self esteem

How to deal with Boredom in Recovery

Boredom and Binge Eating

“God,” she told me, “it’s not that I WANT to keep binge eating, but when I’m not bingeing, I’m just so fucking bored…” 

It’s true, boredom is the enemy of recovery. 

Stella, a new client of mine was explaining to me why she continued to binge each night despite having lots of tools, support and repeated attempts at recovery. I understood what she meant.

The binge was exciting. Although she hated the feeling afterward, she couldn’t resist that desire. She began to feel it at 4pm. She couldn’t wait to get home from work and sit alone in front of the television while digging into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a baguette with brie. The idea of going home to nothing, nothing to do, no one to talk to, nothing exciting planned, just watching television or reading and going to sleep without bingeing was stressful for her.  She couldn’t even imagine what it would be like.  Not only was bingeing exciting, but the after effects of bingeing were exciting, planning her next diet, counting all her calories down to a T, keeping her mind occupied. What would it be like if she didn’t have the binge to look forward to? What would it be like if she wasn’t dieting or picking out smaller clothes, or  looking forward to the moment when she would be at her goal weight, what would it be like?  She couldn’t imagine her life. It seemed dreadful. Full of nothing. Nothing to look forward to, not looking forward to food, not looking forward to being skinny. Bingeing gave her life meaning, direction and a path. 

So let’s dissect this for a moment, there are a few different components going on here:

1. Stella’s binges take on a hugely addictive cycle, when Stella thinks about bingeing at 4pm, her nucleus accumbens (pleasure center of the brain) lights up and she becomes excited for the binge. Anyone with a drug or alcohol addiction can tell you the same thing, they start to become aroused and excited even thinking about their drug of choice. For instance, a cocaine addict begins to fantasize about doing cocaine later that evening. Even though they are at work, their brain begins to release dopamine just by thinking about the cocaine.  Imagine that, just by thinking about bingeing, your brain begins to actually pull you into the binge. Now that’s rough. What a let down it would be to make the choice not to binge. 

2. Stella feels that bingeing and restricting give her life meaning, Stella is also a diet addict, so whenever she begins to feel bad about herself, she starts to fantasize about what she’s going to look like when she hits 120 pounds, how her jeans are going to fit, how her body is going to feel, who is going to pay attention to her, who will notice her, who she will start dating and the fun things she is going to do, She keeps thinking about these things but does not initiate any fun into her life because she is waiting to lose weight. This makes her life terribly boring. She refuses to do anything until… which makes bingeing a very compelling pastime. It is her only pastime.

3. She is in a very tricky cycle of deprivation and self loathing. I understand why she wants to binge at night because the alternative is so much more difficult to swallow, being alone with her thoughts. My old supervisor once told me that boredom was actually a coverup for a more difficult emotion that we didn’t want to deal with. In Stella’s case, those emotions are loneliness, a sense of unworthiness, and a deep fear of having nothing ever. She is lonely because she doesn’t want to be around people, she doesn’t want to be around people because she feels that she is “too fat” to be around people, she says that once she loses weight, she will start to spend time with people. Losing weight won’t ultimately change her sense of worthiness. She is a worthy and beautiful human being now. Being skinny won’t change that, it also won’t change the way she feels about herself.  Letting yourself out of the trance of unworthiness is an inside job, not a matter of changing who you are, but about allowing yourself to be who you are now. 

So what should one do here?

1 Remember that boredom is the enemy of recovery, but that boredom won’t kill you. Though  the sense of boredom might be alleviated by bingeing, it is alleviated because it is replaced by a sense of shame, self-disdain, anger, and an uncomfortable feeling in your body. The alternative is certainly not the easier pill to swallow. 

2. Make plans for the evenings — even if you are not leaving the house, even if your plans are something like sitting home and painting your toenails while watching a movie or having a phone date with a good friend, or painting or writing, or doing anything else other than being alone with your wallet or your binge foods. 

3. Notice when the desire to binge comes no matter how early in the day it is and begin to reach out for support.  Send a note to a friend or support person and let them know that you are in the danger zone for later tonight and tell them what your safety plan is for that evening. Have them check in with you later that night. 

4. Recognize that you can have a really nice evening without bingeing. Take note of how much better you feel when you don’t binge than when you do. Breath into that sense, feel it in your bones. 

