Get Through December Without Bingeing Day Five

get-through-decemberwithout-binge-eatingI hope that you had a beautiful weekend. Mine was pretty great. I took my 3-year-old and 5-year-old ice skating for the first time. We had so much fun. My 3 year old was a little freaked out by it, but my 5 year old was awesome. He picked it up really quickly and became lightening on the ice. Funny fact about me – my mother had an intense obsession with the Winter Olympics figure skating and wanted me to grow up to be the next Katarina Witt. She had me in ice skating lessons by the time I was 4. It didn’t stick though – I mean clearly, I’m not a famous figure skater.

Today’s Tip

Anger. Anger is a big one. For women with disordered eating– there is a shared trait– instead of “acting out” they “act in.” For instance, if someone does something that makes you angry, you then take that anger out on yourself. Example- your boss tells you that your report was crap, you then go to the vending machine and start bingeing on vending machine snacks. Or, another scenario, your mother tells you that you should start Jenny Craig with her on January 1st. You tell her that you’re not doing the diet thing anymore and she looks at you skeptically and says, “do you think that’s a good idea?” You feel angry at her and bad about yourself- so you go eat.

A lot of this is because you feel like you have no voice, no ability to stand up for yourself or say what you really feel or mean, so you push you voice down with food. You are angry at someone else and you take it out on yourself.

Some other ideas:

1. Sit down and write a letter to your mom/you boss/your best friend/your husband or wife — tell them everything that you’re feeling don’t hold back — let it all come out of you so that it’s not stuck inside of you, so that you don’t have to stuff it with food and so that it doesn’t come out in a passive aggressive way later. Then destroy that letter. You’re not going to send this one. This is the get it all out letter. If you feel safe to do so, you can then write a letter that feels more productive that you can actually give to this person, or rehearse what you want to say if you want to say anything at all.

2. Remind yourself “just because I’m angry at _______ doesn’t mean I should abuse myself. Someone else’s abuse toward me needs me to be kind to myself, not abusive in return.”

3. Put on big boots and stomp up a hill to move that anger through your body rather than push it down.

4. Scream as loud as you can into a pillow – again to move it through rather than to abuse yourself with it.

Other people’s behavior toward you is not your fault. We all make choices about how we want to behave and when people choose to treat people unkindly, it is a huge problem for them. For you it stings, but you don’t have to live your life as someone who says insensitive or unkind things and thus you can choose not to let their behavior make you hurt yourself.

Today’s Inspirational Quote:

You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger. — Buddha

Anger is a human emotion and it’s normal. Don’t be afraid of it, but don’t push it down – let it come out in the most productive and healthy ways so that it doesn’t get stuck in your body and hurt you or come out sideways when you least expect it and hurt someone else.

Go and read day 6!

Get Through December Day Four- All Those Cookie Exchanges

I hope you had a fantastic weekend and a great Monday yesterday. My weekend was great. We have an annual Latke party. I’ve been doing this for 17 years! Since before I got married and had children even. It’s evolved over the years– it used to be a nighttime event with just adults on a weekend, but now we rent a bounce house every year, have a bunch of neighborhood teens in the backyard to watch the children, it’s a daytime event and the adults hang out in the house while the children play out back. I was surprised to find out that the kids look forward to it every year as much as the adults do! It’s so funny how things change and evolve and grow in different ways. Monday was of course a big tired day for me… but no rest! I took my 5 year old on his school’s annual holiday field trip to decorate the San Francisco Ferry.

There are so many fun and annual traditional parties this time of year. And one of the big ones is The Cookie Exchange. It’s such a beautiful concept, people making the recipes from their ancestors past and then sharing them together. But of course when food is not easy for you, a cookie exchange isn’t a fun time to socialize, it’s an anxiety provoking situation filled with stress and anguish. It’s also a time where people either wind up bingeing and continuing the binge or restricting then coming home and bingeing because they were white knuckling so tightly all day or worse, they skip it, skip seeing all their friends, relatives, loved ones because the food angst is just too high.

TODAYS TIP

PERMISSION is the word, followed by INTENTION. You give yourself permission to eat cookies that day and think about what intention you want to have around it. This is a personal decision, what you intend. Permission is great because it takes away the set up of restriction and self punishment. Here are some examples:

“I will go to this cookie exchange and I give myself permission to eat whatever I want. However, I will NOT binge. My intention is not to binge when I get home…”

“I will go to this cookie exchange and I give myself permission to choose any 3 cookies I want. If there are more that I want to taste, I will cut them in half so that I still have the equivalent of 3 cookies but I get to sample more…”

“I give myself permission to go to this cookie exchange and eat what I want but my intention is to focus on the company and chat with people and not to fixate on food…”

“I give myself permission to eat what I want, but my intention is to leave feeling comfortable in my body, not overstuffed or uncomfortable…”

PERMISSION and INTENTION — when you give yourself permission, it makes the self-punishing, paradoxical black and white thinking go away. When that goes away, you have a big component that creates binge eating disappear. Intention insures that you have agency and can make decisions about what you want rather than letting the compulsion lead you into a place that you don’t want to be.

TODAYS INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE

The really magical things are the ones that happen right in front of you. A lot of the time you keep looking for beauty, but it is already there. And if you look with a bit more intention, you see it. –Vik Muniz 

I believe that this quote is so relevant to ED recovery because of how we tend to look at our bodies. We often say “I’ll be better when…. I’ll do this thing when… I’ll have a boyfriend/girlfriend when… I’ll exercise when… I’ll get a new job when… I lose all the weight… I am toned… I have a perfect body… My BMI is normal….” or whatever story it is that you tell yourself that implies that you’re not beautiful right now. Your beauty and perfection is right in front of you. Every fold, every curve, every dimple, every scar, every crease, every wrinkle, every roll, every grey hair, every deep line… all perfect and where it should be. Find the beauty that is right in front of you. Instead of looking in the mirror to search for what’s wrong, look in the mirror and see if you can find the beauty in the mundane or even in the supposedly imperfect or flawed. Find your beauty in your pimples or cellulite or dry skin or wrinkles or whatever it is that is perceived as a flaw and just look at it as piece of art or an objective state. Notice that beauty is all over you and everywhere. 

Need extra support? This is a great time to join the 5 Week Program. Right now and through the end of the month, I will be doing doing extra Facebook Lives as sort of support and group therapy and teaming up with buddies so that people can text each other through the holidays for extra extra support.

Right now, for the month of December $497 when you pay in full.

Get in now- and you will be part of this forever without ever having to pay another cent, even as more content, interviews and information are added. Join today and it’s yours forever. This is a lifetime program and monthly payment plans are available to make it easily affordable.

Those of us who deal with binge eating behavior can often hide when we feel like we’re not doing well. We think we’re supposed to be okay and perfect all the time. Ironically though, eating disorders THRIVE in isolation. So if you’re struggling, please don’t do it alone. We are better together and we are stronger together. When you sit in your ED alone, it’s difficult to find recovery because it’s just you and ED. But when you have support, when other people know what you are going through, the part of the eating disorder that gets bigger and stronger when it is left alone to grow, that part is pushed out of the way. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! And you’re not the only one. If you are feeling lonely, depressed, anxious, or like you can’t do this, please reach out for support.

