How to Support National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

 

large_The War On Women's BodiesIt’s that time again! National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. 

What is NEDAwareness Week and why is it important you ask?

I’m glad you asked.  Bringing focus to eating disorders is more than just showing support for those who are struggling with anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder.  The intention here is to show just how pervasive eating disorders are and how much support there is for eating disorders in our culture. Yes, eating disorders are supported, not recovery.   You can see it everywhere. You can see it when you turn on reality television, you can see it in a yogurt commercials or cereal commercials when you are encouraged to give up a meal and replace it with this artificially flavored yogurt or processed cereal to lose weight. You are supporting eating disorders when you sit around with people and talk about how fat you are and what your next diet is or when you start to discuss someone else’s weight gain or weight loss.  All of this behavior supports eating disorders by reinforcing the idea that you are not okay as you are, that you have to do something dramatic to change yourself.

How can you support National Eating Disorder Awareness?

1. Choose not to engage in Fat Chat- that means, don’t base a friendly conversation around how much weight you need to lose or how much weight others need to lose or who looks like what right now. You have better things to do with your time and more important things to discuss. If someone tries to engage you in their own conversation about their body or someone else’s body, be kind and explain to them what you’re trying to do, “I’m trying this new thing where I don’t speak disparagingly about my own body or anyone else’s. And I don’t want to engage in any negative conversation about your body. My hope is to change the conversation and society’s focus on women’s bodies. Are you onboard?”

2. Don’t buy women’s magazines, especially diet magazines that are disguised as health magazines.

3. Check out NEDA’s How to page- to help you support eating disorder recovery

 

Nervous Eating, Right out of the Freezer

i eat my food still frozen

 

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

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

Q & A Friday- How do I explain my eating disorder to my daughter?

how do talk to my daughter about eating disorders?I know that I have a huge backlog of questions to answer and you’ll forgive me that I pushed this one to the front. I so rarely get parenting questions and I forget how important they really are.
Question:
After many, many years of struggle, I am finally trying to seriously recover from my binge eating disorder.  Your website has given me many important points to take time to think about as I begin.  I do know that I never learned how to deal with feelings of any kind and I binge to numb them away.

My daughter is 11.  As far as I can tell, she (so far) does not care about her appearance beyond being clean. She doesn’t watch herself or her food with a critical eye.

She noticed and asked about my food and feelings journal. I explained that I carry the journal to write down some things to think about later, but that is all.
This leads to my questions: How much should she know about my disorder and recovery?  Should I wait until I am further into recovery instead of at the beginning to discuss it, if at all?

I understand that every child is different and every parent-child relationship is different, so there is no single solution. I guess I am hoping for a bit of guidance from experience on what generally should or should not be shared.

On the one hand, I think it could lead to an important discussion about body image and how NOT to deal with uncomfortable feelings. It could also possibly help us bond further by letting her in to my inner struggles and humanity.  I am her stepmother, but the only mom she has ever known.

On the other hand, I’m worried that I will awaken a critical eye in her just by discussing this. Also, because I don’t know how to deal with feelings myself yet, I won’t have an answer for her about what she SHOULD do when dealing with feelings.