5. When you feel that tingly feeling of dopamine being released into your body when you think about bingeing, try to slow yourself down and tell yourself that you don’t need to binge – that you don’t have to follow this urge and desire– just because it has initiated, doesn’t mean that you have to follow it, you can choose not to. The good news is that after a few weeks of not following that dopamine initiation, the urges decrease quite a bit as does the desire to binge. 

Further Resources

Radical Acceptance– a cure of the trance of unworthiness

OA online– to find support folks

Eating Disorders Anonymous– to find support folks





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. Take 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? 


How to Raise Your Self Worth

raise your self worthWhen we were in our very early 20’s, my friend Catherine and I were working together as tech journalists in Silicon Valley. It was the first tech boom, we were recently out of college and people around us had lots and lots of money. People who were 24 years old were worth many millions of dollars, but we, two grammar geeks who worked as reporters for an online dot com journal were worth much, much less. At least on paper.

One day, while we were working together on an article about the Diamond Rio Mp3 player (you could listen to 14 songs straight! No tape! No CD!)  Catherine, who had been the valedictorian at both her high school and her college just broke down crying. As I said, we were in our early 20’s and breaking down crying at work at that age is socially acceptable as it’s always okay to have an existential crisis. I asked her why she was crying and she said, “I have no idea what I’m worth.”
“What does that mean?” I asked her.
“Well, I used to know exactly what I was worth. Somewhere between 4.2 and 4.4. But now, I’m not graded on life and I only make $2,000 a month. So what am I worth? How will I know? How will I know how I’m doing in life without grades?”
“I think,” I told her, “I think we’re supposed to know how we’re doing by how happy we are, I think we’re supposed to let our happiness be a barometer of how things are going.”
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” she said.

And I guess that’s the thing. I guess that we all start out being graded and we just keep going with it. We let numbers dictate how we feel.  Whether it’s the number on the scale, the size of our jeans, the amount of calories or carbs we ate, the size of our paychecks, the number of men or women we’ve slept with, the square footage of our house, the cost of our car, the number of carats in our engagement rings, what kinds of grades our kids our getting, how fast our most recent marathon time is…

After healing from my food and body image issues, I had really felt that I stopped allowing numbers to dictate my life. But I realized that I hadn’t. A few weeks ago, I checked my amazon stats to see how my book was selling. For whatever reason, it happened to be a bad week for book sales.  I was crushed. I started to tie up my self-worth to my book sales, thinking that not only did my book suck, but I sucked. I really let myself get down in the dumps about information totally unrelated to who I was as a person, how I lived my life and what my values were. Later that evening, I got a beautiful email from a reader telling me that my book had changed her life. And then I remembered. I remembered that I wasn’t about sales or numbers or stats, I was a person. And that I do what I do because I care about other people. But I’d forgotten and I’d tied up my self-worth to silly things like book sales and blog stats. Then I realized the irony of it. I tell people all the time that their self-worth is not tied to some arbitrary number on a machine based on nothing and yet, I allowed my own self-worth to be tied up in that. It was a huge reality check for me.  So I asked myself a few questions.

1. What are your values?
2. Are you living up to your values?
3. What more could you be doing to be more of who you want to be?

I remembered that my values were about my husband, my children, my family and helping people, and that numbers had nothing to do with any of this. I remembered that I was living up to my values and that I didn’t need to be graded on this and I remembered that I wanted to do more of this. So I chose to stop looking at my book stats unless my kids were asleep and to make sure that my time with my kids was valuable and loving. That felt good and it felt right and it helped me to get out of the slump of numbers.

Your self worth is also not tied up in numbers.

Ask yourself these questions:

1. What are your values? Name the most important values in your life.

2. Where do you find your value?

3. What do you value in others? What makes others worthy and valuable in your mind.

4. Where do you find your worth?

5. What are things that you do or can do every day to help you feel your true and authentic value?

Write them down and answer them one by one, thoughtfully. Then, each day, ask yourself, “How am I being true to myself? How am I living in alignment with my value system? How am I being who I want to be? What can I do to be more in line with my authentic self? What is the one thing I can do today to help me really be me, the one thing that it is not number based….” Then do that thing, even if it is as simple as calling your Grandma, or hugging your kids or picking up a piece of litter in the street. When you define your intrinsic values and live according to them, you begin to really feel your self worth and you also let go of jealousy and trying to measure up. Try it!

