Staying binge free through the holidays.

In my first semester of graduate school, one of my professors asked if any of us were going home for Thanksgiving. About half of the class raised their hands. “No matter how much work you’ve been doing on yourself, no matter how many years you’ve been in therapy, as soon as you return home, you’re right back into whatever your role was in the family all those same old family dynamics. Good Luck. Have fun, enjoy being 12 years old again.”

Well, I don’t fully agree. With some consciousness and attention, you can care for yourself and have your needs met when you go home for the holidays.

First off, have an action plan.

Do you tend to binge when you are back home? If so, when? Is it at night when your family is asleep?

Here are some ways to keep yourself occupied at night. First off, when you feel a binge coming on, if you can and it’s safe to do so, maybe you can get out of your house and take a walk around the block, or sit outside and look at the stars for a while. Allow yourself to wish on a star and gather some strength for going back inside.

Do you have fun books or magazines to read while you’re there? Something to occupy your mind? Something to help you shut down? DVDs that you enjoy? What about your laptop? You can get onto your computer and send out an email to a discussion board for example go onto an OA board and post there. You will get support immediately, and even looking through others’ posts about how they are surviving the holidays will help.

Too late? You’ve already started? It’s not too late. YOU. CAN. STOP. NOW. I know that it feels like one you’ve started a binge that it’s all over, but it’s not true. You can choose to stop a binge. You can interrupt the binge and sit with your discomfort around it. The more you exercise that muscle, the stronger it will become and you will find yourself becoming stronger than the binge. Your ability to sit with your feelings, and increase your capacity to sit with uncomfortable feelings will enable you to become stronger and stronger and thus rely on yourself to care for yourself in tough times rather than food.

What about chocolate and cakes and cookies all sorts of things at the office?

Now this is a hard one. Of course it’s okay to have one or two treats that people bring in or clients send, but if it’s going to trigger a binge, it might be best to stay away from these treats for the time being. If you chose to have something, give yourself a limit. Just one or two pieces. Then, sit with what you’re feeling. Set an intention for yourself that you can have a taste or a snack, but this is not going to lead to a binge. Just because you’ve had something “unhealthy” doesn’t mean that your day is ruined and you have to go home and binge. You can stop at just a few pieces of cookies, cake, candy, etc.

There is a common feeling amongst all binge eaters that if they “eat off” their day is ruined and they might as well have a free-for-all. This is flawed logic. How does eating a one piece of chocolate or a slice of cake equate to having to go home and eat a whole box of cookies? It doesn’t. Just think of what it would be like to be a normal eater, to be able to have a slice or a piece and then continue your healthy eating regimen for the rest of the day.

You can’t let yourself start? Then don’t. Again, it’s about getting support, calling a friend, getting some fresh air, sipping some tea, treating yourself to a manicure, pedicure, massage, new book, call to an old friend… whatever it is that nurtures you.

Okay, now what about holiday parties?

Again, you need an action plan. The first thing you must remember to do is EAT before you go. You don’t want to show up to a holiday party hungry. It can cause too much time at the buffet table. Allow yourself to arrive at the party feeling satisfied. Check out the buffet table, figure out which are “safe foods” (non-binge triggers) that you can let yourself enjoy that night. Allow yourself to take some time to mingle, talk to people, enjoy the party, and then, when you are ready, make yourself a plate of the foods that you will enjoy that evening. If this seems like an impossible feat, have some resources available. First, make sure to eat dinner before you show up. Then, once you get there, position yourself away from the food and focus on the company. If there are kids there, play with children too, great fun to occupy your mind. Stay away from alcohol as well. Make sure that you have your cell phone with you so that you can call a supportive person if you become overwhelmed at the party or bring a safe person with you to the party and explain to him or her what your goals are and what your needs are.

If you find yourself not able to make it through, give yourself a break and leave early. You don’t have to stay late, you are allowed to make an appearance and take care of yourself and your recovery.

