Question: Help! I saw your blog and realized that a lot of my odd habits have to do with my unhealthy association with food, but I do not know how to stop it. I am constantly thinking about food, looking for food, and seeing where I can get free food. When I’m at work, I look for places where there is free food available, even if it is not on my floor/department. When there are samples, I can’t help but take more than one. I sometimes even go to places like Costco, just to get the free food samples. At times I have fallen so low as to “try” other people’s food from the fridge without asking. I managed to stop this for a while, but now I have started to feel the urge again.
Do you ever feel like counting and numbers are taking over your life and your mind? Are you constantly counting pounds on the scale? Weighing and measuring your food? Do you know the number of calories in every food and the grams of carbs in everything that you put in your mouth? Is this obsession driving you crazy?
Many of my clients come in feeling as though they’d love to stop counting calories, but they don’t know how, they feel as though if they did, they’d totally lose control. Counting calories helps give them a sense of control and satisfaction.
Usually, when I begin people on the road to intuitive eating and mindful eating, I help them wean off of calorie counting by using numbers to help them assess their appetites. It’s actually a lot more challenging than calorie counting, but ultimately more useful. It increases mindfulness and helps you to actually get in touch with the needs of your body.
How to do it:
1. Learn the hunger and satiety scale.
|0||Starvation mode. Void of feelings. No energy, tired, empty.|
|1||Ravenous. Feeling uncomfortably hungry. Dizzy, grumpy.|
|2||Very Hungry, unable to focus on work or conversation.|
|3||Hungry. Stomach is beginning to growl, you are beginning to lose focus.|
|4||Getting Hungry. First thoughts of food begin.|
|5||Neutral. Not hungry, not full. Not obsessing about food. Nurtured, productive, able to focus. If you are eating, you can still eat more.|
|6||Satisfied. You’ve eaten enough to be content. You are not uncomfortable, yet you do not need more.|
|7||Slightly Full. A bit more than satisfied. You might feel like you had a bit too much.|
|8||Very Full. You begin to feel bloated as though you’ve had too much.|
|9||Uncomfortably full. You just want to go to sleep. You might feel depressed or regretful.|
|10||Completely Stuffed. You feel like you might throw up. You are in pain, you can’t focus, and you don’t know how you got here.|
2. Decide to learn to not let yourself drop below a 3 and not go above a 7.
3. Check in with yourself throughout the day. When you find yourself at a 4, it’s time to think about getting a meal.
4. Before each meal, note or write down where you are on the hunger and satiety scale.
5. Eat your food slowly and mindfully and stop right in the middle. When you stop, note or write down where you are. If you are at a 5, you know that you can eat a bit more. Stop again and if you are at a 6 or a 7, stop eating.
It’s that simple. But it’s not simple really because you are using the wisdom of your body to tell you how much or how little you should be eating rather than an arbitrary number that doesn’t necessarily relate to what your body needs. Keeping track of the numbers on the hunger and satiety scale will help you to feel as though you are in control in a way that calorie counting did only it’s also a way to increase mindfulness. After a while, you will be able to stop using the numbers because you will intuitively know when to eat and when to stop eating.
Start by trying it for one meal a day. You can also check in with yourself every 1-2 hours and ask yourself where you are on the hunger and satiety scale.
Interested in doing a seven day experiment? Try it and link to this blog post, I’d love to see how it goes for people!
1. Eat mostly minimally processed and whole foods. This means choosing to actually eat a piece of chicken and broccoli that you get from the store rather than picking up a chicken and broccoli Lean Cuisine and having it pass for dinner. You want your food to have as few ingredients as possible. A steak is healthier than a 100 calorie snack pack. A baked potato is healthier than a slice of low fat processed American cheese. You get what I’m saying. Try to keep it as simple as possible. It’s actually easier and will improve your health a million-fold. Check out these articles on the benefits of eating whole foods.