Recovery Is Not Linear

how to recover from binge eating

I talk to lots of people every day who are really anxious to recover from their binge eating. They want to do it now. They want to do it yesterday. They are so angry at themselves. And they keep getting into a place of, “oh I messed up. Oh I ate the wrong thing. Oh I binged…” and feeling like they are no longer in recovery if they binged.  This is not recovery. This is diet mentality. When you diet you are on a rigid plan and if you eat off plan, you’ve messed up your diet. You’ve cheated. You can’t cheat on recovery. Because you are part of recovery. Recovery is not a boyfriend that you cheat on and then hate yourself for. Recovery is not a diet that you go on and then mess up and hate yourself. Recovery is not about food. Recovery is about healing. That’s it.  And healing includes not beating yourself up when you eat something that you didn’t plan to or if you binge. Recovery is not about losing weight, obsessing on numbers on the scale or on your jeans. Recovery is about bringing light to yourself. It’s about becoming expansive. It’s about looking away from food and bringing joy back to your life. It’s about becoming lighter emotionally and not carrying so many burdens. It’s about loving yourself and not hating yourself. It’s about being your own best friend.

I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday, another eating disorder therapist who trained at the same ED clinic that I did. We discussed how the focus of losing weight will keep you in the disorder.  The focus has to change to recovery. The focus has to change on gaining, not losing. Gaining strength, gaining health, gaining peace. What would that be like? Can you stop for a moment and imagine what it would be like feel lighter? And by lighter I mean to drop all of those negative beliefs that you have about yourself? Like, “I have to lose weight, I’m bad, I’m fat, I’m disgusting, I’m shameful, I’m a pig…” etc. All those really mean thoughts you have about yourself. Can you imagine what it would be like to just drop them? To take them out of your head for just one minute and be with, “who I am right now in this very moment is fine…” and then just see yourself walking down the street with a glow? Smiling? Feeling good about who you are without having to change first?   Because you know what… that’s what recovery is. It’s about feeling strong and loving who you are.

And the irony is, that when that happens, you will find that you are bingeing less. Why? Because you’re not sitting there and beating yourself up. Because your inner critic isn’t driving you to eat. Because you will have better things to do with yourself than obsess on your calorie count.

When you treat recovery like a diet, each “failure” feels catastrophic and painful and you feel like you slip backward with every indiscretion around food. But when you just keep going forward and continue with recovery activities, which have to be centered around self-kindness, you will find recovery just sneaking up on you. One day you will wake up and say, “Oh, I really want to go out and binge. Interesting…” but you won’t have the drive or motivation to act on that urge because you will have too much love and respect for yourself to harm yourself with food. know that this is the truth. I know because I’ve seen it again and again and I’ve been there.  When you are in recovery, your compulsions are like noise, but not noise that you have to pay attention to, background noise that eventually fades.

Pick one kind thing to do for yourself tonight.
Choose some kind words for yourself.
And if you binge, forgive yourself and move forward. Recovery is one foot in front of the other. Moving slowly, moving kindly and moving with support and love. You are not alone.

5 Simple Rules for Dealing With Hurt Feelings

keeping your side of the street cleanLast night, I was talking to Sarah, a client of mine who was filled with anger, rage and hurt because she felt that a friend had totally betrayed her. Sarah had told her best friend Angela about a job that she was going to apply to and then, without telling Sarah, Angela went ahead,  sent her resume in, was called in for an interview the next day and offered the position on the spot. All before Sarah had even had the chance to apply.  Angela called her Monday to tell her about the new job. Sarah was shocked, “wait, I was applying to that same job! I told you that.”

“Well,” said Angela, “when you told me about the job, I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring,”

“But you stole that job right out from under me!” Sarah said.

“You didn’t even apply,” Angela said, “If I hadn’t gotten it, someone else would have, it was never yours, I couldn’t have stolen it!”

Sarah was absolutely devastated. She’s not spoken to Angela, her bestie,  all week, and she’s been bingeing pretty much every day since she got the news. So what happened there?

I’m not going to go into who is right and who is wrong. I don’t have an opinion about that one way or another. Life is life and things happen. But what happens when something that someone does totally hurts your feelings or has you feeling betrayed? What is an appropriate way to behave?

Let’s look at what happened to Sarah. She was hurt by what Angela did. And she took personal offense to it, feeling as though it was something that Angela did to her.

