Do The Next Right Thing

do the next right thing“Do The Next Right Thing,” a phrase borrowed from 12 step programs is an invaluable piece of advice. We can’t always do the right thing, but we can sit down, take stock of where we are, and do the next right thing. It might have been a terrible night. You might have drank a liter of vodka, ate 2 entire pizzas, drunk dialed your ex and cried to his voice mail multiple times. It might not be so dire, your house might just be messy and you’re aggravated. These are all parts of life and being human. We all mess up, we all suffer at some point and we all You can’t change the past, but you can take stock of what’s happening in the present and do the next right thing. What might that be?

Maybe it’s to choose to prepare a healthy next meal for yourself. Maybe it’s to make your bed. Maybe it’s to send out your resume. Maybe it’s to do one those simple things that you’ve been putting off, like sweeping your kitchen, or changing your light bulbs, or watering your plant.

We just can’t be perfect. We just always mess up as human beings. All of us. All the time. It’s just part of it. And when it comes to food, well, we mess up with food all the time too. You can’t go back and time and undo it. But you can go forward and do the next right thing. Don’t think about the next right thing as being a compensatory behavior for the binge, such as purging or over exercising or fasting/starving/restricting. If you do that, you are still contributing the binge rather than having it be over and doing the next right thing.

Stop. Take inventory. Think about what you can do next and do the next right thing.

What's on Your Plate?

Fritz Perls, who developed Gestalt Therapy, encouraged us to understand the way we eat as a metaphor for the way we live.

At your next meal, watch yourself eat. Do it without judgment and without trying to change anything, just watch.  It can be enlightening to draw some parallels around how you eat and how you live.

Do you take in all of your food at once without smelling it, tasting it, chewing it? Do you do that with life? Is that overwhelming?

Do you avoid food? Do you avoid your feelings?

Do you eat foods that you don’t like? Do you allow other people’s negative thoughts to invade the way you feel about yourself?

Do you think constantly about what you’re going to eat next rather than focusing what you’re currently eating and enjoying it? Is life overwhelming because you’re always nervous about what might or might not happen in the future? Anticipating the next thing?

When you serve yourself a meal, pay attention to what’s on your plate. Try not to anticipate what’s coming next or how much you should or should not eat. Just go ahead and begin to look what’s on your plate and to allow yourself to eat that.  When you pay attention to your food and to your body and what it needs, you will find that at your next meal, you are able to make better choices about what you need. Your digestion will be a little easier as will your feelings of peace around food.  In life, it’s the same thing. What’s on your plate?  When you begin to worry and obsess about “what ifs” and the future, you can become overwhelmed. Pay attention to what’s in front of you. You will metabolize your experience more efficiently and be able to move through life with less worry, less anxiety, and with  more of a sense of peace, knowing that you are clear and focused on what’s in front of you rather than what’s behind or ahead.

How To Stop Procrastinating

As I mentioned in my last post, stress eating is a result of one of two things.

1.) You have no control over the outcome of something, such as  getting laid off or dealing with someone else’s reaction to something you said or did.

2.)You do have control over something, such as paying your bills or cleaning your house, but you can’t seem to get yourself to do it.

In the last post, I discussed ways to soothe yourself as you accept the things you cannot change. Now, let’s discuss how to actually get the things done that you can control.

To procrastinate is to delay important tasks to an unspecified future time. Often, people will replace the task at hand with something that gives instant gratification such as snacking or drinking or watching tv, surfing the net or doing something else that isn’t particularly necessary and can even be harmful in the case of compulsive behaviors such as spending, binge eating or drinking.

Procrastination usually results in guilt, stress and in some extreme cases, the behavior that replaces the task at hand (the procrastination behavior- what you do instead of studying/paying bills/cleaning/exercising etc.) can cause a crisis or an addiction.  Because procrastination perpetuates itself, it can cause guilt, shame, and isolation as some people might feel bad for not being able to complete the tasks that they were supposed to in a reasonable amount of time. These feelings can cause further procrastination as the person avoids what they need to do and they anxiety around it and redirects their energy into preparing food and eating it.

If you are already prone to binge eating, procrastination can be catnip for your behavior.

How to Stop Procrastinating and Beat Stress Eating

1.) Keep it Simple. This is not a black and white situation. You don’t have to complete this task perfectly. Sometimes people put off a task because it seems just so big and overwhelming.This is about progress, not perfection. Do the best you can.