Thank you for any insight you can give me and again, thank you for your resources on the web.
Answer:
I love your question. It’s so insightful and shows that you’ve been thinking about it a lot. I’ve been holding this question and thinking about how to answer it.
Generally speaking, I believe that it’s always important in families to be honest. I also believe it’s important not only to let your children have their own feelings, but to show them that you too have feelings and that you’re not afraid of them. I think it’s important to give children an emotional literacy. To ask them what they are feeling and then to help them contact what feelings they are having. You can give your daughter a feelings list and together you can look it over and discuss what  feelings you might be experiencing in the moment. You might even take it a step further and ponder where in your body you feel specific feelings, for instance, “I am feeling fear in my stomach.” Together, you will learn how to talk about feelings which will create a strong basis for future discussions, openness and honesty.
That being said, I think that your instinct to protect your daughter at this time are probably right. I don’t know that she needs to know details about your eating disorder, your feelings and your recovery at this moment. Especially because they are still eluding you somewhat. It’s important for children to feel safe and held and it’s possible that she might begin to feel like she has to be the mom and she has to take care of you if she begins to worry about you. That does not mean being in denial about what is going on with you. If she asks point blank, be forthcoming. For instance, “Mommy, how come you never used to eat but now you’re eating with us?” you can say, “I was not eating healthy before, but I’m working to be strong and healthy now,” and if she asks you why you weren’t eating healthy, you can tell her that you still don’t know why but you are trying to learn that now by thinking and talking about your feelings, then ask her what she thinks and how she feels about that and what that brings up for her. Make every inquiry from her an opportunity for her to discuss her feelings. And at the same time, it’s important that you do share with her, but don’t share too much. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that pre-teens are younger emotionally than they seem.  What I have seen often in my practice is Moms oversharing with their daughters, making them their confidants, then the girls being parentified daughter. 
In my own family, I  remember my brother trying to control my step-mother’s eating disorder by him refusing to eat. When we sat down to dinner, if she wasn’t eating, he wouldn’t eat and it became a huge fight and was very unpleasant. She never discussed her recovery with us and never really tried to recover. It was definitely very difficult for us to watch. We were both always worried from very young ages.  As your daughter becomes more aware of you and your eating behaviors, I would encourage you to check in with her about her feelings and create an open environment for learning and emotional literacy.   I hope that this was helpful to you. Please do comment and let me know how you’re doing.

 

Warmly,

 

Leora

 

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. 

Friday Q & A- Cheat Days Have Turned into Binge Days

binge eating and cheat daysQuestion:

My name is Elizabeth. I am from Australia and have been struggling with binge eating just over 6 months now.
It started when I competed as a Fitness Model- I was on a very restrictive diet and was allowed “cheat meals” once per week- these cheat meals became binges. After my comp the cheat meals/binges became more regular now they are just a way of life. I get stressed out easily and am often alone- my partner works away, I look forward to eating & get enjoyment & a thrill out of it. I can’t go into the city without visiting my favourite chocolate store and that leads me to a binge. I can’t seem to find any help or anywhere that doesn’t cost a fortune! My binging is affecting my self esteem, my career and my relationship.
What should I do to stop this cycle?

Answer:

I want you to begin by looking at semantics here. When we begin to use words such as “cheat” to describe food and what is essentially giving ourselves nourishment and keeping ourselves alive, we begin to think of eating as a game. Eating is not a game and it’s not a competition, it is one of the ways that we stay alive, along with breathing and elimination. Eating and cheating should not be in the same realm. You eat to stay alive, you cheat to gain an advantage over someone dishonestly  or deceptively. So how is eating cheating?

It is not. You are never cheating by eating. You are working to stay alive and ultimately healthy.

 

Given that change in definition, let’s begin to look at how your mind has formed an expectation around your eating. You think that you are only supposed to be eating a certain way, however, you then begin to think of food as a competition, as something you need to get ahead in. That makes sense given the fact that you compete with your body for a living. You then have to “cheat” to get ahead, you believe that have to cheat in order to give yourself appropriate nourishment.  In order to begin healing this, I’d like you to begin to not think of food in terms of cheat foods or safe foods. All foods should be allowed, however, you need to learn to put boundaries on them. So instead of one day a week having a cheat food, telling yourself that you are allowed to have chocolate every single day, but not a binge amount, an appropriate serving. An appropriate serving is 1-2 squares. Tell yourself that you can have one square at lunch and one at dinner, or whatever is deemed appropriate. Your food should be mostly for nourishment and healing, but indulging in foods that are pleasurable is always okay. It is okay to eat for pleasure!   But pleasure and bingeing are two different things. Eating for pleasure is mindful eating. You sit down, you put that piece of chocolate in your mouth and you really taste it. Try a mindful eating meditation. You feel the sensation of the chocolate on your tongue, you let that taste sensation go to your brain. You allow your senses to take it in. You breathe into it. Binge eating would taking that chocolate, shoving it in your mouth, barely tasting it and scavenging for more in attempts to escape feeling a certain way.  Try to reframe your thoughts around food to healing and nurturing and nothing is off limits or cheating. However, there are some foods that would not be nurturing to you. For instance, perhaps things made with  gluten give you a stomach ache. Before you eat something, ask yourself, “is this nurturing or punishing?” then, depending on the answer, decide what you’re going to do. Chocolate might be nurturing in some instances and punishing in others. For instance, if you know that you are going to eat chocolate in an abusive way (ie: binge, then beat yourself up for bingeing) it’s punishing. But you might be able to eat chocolate in a way that is nurturing, (ie: sitting, savoring and enjoying a small amount then walking away from it.)