Rule #1. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY.  This was not personal. Angela did not set out to intentionally hurt Sarah. This was something that Angela did without thinking about Sarah at all. It was completely about herself.  But, playing devil’s advocate, what if Angela did want to hurt Sarah’s feelings?  Maybe she did. Maybe she wanted to hurt Sarah by taking the job that Sarah wanted. However, that’s still not personal. If Angela did in fact want to hurt Sarah’s feelings, that’s still not about Sarah. That’s about Angela needing to feel better about herself by doing something to sabotage her best friend.

Sarah then sat there and ruminated about how she’ll never have a good job and how she’s a failure and how she was so irresponsible and how could she have totally blown her chance, why was she so lazy. 

Rule #2. DON’T BLAME YOURSELF.  Sarah’s response was to victimize herself. So she coined Angela as the perpetrator and then turned around and perpetrated herself. She became both the victim and the perpetrator. She became so stuck in this that she was numb and couldn’t take any action to move forward.

Sarah spent the next several days bingeing and even doing some purging after she found out. 

Rule #3. DON’T HURT YOURSELF.  Often, people wind up hurting themselves when they really want to hurt someone else. They will act out in self harming behaviors such as bingeing, cutting, binge drinking, drug using, smoking cigarettes or other self destructive behaviors because someone else hurt them. Just because you were hurt by someone else doesn’t mean you need to hurt yourself. It’s not okay. 

She was also telling anyone who would listen what a sneaky bitch Angela was to go behind her back. 

Rule #4. KEEP YOUR SIDE OF THE STREET CLEAN.  In AA, the motto keeping your side of the street clean means to hold yourself with respect when someone does something that hurts you. Don’t try to hurt them back, don’t try to sully their name and by all means, don’t hurt yourself.  You make your side of the street dirty when you try to retaliate or when you go around saying nasty things to lots of people about the other person. There is no reason to become a toxic person yourself. The best thing that you can do is begin to pay closer attention to yourself, be kind to you, be kind to the people around you, be the kind of person you respect, surround yourself with loving, kind friends and talk to someone who you love and trust about your hurt feelings (mom, husband, sister, brother, therapist). But it should be about you and how you were hurt.

Ultimately, as we talked, Sarah realized that the pain was more about feeling as though she didn’t know how to step up to the plate and get things done and how Angela’s ability to easily send in a resume and get a job illuminated Sarah’s shortcomings to her and made her feel bad about herself. 


Don’t make it about the other person, because just like their act wasn’t about you, your feelings aren’t about them. And you shouldn’t give them that space, this is about you healing your own wounds. Often when someone does something that hurts you, you get hurt because old wounds are opened, not because of the actual event. So your hurt feelings are often an opportunity to heal some old wounds.

Make a Pact to Detox from Looksist Gossip

don't let the media inform you how you're supposed to feel about yourself.

don’t let the media inform you how you’re supposed to feel about yourself.

Can we make a pact? I just did something that made me so mad, and I don’t want to do it again, so I wonder, will you make a pact with me not to support a media that exploits other human beings as a means to achieve their own ends?

This is what I did. I clicked on a link that said something like “14 Famous Celebs with Terrible Teeth.”  I’m not going to link to it.  And for some reason I started clicking through it and it made me angrier and angrier and angrier. Why? Why would someone just make fun of someone else (someone more famous and more accomplished than they are) just to get clicks and to get traffic? Why?  I guess because people click on those kinds of things.

But can we stop? 


Because I’m sick of people making money by making fun of other people. And I’m sick of people (celebs and non celebs alike) feeling insecure and ugly and not good enough because it’s somehow socially acceptable and even encouraged to trash on people’s appearances.

So can you join me and vow not to click on links that are purposely defaming people based on what they are wearing, how fat (or skinny) they’ve become, how much they’ve aged, what kind of bad plastic surgery they’ve gotten or whatever else they are gossiping about?

It’s up to us to change the way we are valued by choosing carefully what we pay attention to. And clicking on something is powerful. Choosing not to is more powerful.  When we choose not to click, we keep ourselves safe by not engaging in toxic looksist gossip. We might not be able to put an end to this type of cyber bullying but we may be able to feel better by not engaging in it. We disengage from a paradigm that is critical of ourself and of others.

