body image

Get Through December without Bingeing -Day 13


feeling-out-of-control-with-food-3Todays Tip

Today I spoke with a 5 week program member over the phone. She was feeling a lot of anxiety over all the “lose weight,” or “maintain weight” over the holidays. She told me that she’s been seeing postings all over the Internet. She asked, “I know that I need to lose weight for my health, how can I do that mindfully?”

So therein lies the issue. Anyone who has issues with disordered eating has tried not once, but probably hundreds if not thousands of times to lose weight.

Don’t try to lose weight. Trying to lose weight for someone with a tendency toward disordered eating is like trying to drink moderately for someone with alcoholism. Diets and weight loss striving are what contribute to your disordered eating.

What I would like you to strive for instead is satisfaction. No. Not moderation. SATISFACTION.

When you eat and feel dissatisfied with what you ate, you will be driven to binge.

First, think about what satisfaction means to you. Does it mean finishing your meal feeling as though you were nourished? Having your body feel full but not uncomfortable? Knowing that you ate what your body wanted? What does it mean to you? Consider what satisfaction means to you. Write it down and strive for it!

I PROMISE YOU that when you stop dieting, when you stop focusing on weight loss, when you eat when your body needs food and when you are not bingeing — your body will come to its natural weight. Will you be skinny? If skinny is not your natural weight you likely won’t be. Will you be fat? If fat is not your natural weight, you likely won’t be. If you think about those times when you first started dieting because you thought you were fat and what that turned into — imagine what it would have been like if someone told you that you were perfect, to trust your body, that your body would run most efficiently when you fed it what it needed when it needed it instead of telling you that you were… whatever made you think you needed to be different.

This is hard because people keep promising you that if you do a certain way of eating that you’ll be so thin and fit… but they don’t know you and how your mind and body react to diets.

Again… I PROMISE YOU that when you are not dieting and not bingeing your weight will stabilize and it will likely be comfortable and pleasing to you because it is the weight that your body wants to be at. It won’t be quick like a diet. But it will be less painful than years of dieting and bingeing and you will spend years of your life feeling satisfied and at peace rather than stressed out and dieting and gaining weight.

And to answer the question that I get all the time, why can other people be Paleo/grain-free/Atkins, etc for years on end and lose weight but you can’t? It’s because you react differently to diets. When you diet you develop an eating disorder. Some people can’t drink alcohol because when they do they become an alcoholic, others can drink and take it or leave it. Think of diets as your vice and your trigger and your booze. Diets aren’t safe for people with tendencies toward disordered eating. Anyone who tells you that they know how to help you lose weight is lying to you.

Todays Inspiration

“What is addiction, really? It is a sign, a signal, a symptom of distress. It is a language that tells us about a plight that must be understood.” – Alice Miller

When your addiction is to dieting and the pursuit of weight loss, it’s a symptom of wanting to fit in, to be loved, to feel like everyone else. But when you work on your own self care and kindness toward yourself and your body, you naturally just begin feeling better instead of trying to mold yourself into something that you believe is more socially acceptable.

<<—– Go to Day 12

Get Through December Without Bingeing- Day 12

get-through-december-without-bingeing

Todays Tip

You that whole thing that happens when you entertain and you feel like you have to be perfect? That your house has to be perfect, that your food has to be perfect and that your hair, your clothes and your kids have to be perfect? And then something inevitably goes wrong, your tomato aspic comes out looking like an Alpo ad rather than a Martha Stewart centerpiece… And you feel sad and you beat yourself up and the whole party is ruined…. 

But it’s not. But that’s part of what the ED tells us. That we have to be everything or we’re nothing. 

One of the motivating forces behind eating disorders is the drive to be perfect. People hope for a perfect body, perfect eating habits, flawless skin,  trying to act perfect by always saying the right thing, they try to keep a perfectly clean home and car, and  on and on and on– whatever the individual definition of perfection is . This season is particularly triggering because there is this air of mythical innocence and perfection to Christmas to be like Donna Reed in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (I have a client who will be laughing if she reads this because she thinks I make too many It’s a Wonderful Life” references.) The problem is of course, that nobody is perfect so in the strive for perfection, failure is inevitable.  And this season is inherently messy.  Often, because of that, trying to make things perfect becomes a frustrating let down, as well as a horrible blow to self esteem. “I messed up, therefore I’m a failure, I suck, I’m a horrible person…” and descent into depression or further into eating disorder behavior, or other compulsive behaviors follow.  Some people have such high expectations of themselves that they feel paralyzed. They can barely function because their belief of what they have to be is unattainable so they figure “why bother?”and live in a stuck place where they are unable to go forward with their lives because they hate themselves so much for what they are not. Other people are not so dichotomous and strive toward perfection, but punish themselves when they fail. Like people who have very rigid eating regimens and so if they eat something off their plan they binge, and figure they’ll start all over again the next day. Or they might punish themselves by purging or doing excruciating exercise.

