vegetables. All I could stomach was fruit, pasta, grains, bread, juice and more fruit. I would sit down and ravage two whole mangoes in a few minutes. I would chug down watermelon juice. My body was totally rejecting protein and just begging for intensely sweet fruit. The only protein that I could manage to choke down was tofu. I would wake up in the middle of the night in agony because I was so hungry. The only way I’d fall back to sleep was by drinking milk and eating peanut butter. I was so hungry that I would sometimes cry because I just couldn’t quell this hunger. As he got bigger, there was less and less room. So I’d be ravenously hungry and uncomfortably full all at the same time.  I felt so different than I ever had in my body. It wasn’t like I was binge eating or restricting, it was like I was no longer driving the car. I just was not in charge. And, I gained weight. Because that is what happens when you get pregnant. You gain weight. And sometimes, a lot of weight.

My baby was born via C-Section at a whopping 8 pounds 8 oz and 21 inches long. And everything was great. But we were tired. Really, really, really tired. And the only thing I could get myself to eat was pasta and chocolate. It was easy, it was quick energy and it was all that I was craving. Really? Me, after years of eating a very balanced diet of mostly high quality proteins and unprocessed carbohydrates, I was all about spaghetti and chocolate.  I just couldn’t help it. I couldn’t be mindful about my eating, I was trying to keep this very demanding creature alive by using nothing more than my body. I fed him with my body all day long. And if he didn’t eat every two hours for an hour at a time, day or night, he would scream. I had no time to cut vegetables. I had no time to cook meat. I had no time to go to the farmer’s market and pour over beautiful organic produce. All I could do was breastfeed my baby, eat chocolate, eat spaghetti, change diapers, and if I was lucky, every once in a while, I’d get an hour of sleep. But that was rare.

So, let’s get back to my body. My stomach, which was once  tight and taught was  now completely stretched out. There was lots of loose skin, And, because I am a small woman who had a large baby,   my stomach muscles had split in half and my intestines were hanging out and pushing through the flesh of my stomach. And let’s not even mention the gigantic incision from my C-Section.  I also wound up having to have surgery to fix two hernias and now have three scars between my belly-button and pelvis. All just from becoming a Mom. Gross, right? Totally gross.

But not really.

To tell you the truth, I have never loved and been as proud of my body as I am today. I’m kind of in awe of it actually. It’s a workhorse. I can’t believe that my body managed to not only create a whole human being, but I’ve been able to make food for this baby in my body and keep building him for the past 11 months. I can’t believe that my body can create and grow and sustain a whole person! It’s amazing to me. To that end, I can’t believe that women’s bodies are exploited the way they are. Mens’ bodies should really be the display pieces, I mean, their nipples are vestigial.

So, do I still run several days a week and do yoga and have a great deal of consciousness about everything I eat? No. No. and No. But I’m not concerned. I imagine that when my baby isn’t a baby and longer, I’ll have time to do those things. Right now he is bringing me pleasure. He is my workout. He is my downtime and my fulltime job. My meditation and mindfulness practice still exists, though, not to the extent that it did. My baby is what I’m mindful of. I’ve definitely had to cut down my Psychotherapy practice a great deal, as I run home to nurse my baby between patients, and have to be home in the evenings to feed, bathe, and nurse him to sleep. And I’m happy. And very, very, very tired. But happy.

So what spurred me to write all this? It was this ad that I came across the other day: If you can’t read it, it says: Kick-start your day. Focus. Hit your stride. Breath. Change your pace. Change the oil. Make a difference. Make a home. Be courageous. Encourage others. Stay fit. Fit it all in. Breathe. Hug a kid. Kid around. Run your life. Run your heart out. Power to the She.

I know it’s supposed to be inspiring, but this ad made me really, really angry. It’s not new news that the media is detrimental to women, but this particular ad really rubbed me the wrong way. More than the ancient herion chic Calvin Klein ads with waifish Kate Moss, more than the diet pill ads, more than the Chanel ads of tiny women weighed down by big jewelry– I’ve become immune to all those ads and the messages they send. This one however, it really got to me, because it sends the message to women that not only do we have to be skinny, not only to we have to be perfect, but we have to be everything to everyone and nothing less is acceptable. We have to be to be Real Women.

