How To Get Through December without Bingeing Day 19

Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde

Todays Tip

I am assuming that many of you are headed to the airport to see family. Binge eating and binge drinking at the airport is extremely common. Long airport layovers are recipes for compulsive behavior because:

  • Traveling is stressful and binge eating is a stress relief
  • You are bored and it’s a way to fight boredom
  • Although you are traveling among several thousands of people, if you are traveling alone, you are in a city where nobody knows you and this can feel very isolated and anonymous and secretive.
  • There is a bounty of fast foods and “forbidden foods” in relatively small radius.
  • You can secretly slip away from your travel companion and have a quick and secret binge.

Long, multi-hour layovers are rough, but there are many other things that you can do besides binge eat before a long flight. Click to Continue Reading…

Inspirational Quote

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare. Audre Lorde

Love this quote and it’s so appropriate for those who are going home to see their families. So often we get right back into a dysfunctional pattern with our families and forget who we become. When you are with your family for the holidays, make sure to implement lots of self-care. Not to be selfish but to preserve yourself and to make your holiday more pleasant.

<<<<—–Go to Day 18   Go to Day 20—->>>

Get Through December Without Bingeing Day 17

We are getting closer and closer to the big holidays and people are drinking more and more, eating more and more and partying a lot.

Todays Tip

Don’t shame yourself. If you “mess up” if you eat too much, drink too much, stay out too late, don’t sleep enough… whatever it is, remember that you feel bad enough already and the last thing that you need is guilt and shame. What you need is self love, self care and the ability to get up and continue back on your path of recovery and positive self care.

Have a great weekend.

How To Get Through December without Bingeing Day 16

get-through-decemberwithout-binge-eatingOkay, you made it. You are half-way through. Only eight days till Hanukkah, nine days till Christmas and ten days until Kwanzaa. How are things so far?

Todays Tip

Do you sometimes feel like you can’t go to sleep at night unless you binge? Is bingeing the only way to help you through insomnia? This is the bedtime journal tip. It’s to help you sleep deeply at night and ensure that if you do get up, you can get back to sleep easily. Before you go to sleep at night, grab a journal and put everything in your head out of your body and mind and into the journal. Just get it out. Eating at night is to push down the anxiety. But if you can get it out of your mind and body, you will find that you are lighter and sleep feels easier.

Inspirational Quote

“Take a shower, wash off the day. Drink a glass of water. Make the room dark. Lie down and close your eyes.
Notice the silence. Notice your heart. Still beating. Still fighting. You made it, after all. You made it, another day. And you can make it one more.
You’re doing just fine.” – Charlotte Erickson

As we all know, recovery is one day at a time- step by step, inch by inch. Just take care of yourself the best you can each moment, do the next right thing, and everything will be okay.

<<<<——Go To Day 15   Go To Day 17 ——>>>>

 

Get Through December Without Bingeing Day 15

get-through-december-without-bingeing

Todays Tip

On Monday, the New York Times ran an article about how weight loss is not a one-stop shop for everyone and that one diet doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. But in the article, what they actually pointed out was that diets work for almost nobody.

“[Dr. Sack’s] study involved 811 overweight and obese adults, randomly assigned to follow one of four diets and undergo behavioral counseling to help them stick to their diets. The diets ranged over the span of what has become popular. Two diets were low in fat but one low-fat diet was high in protein and the other had average amounts of protein. Two others were high in fat and one of those high-fat diets had an average amount of protein while the other was high in protein.

The research was designed to answer the question of whether one diet was any better than another and it provided an answer: None of the diets elicited much weight loss on average, and no diet stood out from the others.”

However, there were a few outliers, a few folks who did lose some weight. Two people used meds and one of those meds eventually stopped working. Two others relentlessly counted calories and were both pretty miserable (know that scenario?) And one other woman implemented the glycemic load theory. In this scenario, she kept her blood sugar stable by eating whatever she wanted but making sure to eat protein first. So if she wanted pasta, she would start her meal with a piece of chicken. She started her day with protein like unflavored Greek yogurt or eggs and avocados before she ate her fruit. Stabilizing her blood sugar enabled her to stabilize her mood and eventually her weight normalized back to what was healthy for her. And she reported finding this way of eating effortless. So she didn’t actually go on a diet or restrict food, she instead added something to keep her brain and her body balanced and that is what got her to a place where she felt great in her body and had no trouble maintaining it.