The best holiday gift that you can give yourself is to stay healthy and true to yourself. If you are able to make it through the holidays, or at least a few days of the holidays without binging, you don’t have to worry about making those all or nothing new year’s resolutions (I WILL NEVER EAT A CARB AGAIN!) and then wind up binging on January 4th. Stay conscious. Stay focused. Recognize yourself. Have an observing ego around your binging and have fun with it. Notice where you are, what you’re doing, what you’re feeling and what happens to you as you fall into bingey, snacky, eatty moods. This holiday season, you can really get to learn and know yourself.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Warmly,

Leora

Holding On…

Sometimes, a binge can be a way to hold tightly onto very uncomfortable emotions; like fear, like depression, like pain, like sadness, like anxiety… Sometimes, when a feeling begins to show through, the instinct would be to push it down tightly by eating and making the feeling go away.  Unfortunately, this is temporary. Very temporary. It ends up making you feel even worse about yourself. Feeling horribly uncomfortable in your body, feeling angry at yourself for the binge and feeling all the uncomfortable effects of overeating especially sugar, flour, alcohol and other foods that can make you feel tired, foggy and depressed.

So, when you feel a binge coming on,  experiment with letting go.

Write about it. What are you feeling? What hurts? What are you afraid of?

Tell someone. Talk about your fear and your anxiety. Confront it. Don’t let it be bigger than you. Don’t try to push it down. It will come back at you with a vengeance.

How? Carry a journal around with you, start an anonymous blog, talk to supportive people, sit alone and meditate, take a slow meditative walk, try to relax before you take that first step toward a binge…

Body Image…

When we listen to the needs of our bodies, eat nurturing, healthful foods when we are hungry and stop when we are satisfied, we settle into our natural weight. Our natural weight isn’t fat, nor is it skinny. So, thus the conundrum, many women (and men) find their natural weights displeasing.

Why?

As we all know, the media portrays certain unrealistic body types as desirable, but why is it that some people are susceptible to that kind of pressure? Is it that we feel inherently unacceptable at the core, so that the ideal matches our own feelings of self?

Body image and self esteem issues arise when somehow you feel that you won’t be acceptable until you look a certain way, have achieved a certain status, goal, body weight, salary, etc. When you are at that goal, you are finally acceptable and are thus allowed to be happy. So, you check in to see if you’ve achieved that goal yet and then, if you have you check and see if you’re allowed to be happy. This is a task of sisyphusian proportions because clearly, (and hopefully) there are always more goals to achieve.

What would it be like if you were able to be happy at this moment?

That certainly doesn’t mean that you will have to put off any of your goals, it just means you will have more love behind you than hate and criticism. It’s easier to move when you are being gently encouraged than when you are being whipped, yelled at, berated.  And if you need a rest, you take a rest.

How do you change from a heavy handed iron first super-ego to an encouraging ego that helps you on your way?

#1. do things that make you happy.

#2. listen to the words that you tell yourself (I must, I must, I must), forget about must and move over to “when I am able to…”

#3. Put encouraging words, mantras, etc. up in your bathroom, on your refrigerator, etc. ie: on the fridge “Treat yourself to something wonderful and relaxing, like a bubble bath, you deserve it.” on the bathroom mirror, “you are beautiful.” And remember you are okay the way you are.

#4. Volunteer. Check out a website like volunteer match that will help you to get out of your routine and your mindset.

#5. Visualize yourself accepting your body no matter what it looks like. Feel what it would be like to love your body. It’s much easier to treat your body right (to eat right and exercise) when you love and respect your body).

Many people with EDs are afraid of self acceptance because they fear that this will lead to slovenliness and thea tthye will have no control withou the harsh superego. But it’s the harshness that leads to the pain and paralysis. Just imagine how much quicker you’d be able to run up the hill if you didn’t have that gigantic rock to push.

PMS!

Month after month, my clients come in after suffering miserably for the whole week before their periods, wishing they could take back the previous week, having binged the whole week before. What is it about PMS that makes us so bingey?

I can’t tell you that I know what makes us get to the point that we’re eating a bag of lays, a box of cupcakes and a whole pizza, but I can tell you that it makes our hormones go crazy. GO CRAZY!  And as our brains are attempting to balance our hormones, we become deficient in seratonin. Good ole’ seratonin.

 So…  nutritionally, there are a few things that you can do to help balance your hormones.

First off, the following supplements seem to help, Magnesium, Vitamin E, a B-complex, Omega 3s and Omega 6s, and Evening Primrose Oil.  Take low dosage daily throughout the month. Even a potent vitamin mineral formula for women should be good.

Because there are so many hormones in meat and dairy products, I’d reccommend switching to Organic meat and dairy if it’s viable for you.

Something else that you can do is place a castor oil pack over your liver during your time of the month. This is done by soaking a or flannel cloth with castor oil and applying it to the lower right side of your abdomen. Cover the cloth with saran wrap, and then apply a heating pad over this pack. You can just let yourself relax, maybe watch a fun movie or read a book while it’s there. It should be very relaxing to you and supposedly will help to detoxify your liver and balance hormones.