 

Go Back to Day 3!

Get Through December Without Bingeing – Day Three

get-through-decemberwithout-binge-eatingWeekends are rough this time of year.

Tip of the Day

Be cautious about alcohol. Of course you should be cautious about alcohol anyway, but it’s a huge contributor to binge eating ESPECIALLY IN DECEMBER. For instance, you have a few drinks, get drunk and go home and eat as much as you can and you don’t even remember how you got there. The other thing is a morning hangover. Many of us have those memories of being in college or in our early 20’s and having had one (or 10) too many and waking up so sick and so hungover and needing to eat lots of heavy starchy foods to coat your stomach and make you feel better. It’s real. I’m not saying don’t go out and enjoy yourself, you should– but try to be mindful with alcohol because it really co-occurs with binge eating.

If you are out at a party:

Don’t drink on an empty stomach make sure to eat food first because as you likely know, when you drink on an empty stomach you start metabolizing it very quickly and you get drunk fast. Eat first.

For every drink you have, have a full glass of water in between.

Limit yourself to 2 or 3 at the most drinks.

Inspiration for the Day

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’” – Muhammad Ali

This rings so true in recovery because yes, recovery is difficult and takes mindfulness and close attention. But when you are on the right path you will get to the other side and it will become easy.

“If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.” – Zen proverb

I’ll talk to you all on Monday. Keep going, and if you fall, it’s okay– as long as you’re on your path you can just stand up and keep walking.

Go To Day Five!

Get Through December Without Bingeing – Day Two

get-through-decemberwithout-binge-eatingToday’s Tip: Holiday gift baskets. You know those gift baskets that people send? The ones full of peppermint brownies and all sorts of other gooey things and candy canes and cookies and short breads and jams and pears? You know the ones that I’m talking about. They’re both sort of gross but also sort of delightful and tantalizing at the same time. People send those haphazardly and constantly. In fact one year I even got one sent to my office from a Residential Eating Disorder facility but I’m not naming names (ahem… I’m looking at you Sierra Tucson).

Anyway– here’s a common situation. You’re at work, it’s about 3pm, you wander into the kitchen because you’re maybe hungry, maybe not, you can’t really tell… you just need a break. The kitchen is empty except for… not one but THREE gift baskets. No one is around you and the gift baskets are mostly intact except the plastic is off – but they haven’t been dug through and all the “best” stuff is still in there — the bingey part of you wants to hurry up and grab the good stuff before the baskets get quickly picked through and the only thing left is 10 year old hard salamis and stale crackers with spreadable spray cheese. So quickly — before anyone comes in and sees you– like a flash you grab everything yummy and race off to the bathroom so nobody sees you eating it.

Let’s STOP this scenario before it starts. First thing first. You wandered into the kitchen out of habit and unsureness about what you needed. Maybe you were hungry, maybe you were bored, you were certainly in need of a break. But you automatically gravitated to the kitchen. Let’s circumvent the kitchen and just walk outside. I know – that’s unfair for me to say as someone in California, if you’re in Minnesota being outside in December might not be ideal. However, if you can get outside or down to the lobby, someplace to give your eyes, your mind and your constitution a change of scenery – and think– what do I need? Am I actually hungry? Or do I just need a break, a cup of tea and a few minutes away from my desk.

The next thing to ask yourself is, “if I had wandered into this kitchen and the gift baskets weren’t there, would I be looking for a peppermint brownie?” If not, then you are most likely eating compulsively, out of habit rather than out of either desire or need. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but in December, when food is surprisingly everywhere, it can take over and you will feel totally out of control. This is the situation where you want to feel like you can make your decision about what you really want for your body rather than having the food and the compulsion make the decision for you.

Remind yourself that just because it’s there and it’s there for a limited time doesn’t mean that you have to eat it. That’s the scarcity model. I have to have pumpkin spice lattes in October because they’re only around one month out of the whole year and I won’t be able to get another one again until next year! It’s a marketing technique to make us feel like we REALLY need something and need it now because it’s only around for a limited time. But the thing is, we really can have these things whenever we want them. Remind yourself that you can have these “special” foods any time of year to avoid the all or nothing trap.

If you have decided that you are hungry and that you do want to eat this yummy snack, that’s great– YOU have made the decision, the food has not. Look the food over, think about what you really want, and sit down in the kitchen where other people can see you (don’t sneak or hide because it adds to the secretive mentality of the disordered eating behavior) really let yourself take a break from work and spend a few moments with a cup of tea and your treat. Savor it and enjoy it, then let yourself go back to work without feeling guilty and without believing that just because you ate one snack that you ruined your day and now you have to binge. A treat is an absolutely normal part of being a balanced and intuitive eater.

Daily Inspiration

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love this quote because it’s so relevant in binge eating recovery. It’s not about never falling down, it’s about how quickly you get up. Don’t let a little slip up turn into a binge or a binge turn into a multi-day binge. If you eat something mindlessly, that’s okay, just wipe the crumbs off you, smile and keep going forward.

Click Here to Go To Day 3!

Get Through December Without Binge Eating – Day One

get-through-decemberwithout-binge-eatingThanksgiving is over and Winter is here! Hopefully you enjoyed your holiday and it went well.

The Fall is very difficult for people with disordered eating issues. Halloween brings candy with it all over the place, Thanksgiving brings family drama, mashed potatoes and phantom urges, and then there is December.

December is the worst!

There are constant parties, constant drinking, there are cookie swaps, latke feasts, gift baskets full of peppermint brownies sent to the office every minute, baked goods in the staff cafeteria almost daily… and then there’s that “well just screw it, I’ll go on a juice fast starting on January 1st and then after 3 days I’ll go Paleo…” and then you binge your way through December feeling awful, sick to your stomach, uncomfortable and holding on to the promise that 2017 is going to be different. It’s going to be your year and then by January 2nd- you’re back on the cycle and you already feel as though you’ve ruined the whole year!

Let’s not do that this year.

Let’s have a peaceful and moderate December. I want to support you in being kind to your mind and body. No crazy diets, no intense binges. And if you slip up, I want reach out to help you stand up quickly and not slide down that slippery slope of December madness.

So every day in December I’m going to be sending out an email with one quick tip and inspirational quote or story to help you get through December and start 2017 already feeling strong.

Today’s Tip:

When you notice the urge to go act out with food, like if you’re at work and you can’t wait to get home to “decompress” or if you want to run into the break room and grab all the homemade cookies and hide with them- just take a breath and remind yourself kindly (no harsh inner critics allowed) what you will feel like after the binge, what your body will feel like, what your mind will feel like, what the shame and the self-reproach will feel like. Then ask yourself “what am I really needing?” to relax? To shut down? To take a break and walk around the block? What am I looking for with this binge? How will this binge serve me? What am I looking to gain from it? How else can I get that?