This theory tends to be what many ED dietitians recommend to their clients. Eat what you want, but eat protein first. Having lots of fluctuations in your blood sugar destabilizes your mood, your hunger cues and your appetite. So simply starting your meal (or snack!) with protein can be extremely helpful in keeping the binge eating down. For instance. Let’s say you are craving something sweet. You go and you eat that thing on an empty stomach. Your blood sugar rises quickly and then drops quickly. With the drop you feel ravenously hungry, you have a headache and you’re a little depressed. What do you do? You go and eat more to make that feeling go away. But if you eat some protein first, your blood sugar tends to be more stabile minimizing the chance of big dips and surges. This then keeps your mood and your hunger more even.

So, eat what you want, but start out with protein to help avoid blood sugar binges. Don’t drink alcohol on an empty stomach and don’t eat sugar on an empty stomach.

Inspirational Quote

When was the last time you woke up and wished you’d had just one more drink the night before? I have never regretted not drinking. Say this to yourself, and you’ll get through anything.” – Meredith Bell —

Change this to “When was the last time you woke up and wished you’d binged the night before? I have never regretted not bingeing…”

I love this quote because it reminds us to always remember the consequences of our desired actions. Think about how you want to feel in the morning and let that vision carry you forward.

<<<—- Go To Day 14  

Go To Day 16—–>>>>

Get Through December Without Bingeing- Day 14

get-through-december-without-bingeing-day-10in-law-editionWe are officially two weeks into December. Almost half way through. How’s it going for you? All good in the hood here.

Todays Tip

Being a visitor at other people’s houses is rough. For those of us with eating issues, control is all part of the psychological schema — being at someone else’s house has us at a loss of control and can create all sorts of anxiety and stress. The food is unfamiliar, the eating times are unfamiliar and there is always that stress of insulting someone if you don’t want to eat what they have made or are serving.

  • If you are a visitor, the best thing to do is to make your eating structured in a way that feels comfortable for you. Make sure that you are getting your 3 meals a day and snacks if you need them.
  • Don’t be afraid to say, “Hey I have to eat.” You need to take care of yourself.
  • Practice saying, “That looks great, but no thank you.” Don’t let people push food on you. If they don’t respect your “no thank you,” look them straight in the eyes and don’t smile and say, “Thank you. I’m fine,” and if they still push, be firm. “Thank you, but really. I said no.” Don’t let anyone push you to eat something you don’t want to. It might seem to be out of love but it’s more out of control and strong-arming and it’s poor boundaries and it’s inconsiderate.
  • Not only that, but don’t let someone’s judgement about what you ARE eating or how much you are eating make you stop eating. For instance, your mother-in-law looks you up and down. “Wow Jenny, that cake that I made looks great on your thighs!” (what kind of person says something like this?) anyway, turn around and say, “Thanks, I think so too.” Don’t let anyone fat shame you or food shame you. You have a right to eat.
  • Remember that your needs are important. That includes needs for space, for meals and to choose what you want to eat.
  • Don’t sacrifice your needs for the sake of others (unless those others are your young children or unable to do things for themselves ie: elderly, disabled). If someone needsyou to cook the (insert binge food) but you know that being alone with (that binge food) is not going to be a good situation for you – it’s okay to say “no.” It’s okay to take care of yourself.
  • It’s okay to take care of yourself. It’s not selfish. Saying no to an able bodied person is not selfish if you know that you have to do it to preserve your sanity. Self care is not selfish. It’s necessary to help you feel more at peace and thus the people around you.

Inspirational Quote

I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” –Brene Brown

I love this quote because it reminds us that relationships are about give and take and that when you take care of yourself, if someone gets angry or judges you– it’s not a relationship. Relationships should be reciprocal and enjoyable.