If we want to really support our own positive body image, we have to stop supporting a media that devalues people based on their outward appearance. So can we make a pact? Can you “sign” this by putting a note in the comments vowing not to support a media that devalues women and men based on their appearances, and pass this along encouraging others to  vow to not click on those mean links.

Photo Credit to

How to Stop Caring What Other People Think of You

taken from

taken from

A lot of women think that they can control what other people think of them by controlling what their bodies look like. They believe that if they look a certain way, people will think of them in a certain way. Sadly, the media reinforces this belief for us. A few years ago, Hillary Clinton was asked who her favorite designer was. Her reply- “Would you ask a man that question?”  My sentiments exactly. I throw that example right in the beginning because I cannot think of a more poignant example of the media’s portrayal of women. HIllary Clinton, a Yale educated attorney, a former US Senator, the former Secretary of State– all these crucially important positions held and we question her taste in designers. Is that necessary? No.  Is that ridiculous? Yes, it’s more than that, it’s insulting, it’s disgusting, and it’s a terrible commentary on how American society views the whole gender.


There is only one way to put an end to this stupidity, and it’s to not buy into it. It’s to avoid and ignore it. It’s to not worry too much about being what society (currently) deems is right for a woman to be. We don’t have to walk around in Lululemon eating just sprouts and coconut water all the time trying to get thin. It keeps women in a box. It keeps women from taking over the world. But not Hillary.  Unfortunately, not buying into these things is probably not going to have a huge affect right this moment, but the more you choose your own path, not the path that popular American culture has mapped out, the more people will learn by your example and new road maps will be formed. Just think, less than 100 years ago, women didn’t even have the right to vote, or wear pants!  But the suffragettes helped change that. Just think what you could do for the future of this society by choosing to cast your own net and do what you wanted to do without worrying about other people’s opinions. It starts with you.

You can never control what other people think of you, but you can control what you think of yourself. And you can do everything that you need to do to hold yourself in integrity. You can be the kind of person that you like. You can be the kind of person that you respect and admire. Rather than thinking about how to be the kind of person who other people would like, think about the person who you would admire and respect—that’s the person you can be. Life is too short to waste time trying to make people like you. If they don’t, keep being the good person that you are, and move on. You are perfect, whole, and complete just being you! And each day, each moment, you can evolve more and more deeply into that being.

So how do you do this?

1. Write down what your values are.

For example: I value integrity, kindness, intelligence and compassion.

Keep that list close to you, so that when you are confused as to how you should behave in comparison to what you think someone else expects of you, you can look to see if you are behaving in line with your value system.

2. Write down some of what your goals are for want to do in this lifetime.

For example: I want to read a lot of Dostoyevsky and write a historical fiction romance novel about the French Revolution and travel to Haiti and work with sick babies.

Then, if you hate yourself because you ate chocolate cake or if you feel that you’re not good enough because you haven’t gone to Bikram class, then you realize that being skinny isn’t your actual lifelong goal, you have other things that you’re focusing on. You can then refocus on who you are and what you want to be doing. Sadly, being skinny can be a lifelong goal for a lot of women and it prevents them from seeing more of what they want.

3. Stop analyzing other people’s thoughts.

For example: If you find yourself at a party thinking, Oh, he thinks I said something stupid, she thinks I’m fat… etc. You are projecting your own thoughts about yourself onto other people. You have no idea what other people are thinking about you. And, as they say, what other people think of you is none of your business. The only thoughts that you know for sure and they only ones that matter are what you think of yourself, so it’s important to do things that make you like yourself. And, the truth of the matter is, people are too busy thinking about themselves to worry too much about others. And if they are sitting around thinking about others– well then what a boring life they must have!

4. Don’t second guess yourself, it can make you paralyzed and unable to move forward. Even if you make the wrong decision, know that you have the ability to take care of the situation, no matter what. You can persevere. Life is never straight forward, there are so many ups and downs. Expect them and welcome them.

5. Go forward on your own path. Accept who you are instead of wishing you were like someone else. Everyone is given their own journey on this lifetime. Instead of looking at other people’s paths and journeys, keep to your own. When you spend time wishing you were like others or thinking you should be more like them, you stop growing on your own path.

6. Don’t be snarky. Just as you are following your own path, allow other’s the freedom to follow their own too. Let go of judgment of others, it will just keep you down and stuck.


For some guided visualization on raising self esteem and letting go of jealousy, check out this download and this download. 