What happened to us as women that we are expected to do all this? I mean, that is a lot to do in a day. When do I get to take a bath? When do I get to sit and eat a meal? When do I get to go to the bathroom? When do I get to check my email? Talk on the phone to my girlfriends? When do I get to relax with a glass of wine and watch reruns of Sex & the City on E!?   Obviously I don’t, because I’m busy running, doing laundry, cooking dinner for my husband, taking care of my kid, making sure that I don’t “lose my figure,” taking care of people around me, doing volunteer work, and being in complete control of everything around me– Running my life. But rejecting myself.

It’s just not okay. We as women have always been the ones who take care of everything. And we are expected to. This ad sends a message not  that we can have it all, but that we should be everyone to everything and still manage to workout all the time.  It sends a message to women that they have to be on top of things all the time, they can’t stop for themselves, it’s not okay to be tired, to be run down, to relax, to lose their shit, to freak out, to be sad, angry, lazy, or to be messy. This ad tells me that the “Power to the She”– Being a woman, is about being totally perfect, being in control all the time, and sacrificing my needs so that I can spend my days being everything to everyone. And skinny.

I call bullshit. I don’t think that these are feminist beliefs. I don’t think that men are held to these standards. My husband goes to work everyday, he’s a wonderful man and he’s a great Dad, but he’s not up three times each night breast feeding our son. He doesn’t run home several times during the day to nurse him and play with him and to make sure that he’s feeling safe and secure. Yet, because I’m the woman, I’m still expected to keep our house clean and cared for,  maintain my career and still go out for a run? No not in our house. Not ever.  I think that women are held to much, much higher standards, nearly impossible standards, lest they be judged. Women who stay home are lazy, women who work are neglectful, women who don’t exercise are lazy, woman should bear children, then still stay in shape to be sex symbols for their husbands, go to work, and still do the laundry.

No. That is not power to the she. Power to the she is responsibility to self first.  And that means not beating yourself up if you can’t be everything to everyone and still have a hot bod. It means splitting up your responsibility with your husband or partner.   It means taking care of your kids if you have them, taking care of your needs and asking for help if you need it. It’s not about being an island. It’s not about being perfect. That’s just a dangerous message. That’s just a woman trying to control herself and her environment to such an extreme extent that she’s not left anymore. She becomes what she does rather than who she is.

My feelings? As a woman, power to the she is taking care of what you need to and taking care of yourself first. Eating real food and honoring your hunger and your nutritional needs when you are pregnant and breastfeeding. Having integrity, being kind, and saying no to things that are too much. Knowing what is too much and being able to create boundaries. You don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to beat yourself up if you can’t.

A lot of my clients feel so driven to be everything, that they wind up having these secret binge or binge and purge episodes or starving themselves, or exercising themselves into the ground. This isn’t okay. Women are being given the message that they have to be everything and they are hurting themselves to be so.

Power to the She? I’m rewriting this ad.

Be powerful, be strong, be good to yourself,  be everything that you can be, be proud of yourself, be encouraging to yourself and others, be loving to yourself, be loving to people around you, be kind to yourself, be compassionate to yourself, be calm, be bitchy, be happy, be sad, surrender control, honor your appetite, be in the moment, laugh, cry, let go, smell the roses, eat ice cream, drink wine, exercise when you can and try to relax and be you. 

 

 

 

Friday Q & A- Will My Baby Mind if I Eat Junkfood While I’m Pregnant?

 

BINGE eating while pregnantThis question comes from a reader in Upstate New York.

Question:

I am pregnant and am wondering about the way I am eating . . almost every day I have a pint of frozen yogurt.  It’s a fun treat and I figure it gives me a lot of calcium for the day.  About once a week, I don’t “try” to eat so well . . like yesterday I had potatoes with tons ketchup for breakfast, a big cheese sub with a lot of mayo and a pint of frozen yogurt for lunch, and then for dinner breaded chicken fingers with tons of ketchup and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich . . so then I wake up this morning with a sore stomach.  It’s sore.  I’m almost 13 weeks pregnant and have not begun showing, but last night before bed I was extremely bloated.  Is this okay to do for the baby about once a week?  Usually I make sure I have fruit and vegetables every day . . does the baby “mind” that I ate more than usual and my belly is sore?