 

 

<<—Go to Day 13      Go to Day 15—->>>

 

 

 

Get Through December Without Bingeing Day Seven

get-through-decemberwithout-binge-eatingWe’re already on Day 7! Can you believe it? Only 24 more days to go until we say goodbye to 2016 and only 17 more days until Christmas and Hanukkah. If there is a particular tip you want me to share for this get through December series, or a specific challenge you’re having, please reply to this email with your question.

Todays Tip: When you are feeling the urge to binge, stop for a moment and ask yourself, “what do I really need right now?” The answer will likely be something different than binge eating. It might be “water,” or “a break,” or “fresh air,” (that wasn’t a Terry Gross reference this time), or “relaxation time,” or “to vent.” So before you binge, bring some awareness to it. Remember that it might not make the urge to binge go away– but you don’t have to make the urge go away, you just have to think of it as a thought, an electric impulse– and let it fade away. The urge doesn’t stay with you, and although following the urge makes the urge to away quicker — it makes you feel awful.

You might even get a notebook and every time you have the urge come up, take note of:

  • The day and time
  • Where you are
  • What you’re doing
  • What you’re thinking and feeling,
  • If you’re hungry or not
  • Ask yourself what you want
  • Ask yourself what you need

This is not to “stop” you but just to bring awareness to when and why and where.

Inspirational Quote

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe

I love this quote as it was said by a woman who spent her whole life fighting for social justice. The odds were 100% against her yet she kept working and fighting.

Go To Day Eight!

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

How to Use Mindful Self Compassion to Help Binge Eating Disorder

Being human is one of the most difficult ways to be born. Really, it sucks. Each day we are presented with a myriad of feelings that vary from elation to downright painful. And really difficult things happen. Houses get set on fire, mass shootings happens, people get attacked, violated… and to a less degree, our feelings get hurt, we embarrass ourselves, we fart  in public, we get drunk and act stupid, we start fights with our wives and husbands for no good reason, we overeat, we binge, we purge, we have affairs, we starve ourselves, we don’t study for a test, we say the most embarrassing thing in front of a whole roomful of people, we stumble, fall or downright fail while giving a presentation, we say that we’re going to quit smoking but we don’t or we can’t, we say that we’re not going to bite our nails, but we do it anyway, we pick our nose, we scream at our kids, we scream at our mothers, we space out and go through a red light and hit another car, we steal something from the supermarket on purpose… we do a lot of imperfect and even effed up things. Because we’re human. We are all human, and the life of a human is a difficult one. We are filled with existential angst. And that’s how we were created. And that is not easy for anyone.

The first noble truth of Buddhism is that life is suffering. Everyone suffers just from being human. Everyone. Once we are able to accept that truth, we can transcend it. Not transcend it in that we can make suffering not happen, because suffering happens no matter what. However, part of what causes our intense suffering is somehow believing that we shouldn’t suffer. We often believe that we are alone in our suffering or that nobody else suffers like us. Nobody else is depressed, nobody else is having marriage troubles, nobody else made themselves throw up after their last meal vowing that it would be the last time, nobody else sits up all night worrying about their kids’ futures, nobody else lost their home, no one gambled away their life savings…  Being human can be extremely painful a lot of the time. So in that, we have to hold ourselves not with pity, but with compassion, just for the simple reason that suffering is suffering and being human has an inherent amount of suffering that comes with it due to the way that we are wired to react to events and to our memory capacity. 

I have been taking an eight week course up at Spirit Rock on Mindful Self Compassion based on the the work of Kristen Neff (if you haven’t read the book, it’s a great one!). I have always known that self-kindness was a deep, deep part of true recovery and have helped my clients practice it for years. However, Dr. Neff has the research to back it up. Research shows that self-compassionate individuals experience greater psychological health than those who lack self-compassion and that self-compassion is positively associated with social connectedness, life satisfaction, emotional resilience and a lower tendency for self-criticism, depression, anxiety and disordered eating. In fact, daily acts of self-compassion are an integral part of the 5 week program. The research shows that by practicing self-compassion daily, you can actually rewire your neural pathways to come to a place of kindness rather than self-reproach whenever you “mess-up.” (ie: binge, purge, say something stupid, get too drunk and dance on the tables at your cousin’s wedding then vomit then make out with your cousin’s new husband’s 70-year-old Uncle in front of everyone…) that rather than hating yourself, you can remember that you are human and have some tolerance for that very difficult plight that we all go through.