The way you talk to yourself about food is the first step in healing.  I hope that this was helpful to you. Please do comment and let me know how you’re doing.

 

Warmly,

 

Leora

 

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. 

 

Friday Q & A- I’m trying to diet for my graduation, but I can’t stop bingeing

want to lose weight for graduation

Question:

I’ve been trying to be on a diet under 1200 calories a day so that I can look good during my graduation which is two weeks away. For the past few weeks I’ve been exercising on an average of  four days a week and trying to keep my calorie intake in check. But this  this week, things just got way out of hand. I began  craving junk food more. I started buying ice cream bars, muffins, chips and eating it alone all at once. I felt really stuffed and uncomfortable and very guilty afterwards.  I though then that maybe I would binge for one day and then from tomorrow onward, I would start eating clean again. I didn’t work. I ate more  junk. The more I eat, the more I  crave.  It has been about 3 days of bingeing on junk already. i feel like i am totally out of control and i really want to get out of this vicious cycle. My exams are starting tomorrow and i am constantly thinking about food, and i am unable to focus on my revision at all. Please help me.

Answer:
Stop! Take a nice deep breath and try to relax.
I know that you want to “look good” for your graduation. But as you’ve experienced, obsessive dieting is going to push you right into a binge cycle.
The immediate answer is to  stop trying to  get back to where you were and decide from this moment to go forward in emotional and physical health, that doesn’t include obsessive dieting. This will help to stop the obsession so that you can think about something other than food. Recover from your 3 days of bingeing. Tell yourself that you are allowed to eat sweets or what you call “junk,” but only one serving each day and at the end of the day, after you’ve eaten a healthy dinner. Legalizing treats will help you to keep from obsessing and take the aura of mystique and shame away from them.
Remain calm, drink water, drink tea.  Wake up each morning and fix yourself a good healthy breakfast– don’t count calories. Something like 2 eggs, 1-2 pieces of fruit and maybe some cheese or a piece of toast and a cup of tea or coffee.   Lunch should be something like a salad or roasted vegetables with protein like chicken plus some beans, plus a fat, like olive oil or full fat salad dressing and some cheese. Or a nice sandwich made with protein and a fruit to go with it and a drink. Dinner could be protein, like a filet of salmon or steak or chicken, a lot of cooked vegetables or winter squash, a sweet potato or yam with butter. Then have a desert. A cup of ice cream or one cupcake or whatever it is. If you are hungry, eat. But ask yourself before you eat, “am I really hungry or do I just want food?” If you don’t know the answer, wait for one hour and then ask yourself again. As far as exercise is concerned, keep exercising, but it doesn’t have to be four days a week of extreme cardio, it can be long walks, water aerobics, swimming, hiking, dancing, anything that you find enjoyable, not punitive.  Care of the self is about loving the self, not punishing the self.

I hope that this was helpful for you. Please do comment in the comments sections with anymore follow-up questions.

Warmly,

 

Leora

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. 

Friday Q & A- How can I stop this obsession with food?