A recovery story

I’ve been seeing *Emily in therapy for four years. She has written her recovery story and agreed to have it posted.

I actually remember the first time I binged and purged. I was in eighth grade and we were at Thanksgiving dinner at my grandparents’ house. My grandma used to make these huge elaborate meals, with like 5 or 6 different pies and all sorts of mashed potatoes and stuffing. My cousin Jenny, who is a year older than me, was there. She was like, everyone’s princess.  Everyone was soooo excited because Jenny had  made the cheerleading squad at her high school and she was in the homecoming court. Up until that year, me and Jenny had always sat there during Thanksgiving and giggle and eat all the pies together. But this year, she barely paid attention to me.  She wore these tight  jeans and kept her portions small. She was like a real teenager.  My mother looked at her admirably and said she was so proud of how beautiful Jenny had become. She also said that it was smart to watch her figure now that she was no longer a little girl. My mom then looked at me and said nothing as I scarfed down my third piece of pie. I had never really thought about it before. I mean that’s what we did on Thanksgiving. We ate my Grandma’s pies. Even my Grandma turned against me. “Eat less pie Emily! Be more like Jenny. Look how thin and gorgeous she is now!”  I felt horrible. My own (not name brand) jeans were unbuttoned to make room for my swollen belly and I felt how greasy my hair and skin had become.  After dinner, I excused myself to the bathroom and I don’t know how or why, but I began searching through the medicine cabinet. That’s when I saw the chocolate ex-lax. I knew what they did and I knew that I could use them to get rid of the pie. I don’t know how I knew to use them. I guess I’d heard of it somewhere… and so I took three pills. I remember thinking that I should take more than it said on the back, but I didn’t want anyone to notice that they were gone.  The laxatives kicked in that night. I sat up all night running to the bathroom. And although my stomach felt ravaged and I was in terrible pain, after my bathroom  trips, I would step on the scale and see how much weight I’d lost. It was amazing to me that the pounds were just dropping off. And that’s how it started.  Later that week, I made myself throw up after eating a milkshake and onion rings from Burger King.

And that was my descent into the dark years of bingeing, purging, taking laxatives, and starving myself. I kept trying to be more like my cousin Jenny who showed up at Thanksgiving every year more and more beautiful, with perfect grades, the captain of cheerleading, with a football player boyfriend. And me, I became more and more isolated. I had put on a lot of weight and I wore all black, smoked cigarettes and had kept my hair dyed black and pierced everything I could. I didn’t really have a boyfriend, though I did sleep with a lot of boys, but no one wanted to get serious with me. I kidded myself into thinking that I didn’t care. But I was depressed. Really depressed. I used to cut myself on the arms and legs sometimes, just so that I could emote because I felt, I believed that I was completely alone. My grandparents seemed to tolerate me, but didn’t have a lot of interest or pride in me. And my mother sort of seemed disgusted by me. She knew about my activities with boys and told me that I had no self-respect.  Food was a lot of what comforted me. I would eat full pizzas on my own after school and wash them down with diet cokes. I’d go days eating nothing, just drinking coffee and diet coke and eating pixie sticks to keep me going. Then I’d collapse, cut school and go to the donut store and eat a dozen donuts in the parking lot, wash them down with diet coke and laxatives, then throw up in the bathroom of the gas station, and then drive around town buying food to binge on and find gas station bathrooms to purge in.  I just wanted to be normal. I wanted to be like my cousin Jenny. I wanted people to love me and I wanted to be beautiful and cared for. I thought that if I could get thin enough, I’d be okay. But my bingeing and purging  continued all through high school, and shockingly, I still was able to get good enough grades to get into college.

I stopped purging in college, but became addicted to diet pills, marijuana, and sometimes even cocaine to keep me from eating. I finally lost all the weight I wanted to, but my body was breaking down. I suffered three fractures by the second semester of my sophomore year. I realized then that I had to stop with my eating disorder. But I couldn’t. I had no idea how to eat normally. I tried to eat three meals a day, but it always ended with me bingeing. I managed to stop purging, but I was still bingeing and then restricting. I did manage to graduate from college, but my grades really weren’t very good. I barely went to class and when I did, I didn’t pay attention or get much out of my classes. I really wasted my mother’s money.