2. Don’t obsess about it. So, eat processed foods most of the time, but say if a bag of cheez-its should pass your lips, you’re not going to ruin it all. You don’t have to binge on processed foods all day long and then vow to only eat apples and broccoli and chicken for the rest of your life. You’ve set up a baseline of healthy with eating mostly whole foods. So if you can eat healthy most of the time, you can have a little bit of the not so healthy every so often. It’s okay. It’s fine in fact. This is the way I suggest working it. When you see something that you really want, allow yourself to have it. But, first, go for the whole unprocessed so that you know you’re giving your body something healthy. Like if there is a choice between a fruit salad and a piece of (unhomemade/supermarket bought) cake, opt for both, but eat the fruit salad first, then eat the cake. You get your healthy food in, you don’t forgo one for the other. There’s no deprivation there and you are letting yourself eat for both health and enjoyment. When you give yourself the healthy food first, there is also less opportunity for bingeing because you’re hungry or depriving yourself. I differentiate between a piece of supermarket bought cake because I really believe that I homemade cake is healthier. There is less likely to be lots of artificial ingredients and preservatives and more love and whole ingredients added.
Obsessing about eating whole foods is just another diet. You don’t want that. You want to eat for health and for enjoyment — it’s okay to eat for enjoyment! Obsessing will also set you up for failure. Think of eating whole foods as your way of nurturing yourself, not punishing.
3. Exercise with love- Forget about reading about the best ways to lose weight or how to get a ripped physique and think of exercise as something to bring you pleasure and to help you destress. If you like to run, then run. If you like to swim, then swim. If power lifting is your thing, more power to you. If you like to take long leisurely strolls, then do that. If you love yoga, do yoga. If dance classes bring you joy, do that. You don’t have to exercise hard, you just have to get out and move several times a week. And seriously, you don’t have to power through your exercise, moving can be slow. It can be a nice walk through the park with a friend or pushing a stroller or listening to a podcast or book on tape. Think of exercise as quality time with yourself rather than something you have to do. If you can exercise outside and get a little vitamin D grade sunshine, it’s a bonus.
4. Sleep at night. – Seriously get your sleep in order.
One of the ways to begin to encourage good health into your life is to start with your sleep. Sleep and mood go together. When your sleep is off, your mood is off. When your mood is off and your sleep is off, your immune system is compromised and your emotional stability is off. You then become more susceptible to colds, flu, disease, as well as anxiety, depression, and car accidents. Sleeping too much or too little sleep can both be hazardous to your health. Healthy adults need 7-8 hours each night. My husband, who lived for years with chronic insomnia was helped greatly by this book.
Make your bed a welcoming place. Go out and buy a nice, comfortable set of sheets and a new comforter and lots of fluffy pillows. Make your bed someplace that is inviting and luxurious. If you can’t afford new sheets right now, wash your current sheets and bedding and fluff it up, spray it with some lavender and try to give it a little bit of new life. At night, an hour before you think you should go to sleep, get into bed. Let’s say you want to be asleep at 11, get into bed at 10. Don’t turn your TV on, don’t bring your computer into bed with you. Bring a book, or a magazine, or your iPod. Listen to some relaxing music with your eyes closed or listen to a guided visualization, and just begin to let yourself relax. This isn’t about sleep, this is about relaxing your body. Sleep is a natural biological process that your body can do once you begin to relax your body and your mind. You might also want to get into the bath about 90 minutes before you want to be asleep. A hot bath with Epson Salts is a great way to relax your muscles and calm your mind and warm your body up for sleep. Try to think of a nice bedtime routine that you can do every night that will help you fall into a restful sleep. You might draw for 1/2 hour before you get into bed, you might bathe, you might write in your journal, but find something that works for you and do it nightly.