Click Here to Continue to Day 2

How to Stop Hating Your Body

How To Stop Hating Your Body 

My mother was a skinny woman, with a tiny body ribs and shoulder bones that stuck out everywhere, a 23 inch waist and big ass Kardashian thighs and booty. But this was not 2018 when tiny waists and giant booties are all the rage. This was 1968 when TWIGGY was all the rage. My Mom believed that to be loved and loveable, she had to look like the societal ideal. Oh this wasn’t her fault. She was doing what the media told her to do and she didn’t quite believe (because of a totally physically abusive Father and an emotionally abusive mother) that she was worthy on her own. So she had to do something else to deserve to be loved and respected. 

Twiggy

Twiggy

Twiggy began the era of the waif which set women out on a  a quest to be waif like. Cute little elves with big eyes and golden hair, all eyes and eyelashes and cute little damsel in distress like. 

No BING BAM BOOM there! When my mother saw that I too was developing her sexy Kardashian-like body, she freaked out (it was the 80’s we were still all about the waif). She said that boys wouldn’t like me if I had big thighs, she was a divorced single mom with no husband… my Dad’s new wife my (amazing) stepmom was waif-like with skinny little thighs, so I figured she was right. Men liked women who were waifs. The rest of us were worthless. I was worthless. So she sent me to Weight Watchers, she restricted my food, we gave out raisins for halloween and when I was good, my treat would be a rice cake with weight watchers margarine. What do you think? Do you think I developed a huge eating disorder and a hatred for my body? You bet! I HATED my beautiful curvy body. I thought it was disgusting. I starved it constantly, then fed it too much, then starved it again. But no matter how much I starved it, those slammin’ Kardashian thighs were still there.

But wait! It was the 90’s. Kim Kardashian was like in 5th grade. But who did we have instead? Kate Moss!

Kate Moss

And my boyfriend at the time, well he loved Kate Moss. Know why? He told me he loved Kate Moss because she looked like his ex-girlfriend. And he had photos of Kate Moss plastered all over his room. Now, you would think that this would be a clear sign for me with my slammin’ hips and voluptuous booty to get the fuck OUT of  that relationship. But, oh, remember my bad self-esteem? Where my Mom told me that I had to change my body so that boys would like me? So I went back to starving and starving and starving, my ribs sticking out all over the place, my head too big for my body, my brain in a constant fog… but my booty still BAM! Oh where or where was my prince Sir Mix-a-Lot when I needed him? Meanwhile, I was 22 years old and men were very, very interested in me. But know what? I had this eating disorder brain that tells you crazy things, like if a man is talking to you it’s because he’s making fun of you. If he tells you that you’re beautiful he’s lying because he wants to make fun of you, I mean, no man would  like a woman with big thighs and a big booty right? That’s what I learned during the Jane Fonda craze. Meanwhile, I was in my 20s by this point, my boyfriend still wouldn’t take his photos of Kate Moss down and I was totally sick of my eating disorder. Eat starve eat starve eat starve eat starve eat starve… my body alternating between about 30 pounds either way. I was in a size 00 or a size 14. I did have some different sizes in my closet, but fortunately I mostly wore baggy brown corduroys and blue hoodies because it was the 90’s. Nobody really saw my body except for when the bones in my face were jutting out. And my friends pointed out that cigarettes and 40oz of Crazy Horse was not enough to eat in a day. Pshaw! I was 22 and again. It was the 90s!!!!!! 1997 to be exact. The Breeders! The Pixies! We lived in Boston! We didn’t eat! We smoked! And me… still with a booty. A big one. I cried… I worked at Newbury Comics on Newbury Street for $5.00 an hour and used that money (about $575 a month after taxes before my $315 a month rent) to join a gym that cost $78 a month- Do you know how expensive that gym was in 1997? It was like my whole salary. But that booty! I had to get rid of those thighs and that booty. That booty got in the way of me being a real true live Indy Rock record store girl. I was not enough. Kate Moss was enough. Kim Gordon was enough. Kim Deal was enough. But me, I wasn’t a Kim or a Kate. I was a Rikki Lake. So I starved and starved and starved some more. Cigarettes! More cigarettes! No more Crazy Horse, too many calories. Cigarettes and pink wine (this was pre Rose’ all day, pink wine was a bad thing and my taste in wine was quite bad coming from the Bronx and also being basically a child at age 22).

My fight with my booty continued. And despite a steady diet of pink wine and cigarettes (and sometimes my bff Kristi would make me walk down the to the dodgy corner store on the road between Allston and Cambridge where the old Russian proprietor who we called “old one eye” (because she only had one eye) sold rice and mac & cheese filled with maggots. We liked “old one eye.” But it wasn’t a nice name to call her. However, we were only 22, not yet woke and a little uncouth. We would walk into One Eye’s to buy Kit Kats and chips and Kristi told me to just eat chips and KitKats, why the fuck not. And so I did because Kristi was tougher than me and I didn’t want to argue with her.

Anyway, I was starving, my ribs stuck out everywhere. I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I got fired from my job at Newbury Comics because I was supposed to be rude to customers but I was too nice and my managers yelled at me and I cried (true story). Anyway… I was not me. I didn’t accept me, I didn’t know who the real me was and I tried everything I possibly could to not be me.

But MEEEEEEEEE! Me was great. I was a nice, kind human being. I was soft and curvy and sweet and loving. And when I looked in the mirror I saw large kind brown eyes, a love and admiration for most people, and deep desire to help humanity. But somehow I thought I was worthless because of the way I was built.

A few years later my Mom passed away. She was young, only 54. She didn’t die from her eating disorder, but she died with it, still believing that her butt and thighs were a deficit, that her cellulite was wrong.

It wasn’t worth it.

A life striving to be something that you are not.

What if you could take who you are and just be that and really, really be you. Be 1 million percent you!!!!!!!!

What if you could take what you were given and be that amazing person rather than the 8% of women who look like supermodels and use Instagram filters?

What if you could look in the mirror and decide what makes you beautiful?

What if YOU could choose your perception of what you think is beautiful?

Who is your social media filled with? I know that most of my patients fill their Instagram feeds with popular models and fitness gurus. But then, we are following women who represent how about 8% of the world can look.

And it messes with our heads. We believe, because this is the media that we are seeing and exposed to, we believe that this is the only way to be beautiful. But it’s only one small way. But what about the other 92% of ways to be beautiful? What if you’re not tall, white, blond and skinny? What if you’re short? What if you’re Asian? What if your skin is Brown? What if you’re facial features are more ethnic and less Eurocentric? What if you’re trans what if your gender doesn’t follow anything that you’re seeing in the media? Then what choice do you have than to come to the conclusion that you’re not beautiful because you don’t look like these models.

These beauty standards have been fed to us because for so long we have been a captive audience!