obsessed with foodFor the next several posts, I’ll be playing catch-up with Q&As. It’s not Friday, but here’s your Q & A!
Question:
This comes to us from a reader named Maureen.
Hello,
I  came across your blog when, after succumbing to yet another binge episode, I took to the internet in the hopes of finding some answers, somewhere. I’ve been dealing with this disease for about 2 years now, and I just can’t do it anymore. It’s exhausting and I hate myself. The thing is, I don’t know what to do. I tried going to a therapist. She was a lovely person, but didn’t really know much about BED. I tried going on anti-depressents, and they just increased my appetite (exaaactly what I needed) and then I tried ignoring the problem… Obviously none of these have worked, so I’m hoping you might be able to guide me.
Here’s my story in a nutshell:
I spent my life not just overweight, but obese. I was 250lbs by 17 (I’m 5’2). The funny thing was, although I always wanted to be skinnier, it never really bothered me and I was pretty confident and happy. When I went to college, I decided to get healthy and dedicated myself to it. At first, it was great. I felt good, lost a lot of weight, and was getting compliments left and right. Then, I became obsessed. I overexercised, calorie counted to the extreme, got too skinny and stressed myself out. At the time, I was also dealing with taking 6 classes, working two jobs, and acting in 4 plays as well as dealing with family problems. Needless to say, I snapped. And, once I slipped down that slippery slope, I never recovered. I ate my way from a 129 lb overworked frame to a 190lb burgeoning one.
Honestly, I hate the body I’m in now. It’s slow, it’s achey. It can’t even do the exercises I love anymore because of the abuses I put it through when I was overexercising. But what I hate most of all, is the daily fight with the voice in my head. The constant obsession over food, the voice yelling at me for being fat, the one telling me not to eat that, to get skinny or I’ll die a crazy cat lady.
Honestly though, I don’t even care about being skinny anymore ( I mean, obviously, it would be nice). I just want to be healthy, in all senses of the word. I just want to be in a place where I don’t find myself surrounded by wrappers and empty containers, wrapped in a blanket of disgust and guilt, while suffering through the stomach aches caused by my episodes.
So, sorry for writing you a novel. I’m just hoping you can give me some advice.

Answer:

Maureen,

Thank you for your very candid question and all your honesty. It sounds like such a difficult place you’re in, feeling uncomfortable in your body, hating yourself both physically and emotionally, being surrounded  by waste and feeling hopeless.

Part I- Forgiveness:

Your first step is to literally take a step out of yesterday. Allow yourself to shed the past. Allow yourself to step away from the things that happened in the past, that you shed more than 100 pounds and that you gained a lot of it back. Let’s attribute a lot of that to living with an eating disorder.  This is a new chapter in your life, one where you are choosing to heal.  A big part of healing is forgiveness. So you need to first forgive yourself for the past. You state that you hate your body. But your body needs love and support right now while it heals. I want you to start by just quietly sitting with your eyes closed and telling your body that you are sorry for all that you’ve put it through, all the bingeing, starving, obsessive exercise, mean thoughts, and that you know it’s been through a lot but from now on you guys are a team, that you are going to begin to treat it with kindness so that it can heal. Then ask your body what it needs. Then just quietly listen and wait. Your body will tell you what it needs.

Part II- The Healing Process:

Instead of focusing on being skinny or healthy, begin to focus on feeling better both physically and emotionally. Sometimes we can trick ourselves into believing that we are focused on health when we are really still being gripped by a desire to be skinny. I suggest starting a mindfulness practice to check in with yourself physically and psychologically. Set an alarm on your phone (or watch or whatever you have) to go off every 2 hours. Every time it goes off, take a break from whatever you are doing. If you can find a quiet place to go, even better, if not, just quietly take a few deep breaths into your belly and ask yourself, “how am I doing?” “what do I need emotionally?” “what do I need physically?”  You might hear that you need a nap, or an apple, or to talk to a good friend on the phone, or to get some air, or whatever it is that you need. The first step in healing is to begin to attune to yourself and figure out who you are and what you need. Being gripped by an eating disorder is the opposite of being attuned to yourself, you are totally separate from yourself because the eating disorder is dictating your behavior instead of what you truly need.  Give yourself a month of this practice before even attempting to do anything else. The next part of your healing process is thinking about helping your body heal. If you are slow and achey, you should definitely go see a doctor to consult, get your blood tested and get an approved exercise plan. Once you are cleared, doing really fun but gentle exercise (things that are easy on your joints like water aerobics) is a great idea. You then can begin to think about getting your food back in order, once you are in a better relationship with yourself. Your relationship with yourself should be number one, not your relationship with food, which is why I’m suggesting that you wait on thinking about food until you’ve spent more time with your own needs. When you are ready, I’d recommend you seeing a nutritionist who specializes in treating eating disorders to support you in getting your food back on track. My philosophy in food is allow everything, but have gentle, loving boundaries. This could look like 3 meals a day and 1-2 snacks that are 80% whole foods and 20% other.