Letting go of the myth of perfection is not easy. So many folks have their heads wrapped around that goal that they believe their lives will be meaningless without it.

  • Remember that perfection is a myth. No one is meant to be perfect, that’s not the way life is. We evolve, learn and grow. Nobody can sit down having never played the piano before and play a perfect concerto. You must start from scratch, learn, practice, and make mistakes.
  • If you never made any mistakes, you would never learn anything. Mistakes are the way we learn. If you can learn from your mistakes rather than making the same mistake over and over again without learning anything, you are evolving.
  • Perfection is not a human or even animal trait. There is no such thing as perfection. That’s not why we exist on this planet. Of course  I don’t know why we exist, but I’m betting that being perfect is not at the top of the list. Especially considering that it’s so subjective.
  • Life is not exciting when our goal is to be perfect because we are unable to take in the intricacies of life. We become so stressed out when we “mess up” that we aren’t able to appreciate what is happening in the moment.
  • Having personal goals and striving toward them is crucial for happiness and joy. However, if the end goal is so rigid, the journey there won’t be enjoyable. The end goal might not even be attained, but what you can learn as you travel through can be more enlightening than what you even set out to achieve.
  • If you find yourself paralyzed, try to take one small step forward. Rather than thinking that you can’t do this overwhelming task perfectly, make small goals that will enable you to move forward.  For example, If you think that you have 200 pounds to lose, that’s very daunting and probably very difficult to begin. However, if your goal is something less daunting, like “try a new vegetable once a week” or “try and get some movement in every day” or “eat at least one fresh fruit and one fresh vegetable each day,” or “make an appointment with a registered dietician” you will find that it’s not too daunting. And if you go a day without getting movement or without eating a fresh fruit, you can always make up for it the next day, rather than thinking, “this is too hard, I can’t do it, I’ll just have to give up.”  It’s possible that you might not reach your original end goal, but when your end goal is really health, that is something you can achieve by letting go of perfection and by integrating loving, healthy habits- this is where you will find improved health.  If you have a very messy house that seems overwhelming to clean, just do one drawer or one surface at a time. It might take you many weeks or months to complete the task, but cleaning one drawer or one section of your closet, or one corner of a room is a lot more doable than cleaning a whole house.
  • Rather than striving for perfection, think about what you can do each day that helps you to be the person that you like. Think about the things that you do that make you like yourself and try to do more of it.  You don’t want to do an overhaul and completely change the person you are, that’s a recipe for self defeatism and self deprecation, not to mention a complete self esteem killer.

Being who you are is what makes you perfect. No one can be a more perfect version of you than you.

Inspirational Quote for the Day

“Perfectionism is self-abuse of the highest order.” – Anne Wilson Schaef I love this quote because it’s so cute, the pursuit of perfection is nothing more than a way to abuse ourselves. The pursuit of health and self-love however are much more worthwhile pursuits. 

<<—Go To Day 11     Go To Day 13—>>

Get Through December Without Bingeing Day 11

how-not-to-binge-eat-when-you-have-a-hangover

Sunday morning. Is it possible that you drank a little too much last night? Too much holiday indulgence and now you’re feeling a little hangover?

Todays Tip

Avoiding the dreaded hangover next day binge. A few years ago, there was a report that linked binge drinking to binge eating for the next 24 hours. If you have overindulged on alcohol, there is a pretty big chance that you will want to wake up and care for your body by eating a lot of greasy food and that it will then trigger a binge for you.

There are a few things to do that can help you to feel better without bingeing.

1. Drink lots of water to rehydrate yourself. You can also do coconut water which is a natural rehydration booster. If that’s not your thing, go for the gatorade or the Pedialyte.

2.Eat eggs (add tomatoes, avocados and spinach!) Eggs have cysteine, which is an amino acid that increases glutathione and reduces the acetaldehyde toxicity which causes a hangover. Tomatoes, avocados and spinach all contain high levels of glutathione which detoxify the liver and help you to feel better.