But it’s SO DIFFERENT NOW!!!!! You actually get a choice of what your media is!!! You get to change your perception of what is beautiful and the more you see images of women and men and others who pose in beautiful ways and feel beautiful, yet not conforming to the stereotypes of what is beautiful, the more you are able to change your own perception of what is beautiful, the easier it is for you to see yourself as beautiful!

How to Stop Hating Your Body? You can stop hating your body not by changing your body, but by changing your perception of what is beautiful. It’s that simple.

It doesn’t matter what size you are, what shape you are, and even if you fall into the socially acceptable standard of white,  petite and blond, even if you fall into that 8% standard of beauty, still follow people of all different shapes, ethnicities, and genders… it’s imperative that we challenge our perception of what beauty is, not just for the people around us but for ourselves as well. There’s no reason to look in the mirror and grab your cellulite and say “ick, how do i make this go away?” You can’t! 98% of you women have it. Wouldn’t it be amazing if instead of looking in the mirror and scanning for “what is wrong with me?” to look in the mirror and scan for “what is right with me?” Look at my cute nose, look at my long eyelashes, look at my beautiful tight curls, look at how graceful my belly rolls are, they are soft, desirable, squeezable and safe and comforting. Instead of scanning for what you hate, try to scan for what you like. I like my eyes and my eyelashes a lot. Oh and I finally have embraced my booty and my thighs. 

I purposely have my social media filled with images of folks who don’t fit into the typical beauty standard. This is how I start to see all kinds of people (including myself) as beautiful. Beauty isn’t a blueprint, it’s a perception, it’s subjective. And you can change that perception. 

Follow people on Instagram who challenge your perception of what beauty is.

Some examples of people on Instagram who are helping to disprove the dominant paradigm. There are many, many, many to follow:

Ashley Graham 

https://www.instagram.com/ashleygraham/

Tess Holliday
https://www.instagram.com/tessholliday/

Jess Baker
https://www.instagram.com/themilitantbaker/

TransfolxfightingEDs

Trans Folx Fighting EDs 

Laura Delrato
https://www.instagram.com/heylauraheyyy/

Jessamyn Stanley 
https://www.instagram.com/mynameisjessamyn/

Naomi of diet culture sucks
https://www.instagram.com/dietculturesucks/

Corrissa Enneking
https://www.instagram.com/fatgirlflow/

Eff Your Beauty Standards
https://www.instagram.com/effyourbeautystandards/

Sia Cooper
https://www.instagram.com/diaryofafitmommyofficial/ 
(trigger warning, she is a personal trainer and trains in bikinis and sports bras…. and does sell her fit mom guide… BUT… she had a body that is a normal persons body… she’s not extra thin, she shows her cellulite and is like, “guys! It’s okay!” she shares recipes and encourages everyone to eat t good big healthy hearty meals. Her body is that typical pear shaped body and she just rocks it. She is shows all the parts that people could perceive as flaws, and keeps us from thinking that there is something wrong with us because we’re not perfect. She doesn’t alter her instagram pictures for perfection, that’s part of why I like her so much.

Lindy West

https://www.instagram.com/thelindywest/

Nia – The Friend I Never Wanted  discusses her ED recovery

https://www.instagram.com/thefriendineverwanted/

Allison Kimmey

https://www.instagram.com/allisonkimmey/

Mandy Lynn

https://www.instagram.com/mandilynnbbw/

Beyond Binary Boxes

https://www.instagram.com/beyondbinaryboxes/

Disabled Angels

https://www.instagram.com/disabledangels/

What about you? Who do you follow? How have you taken steps to change your perceptions of beauty? 

 

This blog post was originally an answer on Quora to the question: How Do I Stop Hating My Body? 

5 Ways to Change Your Environment for Binge Eating Recovery

I really love bugs. I don’t know what it is about them. I just find them fascinating. When I was a little girl, I used to collect them.

I know. Gross. But I was a big nerd — so there you go.

Anyway, one dusk in late spring, my Mom and I went to a park down the street from our building so that I could watch the fireflies.  I caught several, brought them home in a mason jar with leaves and water and holes nailed into the lid. When I got home, I watched the fireflies until I fell asleep. When I woke up in the morning, they were all dead and I cried for days.

The lifespan of a firefly is approximately 60 days and I don’t think that I perchance had collected all geriatric fireflies. I mean I could have, maybe that’s why they were so catchable, but it’s unlikely.  The fireflies died because their environment wasn’t hospitable to their livelihood. 

You get where I’m going with this, right? How can you make your environment more hospitable to recovery and take away the elements that make it hostile for you. The most important thing is to either remove your binge triggers or to combat them before they overwhelm you. 

1. Deal with food triggers

This is always controversial. My feeling is that no food is bad and you should be able to eat whatever you want. However, if there are certain foods that you just believe that you can’t not binge on, it’s okay to get them out of your house. Your house should be a safe place for you, not a scary place where you are in emotional turmoil as to whether or not to take a bite of something. I always say, if you were a cocaine addict in recovery, would you keep piles of cocaine on your kitchen counter? It probably wouldn’t be a great idea. I couldn’t keep boxed cereal in my house for many, many years. Once my disordered eating was very well behind me and it was safe to do so, I was able to keep it in the house again. If you just cannot do this due to having family members or roommates who need these things in the house, ask them to either keep it in a high cupboard, or in a locked area, or hidden. 

2. Change what kind of social media you are looking at

When I was 22, my very serious boyfriend had a very serious thing for Kate Moss. He had pages and pages of black and white Calvin Klein Kate Moss ads plastered  all over his bedroom walls. Kate Moss with her cheek bones and her hip bones and her ribs sticking out all over the place. It made me feel totally unworthy and unhappy with my own soft (not pointy or bony) body. It made me go days and weeks living on nothing but cigarettes and chardonnay and diet coke instead of food.  But what if he’d instead had pictures of Sophie Dahl or Emme or even Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Janet Reno? Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so crappy about myself. I mean, I probably would have in certain ways, but it definitely didn’t help my self-esteem.

Things are crazy now with Instagram. It’s really important to challenge your perception of what you think is beautiful. We are so bombarded with images of what the perfect woman is supposed to look like, that we forget that there are many ways to be and feel beautiful. In order to change that environment, fill your IG feed with models who challenge the thin ideal. People like Tess Holliday or Joni Edelman or Ashley Graham. Check out the hashtag #effyourbeautystandards or follow the actual @effyourbeautystandards on Instagram. 

I believe that challenging your own perceptions of what is beautiful can truly help you to look at yourself differently. My favorite Instagram accounts that are doing this are: 

Laura Delrato  – I also love her because she’s from the Bronx like me. 

Diet Culture Sucks This youngin has recovered from her ED and posts amazing photos of herself and her friends just being.

The Militant BakerJes Baker, author of Land Whale and  Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living

3. Deal with Environmental Triggers

Environmental triggers are having things in your environment that feel unchangeable that cause you to binge. For instance, a kitchen at work that is always filled with free snack foods, or everyday on your way home from work you pass a certain bakery or coffee shop or supermarket or the fast food place that you stop at on your way home from work every day or eating in your car…  Doing things that challenge these environmental triggers are a big way to feel more relaxed and less beholden to things and urges that feel beyond your control. Take a new route home from work, move your cubicle to the opposite side of the office… figure out ways to deal with the triggers that keep you stuck in your automatic thinking patterns. When I quit smoking, I had to quit drinking coffee for awhile because cigarettes and coffee always went together. I ungave up giving up coffee because really I love coffee more than I love most things in the world. 

