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Intuitive Eating Will Make You Skinny and Other Myths

This was a guest post that I originally wrote for the wonderful and supportive blog from the  BingeBehavior Community.

 intuitive eating to get skinny

He stood on the scale with wide, nervous eyes as the doctor shook her head and tsk tsked.

“He’s overweight,” she told me, “you need to put your cat on a diet.”

“But I don’t believe in diets,” I told her.

“Well how much do you feed him?”

“I don’t know, I just put food in his bowl. He eats it when he’s hungry and walks away from it when he’s satisfied… we believe in intuitive eating in my house, my cat practices it too.”

“No,” she told me, “you can’t do that, he gets a set amount and a set time to eat, he can’t just graze all day, obesity is no good for a cat.”

I know that what she was saying was true.  My brother, a veterinarian warned and warned and warned my parents about overfeeding their cats and he is now lassoed with their insulin dependent cat Creamsicle when they couldn’t manage his diabetes.  Let’s move past the irony of a diabetic cat named Creamsicle.

I thought about it for a while.  Cats are natural hunters.  They spend their days outside looking for small birds and rodents and then they kill and eat them.  A domestic lifestyle, though lovely, is not their physiologically natural state, so it would make sense that their bodies tend not to do as well on a steady diet of processed food at their beck and call.

So what does my cat’s woes have to do with the price of wine in Napa? Well, a lot.

See, I’ve been seeing a lot of people out there promising you that when you learn intuitive eating and mindful eating, that you will lose weight or even some people make the promise that you will be like your “naturally skinny friends”.

Let’s dissect Intuitive eating and Mindful eating for a moment. Intuitive eating is following the natural instincts of your body to eat when you are hungry and to stop when you are satisfied. It is about listening to your body and giving it what it needs. Mindful eating is the practice that you take on to become an intuitive eater.  However, eating is a survival mechanism.

Let’s go back to caveman times, as they like to discuss in certain food cult circles, and acknowledge that our instincts are designed to grab as much food as we can when it is scarce.  Cavemen didn’t have pantries or supermarkets so they spent much of their days hunting and gathering in case there was a famine or a long winter or disease killing off the food supply.  The instinct would be to grab onto and eat as much food as they possibly could in a sitting, lest it be eaten by someone else or another animal.

So here is where things get confusing, our intuitive eating also follows a pattern of bingeing.  Yes. Binge eating is intuitive but, as I stated above, the bingeing happened when the food supply was greatly diminished; it was a survival mechanism.

We have evolved greatly past the days of hunter/gatherer societies.  Cavemen didn’t have apps on their iPhones to order dinner and cavemen didn’t have mothers telling them to go on diets. They lived in a completely alternate reality and so we can’t expect to live or eat like them.

So let’s talk about intuitive eating.

You probably started out as an intuitive eater, you ate what you wanted when you wanted without too much thought on the matter – until the first time someone called attention to your weight.

Maybe you were 14, maybe you were 4, but someone said you were chubby or you could stand to lose a few and so you went on your first diet, or someone put you on your first diet.  Your intuitive sense told you that you would be deprived of food and so you binged in secret and this became a perpetuating cycle of bingeing and restricting.

What would have happened if you never went on that first diet? What would happen if you ate when you were hungry and stopped when you were satisfied. Would you be skinny?  Maybe or maybe not.  You would probably be a weight that was right for you, and that perhaps is not skinny. Your natural weight might just be a little thicker, or little softer, or a little rounder.

That’s why it makes me crazy when I hear, “Your naturally skinny friends can eat whatever they want whenever they want because they are intuitive eaters.   They eat when they are hungry and stop when they are satisfied.”

It’s not true. My naturally skinny friends can eat whatever they want because they are naturally skinny. It’s just their body type.

I remember my friend Pam visiting me for long weekends when we were in our 20s. She was always so much thinner than I, yet she was always hungry and ate so much more than me.  To my spinach salad with chopped eggs and chicken with a light vinaigrette, she’d order a giant falafel with french fries stuffed in it. Later in the afternoon, she would bring out chocolate and red wine to snack on.  She’d never been on a diet.  She loved food and indulged in it and it didn’t make her fat.

So what does any of this have to do with intuitive eating? I think we have to reacquaint ourselves with true intuitive eating.

Remember, intuitive eating is the practice of eating what your body needs as informed by your practice of mindful eating.  Mindful eating is noticing your body’s need for foods, your hunger and satiety and your body’s physical reactions to certain types of food.  As you become more mindful and understanding about your needs, you hone your intuition about food.

It’s a practice.  It’s not easy because we are born with an internalized instinct to binge when food becomes scarce.  But food is no longer scarce, so we are teaching ourselves to evolve with the world around us.

But make no mistake, mindfulness and intuitive eating won’t make you skinnyunless you are naturally skinny, and we are not all naturally skinny.

Maybe French women don’t get fat because they are French.  My roots are mostly Austrian and Russian and most of the women in my family are shaped in the same way.  We’re short and petite with wide hips.; close to the ground so we can squat down and birth those babies, then get back to work on the farm.

My friend Pam, remember her, the one who eats falafel and wine and chocolate all day?  She’s all Italian. Have you ever been to Rome? Most of the women there are petite and they eat spaghetti and gelato and wine all day!

We’ve discussed what mindfulness and intuitive eating won’t do for you, so what will it do for you? 

The very first thing it will do is inform you to stop any restrictive diet that you’ve been on.  You will then begin the practice of mindful eating.