After college, I tried a variety of things to help me lose weight. I tried different diets, I tried nutritionists, I tried a 12 step group with a food plan. But all of those things made me just binge when I fell off my food plans or diets.  Eventually, I decided to start seeing a therapist. I knew I had an eating disorder and was ready for help. It was really hard at first because I felt like my therapist just couldn’t help me with the thing I most needed help with– I wanted to lose weight, I wanted to stop bingeing. I told her to just tell me what to do and fix me. She gave me lots of assignments, many of them were about eating 3 meals a day, whatever I wanted, but I had to eat mindfully. She sent me to a nutritionist who specialized in treating eating disorders, and she also recommended that I see a psychiatrist to help me get some meds that might help with my depression.  I spent a lot of money. A serious amount of money between all those specialists. But I was desperate. 

Talking to my therapist really felt like a relief. We talked through a lot of the pain, depression, and through a lot of my childhood.  I realized that a lot of my eating disorder wasn’t about the food and it wasn’t about me getting thin. It was about me feeling really badly about myself. My Dad left my Mom and I when I was 5 years old, and I always thought it was my fault. The more I began to understand how I felt completely flawed my whole life, the more I understand that it was a myth– a story that I told myself. And that through that myth that I had conceptualized in my 5 year old mind, I began to act the way I believed I was. I tried desperately to get love and attention from men, but ultimately, I felt so worthless, that I let them treat me like crap– letting them have sex with me then ignore me the next day. My mother said I had no self respect, and she was right. But she never taught me how to respect myself. She never quite let me think I was worthy of love and admiration. I wasn’t any less smart or less beautiful than Jenny, I just believed I was. She had a mother and a father at home. I had no Dad and a Mom who was angry and felt rejected and resentful. She came into therapy with me several times as we discussed her own feelings of being worthless after my Dad left her for a much younger woman.   As I began to understand my own sense of worth, I started to try and take better care of myself. I learned to sit with my feelings, I learned to HOLD myself with respect. That was huge. I didn’t have to be super witty, nor did I have to do everything for everybody to make them like me. I didn’t have to be anything. I just had to respect myself. And so as I did, my eating disorder began to have less of a hold on me. As I talked through all those things, I realized that the drive to be thin was really just a drive to be accepted. So I learned to accept myself. It has been really hard for me to accept all those lost years, it’s like my whole teen years and most of my 20s were stolen by my eating disorder. But in learning to accept, I’m just trying to respectfully mourn those lost years.

I’ve been 100% free from any eating disorder behaviors since September 18th, 2010. That was the day before my 28th birthday. I am not afraid of Ed any longer. I know that I have the tools to work through whatever life should hand me. And if I do relapse, I know that I can’t lose the recovery that I have. 

*Name has been changed.

If you have a recovery story that you would like to be published, please send it to bingeeatingtherapy (at)

Would You Rather Be a Mermaid or a Whale?

via: Delphine Fieberg on Facebook

the photo is French model Tara Lynn

A while back, at the entrance of a gym, there was a picture of a very thin and beautiful woman. The caption was “This summer, do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?”

The story goes, a woman (of clothing size unknown) answered the following way:

“Dear people, whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, seals, curious humans), they are sexually active and raise their children with great tenderness.
They entertain like crazy with dolphins and eat lots of prawns. They swim all day and travel to fantastic places like Patagonia, the Barents Sea or the coral reefs of Polynesia.
They sing incredibly well and sometimes even are on cds. They are impressive and dearly loved animals, which everyone defend and admires.

Mermaids do not exist.

But if they existed, they would line up to see a psychologist because of a problem of split personality: woman or fish?
They would have no sex life and could not bear children.
Yes, they would be lovely, but lonely and sad.
And, who wants a girl that smells like fish by his side?

Without a doubt, I’d rather be a whale.

At a time when the media tells us that only thin is beautiful, I prefer to eat ice cream with my kids, to have dinner with my husband, to eat and drink and have fun with my friends.

We women, we gain weight because we accumulate so much wisdom and knowledge that there isn’t enough space in our heads, and it spreads all over our bodies.
We are not fat, we are greatly cultivated.
Every time I see my curves in the mirror, I tell myself: “How amazing am I ?! ”


How amazing are you? Do tell in the comments!

How Shame Contributes to Eating Disorders and Eating Disorders Contribute to Shame

Do you ever feel shame?