4. Notice your mental environment

Your mental environment has to do with your cognitive behaviors. That is, the way your thoughts take over your mind. It’s really easy to believe that you are a slave to your brain. Especially if you have a brain that overthinks. I understand this problem intimately as I have a loud chatty brain that loves to keep me awake at night. This is where learning how to stop your brain from moving comes in handy. People are often curious about meditation, and the truth of it is that it is the only tried and true method of turning your mind off. If you can prioritize 5-10 minutes a day of meditation, you will learn how to turn your brain off so that you can actually do that when your brain is causing you angst and woe. It’s almost like resetting the radio. When a song comes on that you hate, you can either turn it off or turn to a different station with music that makes you happy or calms and soothes you. You don’t have to sit and listen to a song that makes you crazy. You can do the same thing with your brain, you can choose the thoughts that you think. 

5. Get away from Toxic People

I hate to refer to human beings as toxic, nobody is actually toxic, but their behaviors or attitudes might not be compatible with your own or their words might hurt you. Sometimes we spend a lot of time either thinking about these people or trying to do something to get them to change their behavior or we try to change our own behavior to make them change theirs. If you have a relationship that is causing you pain, be it a friend, workmate, colleague or romantic partner– if they are causing you to treat yourself poorly, it’s okay to take a break from them. Nobody should be spending time with someone who brings out the worst in them. 

Your environment and the world around you are intimately tied up in your behaviors. Your behaviors didn’t start in a vacuum, so by changing certain environmental issues, you can have an easier time changing the actual behaviors that you’re grappling with. 

 

Q & A Friday – Intuitive Eating is Making Me Fat

I’m So Scared that Intuitive Eating Is Making Me Fat

Over the past few months I’ve been getting a similar question over and over again in both my private practice and from my readers. “I’m so afraid that Intuitive Eating is making me fat…”  They tell me that they really think that they should be on a weight loss diet again because they believe that they have been gaining an unacceptable amount of weight with intuitive eating protocol.  Here is the most recent email I received:

Dear Leora, 

 I read a comment on another Facebook support page, where intuitive eating is promoted, and some steps have been very helpful, but this particular comment really upset me…Someone wrote that with intuitive eating she gained weight and she has to bring some of her old clothes  back from storage and someone else replied that she was going through the same thing due to intuitive eating.   Since I am trying so hard to implement intuitive eating and I feel better physically, I got a panic attack thinking that I am going to put on more weight and had the urge to weigh myself, but I didn’t, but my head is still messed up 🙁 I am trying to make sense of it all that it is probably different for different people. If someone had just stopped a very restrictive diet and started intuitive eating, chances are that she will regain some weight! If on the other hand, someone has been eating mindlessly (until the plate is finished, irrespective if full or not), emotional eating, habitual eating and sometimes binge eating (like me!) Then chances in that case are weight loss. I am not turning intuitive eating into yet another diet, I am very aware of that, I am not aspiring to be mega thin, I want my body to find it’s natural weight on it’s own by guiding me, when what and how much to eat. I feel heavy, sometimes very out of breath when climbing stairs and the last thing I want is to get heavier. 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Although the email above assumes many different outcomes and looks at different angles of the situation, there is something underneath it, which is what lays underneath this question consistently. 

The fear underneath is due to the following beliefs:

1. I don’t trust my body to do what it needs to do. I must control it brutally in order to keep it in line. 

2. I don’t want to gain weight. 

3. Weight gain is bad. 

4. I am afraid of being out of control. 

5. A diet is the only way to control me. 

6. I can control what other people think of me by being skinny. 

7. Controlling what other people think of me is extremely important to my well-being.  (Read How to Stop Worrying about What Other People Think About My Body.)

Let’s start by discussing what intuitive eating is and what intuitive eating is not. Intuitive eating is what happens when you are allowed to eat what your body needs and wants to keep it vital, healthy and peaceful without you having to think about it.  Intuitive eating is not a diet. However, because of both the diet industry and the food industry, most of us have lost our internal cues for eating what our bodies need. We are told that we need to be skinny and thus we shouldn’t eat carbs or fat or only eat fat or we should eat like a caveman or we should never eat fruit or we should only eat fruit or we should never eat meat or we should only eat meat or we should put butter and coconut oil in our morning coffee because we aren’t eating enough fat. At the same time, we are being advertised to by unethical food companies with never-ending pasta bowls and packaged food with so many chemicals preservatives in them that our bodies have completely lost their abilities to correctly process food and figure out what nutrients they need.   

The food and the diet industry are both out for their bottom line. They don’t care about you. They want you to spend your money. And the only way they can get you to spend money is to completely distort your relationship with food and your body.  SCREW THEM!!!!

This is actually the way I quit smoking. I got real, real mad at RJ Reynolds, the tobacco company that made my beloved Camel Lights that I smoked regularly from the time I was fourteen until I was thirty! Anyway, I realized one day that this horrific company was getting rich off of people like me who were tragically addicted to cigarettes. And they did what they needed to in order to keep us in their clutches. I just didn’t want to contribute to that and I didn’t want those evil conglomerates having power over me.  My anger is what caused me to quit a habit that I’d done for more than half my life. 

Now most people in my general eating disorder milieu would argue that there is no such thing as food addiction. Fair enough (we all argue a lot over semantics in this field). However, what is true is that there is a distinct addiction to the process of both dieting, binge eating, feeling guilt over eating, and the way our mind tells us that once we start a diet and get skinny, our lives will be perfect.  So once we start to incorporate intuitive eating, we don’t just do away with diets– we do away with a whole way of thinking, behaving, and we get rid of specific ways of behaving cognitively (letting our mind obsess about food, diets, controlling what people think when they see us, believing that being skinny is the answer to all our lives troubles, etc.) Intuitive eating isn’t just giving up dieting and eating whatever you want whenever you want it, it’s rejecting the dominant paradigm about food, our bodies and control. 

The problem is, intuitive eating has been co-opted as another weight loss method. And if you are still focused on losing weight, your stress about diets, weight loss and changing your body are going to continue to nag at you. As long as you continue to obsess about your body and weight loss, intuitive eating ceases to be what it is meant to be, intuitive.

Don’t blame yourself. As I said before, your environment has set you up for this. You are controlled by the environment to be obsessed with both food and with weight loss. You are being controlled by a nasty industry that makes money off your desire to lose weight and your survivalist desire to eat food. 