Thanks, I’m just very concerned about it . . N.

Answer:

Thanks for the question.  Your baby most probably doesn’t mind on those days that you are overeating. He or she will get exactly what they need from your body for the most part no matter what you put into it.

That being said, it can be risky to eat lots of processed foods while you’re pregnant as Gestational Diabetes is a very real possibility for pregnant women.  Avoiding cravings is challenging during pregnancy, especially those insistent for carbohydrate laden foods. Your body is creating life, and that’s a tough job, it’s basically carbo loading for energy to continue making little kidneys, skin, eyes, a heart, a brain, little fingers and toes, all that good stuff. When you think about the insane job your body is doing, it’s a wonder that you’d want to put anything other than wholly clean, organic foods into your body for the whole 9 months. But for most women, that’s just impossible.  Rather than taking a whole day to eat what you want once per week, you might want to give yourself permission each day to eat a little something that is more of a craving food. So for instance, if you’re craving breaded chicken, you might want to let yourself have a bit of that for dinner along with grilled chicken and a salad or greens and vegetables. Remember to continue getting your fruits and vegetables in each day. The thing about pregnancy is that you can really feel the way you eat pretty instantly. Eating poorly one day will result in pretty bad constipation or other GI issues the next day. Your body is extremely delicate when you are pregnant. It needs lots of care as it’s basically neglecting you and spending all its time creating life.  You will also find that you feel better after your baby comes if you keep yourself super healthy while you’re pregnant. If your doctor approves you for exercise, swimming and prenatal yoga are excellent choices for keeping in shape while you’re pregnant. Birth and labor takes a lot out of you, as does caring for a brand new little one, so coming at it from a  place of strength and health is a great way to feel good after the baby comes.

Thank you so much for writing in. I hope that this answer is 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.

 

Friday Q&A- I’m Pregnant and I can’t Stop Binge Eating

pregnant and binge eatingQuestion: I used to have a huge problem with binge eating, restricting, and overexercising, but I’ve been relatively “clean” for the past 7 years. I’ve been exercising 1/2 hour 3-4 times a week, eating three meals a day, everyday, and my incidences of overeating or undereating are relatively rare. I got to a weight and size that I’m very comfortable with and I’ve felt pretty good food and weight- wise for several years. But then I got pregnant. And suddenly I’m binge eating again. And sometimes restricting, and I’m on exercise restriction as per my doctor, so I’m not even allowed to go swimming, like they say pregnant woman should. I have been eating extremely healthy for years, but all of a sudden, I find myself diving into cookies, cake, soda, pizza, bread, etc. I wish I could stop and just eat normally again. I’m going nuts! Can you help me?- Elissa (New Jersey)

Answer: Hi Elissa,

First off, take a breath. You’re in the realm of normal here. Many women who are in recovery for binge eating or other eating disorders might find that they relapse into bingeing behaviors when pregnant. It’s not uncommon at all. Pregnant woman are hungrier than non-pregnant women. And that hunger can be overwhelming. Especially if you’ve been in remission from an eating disorder for a long time, the feeling of not having any control over your own body can be daunting. You might find that you are eating more than you wanted to and then those old ED feelings of guilt and shame come up which cause you to binge eat.

1.)Never, ever, ever restrict or diet when you are pregnant. This is not the time. It’s okay to use your tools to avoid binge eating, but don’t skip meals, don’t count calories, this is the time to become more mindful of what your body says you need. Let your cravings tell you what to eat in a thoughtful way. Think of your body as having infinite wisdom and use your mind to hone that wisdom. For instance, if you are craving potato chips, your body might be needing some extra salt. Find something healthier that might satisfy that craving, like celery or a hard boiled egg or a piece of cheese or some olives.

2.)Eat when you are hungry, but really, really try to slow down your eating. You will find that as you become more pregnant, it’s more uncomfortable to have food in your belly. So eating fast and furiously will hit you 20 minutes after your finish your meal and you will feel sick. You might want to spread your eating out to 6 or 8 smaller meals a day instead of 3 big ones.

3.)Many women lose weight in their first trimester due to morning sickness. In the second trimester, which is an incredibly growth time for the fetus, you might find yourself being very, very hungry. Don’t try to fight it– let yourself eat and gain the weight that you need to for your baby.