2.) Take fifteen minute blocks. If you have something to do, set a timer for 15 minutes and just work on it for that long. After 15 minutes, reward yourself with a non-food activity, such as checking your email or facebook page. Give yourself a five minute reward, then get back to the task.

3.) Break it down into smaller bite sized pieces. Rather than cleaning out your whole closet, take just one corner of your closet and clean that section. Each day, take some time to clean out another small section. In a few days, it will all be done. Just do one small section, take no longer than 20-30 minutes each day if you’re trying to organize something. Eventually, it will be complete.

4.) Make a list of what exactly needs to be done. Think about which thing is the easiest. Begin to do the easiest things first, get that all out of the way. When you do, you will find that as you cross things off the list, you are feeling more confident and things are getting done and you are feeling more energized and confident about finishing your projects.

5.) Get a buddy. Talk to someone else who is a procrastinator and see if the two of you can plan to do things together. For example, you might meet at a coffee shop while you do your taxes and your friend works on her dissertation. You might get headphones and chat on the phone together as you clean your closets. If there is a particularly grueling task that you’ve been putting off, you might do them together, such as have a date to go to the DMV and then have tea afterwards.

6.) When you feel the urge to get up and go to the kitchen, set your timer for 20 minutes. Tell yourself that you’re just going to work on your task for 20 minutes, after that, you can go to the kitchen if you want. Hopefully this will offset the compulsive behavior and you will find that you are able to get absorbed in what you are doing.

7.) Remind yourself why you are doing the task and think about how you will feel when the task is done. Think about how you will feel if you put off the task by using food. Reminding yourself of consequences is a good way to keep yourself honest. Really think about the consequences of putting off the task by using food.

8.) Get away from a place that has your procrastination mistress, for example, don’t spend time in the kitchen. If you’re needing to do bills or taxes or work on homework or a paper or studying, get out of your house and go to the library.

9.) Bookend the task. Call someone before you start and tell them your intention. Tell them how long you expect the task to take you, tell them exactly what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it, tell them that you’re not going to use food to procrastinate. Give them an approximate time as to when you will be done with the task and call them to let them know you’ve completed it.

10.) Give the task less power and yourself more. You are stronger than the urge to procrastinate. You are smarter and more able than the task. You can get this done. You have everything inside of you that you need to do this. So, just go ahead and do it.

How to beat stress eating– 50 ways to cope with stress without food

If you give a normal person a list of five things to do, they will get started with the first thing on their list. If you give a stress eater a list with five things to do, they will get started by running to the refrigerator. Eating becomes a way to deal with procrastination, fatigue, and powerlessness. After all, a big part of stress is really just a belief that you are completely powerless over a situation. Eating is the immediate response to the stressor. It’s the thing that stress eaters go to when they feel powerless over the stress. So, how to stop stress eating?

In 12 step groups, the serenity prayer says:

grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

  • Stop! Think about the source of your stress. Is this something that you can control?
  • Figure out what  you can control.
  • If there is nothing that you can do about the situation, you might simply have to accept it and all the consequences that come with it.
  • Deal with the consequences of accepting that you cannot change the situation at hand and take care of yourself around that
  • Are you stressing about something that hasn’t happened yet? Stop. Don’t live in the future or in the past. All that exists is the moment. Make the best choice that you can for the given moment.

Here is a list of 50 things that you can do when you’re stressed instead of eating:

(this list won’t have you running to the fridge)

1.)Organize yourself, figure out exactly what to do and execute a strategy for getting things done. If you are not good at this, ask a friend who is good at this stuff to help you.

2.)Take a bath

3.)Go for a walk

4.)Go to the gym

5.)Meditate

6.)Drink tea

7.)Call a friend and talk out what is going on with you.

8.)Write in your journal/blog

9.)Stretch or do yoga

10.)Zone out and watch a movie that you like

11.)Curl up with a good book

12.)Take your dog for a walk, or pet your cat if you have one

13.)Clean your house

14.)Do some volunteer work– get out of your head by helping some other people out. Serve food at a soup kitchen, volunteer to play with kids at a homeless shelter, walk dogs or play with cats at the local animal shelter.

15.)Buy a meal for a homeless person in your neighborhood and bring it to them

16.)Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time

17.)Call a much older relative or friend. The advice of people older than you with so much more life experience can be incredibly valuable.

18.)Listen to music that you can lose yourself in

19.)Get out of your apartment or house and be out in the world with people, don’t isolate

20.)Draw, paint, do something artistic

21.)Walk around the block then attack your to do list.