Relaxation is key, because your body is working very hard during your time of the month and you will attempt to take care of yourself through food. Clearly, it’s not the best medicine.

Remind yourself that you are having PMS and that it’s time to be gentle with yourself.

Anxiety

I can’t tell you that I fully understand anxiety.  I’m not sure why some people are controlled by their anxiety and some people are fully able integrate life into their day-to-day without being ruled by anxiety.

Anxiety is fear on caffeine pills.

Often times, binges come out of anxiety. The flood of seratonin that you get from the binge will help calm you down. Hellish bliss. Because then, comes all the anxiety from the binge.  Did I just make myself fat? Am I fat? Should I purge? What should I do? I just ruined it!

Anxiety is not simple. And it’s sneaky. Even if you try to interupt your thoughts, it will come back in other ways.

Delving into the anxiety is one way that I believe it will begin to dissipate.

Sometimes a thought pops up. And then, before you know it, your head is in the refrigerator. Possibly going back to the thought again and again and being with the anxiety a bit until the shock of it dulls a bit.

And then following the anxiety to the source of it.

for example: “I look fat… If I look fat, people won’t like me. If people don’t like me, no one will want to be around me. My boyfriend/girlfriend will leave me, I’ll never find someone to love me, I’ll be completely alone and then I’ll die alone and rats will eat my decaying body…”

Most anxiety, in it’s truest form is existential angst, the fear of death or being alone and dying alone.  Anything that we can do to lessen that fear, (which puts us in a place of uncomfortable, heightened state of vigilance) we will do. Bingeing is certainly one way to lessen anxiety.  But clearly not the healthiest. And it becomes a vicious cycle.

Other ways to work with anxiety.

1. Acceptance– when you accept that you have no control over life, an amazing sense of peace drapes over you. Also known as surrender.

2. Meditation— lessens anxiety. Allows you to be in the present moment.

3. Exercise– being in your body and in the moment gets you out of your head and helps you stop “future tripping.”

4. Sleep– getting enough sleep balances brain chemistry to help lessen anxiety as well.

Anger

Women are pretty. Women are sweet, petite, and certainly not angry.

Did you grow up thinking that?

I did.

I would either completely avoid my anger (starve myself) or stuff it all down (binge).  I would then deny that I had any anger, “I’m just not an angry person,” I’d tell my therapist.

Now, when clients say that to me,  and they often do, I remember how difficult my own process, of accepting and navigating my anger was (and continues to be).

Something that Padma Catell (my favorite professor in grad school) said always stands out for me and I have passed this on to many of my clients. “God gives us millions of emotions and we only let ourselves feel half of them…”

And it’s true. I think that one of the reasons women tend to stay away from anger is because we don’t want to be seen as out of control, desperate, or difficult.  We want to be easy, laid back, with a devil-may-care attitude. Like Holly Go-Lightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. 

But let’s not forget that she wrecked her whole bedroom, tearing pillows apart, feathers flying everywhere and generally went nuts when her brother Fred died. I say hurray to Holly G! You be in your process girl!  And maybe the uptight Prime Minister of Brazil thought she was too volatile and not right for him, but fake Fred (Baby) loved her.  No matter how nutso she went.  And he accepted her anger.  And he loved it.

Love, humanity, etc. will exist not despite your anger, but with it.

And there are fun, healthy ways to process anger.

1.) Angry letters, written with ballpoint pens that you can press hard with.

2.) Kickboxing.

3.) Screaming into a pillow

4.) Just being grumpy for a day or two and being okay with it. And then telling people, “I’m grumpy! So what! Let me be grumpy!” And finding people who are okay with that. Not everyone will be. Like, maybe in the workplace, not the perfect setting.

5.) Stomping up a hill in heavy boots.

6.) Throwing Punches

7.) Crying

My point is not that we should walk around angry, but at the same time, we can’t avoid it. It will get stuck, repressed, and that’s how we become toxic and depressed. Depression is anger turned inward, which is why so many women are diagnosed with depression.

Allow it to move through you and work itself out. Try to figure out if you are having the urge to stuff your anger. If you are, think of different ways that you  might be able to move that energy.

Trigger

In food recovery, we talk alot about triggers. When one of my best friends was recovering from bulimia, she ritualized the act of cleaning out the cabinets, cupboards, refrigerator of all her binge foods, or “triggers.” 