3.Black tea – As soon as you are feeling rehydrated, sipping on black tea might help your body feel more awake and alive and sooth your belly.

Bonus Tip: Get out in nature or at least into some fresh air and take a walk. It will invigorate you and help you to feel better!!!

Inspirational Quote

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent Van Gogh

So, for Eating Disorder recovery let’s change that a little. If you hear a voice that says “you’re too fat to be happy…” go out and do the things you love, let yourself enjoy your life and that voice will be silenced.

 

<—- Go to Day 10 

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? 

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.    

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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. 

10 New Years Resolutions that Will Change Your Life (And Not One of Them Involves Losing Weight)

 

Did you know that each year 62%  of Americans make New Years Resolutions and of those 62% only 8% are able to stick to them? That means that almost 197 million people make resolutions and 140 million of those people give up on those. This makes setting resolutions a pretty big set-up for failure and unhappiness.  

Do you know what the number one most common New Years resolution?

I’m sure you can guess that one easily — lose weight!

Unfortunately though, despite your best intentions for improving your life, New Years resolutions tend to make people miserable as people usually fail at them by the second week in January. 

Let’s not do that same game again. Let’s forget about any resolution that has you thinking in terms of all-or-nothing.  Instead,  I want to you to try to think about increasing happiness and joy and kindness to yourself. Here are ten ways to do that:

  1. Resolve to stop supporting a media that devalues women.

How to do it: Stop buying fashion magazines and “health and fitness” magazines that tout the same tired articles on how to lose 10 pounds this month or how to torch 500 calories in one workout, and how to get rid of cellulite for good and those that use diet pills, powders and potions as their sponsors. There are only so many diets and so many workouts, yet these magazines seem to be able to repackage the same information over and over again for years on end. Stop following Instagram and Pinterest Fitspo folks who just wind up making you feel bad about yourself.

How it will change your life: You will save money on magazines, you will create more time and space for yourself to think about other things and to enjoy your life. You will get rid of the clutter in your house. You will stop beating yourself up for not following varying and contradictory advice that those magazines and websites give. You will find relief of feeling as though you should be something else, you will stop dealing with the stress of seeing digitally enhanced images that portray an unrealistic version of what a woman is supposed to look like. You’ll be able to relax and just breathe and just be you…

  1. Resolve to stop comparing yourself to other people. 

How to do it: When you find yourself going to the place of,  “my life would be so much better if I made as much money as…”  or “everyone has someone to spend Valentines Day with except for me…”  stop yourself immediately. Think of a big stop sign in your mind and say to yourself, “no. I’m not going there.” Remember that everyone has their own path, their own Dharma. When you look to someone else’s path you stop moving along your own. You become paralyzed and you’re unable to allow your life unfold the way beautifully and the way it’s supposed to.

How it will change your life: You will actually be able to focus on going forward in your life given what you have. You will be able to appreciate and enjoy the things and the people who are in your life rather than feeling disconnected to what you do have. You will find that when you look at and enjoy what you do have rather than what you don’t have you will generally be happier. You will also be able to enhance and make more of the good things in your life because you will be moving forward in joy and able to appreciate those around you rather than stuck in envy.

  1. Resolve to stop spending buying money on miracle potions. 

How to do it: Stop looking for the next miracle skin cream or beauty potion that will make you perfect. Stick to one simple skin care regimen that you enjoy and that you can afford. Keep your diet healthy (lots of fresh fruits and vegetables) and get fresh air and exercise.

How it will change your life: It will take away the stress and anxiety about buying something every time you see a commercial or read an article about how different your skin will look and be when you get this one product. It will reduce waste in your life and it will keep you from spending excessive cash on something disposable.

  1. Resolve to let go of gossip and criticizing other people

How to do it:  So, this means that even if you happen to be present for a conversation where someone starts talking about someone else, you make the decision not to engage in that conversation and you don’t allow someone to chide you into idle gossip. You choose not to criticize people around you either to their faces or behind their backs. You don’t talk about how someone looks, about their life choices, about their parenting skills, you just let people live their lives and you live yours with kindness and integrity. If people start to talk about others around you, you can just say, “I have this New Years resolution to let go of judgment and criticism of others, so I don’t want to go there.”