22.)Promise yourself a non-food reward for every thing you cross off your list, such as 10 minutes to zone out on the internet.

23.)Get a massage

24.)Take a shower

25.)Water your plants

26.)Find something to break, like sticks or branches you find outdoors.Rip up an old tee-shirt. Anything that can feel cathartic and release some tension. Just don’t hurt anyone.

27.)Relax your jaw. Your jaw is the strongest muscle in your body and because of that, you hold a lot of stress in it. Massage your jaw muscles and try to relax them.

28.)Cry

29.)Scream into a pillow

30.)Dance

31.)Go to a spin class, kickboxing class, or to the boxing gym– something that exerts energy

32.)Go for a drive through a neighborhood that you like

33.)Go out to a movie

34.)Smell flowers

35.)Color hard with crayons– releases stress

36.)Garden

37.)Go to the beach and look at the ocean

38.)Think about people you love, call them, tell them your woes or don’t tell them your woes, just connecting can be healing

39.)Paint your toenails

40.)Window shop

41.)Play a musical instrument

42.)Make Love

43.)Write or read affirmations.

44.)Give yourself a foot massage

45.)Go for a good run!

46.)Write kind notes or emails to people for no reason

47.)Walk outside and smile at 10 strangers

48.)Write a letter to your higher self or your higher power or the Universe…

49.)Slowly inhale  to the count of 5 then exhale  to the count of 5. Do this for 5 minutes.

50.)Let it go.

Need more ideas? See 101 Things to Do Instead of Binge Eating

Coming up Next— how to deal with the things that you actually CAN change, but somehow can’t find the will to. 

When food is the third person in your relationship

triangulating food into your relationshipSome couples are drinking buddies. That is, they spend a lot of time going to bars together, or drinking at home together and alcohol becomes a big part of their relationship.  Often these couples aren’t exactly sure what they’d do together if alcohol wasn’t accessible.  Other  couples are eating buddies. Their relationship revolves around food and eating. They plan elaborate vacations where food and restaurants are at the center of their itineraries, they cook big elaborate meals together, they eat out together.

Then, there are couples where the obsession with food permeates every part of the relationship. They buy binge foods and sit home alone bingeing together rather than in private. They diet together, vowing to stay away from certain foods, then, as diets most often do, they fail together and begin bingeing together. The eating disorder becomes triangulated into their relationship. In family therapy, the concept of triangulation occurs when there is some kind of unspoken, unacknowledged conflict between two people. They then use a third person to mitigate that conflict. In this case, the person is the binge eating disorder.

When food is triangulated into a relationship, the couple will find that most of their conversations revolve around food–what they’re eating, when they’re going to eat, what they’re going to eat. They might also have a great deal of conversations that revolve around their bodies and how to “fix” them. Couples who triangulate food into their relationship will find that most of their social activities with each other revolve around food and food related events. They will also find that if there is something going on in the relationship, some kind of conflict or something that one of them or both of them are unhappy about, that they will avoid the subject and try to get closer by isolating as a couple and eating together.

If one partner begins to recover in a relationship like this, it can often be challenging for the other partner, who could then feel threatened as they lose their partner in crime. It can also bring forth all the conflict that has been stuffed and avoided with food. Sometimes, partners find that without eating and food, they don’t have much in common with each other.

How to Figure out if food is triangulated into your relationship.

  • Are you and your partner obsessed with food?
  • Do you often do events together that don’t revolve around food?
  • Do you binge and then vow to go on diets together then binge again? Is this a cycle?
  • Are you afraid that without eating, the two of you wouldn’t have much in common?
  • Are their things in your relationship that go unspoken about?
  • Does one of you become threatened if the other begins a healthy lifestyle regimen?
  • Does one of you unconsciously try to sabotage the other when they begin a healthy lifestyle regimen, ie: bringing them binge foods or taking them to a restaurant where the food can be a binge trigger?

If this sounds familiar, some steps that you can take to detriangulate your relationship are:

  • Talking about your feelings more with each other. When you each get home from work, take time to discuss your days with one another.
  • Begin to notice what role food plays in your relationship, for instance, if it’s a Friday night and you’ve already eaten dinner, but one of you decides that getting a pint of ice cream would be a good idea, discuss what it is that you’re avoiding. Are you disinterested in being alone together without food? Are you afraid of what you would talk about or afraid that you might not have anything to talk about?
  • Try to integrate some non food activities into your relationship, like going to museums or art openings, or taking walks or some kind of (non cooking) lesson together.