While getting food out of the house is  can certainly be a helpful ritual– the cleansing of the surroundings, the control and empowerment involved in that action; it is not the one act alone that will put an end to the food issues.

First off, most people who binge don’t really have binge foods in their house. In fact, most binge eaters and bulimics don’t have any food in the house other than the bare basics. Why?

a) They don’t trust themselves. — They are afraid of the binge, so they remove the temptation.

b) Most are black & white thinkers– because of that rigid thinking, they believe that if it’s in the house, they have failed and they must get it out so that they can start their day fresh and new.

If a binge eater wants to binge he or she will usually leave the house to buy their binge foods. Many supermarkets are open all night, so this really isn’t a problem in most urban areas.

So, does getting the trigger food out of the house work? Maybe a little. But not really.

Beacause food is not the trigger.  You can’t get rid of the trigger. The trigger will happen nonetheless.

Some common triggers:

FEELING FULL. — this is ironic, but often, when someone with food and body image issues is feeling full, they will binge. The feeling of being full is so uncomfortable that they need to numb themselves to it. 

 Some possible help for this trigger.

a.) Taking a walk

b.) Calling a supportive friend

c.) Doing something to distract yourself and reminding yourself that the feeling will pass as you digest.

FEELING ANGRY:

Why? We’re not allowed to be angry. As children many of us were given food to shut us up, which in turn brought us comfort. What else can we do when we’re angry?

Cry! Get support! Throw a good old fashioned temper tantrum.

More on Triggers later…

Binge! How to Stop Binge Eating

How To Stop Binge Eating

Welcome to the first post of my brand new blog RECOVER. This blog is dedicated to everyone I’ve worked with over the years to help battle binge eating and bulimia and help them find their inner wisdom and inner peace to eventually come to a place of freedom around food. It’s not an easy journey, but ultimately a meaningful one that brings years and years of positivity and joy to a life that otherwise could have felt dedicated to the pursuit of both thinness and food. You deserve more in your life. You deserve a full life and you deserve to be in the world. And the world deserves more of YOU. More of your light, your wisdom and your being in the world, not locked away in a prison of your own mind, of your own thoughts of “I’ll be better when…” you are perfect, whole and complete right now! I hope in this blog to bring lots of value and useful information for you on how to stop binge eating and how to reclaim yourself.  Now, without further ado, I bring you my very first blog post (with promises of many more to come):
How to Stop Binge Eating 

Has it ever happened to you? It’s day 1 of your diet. Again. You have the best intentions, you’re finally going to lose that weight and be thin and happy and now your life will be perfect. Your first day goes great. You’ve stuck to your plan 100%. Maybe another day or two goes by and then, all of a sudden, you do something “wrong”. You eat a cookie, a potato chip, it doesn’t matter what it is, it’s something that defies the rigid rules you’ve set up for yourself. And then, before you know it, there you are in the middle of a binge.
You’re not necessarily enjoying it, but it all happens so fast that it seems as though you were possessed by some kind of binge monster! You’re eating furiously, anything you can get your hands on. Foods that you don’t even necessarily care about normally, but you can’t stop. You’re eating and eating and eating and you can’t even taste the food. It feels like it’s going down at 100 miles per hour, and you still can’t seem to stop yourself.
And then. There you are. Full. Disgusted. Ashamed. Angry at yourself. Depressed. So what do you do? Do you call yourself self-deprecating names? Do you turn to food to help you numb out the feelings of being disappointed in yourself or even worse, hating yourself? Do you punish yourself by restricting? Do you purge the calories by over exercising, taking laxatives or vomiting?

It doesn’t have to be this way! You can be free from the cycle of obsessive dieting and compulsive eating. The following steps will help get you on the road to recovery.

Step 1: Delete the Word “Diet” from Your Vocabulary
Kinda scary, huh? Many people think that if they cease to diet, that they will lose control completely. But for many, it’s liberating.
Dieting sets up a precedent that’s very difficult to stick to. Diets often recommend that we eat only a certain amount of calories per day, some suggest that we cut out whole food groups such as carbohydrates. If these rules are somehow broken, it’s possible to feel like a failure, many people feel as though they messed up the whole day and thus to go to the other extreme and binge with the idea that they can compensate by going back on their diet the next day.
Deleting the word diet does not mean that you are giving up your aspirations of healthfulness. This is about self-acceptance and recovery. You can accept yourself as you are in the moment AND do things to help yourself to become healthy.