You will begin to slow down and check in with your body, a lot.  And this doesn’t come naturally.  It’s a practice, just like meditation.  You begin to learn what your body likes and what your body reacts poorly to and you maintain the practice of honoring your body with those pieces of information. That’s how intuitive eating becomes part of your makeup. You remember that food is plentiful and that you can make choices based on what your body actually needs, not choices based on what other people tell you your body needs.

When you are eating intuitively, your body will most likely settle into a place that is healthy for your body.

This might be different than what the BMI says is healthy but you know when you are healthy. Can you sleep? Do you have energy? Can you find enjoyable movement? Can you enjoy your life? Are you happy?

What you can really gain by practicing mindful eating and learning intuitive eating is a deep sense of emotional peace around food and your body. 

Imagine what it would be like to feel at ease in that way. No fighting, no debates in your head, no stress about what you are eating.

Wouldn’t it be nice to feed your body in a way that feels nourishing and a way where you feel comfortable in your body?  That’s where the mindfulness comes in.  This is where we honor our bodies, no matter what size, what shape, we lavish our bodies with attention and affection. Then we ask our bodies what they need.

We eat some tomatoes and then we have a bellyache.  Notice it.  Make a mental note that “tomatoes might be too acidic on my belly for awhile”. Your unconscious takes that note and you notice that you are intuitively avoiding the tomatoes in your salad.

Intuitive eating will not make you skinny, nor will it make you taller because skinny is a body type. Some of us are skinny; in America most of us are not.   Unfortunately, not being skinny because it is the American ideal has pushed us into a world of dieting and bingeing (because that’s the instinctual result of dieting).

Mindfulness practice will give you the awareness of your body’s needs, it will not fulfill what the world around you says your body should look like. Integrate mindfulness to help yourself become more intuitive about what you need.

Intuitive eating will make your body feel better because you will be more aware of what you need and what you don’t need. It will give you the sense that you don’t need to grab food and run away. You can be present for yourself and for the world around you.  It will help you find a place of calm that you hadn’t had before.

How to Stop Calorie Counting

how to stop calorie countingDo you ever feel like counting and numbers are taking over your life and your mind? Are you constantly counting pounds on the scale? Weighing and measuring your food? Do you know the number of calories in every food and the grams of carbs in everything that you put in your mouth? Is this obsession driving you crazy?

Many of my clients come in feeling as though they’d love to stop counting calories, but they don’t know how, they feel as though if they did, they’d totally lose control. Counting calories helps give them a sense of control and satisfaction.

Usually, when I begin people on the road to intuitive eating and mindful eating, I help them wean off of calorie counting by using numbers to help them assess their appetites. It’s actually a lot more challenging than calorie counting, but ultimately more useful. It increases mindfulness and helps you to actually get in touch with the needs of your body.

How to do it: 

1. Learn the hunger and satiety scale.

 

0 Starvation mode. Void of feelings. No energy, tired, empty.
1 Ravenous. Feeling uncomfortably hungry. Dizzy, grumpy.
2 Very Hungry, unable to focus on work or conversation.
3 Hungry. Stomach is beginning to growl, you are beginning to lose focus.
4 Getting Hungry. First thoughts of food begin.
5 Neutral. Not hungry, not full. Not obsessing about food. Nurtured, productive, able to focus. If you are eating, you can still eat more.
6 Satisfied. You’ve eaten enough to be content. You are not uncomfortable, yet you do not need more.
7 Slightly Full. A bit more than satisfied. You might feel like you had a bit too much.
8 Very Full. You begin to feel bloated as though you’ve had too much.
9 Uncomfortably full. You just want to go to sleep. You might feel depressed or regretful.
10 Completely Stuffed. You feel like you might throw up. You are in pain, you can’t focus, and you don’t know how you got here.

2. Decide to  learn to not let yourself drop below a 3 and not go above a 7.

3. Check in with yourself throughout the day. When you find yourself at a 4, it’s time to think about getting a meal.

4. Before each meal, note or write down where you are on the hunger and satiety scale.

5. Eat your food slowly and mindfully and stop right in the middle. When you stop, note or write down where you are. If you are at a 5, you know that you can eat a bit more. Stop again and if you are at a 6 or a 7, stop eating.

It’s that simple. But it’s not simple really because you are using the wisdom of your body to tell you how much or how little you should be eating rather than an arbitrary number that doesn’t necessarily relate to what your body needs. Keeping track of the numbers on the hunger and satiety scale will help you to feel as though you are in control in a way that calorie counting did only it’s also a way to increase mindfulness. After a while, you will be able to stop using the numbers because you will intuitively know when to eat and when to stop eating.

Start by trying it for one meal a day. You can also check in with yourself every 1-2 hours and ask yourself where you are on the hunger and satiety scale.

You might try some hypnosis to help you stop dieting and to eat more mindfully for your body and less by someone else’s calorie chart.

Interested in doing a  seven day experiment? Try it and link to this blog post, I’d love to see how it goes for people!

10 Ways to Get a Healthy Body Now

10 ways to get a healthy body1. Eat mostly minimally processed and whole foods. This means choosing to actually eat a piece of chicken and broccoli that you get from the store rather than picking up a chicken and broccoli Lean Cuisine and having it pass for dinner. You want your food to have as few ingredients as possible. A steak is healthier than a 100 calorie snack pack. A baked potato is healthier than a slice of low fat  processed American cheese. You get what I’m saying. Try to keep it as simple as possible. It’s actually easier and will improve your health a million-fold. Check out these articles on the benefits of eating whole foods.