If you find that sleep is impossible, there are lots of natural sleep solutions such as taking extra magnesium supplements at night or checking out herbal sleep aids out there such as valerian, chamomile and skullcap as well as amino acids like 5-HTP and L-Tryptophan or a synthetic hormone of melatonin. Definitely ask your doctor or Naturopath about supplementation for help with sleep before you take anything. There are also over the counter solutions as well as prescription solutions that your doctor can help you sort through. There’s no shame in finding something to help you sleep. Being sleep deprived leads to poor decision making, especially around food choices. It also leaves you looking for more energy and many people use caffeine and sugar to achieve this.
5. Floss Your Teeth– Did you know that having good oral hygiene is a way to keep your heart healthy? Gum-disease-causing bacteria can contribute to cardiovascular disease. This may work through inflammation; people with more gum disease bacteria also had more white blood cells circulating in their blood because white blood cells are part of the body’s response to infection. So floss daily!
6. Hug Someone-Believe it or not, hugs can reduce stress. Hug your Mom, your Dad, your Rabbi, your Pastor, your Son or Daughter, even hug your dog or you cat. Human love, compassion, and touch can be so healing. In fact, A University of Virginia neuroscientist has found that women under stress who hold their husbands’ hands show signs of immediate relief, which can clearly be seen on their brain scans.
7. Stop drinking, or cut down dramatically if you are drinking daily- I’m sorry to report that drinking alcohol daily dramatically increases your risk for cancer. A new study shows that even as little as 1 drink per day increases your risk for breast cancer, mouth and throat cancers and stomach cancers. I wasn’t super surprised to hear this. I have a close friend who is an oncology nurse, who told me that what she often sees on people’s assessment forms is that they drink excessively. She said that it’s the one thing that is confirmed to her over and over and over again, that alcohol use and cancer have a very strong correlation. Sorry folks. If you’re trying to quit drinking, I highly suggest checking out an AA meeting or a Smart Recovery. You might even try hypnosis to help you stop drinking.
8. Take a vitamin D3 supplement– We are super vitamin D deficient. If you don’t want to take something without getting first checked, ask your doctor to run a lab to check your level. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to infertility, breast cancer, depression, colon cancer, anxiety, heart disease, obesity, recurrent miscarriage, and all sorts of other crappy things. Studies also show that folks who have higher vitamin D levels have lower risk of disease in general and better immune function. However, the best way to integrate Vitamin D is with sunshine, so get out into the sun and soak up some vitamin D. Mushrooms are also a great source of vitamin D, so don’t be shy about your fungi.
9.Have Lots of Sex– You will be happier, calmer, you will sleep better and you will reduce your risk of heart disease, depression and anxiety. Now, if you don’t have a partner, going out and having sex with strangers probably won’t improve your health (or self esteem). However, there are proven benefits to having a healthy sexual relationship with yourself!
10. Drink Honey and Cinnamon- Each morning, make a mixture of raw honey and organic cinnamon in a cup of warm water and drink it down for good health. This has long been a folk remedy that claims you can lose weight, decrease insomnia, fight anxiety, ward off cancer and heart disease and keep your skin clear and supple. Is it true? Maybe a little. Snopes says sort of true. But, it’s a pleasant morning drink if anything. If you see an improvement in whatever ails you in a few weeks, great, if not, stop drinking it.
This is from Sunshine:
Hi! I LOVE reading all of your posts! I still have the same problem. I am NOT motivated to lose weight and I sure would like to be. What should I do??? I don’t want to exercise or at least not very much. I don’t want to write down and track what I eat. But I DO want to lose weight. I just don’t have the desire or motivation to do it. HELP!!
My question to you is, who would ever be motivated to lose weight? Yuck! That sounds awful… the deprivation, the scales, the months of restricting, dieting, stressing, obsessing… I don’t blame you for having no desire to do this. What I would recommend is that you reframe your thinking from looking to lose weight to either
-The motivation to GAIN health.
-The motivation to LOSE your obsession with food
– The motivation to GAIN self love, and self esteem
-The motivation to GAIN body trust.