Step 2: Get to Know Yourself
Keeping a food and feelings journal is tremendously helpful. This enables you to understand when and why you binge. Perhaps you got some bad news on the phone, or you had some kind of mini-traumatic event at work, maybe you ran into a person who triggered some bad feelings that you have about yourself. It’s difficult to know. Many people aren’t even aware of why they are feeling bad. Keeping a journal can help you to know what triggers your binges. Write down everything that you eat for 2-3 weeks. In the margins, write how you were feeling. If you binge, write that down as well. Write down things that happened that day, write down what happened before the binge. Write down how you felt after the binge. You are becoming an investigative journalist uncovering truths about yourself. This kind of self-knowledge will help you understand and recognize your triggers and thus enable you to find options to stop a binge before they begin.

Step 3: Increase your Capacity to sit with Uncomfortable Feeling

Many people will compulsively eat or diet soothe themselves, but how are you wounding yourself? Is it with unkind words? Is it with food? Is it with restrictive dieting? If you find yourself going for the food, first ask yourself, “am I hungry?” if not, what else might be going on? “Am I angry? Am I tired? Am I lonely? Am I bored?” Set a timer and see if you can go ten minutes without the binge. During these ten minutes, write about your feelings. Make a phone call to a loving, supportive, safe person, or just sit alone and allow yourself feel the uncomfortable feeling. As you learn to sit with uncomfortable feelings, set the timer for longer. As the weeks go on, you’ll be surprised at how long you might be able to postpone a binge. At first it might be moments, but eventually it will grow to hours, then days, then weeks.

Step 4: Re-learn Your Cues for Hunger and Satiety

Children know when they are hungry and when they are full. However, the nurturing mother, in her attempts to nourish her child will usually distrust the child’s internal cues and force the child to take “just one more bite,” or to “clean your plate.” Clearly, these suggestions were made with the best of intentions, however, many people grow up not trusting their own instincts about hunger and wind up eating whatever is on their plate regardless of whether they are hungry or not. In the beginning of your recovery, it might be important to eat by the clock to ensure that you are eating your three meals per day, however, it is important to figure out when you are hungry and when you aren’t.
This hunger/satiety scale can help you to relearn your cues of hunger. During at least one meal per day, rate yourself before your meal, half way through your meal and at the end of your meal to figure out where on the scale you are. Put your fork down, sit quietly, close your eyes and tune into your body to see where you are, then rate yourself using the following scale.

1 = You are starving, you have a headache, are dizzy, indecisive
2 = You are quite hungry, you are unable to concentrate
3 = You are feeling hungry and are ready to eat
4 = You are beginning to feel signals of hunger
5 = You are feeling neutral, neither hungry or full.
6 = You are feeling satiated and satisfied
7 = You feel full
8 = You feel stuffed
9 = You feel uncomfortably full,
10= You are stuffed, feeling sick, having to unbutton your pants.

Try to not to allow yourself to go below a 3 and try to stop eating before you get to a 7. It’s important not to let yourself get too hungry. Allow yourself to snack on high protein foods such as string cheese or yogurt during the day so that you are not ravenous when meal times come. This will help to prevent bingeing.

Step 6: Get Support
Many people recover with the help of therapist, group therapy or a 12-step program such as Overeaters Anonymous or Eating Disorders Anonymous.
Many people use both. Having people who are going through similar recovery can be very comforting. The support is invaluable and having someone to turn to who is going through the same thing as you are is a great way to talk through your feelings and figure out what is going on instead of turning to the food for support.

Step 5: Give Yourself Some Love, You Deserve It
Be patient and loving with yourself. Progress is not linear. Many compulsive eaters are looking for a quick fix. For every accomplishment it is possible to experience a set back. But these set backs can be great information and learning experiences to find a way to do things differently. Each binge can give you information about yourself. Recovery time is slower and more methodical. It takes time to unlearn all the negative feelings that we have established about ourselves and do undo all the false beliefs that we have about ourselves. Repeating daily affirmations are amazing for combating such beliefs.
Some people say things such as “I love myself no matter what,” or “I am loved, loving, capable and strong,” each night several times as they’re falling asleep. It can feel difficult or uncomfortable or untrue at first. Do it anyway. It’s necessary to have ammunition against the voices that are giving you negative messages about yourself. Don’t let them win.

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