2. Don’t obsess about it.  So, eat processed foods most of the time, but say if a bag of cheez-its should pass your lips, you’re not going to ruin it all. You don’t have to binge on processed foods all day long and then vow to only eat apples and broccoli and chicken for the rest of your life. You’ve set up a baseline of healthy with eating mostly whole foods. So if you can eat healthy most of the time, you can have a little bit of the not so healthy every so often. It’s okay. It’s fine in fact. This is the way I suggest working it. When you see something that you really want, allow yourself to have it. But, first, go for the whole unprocessed so that you know you’re giving your body something healthy. Like if there is a choice between a fruit salad and a piece of (unhomemade/supermarket bought) cake, opt for both, but eat the fruit salad first, then eat the cake. You get your healthy food in, you don’t forgo one for the other. There’s no deprivation there and you are letting yourself eat for both health and enjoyment.  When you give yourself the healthy food first, there is also less opportunity for bingeing because you’re hungry or depriving yourself.  I differentiate between a piece of supermarket bought cake because I really believe that I homemade cake is healthier. There is less likely to be lots of artificial ingredients and preservatives and more love and whole ingredients added.

Obsessing about eating whole foods is just another diet. You don’t want that. You want to eat for health and for enjoyment — it’s okay to eat for enjoyment!  Obsessing will also set you up for failure. Think of eating whole foods as your way of nurturing yourself, not punishing.

3. Exercise with love- Forget about reading about the best ways to lose weight or how to get a ripped physique and think of exercise as something to bring you pleasure and to help you destress. If you like to run, then run. If you like to swim, then swim. If power lifting is your thing, more power to you.  If you like to take long leisurely strolls, then do that. If  you love yoga, do yoga.  If dance classes bring you joy, do that. You don’t have to exercise hard, you just have to get out and move several times a week. And seriously, you don’t have to power through your exercise, moving can be slow.  It can be a nice walk through the park with a friend or pushing a stroller or listening to a podcast or book on tape. Think of exercise as quality time with yourself rather than something you have to do. If you can exercise outside and get a little vitamin D grade sunshine, it’s a bonus.

4. Sleep at night. - Seriously get your sleep in order.

One of the ways to begin to encourage good health into your life is to start with your sleep.  Sleep and mood go together. When your sleep is off, your mood is off. When your mood is off and your sleep is off, your immune system is compromised and your emotional stability is off. You then become more susceptible to colds, flu, disease, as well as anxiety, depression, and car accidents. Sleeping too much or too little sleep can both be hazardous to your health. Healthy adults need 7-8 hours each night. My husband, who lived for years with chronic insomnia was helped greatly by this book.

Make your bed a welcoming place.   Go out and buy a nice, comfortable set of sheets and a new comforter and lots of fluffy pillows. Make your bed someplace that is inviting and luxurious. If you can’t afford new sheets right now, wash your current sheets and bedding and fluff it up, spray it with some lavender and try to give it a little bit of new life. At night, an hour before you think you should go to sleep, get into bed. Let’s say you want to be asleep at 11, get into bed at 10. Don’t turn your TV on, don’t bring your computer into bed with you. Bring a book, or a magazine, or your iPod. Listen to some relaxing music with your eyes closed or listen to a guided visualization, and just begin to let yourself relax. This isn’t about sleep, this is about relaxing your body. Sleep is a natural biological process that your body can do once you begin to relax your body and your mind. You might also want to get into the bath about 90 minutes before you want to be asleep. A hot bath with Epson Salts is a great way to relax your muscles and calm your mind and warm your body up for sleep. Try to think of a nice bedtime routine that you can do every night that will help you fall into a restful sleep. You might draw for 1/2 hour before you get into bed, you might bathe, you might write in your journal, but find something that works for you and do it nightly.

If you find that sleep is impossible, there are lots of natural sleep solutions such as taking extra magnesium supplements at night or checking out herbal sleep aids out there such as valerian, chamomile and skullcap as well as amino acids like 5-HTP and L-Tryptophan or a synthetic hormone of melatonin. Definitely ask your doctor or Naturopath about supplementation for help with sleep before you take anything. There are also over the counter solutions as well as prescription solutions that your doctor can help you sort through. There’s no shame in finding something to help you sleep. Being sleep deprived leads to poor decision making, especially around food choices. It also leaves you looking for more energy and many people use caffeine and sugar to achieve this.

5. Floss Your Teeth- Did you know that having good oral hygiene is a way to keep your heart healthy? Gum-disease-causing bacteria can contribute to cardiovascular disease. This may work through inflammation; people with more gum disease bacteria also had more white blood cells circulating in their blood because white blood cells are part of the body’s response to infection.  So floss daily!

6. Hug Someone-Believe it or not, hugs can reduce stress. Hug your Mom, your Dad, your Rabbi, your Pastor, your Son or Daughter, even hug your dog or you cat. Human love, compassion, and touch can be so healing.  In fact, A University of Virginia neuroscientist has found that women under stress who hold their husbands’ hands show signs of immediate relief, which can clearly be seen on their brain scans.