 

I hope that this was helpful for you. Please do comment in the comments sections with anymore follow-up questions.

Warmly,

 

Leora

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. 

10 New Years Resolutions that Will Change Your Life

new years resolutions

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

2. Resolve to stop comparing yourself to other people. 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

5. Resolve to stop engaging in Fat Chat

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

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

 

6. Resolve to do the things you love more often

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

10. Learn to Recognize Your Emotional State

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

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

 

 

Going home for the holidays when you’re dealing with binge eating disorder or bulimia

During my first semester of grad school, right before  Thanksgiving break, my Human Development professor asked for a show of hands as to how many people were heading home for the holidays. After about half the class raised their hands, he looked at us and said, “Listen, I don’t care how long you’ve been in therapy, I don’t care how many years of 4 day a week Psychoanalysis you’ve done, I don’t care how many meditation retreats you’ve done, how many Shamanic journeys you’ve been on, how many sweat lodges you’ve been to, or how much family counseling you’ve done… because when you go home, no matter what you’ve been doing up to this point, you are going to be exactly the same person as you were when you lived with your family. You’ll be 12 years old again and you’ll feel it and you’ll behave that way… don’t worry. It’s normal and that’s just the way it is. Just be prepared.”

So, even if you love, love, love your family and they’re very supportive it’s still challenging to be home when you’re working toward recovery. Your internal roadmap, the way you negotiated life, was created in this environment. When you are outside of the environment, it’s a bit easier to change and revamp that roadmap. When you are back in, often your default settings are reactivated.

At your family’s house if you are staying there:

1.)Be prepared. Know that being at home will probably be a trigger.

2.)If your family is challenging, make sure that you have plans to get out of the house. Take walks, get outside their home and call support people, make plans with old friends to go see a movie.

3.)Have a task while you’re there. Have a book that you’re engrossed in, needlepoint or knitting that you’re working on, some kind of project (ie: grading papers if you’re a teacher) that you can be working on. Anything to give you a bit of an escape.

4.)If your family has a lot of triggering food there, make sure to get to a grocery store and have your own supply of food that feels safe.

5.)If there are times when you know that you binge (ie: the middle of the night when family is asleep) make sure that you have an action plan. Something that you might do is let a friend know that it’s a triggering time and call before you go to sleep and when you wake up (bookend your evenings). You might also attend an online OA meeting at night. You can do some meditation and relaxation techniques in bed to help you sleep and avoid bingeing.

6.)If you know that you binge with your family, you will probably need to assemble some big guns of support.Perhaps you can commit to a support person (or sponsor) outside of the family that you’re not going to binge with them and when they get into that mode, you can step outside and call your support person for a reinforcement.

You might tell your family that you’re not doing this anymore. I know that for many people, that is very hard. They feel as though they’re not being a team player or that they’re not being a part of the family if they don’t participate in the acting out with food or alcohol. But love isn’t about sharing in compulsive behavior. Choosing not to participate doesn’t mean you love your family any less. It’s about you taking care of yourself, and you might just inspire some members of your family to follow suit. Most people inherently want to be healthy, even though it’s hard. If they see you trying to be healthy, it might be easier for them to do the same.

Having your own non-binge foods on hand can help to keep you safe from a binge as well.

7.)If you know that it’s going to be too difficult both emotionally and for your ED, you might just opt to stay in a hotel or with an old friend.

At Holiday Dinner

1.)Stay away from heated conversations, such as politics, religion, why you have your eyebrow pierced, why you’re choosing to go to art school instead of business school, why your new boyfriend plays guitar in a death metal band and lives in garage… etc. etc. Of course it’s your prerogative to discuss anything that you want, but often, staying away from potentially emotionally triggering subjects while you are around potentially binge triggering food might be a good idea.

2.)Don’t drink too much alcohol. Keep yourself alert so that you can choose what you want to eat.

3.)Don’t let yourself get pressured or guilted into eating more than you want to. Even if your Aunt Zelda has spent the past 27 hours slaving over a hot oven to make your favorite 14 pies, you don’t have to eat anything that you don’t want.