How it will change your life:   Letting go of negativity and criticism will feel better in your body. You will feel lighter and more at peace. You will also find that people around you trust you more. They will know that their secrets are safe with you and that they are able to talk to you without fear of judgement or criticism. It will take a big weight off of you and give you more mind space to concentrate on yourself and your own needs. The people around you might just decide to jump on your bandwagon making your circle more pleasant to be around.

  1. Resolve to stop engaging in Fat Chat

How to do it: Stop talking about how fat you are. Stop talking about how much weight you need to lose. Stop talking about diets. Stop talking about who has gained or lost weight. Stop commenting on other people’s weight either to their face or behind their back, even if it’s “Wow you lost so much weight…”  Make a choice to not engage with any talk about other people’s bodies or your own.  

How it Will Change your life: You are choosing not to participate in a society that judges women for the way their bodies look and for how much they weigh.  You create a positive example for those around you and you have done something to change the way people judge people by looking at how much they weigh. When you engage in fat chat, you are contributing to the continuing exploitation of women’s bodies, making it okay for the media to perpetuate the myth of the perfect female form.  Change starts with you.

  1. Resolve to do the things you love more often

How to do it: Make doing things that you love a priority. Carve out time for them every day. If you love to write, give yourself 1/2 hour a day to write. If you love to knit, or sew, or ride your motorcycle, or take photographs, or garden or play with your cat, or go swimming, or draw, paint or sculpt, or sing, make sure that it is something that you do several times a week. It’s so common that people prioritize cleaning the house and paying the bills and never feel like you never have time to do the things that you love. You have the power to make your life enjoyable. When you go into super-functional mode and stop paying attention to the things that give you pleasure, you feel as though you’re just moving through life crossing things off your “to do” list. Some things should be done not to get them done, but for pure pleasure. Don’t reward yourself by vowing to draw after the dishes are done, make drawing a priority. Put it on your list for sometime during the day, not in the evening after all your chores are done. Do it on your lunch break. Make time for you.

How It Will Change Your Life: It will help you to appreciate and enjoy your life, it will make you an active participant in your life so that you can enjoy the day-by-day, not be bored waiting for the next thing to happen.

7.Resolve to work on letting go of what other people think of you

How to do it:  Remember that nobody’s opinion is any more important or any better than your own. So try to have a high opinion of yourself. Hold yourself with integrity– become the person who you admire. When you are holding yourself with integrity (that means being compassionate, kind, not lying or stealing or hurting anyone, holding the highest intention for good), you will know that nobody else’s opinion of you matters because you are a good person.  Remember that most people don’t have the time or the energy to spend time thinking about you– they are spending most of their time thinking about themselves. If they are wasting their time thinking about you, well then congratulations,  you’ve got lots of power!

How it Will Change Your Life:  You will have the freedom to live your life the way you want without the weight of the fear of criticism of others. You will feel lighter and enjoy life more.

  1. Resolve to spend more time with people or animals who have less than you

How to do It: Do volunteer work at the SPCA or your local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Find something that you’d be interested in doing at [http://www.volunteermatch.org/]

How it Will Change Your Life:  Studies have actually found that people who volunteer have lower mortality rates and less chronic pain and heart disease. This is because of the sense of community and sharing volunteer work creates. It also reduces isolation (key in healing from eating issues) and increases self esteem and life satisfaction. 

  1. Resolve to take at least one month to go on a “spending fast.”

How to do it: Take 30 days to go on a spending fast where you buy nothing except for true essentials, such as food and hygienic products; no fancy bottled water, no takeout, no fancy meals, no bottles of wine, no fancy soaps, no new clothes, no new jewelry, nothing– just what you really really need.

How it Will Change Your Life: You will find some relief in not having to worry about what dress to buy but knowing that you have a dress at home. You won’t worry about walking into Target for a bottle of shampoo and coming out having spent $150 on razors and lotion, and you won’t have to deal with a late night pizza binge. You will find relief in not having to think too much about what to buy. A spending fast, even for a month is a huge relief.

  1. Learn to Recognize Your Emotional State

How to do it: Use mindfulness to check in with yourself throughout the day. Set a timer on your phone to go off once every few hours. When it goes off, stop and ask yourself, “what am I feeling?” If you don’t know, check this list of feelings . Then practice just sitting with that feeling without doing anything to change it.