So what does this really mean and how do we practice self-compassion in daily life? Kristen Neff describes a *self compassion break. With this, you take a few moments to:

1. Take note of the fact that you are suffering (no matter what/why) and you tell yourself,  ie: “this is suffering, I am suffering right now…” 

2. You then acknowledge the pain of suffering ie: “this is really hard/this is so painful/ my heart hurts…” etc. use the language that feels most right to you.

3. Remind yourself that this is part of being human  ie: “I am suffering, but I am not alone. Everyone suffers, this is okay and normal and part of the human experience…” 

4. Treat yourself with the kind of kindness and compassion that you would a best friend or a child,  put your hand on your heart,  talk to yourself in loving, sweet words ie: “it’s okay for you to feel this way, it doesn’t take away from the person you are… this too shall pass… ” or whatever words you really need to hear, give them to yourself. 

It’s not that you’re trying to change yourself or your feelings or never suffer again, but you’re giving some ease to the suffering by accepting it. 

The trap of beating ourselves up when we are down makes everything so much worse. By being kind to ourselves, we have a chance of choosing the next right thing and not getting stuck in the cycle of pain. For instance, you can utilize mindful self compassion for binge eating if you wind up having a particularly bad binge/purge or binge episode, you might be used to beating yourself up afterward and hating yourself. However, if you can notice the suffering and remind yourself that you are suffering, and that it is hard and that you deserve compassion, you might have the strength to make a positive choice for yourself in the hours to come. A beating yourself up choice might be to continue your binge/purge episode for the rest of the day (week, month, etc) or to restrict in order to punish yourself. But when you walk away from the punishing behaviors and instead choose self compassion, you can make the choice for yourself that a loving person would make for you instead of a dictator. A  compassionate choice might be to forgive yourself, take a walk and resume your food on a positive trajectory for the rest of the day.  See How to recover from a binge for more ideas. 

One of my favorite parts of my personal compassion practice is practicing loving kindness toward the people around me. Being kind, trying really, really hard to be even kinder than I instinctively am or to do more than what comes naturally to me has been extremely rewarding and nourishing for my soul. It also makes compassion for myself come with more ease. And if you think about it, when you are compassionate and extra kind to yourself and toward the others around you, you set a positive example for those around you and it sets off a chain of positivity in the world (which we so desperately need right now).

For more information on compassion practice, see http://self-compassion.org/

*listen to Kristin’s 5 minute self-compassion break here

 

On another note, many of you know that I live right in between San Francisco and wine country. I’m including here pictures to show you what the wildfires are doing to our skies right about now. Send love to Napa/Sonoma, we need it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Best Friend is Getting Gastric Bypass Surgery

I have noticed a lot of talk in the Facebook groups about WLS (weight loss surgery). Some have had it, some regret it, some are considering it, and some are vehemently against it. 

I have been asked to weigh in on my feelings about WLS, so rather than answer you all individually, I thought it was important to tell you about one of my closest friends in the world… Eloise.

Her real name is not Eloise, but in my head she could totally be an Ellie. She’s really charismatic and vibrant and alive and confident. She has the ebullience of an Ellie. 

Anyway, Ellie and I have been friends for close to 20 years. We got married in the same year, we had our first kids within mere weeks of each other… We are super tight. And as long as we’ve been friends, we’ve had open and frank conversations about what we have dealt with in terms of food issues, disordered eating issues and body image issues.  There are differences though. I of course went through deep deep recovery for my disordered eating and even became a therapist to help others deal with it.  As much as I did have severe food and body image issues, the body image issues seemed to reside mostly in my own head. Sure, I saw myself as unacceptable and my ED told me that I truly was unacceptable, and I strongly believed that the world found me unacceptable. But in recovery I came to understand that it was a cognitive distortion. A trick of ED. Ellie has the same issues, except her body image issues are not her own, they are society’s problem.  So despite the fact that Ellie is a brilliant, hilarious, beautiful and super talented woman with lots of confidence, she still has to contend with society and the medical community’s collective feelings about fat women. 