7. Stop drinking, or cut down dramatically if you are drinking daily-  I’m sorry to report that drinking alcohol daily dramatically increases your risk for cancer.  A new study shows that even as little as 1 drink per day increases your risk for breast cancer, mouth and throat cancers and stomach cancers. I wasn’t super surprised to hear this. I have a close friend who is an oncology nurse, who told me that what she often sees on people’s assessment forms is that they drink excessively. She said that it’s the one thing that is confirmed to her over and over and over again, that alcohol use and cancer have a very strong correlation.  Sorry folks. If you’re trying to quit drinking, I highly suggest checking out an AA meeting or a Smart Recovery. You might even try hypnosis to help you stop drinking.

8. Take a vitamin D3 supplement- We are super vitamin D deficient. If you don’t want to take something without getting first checked, ask your doctor to run a lab to check your level. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to infertility, breast cancer, depression, colon cancer, anxiety, heart disease, obesity, recurrent miscarriage, and all sorts of other crappy things. Studies also show that folks who have higher vitamin D levels have lower risk of disease in general and better immune function.  However, the best way to integrate Vitamin D is with sunshine, so get out into the sun and soak up some vitamin D. Mushrooms are also a great source of vitamin D, so don’t be shy about your fungi.

9.Have Lots of Sex- You will be happier, calmer, you will sleep better and you will reduce your risk of heart disease, depression and anxiety. Now, if you don’t have a partner, going out and having sex with strangers probably won’t improve your health (or self esteem). However, there are proven benefits to having a healthy sexual relationship with yourself! 

10. Drink Honey and Cinnamon- Each morning, make a mixture of raw honey and organic cinnamon in a cup of warm water and drink it down for good health. This has long been a folk remedy that claims you can lose weight, decrease insomnia, fight anxiety, ward off cancer and heart disease and keep your skin clear and supple.  Is it true? Maybe a little. Snopes says sort of true.  But, it’s a pleasant morning drink if anything. If you see an improvement in whatever ails you in a few weeks, great, if not, stop drinking it.

How To Lose 5 pounds In 2 Days

ahhh I wish I could stop this damn dietThe very best way to lose five pounds in two days is to make a decision to take two whole days to stop dieting and chose to eat very slowly, very mindfully, and very intuitively, giving your body exactly what it needs to thrive.

I know that quitting dieting to get to a healthy weight sounds totally counterintuitive, but overeating is the other side of dieting, which means that when you choose to go on a restrictive diet, there is a very good chance that you are going to lose your momentum, then binge, and put on more weight than you took off.

Healthy, intuitive eating is the opposite of dieting and of overeating. If you really, truly stop dieting, just for a couple of days, and implement intuitive eating,  your body will  begin to settle into it’s healthy, comfortable weight. I know that it sounds unbelievable, but I promise you, it’s true. Quitting dieting is the sure way to find your healthy, natural weight and come to peace with food and your body.

One of my clients and I were discussing the other day how everything she’s done to her body over the past 25 years, all the diets, all the exercise, the thousands of miles she’s run, the millions of crunches she’s done, the bags of cookies she’s eaten, the loaves of bread and boxes of candy she’s binged on, the carbs she’s restricted, the low-fat diets she’s been on, the shakes she’s drank, the detox diets she’s done, the diet books she’s read, the leg lifts, the pilates classes, the workout videos, the gimmicks, the fads, the coconut oil she’s eaten, the kombucha she’s drank, the South Beach, the Weight Watchers, the Atkins, the Dukan, the Ex-Lax, the “as-seen-on-tv” exercise equipment and workout videos, the stress, the anxiety, the not leaving the house on “fat days”,  the depression, all of it… it’s all basically been for something like five pounds either up or down.  That’s it. In all the years she’s been dieting, she’s been either up five pounds, or down five pounds.

This client teeters between 130-140 pounds but hovers around 135. She hates herself at 140, likes herself better at 130 and struggles at 135, where she probably most naturally falls. And she has been at this weight since she was about 16 years old.  And for all these years, she’s been trying to get down to around 125 pounds. Can you imagine how many pounds she’s lost and gained in the past 25 years? And the thing is, she really keeps coming back to the equilibrium of 135 pounds. Sometimes she’s 5 pounds up. Sometimes she’s 5 pounds down. But she’s never happy.  She tries and tries and tries to get to 125 pounds. And she’s been trying and fighting with those pounds for 25 years. There’s no room for much else in her life. Her weight takes up most of her energy. And for just five pounds. Does that sound familiar to you? Is that you or someone you know? It’s not unusual, and for many people,  it’s their whole lives. They strive to be a weight that their body just doesn’t want to be. They struggle with diets, they struggle with food and exercise, and they struggle with self image.

People spend so, so, so much time trying to lose weight, and all that work, all those years, for many it’s just for a few pounds.  They’ve run 100 marathons, gone on a million diets, eaten 10 billion oreo cookies, spent hundreds of days fasting and dieting miserably,  and yet… their bodies aren’t all that different.  I call it the 5 pound paradox. All the work spent and, it’s usually around five pounds either way. Wouldn’t… acceptance be easier? By quitting dieting for 2 whole days and eating intuitively, there’s a chance that five pounds would drop off your body. But it would definitely drop from your mind, and that’s where it weighs the most.

If you didn’t have your weight to obsess on all the time, what else would you be thinking about and doing? Sometimes dieting and thinking about getting to a certain weight all the time is easier than dealing with what’s underneath, what you’re really trying to cope with. Dieting is a way of gaining control and coping with challenging feelings and situation.