Sex, Love, & Food

Geneen Roth wrote a book almost 20 years ago called When Food Is Love. Of course,  this is using food when what you are really craving is love. A common theme that I’ve noticed in women with eating disorders is this  sense of unworthiness or a belief that they are not loveable. It’s incredible to notice that what you might do with your food is what you might do with your life. Binge eating and binge loving are one in the same. Real love vs. fake love is similar to real food vs. fake food. We can tend to binge on the fake stuff more easily than the real stuff.

Real Love vs. Fake Love:

Real love grows slowly and is based on years of trust, problems, fun,  tragedy, grief, drama, trauma, blessings, caring for one another and learning about one another. Real love is deep, lasting, and unpainful. Fake love is a quick flash in the pan that feels like being very, very drunk. It’s intoxicating and uncomfortable and painful and urgent.  Then you have a terrible hangover from it. Then it’s over. And you realize that it wasn’t actually love. It was chemicals, hormones, anxiety, and fear. It was something that you were using to help you to feel better about  something else that was going on in your life (kind of like the way binge eaters and bulimics use food!) The problem with real love vs. fake love is that fake love is so intense and uncomfortable, that comparing it to real love, which tends to be much easier and sedating can really mess with your perception of what is real.  Real love can begin to not  feel like love at all anymore because it doesn’t have that intense edge, it’s doesn’t elicit the same chemicals.

I have seen a great deal of overlap in my practice with women who use food to help them to escape and women who use love and sex to help them escape. There are often affairs, infidelity or just becoming obsessed with unavailable people. These affairs are short lived and problematic to either a marriage or a psyche. Women who become obsessed with unavailable men are escaping from their lives and obsessing on something that is just not going to happen. This can bring forth so much pain, stress and anxiety. It can also keep them from nurturing healthy relationships with otherwise available people or with their husbands or partners.  Those fake love chemicals are just so strong that people can feel high from them. Comparing fake love to real love is like comparing the high you get from doing yoga and meditating to staying up all night blowing lines of coke and doing shots of tequila. One is healthy, and something that you can do forever, it’s a long lasting but less intense high. The other is dangerous, depressing,  intense, and probably feels wonderful briefly. But if you really are craving a high, you’re going to opt for the latter. All you can do after that night is recover.

Real Food vs. Fake Food

As we know, either obsessing about eating food, or not eating food (dieting), having a perfect body or finding the perfect binge food or the perfect time to binge,– is an effective escape from reality. Fake food like donuts and Cheetos and Pepsi might be more appealing to binge on than yogurt, wheat germ, alfalfa sprouts and broccoli. The fake food gives you a quick seratonin boost and makes you temporarily numb to anything else going on the world. While the real food, though not as exciting provides real nurturing and can help you to be healthy both physically and emotionally.

Do you ever binge on fake food when you’re actually needing real love? Do you ever binge on fake love when you’re actually looking to escape?

It’s more difficult to distinguish fake love from fake food, but the following questions related to figuring out if it’s fake food or not, might also help you to figure out the love thing.

Is it something that will nurture your body and your spirit?

Could you eat this every day for the rest of your life?

Will your body feel uncomfortable after eating this food?

Can you eat just the right amount of it without bingeing on it?

Are you eating this food in private (are you isolating with it?) or is it okay to eat this right out in the open?

Is this food nourishing? Will it help you grow or heal?

Stop what you’re doing for a second just to think about what you’re doing. Not just with eating, but with everything. It can often be illuminating.

Just One Day Without Binge Eating Challenge

can i go just one day without binge eating?One of the many AA mottos is “One Day at a Time”  That just has to be true.  People who binge eat are often very polarized in their thinking. It has to be all or nothing. So,  when people decide to recover from binge eating, they set the bar very high for themselves. “I’m never ever going to binge eat again. I’m only going to eat healthy every day for the rest of my life.” Wow. That’s really way too much to think about. And not only that, but it’s a giant set up for failure. When you decide that for the rest of your life you’re never going to binge, you establish a really difficult task for yourself. And it’s a set up for a binge. “Well, if I’m NEVER going to binge again, I might as well have a really good one tonight. Then tomorrow I’ll be perfect.” That almost never works. You wake up ill the next morning and are unable to eat or feeling too guilty to eat for several hours. When you finally do allow yourself to eat, you are so hungry that… well, you know. The cycle starts again. There are variations on this. And certainly, there are people who make a decision to never binge again or never binge and purge again and never do. But, for the most part, this is incredibly overwhelming for the psyche. And it backfires. However, if you can break the task down into small, manageable pieces, recovery becomes more tangible.  So, make a decision that you are going to choose one day. Just one whole day, where you don’t act out in any eating disorder behaviors. No bingeing, no restricting, not purging, no overexercising. You are going to take one day to act as if you are recovered. Just to see what it’s like. You must do this with the caveat of letting yourself know that this is only a one day experiment. That is what will make it more palpable.