4.)You are not responsible for someone who chooses to base their happiness on what you choose to do with your life. Remember that it is not your responsibility to make anyone happy. If someone bases their happiness on what you choose to do with your life and what you choose to eat, that is their choice. They can’t make you feel guilty for doing what you want to do with your life. We each are given our own lives and have the right to do with those lives what we want. Ultimately, it’s important to be kind, thoughtful and considerate. However, it’s unfair to live your life for someone else or to ask someone to live their life for you.

5.)If there are kids around, play with them! Kids can be fun and exhausting and exhilarating. They can also take you outside of the line of fire as well as snacks, appetizers, binge foods, triggering family feuds, etc.

As for the actual meal itself, check out my Thanksgiving post. It applies here as well.

 

Happy Holiday!

How Not To Have a Binge at the Airport

Binge Eating at the Airport Binge eating and binge drinking at the airport is so common. Long airport layovers are recipes for compulsive behavior because:

  • Traveling is stressful and binge eating is a stress relief
  • You are bored and it’s a way to fight boredom
  • Although you are traveling among several thousands of people, if you are traveling  alone, you are in a city where nobody knows you and this can feel very isolated and anonymous and secretive.
  • There is a bounty of fast foods and “forbidden foods” in relatively small radius.

Four hours is a long time, but there are many other things that you can do besides binge eat on a long flight.

1.)Make sure that you have a plan.

2.)Figure out how to get your three meals in that day without restricting or bingeing. Know that because you have a long day of flying ahead of you that you need to prepare with snacks. Have a full meal before you get on the plane (breakfast), or if it’s too early, make sure that you bring snacks on the plane. I like to bring nuts and Lara bars. There is also often an option to buy food on the plane.

3.)When you get to the airport, actually have a meal there. You will need to eat lunch anyway, so find a place that you feel comfortable getting a meal at, and have a sit down meal. Eat something that feels safe. Being in a challenging situation is probably not the right time to be challenging yourself with trigger foods.  Eat it slowly and mindfully.

4.)Let some people know that you will have a 4 hour layover and that it’s a good time to chat and catch up. You might have some safe people who you call who know that you are afraid of bingeing at the airport, so you might want to “bookend” your arrival and departure with them.  “Bookending” is calling someone at the beginning of a challenging situation where you think you might binge, and then calling them at the end of the situation. Knowing that someone is there supporting you can help keep you safe.

5.)Find out of this airport has any fun amenities before you go, such as a place to get your nails done or to get a massage and plan on that for your layover.

6.)Bring (or buy!) an awesome book to read. Camp out and read somewhere away from the food court.

7.)Make sure that you’re drinking enough water throughout your layover. It’s important to stay hydrated and it will keep you doing something with your mouth.

8.)Bring something to do with your hands like knitting or beading or sketching.

9.)Bring some movies to watch on your computer or ipad or portable dvd player.

10.)Decide that you’re going to explore all the different terminals. O’Hare is huge. And you’ll even get a little exercise in.

11.)Remember that  cinnabon, pizzeria uno, starbucks, taco bell, tcby, chili’s, et al. will always exist and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and just because you are in the airport, it’s not your last opportunity to eat at them. You can always make that choice when you are empowered to, not when they are seducing you by keeping you a captive audience.

12.)Peruse the bookstore, thumb through magazines, be a window shopper. There are lots of different and fun stores in the airport where you can just look and not have to buy.

13.)Do some personal grooming so that you feel more comfortable after your long flight and before going on another long flight. Brush your teeth, wash your face, brush your hair, try to freshen up a bit. It will generally pull you out of the binge trance.

 

Office Christmas Parties, Gift Baskets, Luncheons, etc.- How to Survive These Things with an Eating Disorder

The whole month of December can be awful for someone with eating issues. First off, there’s the plethora of parties that are going on as well the cookie exchanges and the office luncheon. Then there are gift baskets full of food everywhere, there are chocolates sitting in the office kitchen, bowls of peppermint bark and peppermint hot chocolates beckoning, and not to mention appreciation dinners and luncheons. Couple that with cold weather and craving warm comfort food and you’ve got a recipe for a binge.