4.)Be careful about what you are eating. Don’t worry about portion sizes when you are pregnant, but do be vigilant about the kinds of foods that you are ingesting. Pregnant women tend to crave lots of carbohydrates. Let yourself have carbs. But follow your cravings but in a thoughtful way. If you are craving cake and cookies and soda, try to eat lots of fruit. Your body might be needing the quick energy of glucose. But because gestational diabetes has become so prevalent, try to reduce your intake of sugar and processed foods.

5.)Do Not Go on a Low Carb Diet when pregnant.  A lot of women find that they have serious meat aversions and just crave lots of fruits and vegetables in pregnancy. Pay attention to your cravings and take them seriously. They exist for an evolutionary reason.  In fact,  Loren Coradain— who created the Paleo diet, a low-carbohydrate diet plan explains why you should not eat low-carb while pregnant : “You probably should increase your fat and carbohydrate consumption, and limit protein to about 20-25% of energy, as higher protein intakes than this may prove to be deleterious to mother and fetus for a variety of physiological reasons. In my next book, I have devoted a chapter to maternal nutrition before, during and after pregnancy and why protein must be limited during pregnancy.

My colleague John Speth (an anthropologist) at the University of Michigan wrote a paper on protein aversion in hunter-gatherer women during pregnancy. Listed below is the abstract: (note the 25% protein energy ceiling!!!)

‘During seasonal or inter-annual periods of food shortage and restricted total calorie intake, ethnographically and ethnohistorically documented human foragers, when possible, under-utilize foods that are high in protein, such as lean meat, in favour of foods with higher lipid or carbohydrate content. Nutritional studies suggest that one reason for this behaviour stems from the fact that pregnant women, particularly at times when their total calorie intake is marginal, may be constrained in the amount of energy they can safely derive from protein sources to levels below about 25% of total calories. Protein intakes above this threshold may affect pregnancy outcome through decreased mass at birth and increased perinatal morbidity and mortality. This paper briefly outlines the evidence for the existence of an upper safe limit to total protein intake in pregnancy, and then discusses several facets of the issue that remain poorly understood. The paper ends by raising two basic questions directed especially toward specialists in primate and human nutrition: is this protein threshold real and demographically significant in modern human foraging populations? If so, does an analogous threshold affect pregnant female chimpanzees? If the answer to both of these questions is yes, we can then begin to explore systematically the consequences such a threshold might have for the diet and behaviour of early hominids.’2

The physiological basis for this aversion stems from a reduced rate of urea synthesis during pregnancy that is evident in early gestation1 as well as increases in the stress hormone cortisol3. Hence, pregnant women should include more carbohydrate and fat (i.e. fattier meats) in their diets and limit dietary protein to no more than 20-25% of their total caloric intake.”

6.)Let yourself indulge in “forbidden foods” sometimes, but keep your portions controlled. Don’t rely on those things for sustenance. Use healthy foods to nurture you and your growing fetus. For instance, if you are craving cookies, first have an apple or orange, and a piece of cheese, then, if you are still craving the cookie, rather than a giant bag of cookies, have one serving which might be more like 2 cookies. Put the rest of the bag in the freezer.
7.)If you are on exercise restriction, let yourself be on exercise restriction. Ask your doctor what that means. Can you take walks? If so, walking for 20-30 minutes each day can be wonderful. If not, please take it seriously and don’t exercise.
8.)It feels like forever, but remember that pregnancy is a very temporary state (unless you’re a Duggar). It’s also a challenging state where your body doesn’t feel like your own. Just take each day as it comes and try to make the best choices that you can. Sometimes you will and some days you won’t. Don’t beat yourself up. Pregnancy and food choices are hard for everyone, because your body is no longer your own, and your choices won’t feel like your own either.  Be gentle with yourself.  You are not the only one in this position, figuring out the “right” way to eat when you are pregnant is tough. Remember that there is no “right” way despite what a million websites will tell you. You might need to gain more or less weight than the weight charts indicate. Continue to utilize mindful eating and try to be gentle with yourself. Try not to overeat and don’t undereat. Just do the best that you can and know that each new hour is an opportunity for you to do the right thing.
I hope that this is helpful for you. Please do feel free to email again or send a comment if you have further thoughts or questions on this.
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.