So, here’s how you do it.

1.)Pick out a day that you are going to act as if you are  without eating disordered behaviors.

2.)Remember, it’s only one day, so you don’t have to prepare yourself the day before by bingeing or starving.

3.)Wake up that morning and EAT BREAKFAST!  What I find  incredibly common in binge eaters  and bulimics is the propensity to skip breakfast. The idea for most is to go as long as they can without eating. The belief is that if they skip breakfast, it will set up a “bad” precedent for the rest of the day. But remember, this is the day that you pretend that you have no eating issues, so go ahead and eat breakfast.

So, when I say breakfast, I don’t mean a piece of fruit. I mean a good hearty breakfast. Try to have a high protein breakfast with some fiber and complex carbohydrates. Such as two eggs and a cup of oatmeal with a piece of fruit, or some turkey sausage with whole grain bread and fruit, or if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, a tofu scrambled with vegetables and a side of fruit.

4.)When you make your breakfast, make it with loving kindness. Try to get up a bit earlier than usual. Instead of rolling out of bed and chugging coffee while you’re running out the door, set your alarm for 1/2 hour earlier. Before you shower, before you do anything, give yourself some time to make yourself a nourishing breakfast and really take time and space to eat quietly. Sit down at a table without turning on the television or looking at the internet or reading the paper. Eat slowly. Notice your food. Notice the tastes, the textures and the feeling of eating. Let your body take in the nutrients it needs.

5.)Notice as you shower and get ready for work what it felt like to give yourself some time and space and nurturing in the morning.

6.)As you begin your day, notice what your body feels like. Check in with your body for cues of hunger and satiety. If you did indeed feed yourself a good hearty breakfast, but you feel hungry in an hour, this is probably not physical hunger, but emotional hunger. Are you stressed about something? Are you tired? What else might be going on?  Continue to assess your hunger throughout the day using the hunger and satiety scale.

7.)When it comes time for lunch, again, don’t skip it. Don’t eat lunch in front of your computer. Eat something healthy such as a salad with protein and a broth based soup, or a sandwich on whole grain bread with lots of vegetables and some kind of non processed meat and a piece of fruit. As you did with breakfast, try to give yourself space and time to actually taste your meal. Don’t inhale it. Notice it bite by bite. Allow it to feed your body and nurture your cells.

8.)Check in with yourself throughout the day. Am I hungry? Am I tired? Am I stressed? What do I need? How can I give myself what I need? Do I want to eat? Do I want to eat because I’m hungry or do I want to eat because I’m feeling something else?

9.)If you are finding that you are feeling hungry in the afternoon, let yourself eat something with protein and fiber, such as nuts and fruit together. If you want to eat something with sugar like a cookie, limit yourself to one serving and eat it with some protein such as raw nuts or seeds or a piece of string cheese or even a hardboiled egg or slice of meat.

10.)When you get home that evening, if it is a time that you usually binge, remind yourself that this is only one day of not bingeing, it’s just a one day challenge, and see if you can use your recovery tools to do something different.

11.)Again, make yourself a good dinner and eat it peacefully.

12.)After dinner, let yourself unwind. No work, no running around, no gym, no errands. Just a relaxing evening. You might want to take a bath or get into bed with a good book, or talk to a friend that you’ve been meaning to catch up with.

This is just one full day of self care and trying to see what it might be like to be on the other side of this. It’s just an experiment. As people with eating disorders, the days are filled with experiments. Experimenting on how little you can eat, what you can omit from your diet, how much you can eat, this diet, that diet….  Try seeing what it might be like to do this.

Restau- RANTS

Salon recently put out an article about what happens when people don’t get the food that they expect to get at a restaurant. It seems that people go into an emotional tizzy when they don’t get what they expected. It’s no surprise that restaurants can be very emotionally charged experiences for people. They order their food a certain way and when it fails to meet their standards, they then become agitated and angry. This isn’t an unusual phenomenon. Yet, it’s curious. Why is it that people are so incredibly attached to outcome when it comes to food? What is the expectation that food is going to be or do for them and when it doesn’t do that, what kind of reaction do they have?