If you want to know the truth, in both my private practice and in my five week binge eating progra I don’t have people start with intuitive eating. For the reasons I mention above, I think it’s too difficult. I start by having them track their emotional and physical sensations around food. Some people notice that beans give them energy, strawberries makes them anxious, steak makes them happy, bread makes them tired… etc etc… this is just an example. But the truth is, only you and your body know what happens for you emotionally and physically when you eat a certain food. It’s true that there are certain foods that might cause anxiety because they were previously thought of as “bad foods” like grains or bread or dairy or whatever they’re saying is bad right now… so it’s important to distinguish if these emotions are due to the food that you’re eating or due to the conditioning you’ve gotten from the diet industry. 

I also ask people to take the emphasis off of losing weight. The more weight focused you are, the more likely that your weight won’t normalize. Instead, focus on doing things that your body enjoys and helps you to feel strong. For example, of course moving your body is a good self-care ritual, but so are things like getting a papsmear, paying your bills, flossing your teeth, washing your sheets, donating old clothes, working through your laundry pile, getting rid of stacked up papers around your house, and generally just lightening your load, the things that make you feel heavy and overwrought. 

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to people around you. Be kind to the food that you’re eating. Send love and gratitude to food that you consumer.  When you thank your cream for being rich and creamy and delicious, your greens for being crunchy and life affirming and keeping you regular, your chocolate for being soothing and sensual, your coffee for being dark, hearty and the best part of your morning, you are more likely to eat it with love and thoughtfulness rather than to eat it quickly and without regard for the food and for your body. Be kind to your body. Thank it for digesting your food, for carrying you, for keeping you alive, for giving you freedom or for whatever your body does for you. 

The emphasis on weight and weight gain and doing things like calling intuitive eating the “intuitive eating diet” (I swear that’s a thing) completely undoes any positive effects that intuitive eating has. Intuitive eating is also intuitive body-ing. It’s letting your body do what it does when you are moving it and eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re feeling satiated. When you try to control your body, you come back to the position where you were when all of your food issues began. 

I hope that this was helpful for you. 

Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating? Send an email to leora at bingeeatingtherapy  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 individual therapy or online coaching sessions  to deal with your binge eating? Please contact me to discuss getting started.

Thunder Thighs and Other “Problem Areas”

*PHOTO CREDITS TO MODELS FLUVIA LACERA AND TARA LYNN
Summer style guideMany years ago, when my cousin had her first baby, her husband, as he held this gorgeous nine month old baby, squeezed on of her plump little thighs and said, “I can already see that this is going to be a problem area for her, we’re going to have to watch that…” (don’t worry,  my cousin divorced him). 

Problem area. I asked him what he meant by “problem area,” he said, “her thighs are fat, and they’re going to be a sticking point for her…” All the women in my family have thighs that are thick, strong, and sturdy. Including his wife. And he said it was a problem. SHE WAS AN INFANT!!!!! I have been thinking about this moment 15 years ago for days now. Because I know how these eating disorders get started. A baby girl is born perfect and her dad, her mom, society, a boyfriend, a teacher, whomever, says she has a “problem spot.” And then, she sees what she was born with, what is naturally in her DNA as a problem. And she diets. She starves, she gets sick, she binges, maybe she purges, takes laxatives, maybe she runs miles and miles and miles and miles and miles to make that “problem” go away. And she blames herself when it doesn’t. She blames herself for having no willpower, she blames herself for not exercising enough, for eating too many carbs, for the birthday cake she ate at her best friend’s birthday party. 

 

Like most every woman in my family, I was born with “problem” thighs. I knew they were a problem because my mother had the same thighs and she did everything under the sun to make them go away. Her mother also believed that she had the same problem. I know that because after my mother died, I found this book upon her stacks of books. It was published in 1952, when my mother was 4 years old and my grandmother was about 30.  This deceptive book was created to make women believe that the size of their thighs was their fault. IMG_3051

 

Here, let me cite the first sentence of the intro for you: “The woman with shapely legs and attractive curves is more likely to get ahead socially, in business and in love. Heavy legs, regardless of other attractions are a handicap that is hard to overcome….”   So here we begin, if you have thin thighs, you will get ahead in life but with thicker thighs,  your life will (and should) suck. If you have body image issues, don’t blame yourself this myth has been perpetuated by misogynists for years.  Now, let me continue with this brilliant piece of literary master… “Hollywood legs, for which some of the screen stars are famous, attract a large audience. Many movie actresses take systematic exercises to develop shapely limbs because they realize that the beauty of their legs may make the difference between success and failure…”  If you have thin thighs you can become famous! And most movie stars make sure to exercise their legs because genetically, this does not come naturally– you are responsible for the DNA you were born with. images

Here’s an interview with Marilyn Monroe where she says “I never really gave much thought to my body, I just tried to make sure I was eating enough… I never bothered with exercise, but now I exercise for about 10 minutes each morning…” Genetics. Marilyn had no hours at the gym trying to tame her body into submission– it just was what it was. Now, let me continue with our fine piece of literature… “We may also mention tennis legs, meaning that shapely limbs of the women who compete at Forest Hills every year for the championship of the United States. Many of these contestants have become famous for the beauty of their legs…”  Finally- a statement I can get behind– with our very own 2016 Wimbledon Champ. Though, somehow I have a feeling that the author of this book was not picturing our gorgeous Serena Williams when he wrote those words. bikini-babes-blunders-serena-williams

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, here is a real gem- the intro of the book, where the author describes in a factual way how we should view women with heavy legs…  “Women with heavy legs are not to be admired… In the minds of many men, such limbs are associated with the peasant type and are commonly called ‘piano legs.’ The woman with heavy, clumsy legs makes little impression on the opposite sex. One need only mention the popularity of certain movie stars who are famous for their beautiful legs. In fact, some of them have traveled to Europe and Korea as part of the war effort to keep up the morale of our troops… yet we see so many women with stout (heavy limbs) everywhere we go: on the street, at parties, in the theatre and in church. Some of them have beautiful faces, but their over-sized legs make them look clumsy. If they would only realize what they are losing in life, these women would gladly take the exercises described in this book for slenderizing heavy legs…”  There’s much more, but I won’t bore you with it. He then goes on to discuss his amazing credentials as a Physical Therapist and a man who appreciates thin thighs. Again, this was 1952.    

IMG_3052

So let’s see, what does he do here? He first tells women that it’s better to have thin thighs because if you do, you get to be virtuous and entertain troops and do something valuable with your life. He then goes on to say that he doesn’t quite understand why if it’s so easy to have thin thighs, then why do most women go around thick legged. Surely it’s their fault for being lazy and slovenly and not doing the (bizarre and unnatural exercises) described in his book, he then goes on to describe that men will not care for a woman with thick thighs. Though I’m sure our friend Sir Mix-A-Lot would disagree with Sir Henry Milchenstein (the bright box who authored this book).  So, although our society has changed a lot in the last 65 years since this stupid book was published– these messages, though not spoken out loud and with such candor still permeate the collective unconscious. But most of us cannot look this way, yet we are made to believe that not only can we, we should and it’s our responsibility to go out and make it happen. 

