Monthly Archives: December 2013

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 to Avoid a Binge at the Airport

Binge Eating at the Airport Binge eating and binge drinking at the airport is extremely 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.
  • You can secretly slip away from your travel companion and have a quick and secret binge. 

Long, multi-hour layovers are rough,  but there are many other things that you can do besides binge eat before 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 long 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.

14.) Remind yourself that sitting through a flight after a binge is no fun and arriving at your destination feeling bloated and uncomfortable will be a hard start to your vacation. 

Take good care of yourself and Happy Holidays!!!!!!!!!

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….



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


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


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

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

Many thanks,


Hi Steph,


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

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

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

That could look something like this:

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

Snack: handful of nuts, hummus, carrots, grapes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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