It is common for binge eaters and bulimics to have a particular binge food, such as pizza or Twinkies or ice cream. For someone who uses food to elicit an emotional response, such as pleasure or calmness or to shut out sadness or anxiety, the Twinkie will consistently do exactly what they want it to do. It’s like taking a xanax. No wonder people become so anxious when their orders are screwed up. They had an expectation of the way the food would make them feel. The food has failed to do that, or the establishment has failed to live up to their expectations. What a let down.

Trying to let go of your expectations as to what food can do for you and trying to let go of  the outcome of your food experiences can be liberating.  Food isn’t xanax. Yes, it’s nice to get what you pay for, but if it’s so emotionally charged when someone gives you regular milk for your coffee instead of skim milk, it’s worth looking at. What am I expecting food to do for me? Am I really that rigid around food? Will two tablespoons of full fat milk in my coffee make a difference in the grand scheme of things?  Watching the anxiety that comes up for yourself, having and observing ego (the observing ego is the part of us that watches what we do and say in some objective manner, while tolerating the anxiety that is produced) as you notice yourself in a restaurant is a great way to let go of some of your issues around food. Letting go of some of the rigidity is crucial.

Free Food! But at what cost?

Then, there’s the free food phenomena. This is a binge eaters Achilles Heel. It sets up not just temptation, but a moral dilemma, “is it okay for me to waste this food?” There are many free food situations that get set up. But you have to look at the real cost in free food. Such as “if I eat this, will it set up a binge later?” “will I binge on this because it’s free?” “Is this unhealthy for me to be eating in quantity?”

There is the hidden cost involved with free food, and one that comes with a price tag that is much higher than the food. What will happen if you begin eating the free food? Ask yourself the following questions before you start.

1.)What is the cost/benefit analysis of eating this food?

2.)If I eat this food, just because it is free will I be happy?

3.)Will I be happier in the long term if I eat this free food?

4.)What are the consequences of eating this?

5.)After I am finished with the food, what might happen?

6.)If I eat this free food, will I be able to eat it moderately or will I begin to eat it compulsively?

7.)Will eating this food trigger a binge?

8.)If so, will I wind up bingeing for the rest of the day/night or for several more days?

9.)Will eating this food cause me to purge?

10.)If  I don’t eat this food, will I feel badly?

11.)Will I feel worse if I don’t eat this food than if I do?

Here are some common free food situations and ways to counter them.

Scenario: Babysitting

Situation: The parents have left tons of ice cream, candy, chips, cookies, cake, and other types of food and  junkfood for you to snack on while you’re there.

How to Deal: No matter how old you are, babysitting can be a trigger. You are at home alone, with very little to do and a whole open refrigerator full of free and new food. Before you go to babysit, have a plan. You might put a boundary on yourself saying that won’t eat anything there at all and eat a healthy nutritious dinner before you go. If it’s an all day thing or a time that will coincide with your dinner, you can pack healthy meals to bring with you. If the kids are eating meals that you are likely to binge on, or are likely to trigger a binge (most often I hear mac-n-cheese or pizza) simply decide that you are going to have something different. While you are there, make sure that you have a great book, or a great movie for after the kids are asleep. You might even ask the parents if it’s okay for you to have a friend over. If so, bring a safe friend who won’t engage in binge eating behaviors with you and bring games to play after the kids go to sleep.  If not, let someone know that you want to avoid binge eating have a friend to talk to and check in with while you are there. Bring something to do with your hands, like crafts to do with the kids, or knitting or jewelry making. Make sure to set your intention before you go there that you are not going to engage in binge eating there. The intention you set and the strategies that you set up will help you to refrain from acting out in eating disorder behaviors.

Scenario: Upgrade to First Class

Situation: You are fortunately upgraded to first class on a  long flight. With that comes unlimited drinks and food and as many snack packs as you want. Even though you ate a good meal before you got on the flight, you find that it’s hard to refuse the free food, despite the fact that you are not hungry.