How it Will Change Your Life: As you learn to be aware of what you are feeling throughout the day, you won’t surprisingly find yourself engaged in activities that you have previously done to avoid feeling, for instance, you won’t find yourself eating when you are anxious because you will know that you have the capacity to sit with uncomfortable feelings.

What do you think, can you make a few of these changes? You don’t have to be perfect or do them all the time, but I’m betting that if you chose even just one of these, it would make significant positive changes in your life. Try it! Let me know how it goes. 

“We cannot, in a moment, get rid of habits of a lifetime.” -Mahatma Gandhi

I love this quote of course because it is so illustrative of what we tend to believe- that we should be able to snap our fingers and be done once and for all with whatever habit (of the cognitive behavioral kind or physical behavioral kind) that we’ve been doing our whole lives. Patience is a wonderful trait to cultivate. Patience with yourself will get you the furthest along. It will keep you peaceful, calm, protect you from self-loathing and anger at yourself and bring your closer to achieving your most important goals.

Happy New Year!!!!

new years resolutions

Get Through December Without Bingeing Day 23

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Are you deep into the December crazies yet? Where you feel as though you are jumping out of your skin waiting for Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanza et al? Either you’re super excited or super dreading it. But whatever it is, I’m betting you’re a little stir crazy by now.

Todays Tip

When you have nothing to wear. Hi Leora, Any advice about when the stress comes from not having anything appropriate to wear because nothing fits? It’s just about feeling bad about myself and not wanting to socialize. It takes so much energy.

I have been there. My body and my clothes have been many, many, many different sizes throughout my disordered eating. This is what I have to say to you. As part of your recovery process, find clothes that fit you and are comfortable and make you feel beautiful. I know that shopping can be triggering in its own way when you are uncomfortable in your body, but I find it crucial in terms of self care to have things that fit you and that you love. You don’t have to lose weight to buy clothes, you just have to find clothes that fit you. When you are actively engaged in recovery, your body will return to its right and perfect size and will stay there and then you can have all the same clothes for as long as you want to. But don’t punish yourself by having ill-fitting clothes that are not comfortable in your house. That’s both punishing and depressing, of course you don’t want to go out when nothing fits you. Treat yourself and love yourself. You deserve it. You really do, no matter what size your body is at.

Inspirational Quote

“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.” Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

<<<—-Go To Day 22

Get Through December Without Bingeing Day 21

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I am getting through December. Are you? I’ve had a migraine that started on Sunday and lasted through Tuesday morning. I am finally better but I was a true wreck. Not the most patient Mom on the planet or the most helpful wife. Far from it. I spent most of the time sprawled out in bed or on the couch. I attempted a viewing of The Sound of Music with my 5 year old son, but the pure grumpiness and pain that coursed through my veins into a pulsating mess in my right eye made me unable to feel anything but anger at the young and innocent Rolf as I knew what was to come. So by 16 going on 17 I was done.

I’m sure that many of you are going home to families that might be dysfunctional this week. Really, most families are dysfunctional (or perhaps I have a skewed sample set as a Psychotherapist) – and I want to help you to navigate your recovery and stay strong while you’re there. Please don’t hesitate to reply to this email with any questions. I’ll anonymously post the answer in tip form in upcoming get through December newsletters.

Todays Tip

For the past few weeks in the 5 Week Program, we’ve been talking a lot about guilt and obligation. Many have been telling me that their families are stressful for them because they are constantly doing for everyone in the family and they don’t know how to say no. They feel guilty for saying no and have no good reason to say no. I have what I call the codependency litmus test here. If you say no will you feel guilty and if you say yes will you feel resentful? If the answer is yes and yes, take the choice to go with the guilt. The guilt is yours, that’s something you can work with. Those of us with the disordered eating schema tend to spend a lot of time trying to please people and to be the best us that we possibly can be. We sacrifice our own needs for the sake of others. Then, eventually, in your family, you become the person who everyone expects to make sacrifices. When you don’t, when you choose to take care of yourself, people get angry. This is common. That’s because we don’t like change. We hide from it. And when we change, we force other people to change too. Change causes an effect of change all around. For instance, your sister asks you to take her shopping because she wants to have wine in the afternoon and doesn’t want to drive. You don’t feel like taking her to the market. You’re tired, you’ve been working all week, you finally have a rest. If you tell her no, she will get angry. She will get angry because then she has to do something that she doesn’t want to do. She is forced to make a healthier choice because you are choosing not to sacrifice your needs for her needs. You are choosing to care for yourself. Change is hard, but necessary. We were all given our own lives and the ability to do things for ourselves. If you don’t give someone else they opportunity to care for themselves when they can, (unless they are children or elderly or disabled) you are cheating both yourself and them. Take care of yourself and everyone else is forced to do the same. That’s change that can be good!