Back in May Ellie told me that she was considering having Gastric Bypass Surgery and wanted to know what I thought.  It’s a hard question because my instinct is to say “NO NOT EVER, DON’T EVEN CONSIDER IT!” Which is basically what I said. I told her that the long term studies on bariatric surgery weren’t well documented, that the surgery is risky during, but also complications years later can be deadly, and that it was a very difficult road. I told her to first try an eating disorder program that was specifically geared for people who were considering bariatric surgery but might look into working through the specific issues first. And she said to me, “do you realize that I’ve been in therapy with an Eating Disorder specialist for years? Do you realize that my therapist has read YOUR book in the process of researching her own? do you realize that you and I have been friends for close to 20 years and you’re on the other side of recovery and I’m not? Do you realize how frustrating that is?” 

I hadn’t. I hadn’t thought about how frustrating it might be for her to continue working on recovery and feel like she couldn’t get any where.

“But what about acceptance?” I asked her, “What about accepting your body size and just working on your health, your own self-care, your own inner-peace, your own self-love…”  

“I can’t,” she told me, “I can’t accept this body size. You know I used to think that people paid attention to me because I was pretty and now I realize that people pay attention to me because I’m fat…” 

“Umm…” I said to her, “People pay attention to you because you’re fucking awesome. You have more charisma in your pinky than most people have in a lifetime… when I’m out with you, we’re always surrounded by people and meeting new friends. That doesn’t happen to me when I’m not with you.” 

“It doesn’t?” she asked.

“No, ” I told her,  “Not even a bit. You know how you meet new friends wherever you go? It’s because you’re cool and people want to be near YOU… I don’t have that when I’m not with you, when I’m with you, people are literally clawing their way toward us to get close to you. You’re just… really likeable. Inherently.” 

“REALLY?” she asked me,

“Yup. Totally…”  I told her. “Your spirit and your soul are much bigger than your body. And, you know, more significant of course.” But even if this wasn’t the truth, even if she was unpleasant (which she’s nowhere close to), she would still be valuable and worthy as a human being. 

It’s amazing the stories we can tell ourselves about ourselves. We have these mythologies, these “roadmaps” about who we are and what other people think about who we are and what we look like that we then build our self-esteem around. Our super-ego can tell us anything to agree with the stories with have in our heads about ourselves. Ellie had at one point believed that people paid attention to her for the way she looked, she then believed that people paid attention to her for, well, the way she looked. People pay a lot of attention to her because she’s  fun, funny, the life of the party, compassionate, kind, calming to be around and loving.  When she took that in she realized that she might not be seeing the full picture. We left it off by her saying that she would consider the acceptance piece and the Health at Every Size ideology. 

Last weekend we took the boys swimming together and she told me that she’d decided to go forward with the surgery. That she talked to a surgeon, an RD and several people who had gone through the surgery. I asked her what they said, she told me that they all said the same thing, that it didn’t change their brain around food, just their ability to eat it, and it was a battle, a struggle every day, even for those 10 years or more out from it. So her idea is to schedule it for April and spend the next 8 months working on health and self-acceptance and finding other things to use as coping mechanisms and that maybe she will opt not to when the time comes, but that she likes having that option open to her. 

She told me that she was afraid to tell me because she thought I might not be supportive. Here’s the thing. I believe this: Your body Your choice. And I also believe that when there are big decisions to be made, you have to get all the information and be well informed. You have to be informed of the risks, the long term side-effects, the possible outcomes either negative or positive, and told all of this in a neutral way as to not sway your opinion.