It seems that my Mom had her moments somewhere between the ages of 4 or 5 years old where she told Milchenstein to go screw himself as seen in these pictures… IMG_3054IMG_3053

Unfortunately, these horrific messages became strong starting with whatever possessed Milchenstein to write this piece of crapola then down  to my grandmother and to larger society and then down to my mother. She struggled and struggled and struggled with her own thighs, doing every exercise that she could to slim them down. She really felt that she had a problem — she felt that she had a problem and she told me that I too had the problem. The inherited curse.   So I tried and I tried and I tried to make them go away. I went days, weeks, months without eating. I ran 10, 20 miles at a time several days a week, I lifted weights, I stopped lifting weights, I ate no carbs or sugar ever. I ate no meat, chicken, fish, eggs, or dairy ever, I went on juice fasts, I went on master cleanser fasts, I wrapped my thighs in seaweed, I sat in saunas, I sat in steam rooms, I did leg lifts every day from the time I was 9 years old. In fact, I owned the book Thin Thighs in 30 Days as a 3rd grader. It was my bible. I did the exercises faithfully in hopes that my “problem” would go away. I was so ashamed of myself. Why couldn’t I beat this? Why couldn’t I have legs like other girls in my school? It eluded me and so I tried harder and harder and harder. I tried as hard as I could to get thin thighs. To rid myself of saddle bags and jeans that fit loose in the waist but tight in the legs. I was built like, like, like… like a woman! 

The truth of the matter is, I have never had thin thighs. Even at an anorexic weight, even when I was running marathons, even when I wasn’t menstruating. My body isn’t a problem and my thighs are not a problem. But I was taught to believe they were and I was at fault.

And most of you were probably taught to believe the same thing. How normal is the cultural discourse about “problem areas.” And if you have bought into this belief–  it’s not your fault. We all fall for it. We all believe we have “problem areas.” But a problem area is a cyst on your ovary, a tumor on your breast, a splinter under your fingernail. Yet the collectively accepted conversation is that we have “problem areas” that aren’t actual problems. Now that is a FUCKING PROBLEM! 

When I was at the most recent International Eating Disorder Conference (ICED 2016), there was a lot of discussion on body image. I sat with several body image experts and I asked them how they helped women deal with body image issues and how they helped them to change their mindset. Many of the answers I got were similar, “In someone with poor body image, you cannot change it, it’s the message of the culture they grew up in and live in. It’s too late. The only thing we can do is help them heal from their eating disorders, and help to empower the next generation of women to accept and love their bodies. Though  we cannot save those who already hate their bodies,  we can empower them to change the status quo and work to help change the cultural discourse around the tyranny of thin.”

Maybe this is true.

But I accept that answer as much as I accept the answer that once you have an eating disorder you will always have an eating disorder and that it’s unchangeable. I have seen so, so, so many women recover 100% from their eating disorders and I’ve seen them go on to lead full lives without the tyranny of diets and weight loss and purging and bingeing beckoning at them.  But  best of all,  I have seen women make the decision to let go of the thoughts that keep them there. So many of those thoughts are, “you have to be different, you are not enough.”

But I have a little truth for you– and that is: Who you are right now in this very moment is enough. You are enough. You might not think that you’re perfect. You might not think that your body is beautiful, you might think that you have “problem areas” and lots of “flaws,” and that’s okay. If you can take one moment, one second each day to think to yourself, “who I am is enough,” and maybe make that second last a little longer each day. And let yourself feel it, you might start to believe it soon.

I will never have thin thighs. I can read every book, do every exercise, go on every diet, lose my period, vomit everything I eat, and my thighs will never be thin. And I can blame it on myself, for not being enough, not doing enough for doing everything wrong. I can do that. And I have done that. I’ve done a lot of that. But I am done. That is not a life that I want for myself.

That is a life that I do not want for YOU.

That is a life that I don’t want for any woman or any young girl or boy or young man or anyone growing up right now believing that they are not enough. 

I want you to know that you are enough. I want you to know that the way you are shaped and built is not your fault and it’s NOT BAD! YOU ARE NOT A PROBLEM. You are a human. And your DNA is what created you. You are enough. And you have so much to live for and so much to do in the world that has nothing to do with the size of your thighs (or belly or arms or tush)… You are not flawed. The world is flawed. Your body did not fail you, society failed you. You did not mess up, the social norm messed up.

Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do? Anything at all that you just never did? What would it be like to focus on that? What would it be like if you could take your focus off your “flaws” and focus on something totally arbitrary? Like I don’t know, learning how to play the saxophone (that’s totally my next venture) or writing a children’s book, or painting with acrylics, or taking a chemistry class, or learning about black holes, or collecting rocks, or doing pottery, or learning how to salsa dance, or doing nail art or blowing glass, or playing tennis, or going to medical school, or learning furniture design, or taking a martial arts class, or starting your own pet grooming business, or reading tarot cards, or learning to sail, or going to beauty school, or knitting socks, or playing guitar or starting a garden, or or, or…. anything! Anything other than spending all your time and your mind and energy thinking about what you should be doing in terms of changing your body into something that society deems acceptable. Because the truth is, according to a 1997 Body Shop ad, there are 3 billion women who don’t look like super models and only 8 who do. So find a habit that you enjoy more, that you can really go forward with, that is meaningful to you– because chasing the illusion of the perfect body will keep you in a state of sadness for as long as you stay in it. 

I love you people and I want you to love yourselves or at least try to enjoy this one life you’re given. 

Is Going Vegan Helpful For Binge Eating Disorder?

Is going vegan best for binge eating
Friday Q & A
It’s not Friday! But I’m doing my Q & A today anyway because this was an important one.  This is a topic that I’ve been avoiding since I’ve been blogging (10+ years on this site). Why have I been avoiding it? Because it’s so emotionally charged and so controversial and I didn’t want to isolate anyone. However, I’ve been getting many, many emails and comments about this topic lately so I realized that it was time for me to tell my story. This email came through the other day and it felt important to answer sooner rather than later. 
Question: 

Dear Leora,
I have been in recovery for a few months (seeing a therapist). Within that time frame I watched a documentary that turned me vegan overnight. I am now realizing that it is feeling very restrictive and socially affecting my life. From the advice of my therapist, she said that it’s only fueling my fire with my obsession with food and having to prep and to focus on it more than i should be right now, and I agreed. So a couple days ago I decided to incorporate meat and dairy back into my diet. I feel so guilty about eating the animals as I became vegan only for ethical reason. I feeling very conflicted about what I should do. I like the feeling of not worrying about what I’m eating but I now know how the animals were killed so that I can eat them and it’s messing with my head!!! The food almost grosses me out but I eat it anyway, and it does taste good. It’s hard turning a blind eye though and pretending I don’t care. Any advice on this topic or do u know anyone else who’s been through this? 

Best Wishes, Kathryn (Minnesota)
My Answer to Kathryn. 
Hi Kathryn,

Thank you so much for this very important question. Believe it or not, I have extreme personal experience with this one. I was raised vegetarian from age 10 and turned strict vegan on my own at the age of 20. Being vegetarian and vegan were extreme ethical decisions for me. I was a member of LEAP ( league of environmental and animal protection) for my high school’s chapter (LEAP was the late 80’s version of PETA-). 