Shame for eating too much, shame for eating too little, shame for the way you look, shame for the body you’re in, shame for the things you do, for the thoughts that you have, shame for lying about what you ate, shame for eating out of the garbage can, shame for stealing food, shame for drinking too much, shame for taking risks, shame for flirting, for being rejected, shame for not being good enough, shame for being too good, shame for being too proud, shame for your size, shame for your shape, shame for your job, shame for how much or how little money you make, shame for where or where you didn’t go to school,  shame for your parents, your husband, your wife, your friends, the people you associate with, your home, your judgements, your fears, your sleep patterns, your sex acts or masturbation habits, your messiness, your car, your furniture, do you ever feel shame simply because of who you are?

Renowned shame researcher Brene’ Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.”  Because we are human, we want to feel loved for who we are, not for what we do or how we look, yet, somehow, at some point, many of us lose that sense, that we should be loved unconditionally and spend the rest of our lives trying to deem ourselves worthy of love. And for many, the task seems so momentous, that they give up. They believe that they are not worthy of love and figure “why try?”  Well the good news is, you are worthy of love whether you try or not. You are worthy of love if you’re fat or if your skinny, if you’re binge eating or if you’re purging or if you’re using drugs or drinking, or having sex with the wrong people, you’re still worthy of love. You don’t have to do anything to be valuable as a human being.

Yet, so many of us don’t believe that. Shame is a huge contributor to binge eating disorder. We believe that we are so damaged and so broken that we have to fix ourselves.  One of the ways that people try to fix themselves is by losing weight and becoming thin, they believe that if they are thin, they will be impervious to criticism by self and others. However, dieting can become binge eating, which then creates shame, which creates diet, which creates bingeing which creates shame.

Shame + Diet = Binge = Shame. People diet to get rid of shame. It’s almost as though they believe that they can sweat it away or starve it away.

But you can’t get rid of shame by trying to fix yourself.

Fixing yourself because you believe you are broken is very different than self growth and evolution and working to become healthy because you love yourself.  Fixing yourself because you are broken is a task of Sisyphean proportions because you will never be fixed. Mostly because you were never broken. You just thought you were, and you will continue to think you are until you find the antidote to shame, which is acceptance.

Because you believe that you are broken, there’s a part of you who tries to destroy yourself. How many times have you seen people reinvent themselves, “that was the old me, this is the new me!” (Ala Kirstie Alley– over and over and over again).

You’re always you. It’s okay, it’s necessary even to improve and change, but that happens naturally through the course of life experience, self growth, holding integrity and finding yourself. One of the wonderful parts about finding yourself is when you stop trying to fit into a mold that you think you’re supposed to be, you find that the person underneath is truly wonderful. Maybe the things that you do are not wonderful. Maybe the habits that you have are bad, or even shameful. But who you are and what you do are not one in the same. As you begin to accept who you are, you stop trying to destroy that person with bingeing, starvation, purging, excessive dieting, compulsive exercise, abusive self talk, promiscuity,  or other self harming behaviors that have the underlying intention of making you more acceptable.

So how do you accept yourself and find some freedom from shame?  That’s not a simple question.

  • One of the ways is through radical acceptance. Not necessarily liking the things to do, the habits you have, the things you say, the mistakes you make, the feelings you have, but accepting them without judgment.
  • Dr. Brene Brown talks about healing shame through connection and empathy. Having the courage  to share your stories, your mistakes, places where you messed up with someone who will listen and empathize, and also being able to hear others’ stories with empathy and without judgement or criticism. A great place for this is group therapy or 12 step groups.
  • Having integrity. Thinking about what traits you respect in other people and applying them to yourself. Traits aren’t eating carrot sticks instead of pizza. Those are habits. Traits are kindness, compassion, consideration.  Think about who you would want to have as a  best friend and be that person to yourself.  So often I see people come in who have best friends who they consider to be bitches. They hate their best friends. Yet somehow, they keep them around because they want to be like them, “she’s pretty, thin, rich, popular…” etc. They aspire to be like that person, yet they don’t really like that person. Be your own best friend and be the friend to others that you would want for yourself. Holding yourself with integrity helps you to feel good about who you are.
  • Break the binge-shame-binge cycle. Don’t beat yourself up. When you catch yourself beating yourself up, be kind. You are not a bad person because you binged. You binged because you thought that you were a bad person. The irony is, when you have a binge, that’s when you need the most compassion because you were probably having a tough time to begin with. So be kind to yourself.