What if you took the next two days and made a decision. No diets. No bingeing. Just for two days:  “I’m going to eat slowly and mindfully,  I’m going to implement intuitive eating, I’m going to eat what my body needs to be healthy, three solid meals per day. Whatever looks good. Whatever I want. No over the top thinking about it.  Just giving my body what it needs three times both days.”  After those two days, reassess. What is it like not to diet? What is it like not to obsess? Can you handle it for another day? Are you ready to let go of control? If not, that’s okay. But just give yourself two days. No weighing yourself, no measuring. This isn’t a free-for-all binge. This is, “pretend I’m a normal eater.” Think of the most normal eater you know. Your friend who eats three meals a day, orders what she or he wants without remorse, regret or overthinking it,  Eats till she or he’s not hungry any longer, then stops.  Try to embody that attitude for a two day experiment and just see how it goes for you. You might be surprised and you might feel liberated.

You can sit quietly and talk to your food or try meditation, breathe deeply before every meal,  or try some downloadable hypnosis sessions on intuitive eating and mindful eating to help you.

 

Friday Q & A – I’m out of control with food and I feel helpless

Why can't i just get back on my diet?

This question comes to us from Aubrey in Missouri.

Question:

On July 19th this last year (two years after my brother’s car accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury) I decided that I was going to change my life. I was 206 pounds, a *tight* size 15, and completely unhappy with my body. My goal weight was 140 pounds and I couldn’t wait to get started. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I have a rare condition called Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis. The condition makes it nearly impossible for me to exercise since I have it so badly. Whenever I get too hot or exercise enough to get hot I begin to go into anaphylactic shock (my throat and face swell, my skin gets red, and I struggle to breathe). Obviously, I knew that working out probably wasn’t the best choice for me, but I continued to stay on my 1500 calories a day diet. 

Eating healthy wasn’t always easy, but I stuck with it. Finally, I got down to 158 and a comfortable size 11. I was extremely proud of myself and my confidence levels were higher than ever! It was then that things started to get tough for me in my personal life, so I decided that I would take 5 days off of my diet. I continued to eat fairly healthy (outside of my one meal from Mcdonald’s). Although, I have to admit that I was eating an excessive amount of food, even if it was healthier food. Once I got back onto my diet things were so much harder. Suddenly I found myself going back into my old binging habits. I would eat only 1000 calories a day for a week, then I would fall off the wagon and eat 10,000 calories in a day. Now, I’m trying to control it, but it feels like the monster is out of it’s cage. I haven’t lost weight for months, and I’m back up to 170 pounds. 
I feel helpless. The worse I feel, the worse I feel the need to binge. The cycle has started again and I don’t know how to stop it. I want to get back on track and lose more weight, but it feels like I can’t. It was so difficult for me to get this far, and now I feel like I’m just going backwards. I don’t want to struggle with my disorder like I used to. I just want to be beautiful and healthy.

Answer:
Hi Aubrey. First off, I want to say that I’m very, very sorry to hear about your brother’s accident. What a horribly tragedy. I’m sure that watching him go through this has been incredibly difficult for you and for your family on many different levels.  I do hope that you’re getting support for this.
First off, try to take a breath and calm down a bit. You lost almost 50 pounds, and you’ve only put 12 back on. This is salvageable and you don’t have to go back to where you were.
Sometimes, in an effort to “catch up,” or compensate for a binge, people will do things like reduce calories dramatically. Like you say that some weeks you only eat 1000 calories per day. That’s not sustainable. It’s not healthy and it will lead to one of two things– anorexia and loss of menstruation and eventual organ failure, or binge eating. Binge eating is usually the more common of the two because bodies will do what they can to survive.
In 1944, the University of Minnesota conducted a study  called the Minnesota Starvation Experiment which was done to learn about the effects of starvation and how to rehab those who were victims. For that they created a controlled famine.
Here’s the gist of it:
For 3 months, each participant was give 3,200 calories per day — which helped them to achieve or maintain their ideal weight.
For the next 6 months, each participant was given on average 1560 calories per day– which was considered semi-starvation. This amount of calories caused severe weight loss in people who were at their ideal weights. The idea was to induce people at their ideal weight lose 25% of their weight. So a 175 pound man would go down to 130 pounds. Pretty extreme.
For the next 3 months, each participant was given a controlled amount of calories to help them heal from their 6 months of starvation.
For the next 2 months, each participant was given the ability to eat whatever they wanted in unrestricted and uncontrolled amounts. Which resulted in bingeing and a preoccupation with food.
The results of the experiment showed that the participants experienced food obsession, binge eating,  severe depression, and there was even self-harm when one of the participants  amputated three fingers of his hand with an axe.  Sexual interest was drastically reduced, and the volunteers showed signs of social withdrawal and isolation They also  reported a decline in concentration, comprehension and judgment capabilities.
So, why do I share this? Because I think that this mirrors your process in some ways. You went on a strict 1500 calorie per day diet and lost approximately 25% of your weight on it. You then went off of it and when you tried to go back, you became preoccupied with food.
So, that doesn’t mean that this is hopeless. Your ability to eat healthy is definitely intact.
Right now, in this very moment, make a decision to stop looking back right now and begin to look forward. Don’t try to make up for the weight that you’ve put back on, this will put you on a horrible roller coaster (like the 1000 calories per day some days and 10,000 calories per day on others.)
1.Stop counting calories.  When you do, you put unrealistic constraints on yourself. If you decide to eat 1500 calories per day, and then you accidentally eat 1800 that day, you might find that your mind decides that you “ruined” it and that you wind up eating another 3000-5000 calories.
2.Decide that you are going to begin to love and respect your body and give it what it needs. Give yourself a variety of fruits, vegetable, grains, meats, dairy, whatever it is that your individual body needs.
3.Practice Intuitive eating- give your body the foods that it needs to run efficiently.
4.If you find that you would prefer to continue counting, I say to use a hunger and satiety scale.
        -Decide that you will eat 3 meals per day and snacks if you need them.
        -Rate your hunger on a scale from 1-10-. 1 being so hungry you could pass out,  5 being totally neutral and 10 being so full you    could throw up.
        -Don’t ever let yourself get so hungry that you’re under a 3- try to eat at a 3-4.
        -Before you eat, check in with yourself and see how hungry you are. Write that number down in a journal.
        -Try to eat slowly. Very slowly. In the middle of the meal, stop, put your fork down and see what number you are at. If you are at a 5 or below, continue to eat slowly, checking in with yourself at every few bites. Once you get to 6 (satisfied) put your fork down and be done with your meal. Write down what number you ended at for that meal.
         -Check in with yourself several times during the day to see where your hunger is.
         -Rather than counting calories, your goal is to eat at a 3-4 and stop at 6-7.  You want to eat slowly and give your body what it needs.
         -A guided meditation for mindful eating might be helpful as well.