I turned vegetarian the summer of 1984.  I had always been extremely sensitive and never liked the idea of meat and where it came from. Due to my family and my upbringing, I was also a child who felt overwhelmed by food and my fear of fat.  That summer, in camp, my counselor Betsy was a vegetarian.

 I didn’t know any strict vegetarians back then. It seemed exotic and cool and I really admired Betsy. She ate the mashed potatoes off the top of the Shepherd’s Pie,  dined on salads and carrot sticks while the rest of us were chowing down on bug juice and Kosher hot dogs, and chewed on apples while the rest of us ate ice cream and brownies.
Betsy was quiet and kind and seemed almost ethereal, like you could see through her. These were all things I admired and wanted to be. I wanted to float through life without necessarily having to solidly be in life. Looking back it was probably a combination of my fear of being noticed coupled with my fear of not being noticed. I thought that if I didn’t eat meat anymore, I could embody Betsy. I would be sweet, kind, sort of float through space and time and I wouldn’t have to worry about choosing what foods to eat because my choices would be inherently limited. It seemed like a win-win situation.
So that August, when I came home from summer camp, I announced to my mother that I wanted to be a vegetarian.  As you might know from previous posts, my mother was extremely restrictive with our food, and she was absolutely thrilled by this.  She was already in a spiritual lifestyle (back then they called it “new age,”) and this fit perfectly for her. She was able to keep both our diets “clean,” and embody the life that she thought she should have. 

When I was 28, my mother was seemingly the “healthiest” person I knew. Her diet was soooooo clean. For the past twenty years, all I’d ever saw her eat was brown rice, tofu, steamed squash, raw vegetables, fruit, mineral water, quinoa, kale (before kale was what kale is now, it was impossible to find back then, we had to travel to a health food store 40 miles away)…. you get my point.  She never drank alcohol, never smoked, never did drugs… her apartment was meticulous, she was perfect… neat, clean, meditated daily, did yoga like the Maharishi (She’d been doing it since the 1960’s).   In her early 40’s, she was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease called PBC (Primary Biliary Cirrhosis) where the bile ducts destroyed her liver. She died super young (54 years old). And when she was dying, she told me that she thought maybe I should try eating meat. She said “what if I was wrong about all this?  I want you to try it…”  

And then my mother died. And I was left depressed and with this ethical dilemma. I hadn’t touched meat or eggs for almost 20 years and hadn’t touched dairy for more than eight years. I had principals.  Being a strict vegan also felt like my identity. I didn’t know what or who I was without my veganism. I know that it might seem strange, but for those of us with eating disorders (and maybe you can relate to this), so much of our identity is tied up in the way we eat or with our eating disorder, or with our body size. But my mother had made a deathbed wish to me (she also asked me to let my hair grow long, but that’s a different story for another post)… 
A few months into my Mom’s death, I was sitting out by the river thinking about what she said.  At that moment, a fish jumped out of the water. Literally jumped. It felt like a sign. I mean, fish don’t jump out of the Hudson River everyday.   I felt like that fish was saying “it’s okay.” Perhaps I was looking for signs. As we know, when you are looking, you will find.

 

My boyfriend at the time and I went to a fish restaurant (he was so excited because he was very NOT vegan) and we ordered fish. I remember my order. It was a tilapia plain with butter and lemon. I remember eating it with no consequence. No stomach aches, no illness, no bad reaction, nothing.  I was nervous because I had read so many accounts of long term vegetarians and vegans eating animal products again and getting sick, but that didn’t happen to me. 

Well, at this point I just started trying things. Next thing up was pizza. I was ecstatic. Real pizza, with cheese! Not just a cheeseless pizza with sauce and eggplant (there were few options for vegans back then), eggs came next, and then after a few months, chicken, and then red meat. I tried to eat as  ethically as I could (grass fed, organic, etc. which I was/am privileged to be able to do. I realize that it’s not an option for everyone,)  and it was hard for me emotionally but physically lots of things changed. And they changed quickly: 

1. When I was vegan,  I walked around dizzy all the time. I didn’t really know any difference, I thought that that was just how people felt. However, when I started eating meat, that stopped. 
2. I had more endurance and I was able to exercise with ease and actually enjoy it. When I was vegan I pushed myself through exercise. 
3. My anxiety went away. 
4. My binge eating urges decreased immensely. Almost completely. In fact, I binged A LOT when I was vegan. A lot a lot a lot.  I think it’s partially because my body just wasn’t getting the nutrition that it needed because my diet was so restrictive. 
5. My concentration levels sharpened.  I was able to sail through grad school in a way that I couldn’t in undergrad. Focus and concentration were just so much easier for me. 
6. I felt more content, my mood improved dramatically. 
7. And I hesitate to write this, but the truth is that I dropped a significant amount of weight when I stopped being vegan.  This won’t necessarily happen for everyone as we all have different body types and needs. 

I felt as though my body really needed it, and given how different I felt, it began to make me think that maybe part of science, nature, the food chain, the universe etc, meant for this to be.

I truly believe that we all have different nutritional needs for our bodies.  Like animals, some humans do better as herbivores, some do better as omnivores. That’s why it makes me so angry when people make the blanket statement that veganism is the best diet for everyone. For some people it’s fantastic but for some it’s not.

Veganism literally made my body and my mind sick and ineffective.  My best advice is to watch your body closely. If you feel that you are not feeling well as a vegan, that your body is not getting what it needs, that you have more urges to binge, that you’re tired more of the time than not, that you’re cold more of the time than not, then try implementing different options.  See what a bit of animal products does. If it doesn’t work for you either physically or emotionally, experiment with getting more protein and fat through plant sources.  It’s a very difficult line to walk, but you have to find out what is most right for your body. 

I know that there is this “vegan glow” that people talk about. I have a hunch that it’s because vegans tend to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables. It’s not so much about what they’re leaving out, but about what they’re taking in. I know for sure that when I was a vegan I had no glow. My skin was dry, my hair was dry,  I was tired and hungry and anxious.  If I am being perfectly honest with myself, when I look back now, I believe that my vegetarianism and veganism was a “legal” way for me to restrict my food and keep my eating disorder under wraps but still alive. Restricting my food kept me feeling virtuous and honest.  Recently someone who I hadn’t seen in more than a decade told me how great I looked and that I had that “vegan glow.” I said, “funny because I eat meat and dairy and chocolate and everything now.” 

Again, I know that this article will anger many people, but I felt that it was important to tell my story and give my personal truth.  This doesn’t mean that I believe it’s everybody’s truth, but everybody’s truth is different and it’s up to you to find out what your personal needs really are.  Nobody else can tell you this.

  Related: When Someone Promises That They Can Help You Lose Weight, They’re Totally Lying to You. 

I hope that you’ve found this helpful and I appreciate the question.

Warmly, 
Leora

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