Gastric Bypass surgery is not the easy way out. It’s a hard-core surgery with side-effect that border on discomfort to death. For some people it can be a positive experience. It varies greatly.  My feeling is, if you are considering it, be as informed as possible, know all your options, all the possible side effects and make your choice based on real facts rather than promises of a better life or feeling pushed into it by friends or doctors.  Being fat doesn’t make you inherently unhealthy (or unworthy) and fatness is not a sickness to be cured from.  If you do make the decision to do it,  find your support tribe, the friends and family who will be there for you without judgment or disdain. Your body, your choice. But make your choice from a very, very, very informed and well thought through space. Take months, if not years to make the decision. This is your life and your choice.  I do encourage you though to work with a therapist who specializes in EDs to help you change your brain so that you’re not stuck after surgery without your coping mechanism and feeling alone and feeling as though you need to turn to another sort of coping mechanism (such as pain pills or alcohol) which does happen as well.  Gastric Bypass surgery can only treat the weight, but it can’t treat the underlying behavioral issues or the drives that create these behaviors. So working on coping mechanisms and behaviors is paramount as the surgery can often undo itself due to the disordered eating that was never addressed. 

I hope that this post can explain to you more about my feelings about weight loss surgery. It’s extremely complicated and there is not a black and white answer. No one should be shamed for their choices or their desires. No one should be shamed about anything related to their bodies. But of course everyone should be informed and educated. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eating Disorders Protect You from Thinking Too Much

I have this brilliant client. Let’s call her Megan. Megan is brilliant. She comes in and waxes poetic about politics, philosophy, relationships, ethics, medicine… Really anything. She has a lot on her mind and needs to talk through it. I love to listen to her and I love to hear her thoughts and her ideas on life and the world around her.  But Megan’s big brain tortures her. It keeps her awake at night. It keeps her stuck and paralyzed and it keeps her from moving forward in life. And there are some weeks, after months and months of being free of eating disorder symptoms that she comes in and says, “I spent the last 48 hours bingeing and purging and I can’t stop.”  

I have several Megans in my practice. In fact I have  been having Megans for years.  These Megans have helped me come to a very important conclusion, which is that eating disorders help calm down an overactive brain.  I continue to see brilliant people with active minds using food to help them stop thinking. Eating disorders come in handy that way. If you are thinking too much, bingeing can just shut it down. If you are thinking too much, you can go on a diet and redirect all of your stress into working out and losing weight and restricting and bingeing. It’s a way to distract, it’s a way to shut down. And it’s common. 

Do you ever go on a diet because you just have so much going on in your world? In your brain? Like maybe work is making you crazy, your relationship is not working or you don’t have a relationship, your kiddo’s IEP is a mess, your dog has diabetes and you can’t afford his insulin, the theoretical framework of your dissertation just isn’t working, your husband’s ex-wife is sending you death threats, you got fired, you can’t find a job, you can’t pay for diapers,  your wife is having an affair… and you just want to stop thinking about life… so you go on a diet. Or maybe none of these things are happening. Maybe you just can’t shut your overactive brain off, so you go on a diet and you put all of your energy into it. And then you start bingeing. And maybe then you start purging. And then what happens? Then you have to go back into treatment and your whole life is about treatment and nothing else matters for awhile.  Eating disorders and eating disorder recovery become coping mechanisms, ways to not have to think anymore when thinking is so torturous.

So when life gets too much and all you want to do is dive into a binge episode or run on the treadmill to avoid food and your feelings, what else can you do?

Other Options: 

You can send yourself love and compassion, you can talk to people about what’s going on in your mind. You can use guided meditations to calm your brain and its meanderings.  But mostly you can try to remind yourself that your thoughts are just thoughts and you don’t have to be afraid of them. Just electric impulses that pass through you and you don’t have to follow them down the rabbit hole. Even thoughts about bingeing, purging or dieting. It is possible to teach your brain not to follow certain thoughts that don’t serve you and not to feel controlled by them. In the 5 week program we use cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness techniques and neuroplasticity to learn how to take control of the thoughts that feel overwhelming. A quick CBT trick is to ask yourself “is that thought objectively real or true? how do I know it’s true? Is there another possible truth? If there were another possible truth that I could think of that would feel better in my body, what would it be?” Then write that down and think about what that would be like. Just the mechanism of finding the possibility to change thoughts can help you to calm the overwhelming feelings. 

 

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