5. As for exercise, you need to discuss appropriate ways to exercise with an exercise physiologist, an allergist, or sports medicine doctor. You might be able to do gentle things such as long, slow walks, or isometric exercises to help you tone up. Hard core cardio is obviously dangerous for you.
6.Get support. Don’t do this alone. Food issues and eating disorders thrive in isolation. Find a group of women who are learning how to let go of pejorative eating rituals (such as extreme calorie counting) and who want to learn to eat mindfully, intuitively and healthily together.
I hope that this answers your question and you’ve found this helpful.
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.

How do I Stop Binge Eating? – Top 20 Ways to Stop Binge Eating

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Here is a quick little round up of different ways to heal from binge eating. Several of these tips are longer posts in other parts on this blog, so you can bookmark this page and come back and read more when you are ready or just go through the tips quickly. Enjoy!

1.)Eat a balanced, healthy breakfast with protein every morning. Starting your day off with a solid meal will stave off hunger and mindless eating during the day that can trigger binge eating.

2.)Give up Dieting. Diets actually cause binge eating. Instead begin to adapt healthy eating patterns by adding a healthy habit instead of subtracting a kind of food or food group.

3.)Get Support. Binge eating is a disease of isolation and secrets. When you attempt to recover in private, you perpetuate the isolation that drives the disorder. Getting support helps you to be accountable and helps you to talk it out with other people who are going through the same issues. Good places to go to for support: A therapist, a 12 step group, an online support forum, online or telephone meetings.

4.)Don’t let yourself get very hungry. When you let yourself get very hungry, your blood sugar drops which in impairs cognitive skills. Your body just needs glucose and it needs it now, so instinctively, you will start to grab for anything you can to raise blood sugar. Instead, use the hunger and satiety scale to help yourself eat what your body needs.

5.)Learn intuitive eating. This is the opposite of dieting, where your body is the wise one that lets you know what, how much, and when you need to eat. Your body wants to be healthy, so learning to listen and respond to it, will help you to find peace with food and with your body.

6.)Exercise Daily. This doesn’t mean spending arduous hours at the gym or running 5 miles a day. This is about moving your body. The more you move it, the more aware of it you are, and the better you begin to treat it. This can mean anything from 30 minutes of walking each day, to doing yoga, or going on a jog, or lifting weights or even just window shopping. But moving and being out in the world is crucial. Need some motivation to exercise? Try this. 

7.)Learn Mindful Eating. Mindful eating is the act of slowing down and actually noticing, tasting and being with your food. Mindfulness is about being in the here and now. Binge eating is about chasing the taste. You don’t necessarily taste your food when you’re bingeing because your waiting for the next taste, the next bite, and this hunger is insatiable. When you incorporate mindful eating, you learn how to stop and interrupt a binge. Mindful eating is peaceful, yet it is an amazingly effective tool in fighting binge eating.  Check out a guided visualization to learn mindful eating. 

8.)Add more protein. Nutritionally, protein will feed your brain, keep you feeling fuller longer and it will help your brain to function better so that you can make better choices about what kinds of food to eat.  This doesn’t mean eschewing carbohydrates, but eat your protein first so that you can make better choices about the next bite.

9.)Set a timer. When you feel the urge to binge, set a timer for 20 minutes, in that time, do something different other than binge. Let yourself know that you can binge if you still want to in 20 minutes. Often the very act of interrupting the compulsion will stop it.

10.)Meditate. Daily meditation will help you to slow down so that you can think about what you’re doing. You don’t even have to do it every day or make a big deal about having a practice. You can spend a few minutes each day breathing. Even in the middle of a work day, you can escape to the bathroom, close your eyes and breath for a few minutes to help slow down and ward off stress. You might want to download meditations to stop binge eating.

11.)Eat by the clock. If you are too entrenched in binge eating, the when part of intuitive eating might be difficult. So, at the beginning, when you are first starting to recover,  you might want to set some parameters around when to eat. Example. Breakfast 8am. Snack 11am Lunch 1pm. Snack 4pm. Dinner 8pm. Or whatever feels right for your. Don’t forget to include at least three meals per day.