Inspirational Quote

Relationships are where we take our recovery on the road. – Melody Beattie

I love this quote. It reminds us that we didn’t get sick in a void and we can’t recover in a void. We have to reclaim ourselves in the system that we became who we are in. That means work and change and doing something scary. But it’s the kind of necessary work that makes life-long change.

<—Go To Day 20       Go to Day 22—>>>

How Did I Gain 7 Pounds Overnight?

I Gained Seven Pounds. Oh Sh*t

 

At the gym the other morning, I saw a  young woman hop on the scale, move the weights to a place that apparently she did not like and immediately burst out crying. I was heading toward her to see if she was okay but another woman ran over to her and said, “what’s the matter? are you okay?”  “NO!!!!” She screamed! “I gained seven pounds! SEVEN pounds! Overnight! How did that happen? I’ve been so careful, I’ve been trying to lose weight! How did this happen? How did this happen to me?!!!”  

As you know, this is my territory, this is the population I work with all day, women who are having a really hard time with scales, food, weight, disordered eating, bingeing, purging, restricting, poor self-image and body image.

That scale is evil!

When I walk into the dressing room at the gym and I see it there, I jump away like it’s a snake. I can’t go near that thing. I see other women hopping on and off of it nonchalantly and to me it almost looks like they’re heading to a cigarette machine. For someone with disordered eating, weighing yourself is like an alcoholic walking into a bar. It’s an unhealthy obsession and it will make you feel both crazy and out of control. 

The young woman continued crying, deep heaving wails and sobs. She told the woman who was trying to comfort her that she texted her sister and told her about the seven pounds. That she hated her life. That she didn’t understand why this happened to her…  She then got up and started gathering her things to leave. The woman comforting her said, “wait, aren’t we going to do our workout?” and she said and  “No! Why would I bother? I gained seven pounds!”   and with that, she left.  

She was so upset. She was devastated actually. She had gone to the gym to get her workout in and stepping on that scale ruined a perfectly fine day. She decided not to work out, she went right to black and white thinking.

What do you think would have happened if she hadn’t stepped on the scale? What do you think would have happened if rather than being focused on a specific outcome, she’d just been focused on her day-by-day self care?  I was really sad all day thinking about her, and I wished that I’d had the opportunity to chat with her, but it just wasn’t appropriate. If you are a doctor and someone falls and hurts themselves, you say, “I’m a doctor, let me look at that knee,” but in my case, “I am an eating disorder therapist, I can help you with your cognitive distortion!” As you can imagine,  I really wanted to do that… but it wasn’t appropriate in the moment.  

Later that day, I came across an article about a woman who did an experiment of weighing herself each hour for one whole day to see what happened.   Here’s the general gist of the article. 1. Her weight fluctuated that day by – you guessed it- seven pounds!  And despite the fact that she clearly saw that fluctuation (wait, I haven’t eaten or drunk anything in the past hour, why is my weight up by 2 pounds?) she still started to get really stressed out by the scale!

This is what happens when you start measuring your worth by something that has no use in life other than to measure mass. It doesn’t tell you anything good that you did that day (“I rescued a baby from a burning building!”) It just spits out an arbitrary number. And then you give it the power to make you feel a certain way. This takes you away from having power over your own life. Don’t let a piece of machinery tell you how to feel about yourself. Don’t let it dictate your day. You are worth more than that. I can’t stress enough, the number on the scale has nothing to do with your worth, who you are is perfect, whole and complete at this moment. In another moment your weight might be up five pounds, in another moment it might be down five pounds. But in both those moments, you still are perfect, whole and complete exactly as you are. You haven’t changed. So instead of using this external thing to tell you how you are supposed to feel about yourself, what kind of day you’re supposed to have, instead, do something that makes you have a good day. Buy a meal for a hungry person, dig a sand castle with your neighbor’s kid, plant butterfly fennel in your front yard, say something nice to someone you don’t know… anything else but weigh yourself. The scale is not an accurate measure of your worth, and clearly, it’s not even an accurate measure of your body mass.