How To Deal: Check in with yourself to figure out whether you are hungry or not. If you are not, let the flight attendant know that you are not ready to eat yet and ask if you might be able to save your meal for later in the flight when you are hungry. If you do choose to drink, don’t have more than one drink. People tend to drink a great deal on long flights and this can be dangerous. You might become dehydrated and get a headache, then feel miserable when you land. Think about what might happen if you choose to overeat or drink a lot on the flight. If you do, will you land feeling ready for your visit or to come home and get back to work/school? Again, this is a cost/benefit analysis. Will eating and drinking make you feel better or worse in the long run? There are many other ways to make a long flight pleasurable besides eating and drinking, and it’s nice to land feeling strong and healthy rather than uncomfortable, bloated, headachey and sick.

Scenario: Food Basket

Situation: Christmas, Get Well, Easter, Thanksgiving… whatever! Someone has sent you a basket full of binge foods.

How To Deal: Be honest with yourself about whether or not you will be able  to have them in your house to eat moderately. If not, regift it. Give it away, donate it, bring it to a homeless shelter, or a homeless person, or a friend.

Scenario: Free Pizza Party

Situation: You arrive at work/school and find that your class or team has won a free pizza party for whatever, but you know that pizza is either a binge food or a trigger food for you (a trigger food is one that you eat that you won’t necessarily binge on, but will trigger a binge later).

How To Deal: Again, think of the cost benefit analysis. Will you feel better or worse if you eat the pizza. Can you eat one or two slices and stop? Can you eat one or two slices without bingeing afterwards? Can you stop at one or two slices? If the answer is no to these questions, refuse the pizza and instead stick with lunch that you had planned. Is saving $5-$10 for lunch worth the way you are going to feel if you trigger a binge?

Scenario: Home to visit the parents

Situation: Parents house is completely full of junkfood. You are stressed out being at home– all the old feelings of your childhood have come up. You want to binge after they go to sleep.

How To Deal: Remember that you are no longer a  kid and that you do have control. You can choose exactly what you want to eat, whether you want to binge or not, and what time you go to sleep. The food in their house won’t make you feel better, but it will trigger the old binge cycle. Tell yourself the first night that you are not going to touch the junkfood, but if you want to the next night, you can.  See how you feel when you wake up the next morning. If you remember waking up in the past feeling full and uncomfortable and full of shame, notice how nice it is to wake up feeling well rested and comfortable in your body. If you choose to eat the junk food that night, make sure that you have a healthy dinner and choose one or two small things to eat. When you eat, do it slowly and mindfully. Check in, are you doing this to shut down? If so, try to stay conscious. Try to eat slowly and actually taste what you are actually eating. You will find that you are more satisfied with a small bit of the food than you are when you binge on it or compulsively stuff it down your throat.

Scenario: Someone is taking you out to dinner

Situation: You are invited out to dinner by a friend who wants to take you to a place where the food is unhealthy and triggering. They urge you to order foods that you know will trigger a binge.

How to Deal: Don’t go to the restaurant very hungry. Understand that you don’t have to eat to make anyone else happy. You eat to feed yourself. You don’t have to eat something that will make you feel uncomfortable or trigger a binge later. It’s okay to say, “no, actually I don’t want to order the macaroni and cheese or the s’mores pie…” or whatever your mate wants you to order that you know will hurt you. Tell them that because they are so excited for you to try that,  you would love a sample of theirs, but you really are in the mood for something different. You never have to eat something to make someone feel better. You are not responsible for other people’s reactions, only your own.

Scenario: Happy hour- free bar snacks with drinks

Situation: You go for drinks after work with your friends and they are giving out free wings, mini eggrolls, chips, dips, ribs, pizza rolls, whatever! It’s free so it’s enticing, but you also know that it isn’t a proper dinner and if you get started you won’t stop.

How to Deal: Really, stop after one drink and have soda water. It’s very difficult to turn down free salty food when under the influence. Don’t stay too late and remember that you will feel better if you don’t drink or eat too much. Think about how free food is not necessarily good food. It’s unhealthy, and probably not prepared very well. It’s probably nothing more than microwaved or deep fried boxed foods, worth very little money. Again, let’s say you eat $$8.00 worth of free food. Then you feel yucky afterwards, did you actually save $8.00? Not really, the cost of feeling ill is much more than you saved. Decide that you are going to save your appetite for a proper dinner.

Scenario: Expensive All You Can Eat Buffet

Situation: You are in Las Vegas and it’s suggested that you go to the Bellagio for their Brunch Buffet. You pay $60 for the all you can eat buffet, but once you get there, you realize that all you really want is an omelet and some fruit salad. You become upset because you realize that you are going to have to pay all that money for a very small amount of food. What do you do?