12.)Give Up Diet Coke.  A lot of people who suffer from Eating Disorders are addicted to Diet Coke. There are some theories that postulate that diet drinks cause weight gain. That may or may not be true. But what is true is that many binge eaters attempt to substitute food with diet soda. This causes bloating, discomfort and lethargy, all of which contribute to body disconnection making  binge eating more palatable.

13.)Remind yourself “I can always have it later.” Because binge eaters view food as so black and white (this is a special occasion, I have to eat it now) they tend to justify their binges. Just because it’s Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you have to eat Pumpkin Pie. Seriously. You will not stay up all night regretting what you chose not to binge on. This isn’t the last time that you can eat ice cream, it’s not black and white, it’s not all or nothing, that pumpkin pie will always exist. But do you need it right now? Can you have it tomorrow instead? Think about what your body needs in the moment.

14.)Know your triggers. Does going to the movies make you binge on popcorn? Does Halloween make you binge on Almond Joys? Does going to your parents house make you binge on bread? Does looking at facebook cause you to binge on candy? Does looking at fashion magazines cause you to binge on pasta? Get to know why and when you binge and intercept these events at the pass. Find ways to deal with the binge before it happens. For instance, if you know that going to the movies causes you to binge on popcorn, get there without time to go to the concession stand.

15.)Get more sleep. Being tired can cause binge eating. Again, being more cognizant and mindful of what you are doing can help you to extinguish these behaviors.

16.)Treat yourself with Love. Remember to do nice things for yourself at least once a day. This could be showering, taking care of your nails, your hair, your skin, making your bed.  Being self nurturing will remind you of your own value so that you can feel better about yourself.

17.)Don’t compare yourself to others. You have your own path and your own dharma. Comparing yourself to others takes you off your path and stunts you. Try to look forward and move forward on your path rather than stopping yourself by looking longingly at other people’s paths.

18.)Be kind to your body. Learn how to love your body.  Don’t say mean things to your body, don’t call it fat. Don’t engage in fat chat with other people. Don’t bond with others by discussing how fat you are or what different diets your going to go on. Don’t talk about other people’s bodys’ no matter what they look like.

19.)Learn how to fight the urge to binge eat. Remember that wanting to binge isn’t enough of a reason to binge. Even if it feels overhwhelming. Remember that you are stronger than the urge to binge.

20.)You are not perfect. If you have a slip, just start again. You don’t have to wait for the next day, you have millions of moments to start over. Start over immediately. Wash your hands, wash your face, take a shower and just recover from the binge. You can do that in any given moment.

 

What is Intuitive Eating?

When you let go of dieting, you incorporate intuitive eating. Intuitive eating doesn’t mean eating a whole pan of brownies when you want to. If you want that pan of brownies, think to yourself, “will this trigger a binge, or will I be able to eat one in a healthy way?” If you intuitively know that right now, baking brownies is not a good idea for your recovery, then you need to let go of it. For now, not forever. It’s understanding NOT just what your body needs, but what your psyche needs and how you will react to certain foods. This is about trusting the wisdom of your body and trusting the wisdom of your wise mind and allowing them to synergistically work together.  There is often a misconception that intuitive eating is eating whatever you want whenever you want and as much of it as you want. That’s just not true. As children, we need healthy and loving boundaries from our parents. As adults, if we can healthily  internalize that loving voice, we can learn to place loving, healthy boundaries on ourselves around food. So it’s not, “I want that entire box of girl scout cookies and I’m going to eat them now,” it’s, “I will have two now and know that I can have some more tomorrow.”  In intuitive eating, we don’t put pejorative restrictions on ourselves, we set healthy boundaries for ourselves. We do that all the time as adults. We try to drink moderately, to spend moderately, to drive safely. If we went with our desires all the time, we might be drinking and driving, driving too fast, charging up our credit cards and going into debt. Intuitive eating is NOT about giving into your compulsive desires. It’s about noting them with consciousness and love, and having our adult self come out and allow us what we want with a rational mind. It’s about mindfulness and attention and close thought.

By following intuitive eating principals, your weight will normalize, or come to the place that your body is meant to be at, and you will begin to feel safer around food.

  1. Eat When You are Hungry. This is challenging for someone with binge eating disorder because sometimes real hunger and emotional hunger can get confused. Check out this post to learn more about hunger.
  2. Stop When you Are Satisfied. You don’t have to eat until you are full. Eat slowly and mindfully and listen for physical cues that tell you that you are not hungry any longer. Stop in the middle of a meal or food and ask yourself how hungry you are, how much more food you need, how the food tastes and how you are feeling. Many people eat until they are full or until they can’t eat anymore. You should definitely not leave a meal hungry. But if you can let yourself stop before you get full, your body will readjust to smaller portions allowing for weight loss. Try to go for 80% full. You could still eat more, but you’re not uncomfortable. Remember that you still have your next meal. No restricting here, there’s always a next meal to do it again. If you feel that you haven’t done it right, you always have another one to try again with.
  3. Enjoy your Food. Eat slowly, don’t rush through your meals. Avoid eating standing up in front of the refrigerator, eating while driving, eating while walking, or eating in front of the television. Sit down and make a ritual out of each meal.
  4. Don’t Stuff your Feelings with Food. Anger, sadness, anxiety, loneliness and boredom are all normal feelings. They’re not good, and they’re not bad. They just are. However, sometimes emotions are very challenging to sit through and eating will just make them go away—quickly!  However, it won’t fix any problems associated with these feelings. It might temporarily soothe you, or numb you, but the problem will still be there after you’ve binged, and it will feel worse
  5. Respect Your Body. As you learn to give your body love and respect, you will find that you begin to feel more of who you are and better about that person.
  6. Exercise with Love. Find a way to move your body that you enjoy. Yoga, pilates, walking, jogging, swimming, any way that you enjoy moving your body will help you to find body love. It’s important that exercise isn’t punishing or compulsive. It should be enjoyable and something that makes you feel strong and great. Not tired and uncomfortable.
  7. Try Meditation.This guided visualization can help you to integrate intuitive eating into your daily consciousness in order to help you learn intuitive eating.