All of this food can make someone feel helpless against its allure and a binge can feel inevitable. Often it can feel as though the binge is happening to you and taking over your rational choice rather than you choosing to make certain decisions. It’s not that these are “bad” foods or situations that  you need to avoid. The problem is that sometimes the draw of the food can tap into the compulsive part of your brain– you might feel as though you’ve begun eating without even making a conscious choice to. You might find yourself in a daze munching on Christmas cookies in your cubicle and then, as you begin to realize what you’ve done, you might begin to feel angry at yourself and helpless and spin out into a binge because you did something that you did not intend to. There is also the fact that the  January 1st New Years Resolution date is looming, so you might figure, ‘binge in December, I’ll start fresh in January.’ There are also imminent family obligations that might be a source of stress. Whatever it is, December can be a month for binge eating.

It doesn’t have to be though.

1.)Don’t use the impending New Year as an excuse to binge. No “I will lose 10 pounds” New Years resolutions this year. Each morning, when you wake up, begin anew by telling yourself, “today I will do my best to go toward health and wellness.” And each morning, set a mini goal for yourself.  A mini goal might be, “I will allow myself to sample some office goodies intentionally and consciously, but will not binge on them,” or “I will do 10 minutes of meditation at some point today,” or “I will reach out for support today if I want to binge or if I’ve already begun eating something that I didn’t intend to in order to prevent a binge.”

2.)Don’t engage in black & white thinking. If you find yourself eating something unconsciously, like snacking on chocolates from a bowl in your office or eating too many bagels one morning, don’t let that turn into a binge. Remember that it happens. Just because you ate a handful of Hershey’s kisses, doesn’t mean you have to spend the rest of the day bingeing on cookies and cakes and eggnog or whatever else it is. Stop, take a breath, and be kind to yourself. Take a moment to reorient yourself and bring yourself back to the present. What happened? How did you wind up at the chocolate bowl? Was it a conscious choice or were you putting something off, or were you upset or stressed about something? Think backwards to what might have happened. Forgive yourself and accept that it happens.  Make a plan for something else that you’re going to do to make you feel good about yourself that day. If you think that you might not be able to resist, call a support person and tell them that  you’re feeling shaky because of the unintentional kisses, but your intention is not to binge and you could use a check in call. Let them know that you’ll call them at the end of the day.

3.)Focus on people rather than food. Before holiday parties or luncheons, make sure that you’ve eaten before you go so that you are able to focus on the people around you rather than the food. If you find that you are only focused on food, take some time to breath and try to refocus on someone interesting. Make a goal for yourself at the party, such as, you are going to talk to 3 new people and try to focus on that rather than food.

4.)Don’t drink too much at holiday functions. Binge drinking is a prelude to binge eating. It immediately brings you into an unconscious state which then does not allow you to have a choice around food.

5.)Be cautious about leftovers. If you host a party, either have someone help you to clean up or have someone else clean up for you. Often for hostesses with eating issues, it’s not the party that’s challenging, it’s cleaning up. Leftovers can be a huge binge trigger for many people. If tit is for you, give them away or bring them down to a hungry/homeless person.

6.)Don’t keep trigger foods at your desk at work. Just because the holidays are here doesn’t mean you need to have a bowl of candy on your desk for people. If you must bring it, put it out of reach from yourself so that you need to actually think about what you’re doing every time you get up to grab something.

7.)Eat a breakfast with lots of protein each morning. This will keep you satisfied and your blood sugar stable so that you’re not looking for a pick me up come mid-morning.

8.)Recommend a Wellness program at your office. Instead of junk food, suggest that people bring fruit baskets. Make a suggestion that the food baskets you receive be donated to a homeless shelter nearby. See about starting a lunchtime yoga class for your office.

9.)Stay active. The winter months are a good excuse to hibernate. Don’t succumb. Get out of the house or office. Take a  vigorous walk during your lunch break. Go ice skating! Go window shopping! Move. Activity is a stress reliever. Letting go of stress will help you not binge.

 

Next up: Dealing with stressful family events during the holidays….