How To Deal: This is a tough one. It’s really challenging to know that you paid that much money for a couple of eggs and a piece of melon. So here’s where you have to begin to think. What is my $60 worth here? Is it worth the company of my friends? Can I tell my friends that I’ll meet them afterwards and to enjoy their brunch? If not, can I enjoy the company without without bingeing? Can I eat slowly and moderately? If I pay $60 and I binge, is that okay? Did I pay all that money for yummy food or did I pay all that money to do something that made me feel horrible? These are things to think about carefully. If you feel horrible after the buffet, than that was not worth the $60.  You can sample some things, but eat slowly and really taste and appreciate your food. Don’t turn it into a race to make back your money. Try to enjoy the environment, the company, and the food.

The Grief Of Recovery

Saying goodbye to an eating disorder isn’t easy– that’s an understatement. There is a giant grieving process that goes along with it. When you decide to let go of binge eating, you are letting go of something that you feel has been a best friend, a lover, an ally, always there when you need it, always consistent. Letting go of that is certainly challenging. There will be a big part of you that just doesn’t want to give that up. Food can be more reliable than people. It will always elicit a similar  response, it’s always there, it’s always comforting. Of course, you know that these comforts are no more than temporary, and sometimes not even that. So, being ready to let go of binge eating and bulimia can be a humbling experience as you begin to delve into your recovery and understand more about who you are outside of this eating disorder.

These changes won’t just be challenging for you, they will be for anyone around you. There will be a mourning period when you let go of your old ways of being. As you go through the stages of grief you will find that the people around you are going through their own grieving process as they don’t want to let go of the “old” you.

For you, the grieving process might look like this:

  • Denial: I don’t need to do anything different. My issues with binge eating have nothing to do with anything other than willpower. I just have to stop eating and I’ll be fine. Once I lose the weight, my life will be better.
  • Anger: This is ridiculous. Life seems really hard all of a sudden. I have all these uncomfortable feelings. I don’t know why I had to stir up all of these emotions. There was no reason to do it. I hate this. Bingeing is better than sitting with these emotions.
  • Bargaining: I think that I can reasonably go back on a low carb diet and lose the weight without having to go through all of this recovery bullshit. If I just start now, I’ll lose the weight and everything will be fine.
  • Depression: This is never going to be better. I’m always going to be stuck in this disease.
  • Acceptance: What I’ve been doing for all these years, dieting and bingeing and purging and starving and eating my emotions hasn’t worked. I’m in the same exact place as I was when I began. Maybe even worse because now I have to deal with my eating issues too.   I’m going to try and let go and surrender to my recovery and take care of myself emotionally in a way that I haven’t done before. It will be challenging, but in the long run, my life will be better for it.

For people around you, the grieving process might look like this:

  • Denial: Great! She’s starting another diet again. I’m sure that it will fail miserably the way all of her diets do. Whatever, there’s no reason for me to be scared, nothing is going to change. She’ll be eating nachos with me the second I see her.
  • Anger: What’s wrong with her? When I asked her to do me this favor, she refused. That’s not fair, she has always done the things that I’ve asked her to do. But now that she’s in recovery she’s trying to take care of herself? That feels really bad. Where am I? Why is she neglecting me? If she is taking care of herself, then who will take care of me?
  • Bargaining: Maybe I’ll take her out to dinner to a meal that I know she usually binges on. I know that she won’t be able to refuse and then things will be the way they used to.
  • Depression: Things will never be the same. I lost my best friend. I’m alone and lonely and I have no idea who I am.
  • Acceptance: Just because she’s taking care of herself doesn’t mean that I can’t take care of myself. If she’s really my friend, I will feel happy for her, not threatened and jealous. I understand that it has been a hard transition and change for me, but as I support her in her recovery, I can also support myself in being more independent. Without food and favors and resentment between us, our friendship can be more pure and deeper.

Hopefully this won’t happen, but unfortunately, there is a possibility that  you might lose one or two friends in the process of recovery. Those are the friends that were so invested in you being sick because it gave them a sense of who they were or even made them feel better about themselves. They are unable to accept that you are getting better. Those friends who you lose deserve  compassion because they are uncomfortable in their skin and need you to be sick to feel better about themselves rather than working from within and taking care of themselves. Though you can feel compassion, you don’t need to take care of them. That’s an inside job.

Think about what your grieving process around recovery looks like. What are you leaving behind? How will you cope with that?

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