Just a reminder of why you shouldn’t diet…

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Today I spent the afternoon at a presentation by Andrea’s Voice author Doris Smeltzer.  Ms. Smeltzer lost her 19 year old daughter, Andrea,  to bulimia 11 years ago and now has a book and foundation dedicated to the prevention and treatment of eating disorders.

Andrea’s eating disorder began as a regular old diet that lots of 19 year olds wind up doing when they start college. Diets, of course can be deadly. And for so many reasons. There’s the obvious reason, where one can take a diet too far and become anorexic, but then there’s the other (and more common) reason.   When people diet, they deprive themselves. Eventually, they will binge. And sometimes they will purge. The majority of binge eaters are also compulsive dieters. They always think “Oh, this time, this will be the diet that changes it all…” It’s not about willpower. Our psychological makeup doesn’t want us to restrict food. We are built to survive. So, when we go on a diet, willpower won’t help us to resist food. We are predisposed to find what we need when we have a belief that food is restricted or hard to come by. When we diet, we have the mentality, “can’t eat this, can’t eat that…” and a survival mechanism kicks in and we begin trying to eat everything we can get our hands on because we don’t know the next time we’ll let ourselves eat. Most people have a lot of black and white thinking about it. “I am going on a low carb diet starting tomorrow, so night, I should really eat everything I want since I won’t be able to for a long time.” Usually after 2 or 3 days (and often after 2 or 3 hours into the first day), it backfires and you’re bingeing again.

Andrea had only been exhibiting bulimic behavior for a year when she died. We forget how quick and deadly bulimia can be.  Not only are you depriving yourself of nutrition, but when you purge and/or drink excessive water,  you are changing the balance of your electrolytes. When certain electrolytes go out of balance (when your potassium levels drop) your heart can stop. It can happen in a moment and it can happen to anyone. Purging, starving, overexercising, or hyponatremia (O.D.ing on water) can cause it.  I knew a woman who had a heart attack at the age of 26 from abusing laxatives. Fortunately, she lived through her trauma and recovered from her eating disorder.   Many people aren’t that lucky. Remember Terri Schiavo? She was another casualty of an eating disorder. She suffered from cardiac arrest at the age of 27. The primary assessment was an electrolyte imbalance most likely due to purging and food restriction.

So, how can you become healthy? Go toward health! But what if you believe that you need to lose weight? You might, but you might not. Let yourself eat! But let yourself eat healthy, without forcing yourself to go hungry. Exercise! But not in a punishing way, do things that are fun for you. Go outside, play frisbee, basketball, go for a walk or a run on the beach or through your town, go on a bike ride. Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Go to farmer’s markets, find new produce, give your body what it needs to be strong.

For lots of  people, giving up dieting also ends bingeing. Not for all people, but for chronic dieters who also happen to be compulsive binge eaters, ending the diet ends the binge. They are different sides of the same coin. Let go of one and the other goes away.

What’s really sad is that for every one person who is trying to be healthy and go toward healthy balanced mind and body, there are another 1000 people who are trying to push a certain diet plan. There is always some kind of promise of doing some kind of new revolutionary diet plan and finally becoming thin and therefore happy. There are all those commercials on TV with before and after pictures of people. In their before pictures they are large but miserable. In their after pictures they are slim and happy. They do testimonials about how they weren’t hungry at all on their diets,  how they used to be miserable when they were large, but now that they are thin, their marriage is great,  they are back in school, and they are rich! Whatever it is, each new diet not only promises a slimmer body, but a wealth of riches that come with it. A veritable smorgasbord of every jewel that life has to offer waits for you at the end of this diet.

It’s not true. You won’t find happiness in a diet. But you might find some more freedom and happiness in letting go of diets and going towards health. When you empower yourself to eat what your body needs when your body needs it and to exercise it enough, your body will reward you with energy and strength. Will you be thin? Maybe, but maybe not. When you go toward health you go toward the positive. You are trying to achieve something. When you go toward skinniness, you are going toward the negative, you are trying to lose something.  Your body deserves love, no matter what size it is. Love comes in all different forms. Feed it lovingly with life affirming fresh food – don’t starve your body or  punish it, don’t stuff it uncomfortably with artificial, unhealthy food. Exercise it lovingly and gently (and sometimes hard when you have the compunction). Don’t  punish it by pushing it to exercise when you are tired or sick or injured. Give it kind words and send it loving messages instead of telling it that there is something wrong with it. This is yours! It’s the only body you get! It’s a gift and itt deserves to be cherished,  treated with respect, love, and kindness.

You are beautiful just by the nature of being human. You might not look like Gisele Bundchen, but nobody does except for Gisele. You look like you, and that’s pretty great.