-The motivation to GAIN freedom from the restraints that hating your body puts on you
Are any of these interesting to you? If so, you might want to make a list. What would be positive about gaining health? What would be positive about letting go of my obsession with food? What would be positive about staying where I am right now and accepting it? Think through all of these different ideas, and then decide what it is that you want to do. I’m always a fan of intuitive eating. Tuning in to your body to eat what you need when you need it and forgiving yourself when you slip up and moving past it. You might want to check out this blog about extreme intuitive eating. Love your body for what it can do, not for what it looks like or what size it is. Love it and nurture it and give it what it needs. If it needs kale and egg whites, feed it kale and egg whites, if it needs a buttery english muffin, do the same. But let go of the idea of losing weight. Let go of diets. Let go of your need to control. Let go of the idea of losing weight. You say in your email that you don’t have the desire to lose weight. So just let it go, I promise you will be a lot happier.
Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating disorders? Send an email to bingeeatingtherapy at gmail 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.
The most important move to make in healing from binge eating or bulimia is to always move forward past the binge. So, next time you binge, rather than saying to yourself, “okay, no dinner.” or “now I have to go to the gym for the next 3 hours to work it off…” or “no carbohydrates for the next three days,” or “now I can’t eat for another 24 hours…” or, “okay, i’m going to binge for the rest of the day since today is shot…” instead you say to yourself, “okay. I binged. I need to leave the binge here and go forward. My next meal is going to be a healthy one.”
Because when you try to undo a binge, you stay in it. You are stuck in the past trying to make it not have happened and then you get yourself into a cycle, either a binge-restrict cycle, a binge-purge cycle, or a binge-exercise cycle. And all those cycles lead to more bingeing. You want to get out of bingeing and the only way to do that is to leave the binge where it is, in the past– without compensating for it, and without undoing it.
So, if there were any Saturday night binges let go of the idea of any big diets today. Instead, today, vow to take care of yourself. Eat a healthy breakfast, drink lots of water, take a nice walk, get some fresh air, give yourself kind words, forgive yourself for bingeing, be compassionate with yourself and move past it into health and normalcy.
Positive Body Affirmations
Affirmations are statements that you repeat over and over in attempt to change your unconscious beliefs. Pick a few that you like and look in the mirror and repeat several times each day! If you can find some of these positive body affirmations that resonate for you and really allow yourself to see them, hear them and feel them, you might find some shifts in the way you think about yourself and your body.
1. My body deserves love
2. I am perfect, whole, and complete just the way I am
3. I feed my body healthy nourishing food and give it healthy nourishing exercise because it deserves to be taken care of
4. I love and respect myself
5. It’s okay to love myself now as I continue to evolve
6. My body is a temple. I want to treat it with love and respect.
7. My body is a gift.
8. Food doesn’t have to be the enemy, it can be nurturing and healing.
9. Life is too short and too precious to waste time obsessing about my body. I am going to take care of it to the best of my ability and get out of my head and into the world.
10. I will not give in to the voices of my eating disorder that tell me I’m not okay. I will listen to the healthy voices that I do have, even if they are very quiet so that I can understand that I am fine. I am fine.
11. Food doesn’t make me feel better, it just temporarily stops me from feeling what I’m feeling.
12. I have everything inside of me that I need to take care of myself without using food.
13. A goal weight is an arbitrary number, how I feel is what’s important.
14. I am worthy of love
15. As long as I am good, kind, and hold myself with integrity, it doesn’t matter what other people think of me.
16. Other people are too busy thinking about themselves to care what my weight is
17. When I compare myself to others, I destroy myself, I don’t want to destroy myself so I’ll just continue on my journey, not worrying about other people’s journeys.
18. I am blessed to be aging. The only alternative to aging is death.
19. It’s okay for me to like myself. It’s okay for me to love myself.
20. I have to be an advocate for me. I can’t rely on anyone else to do that for me.
21. A “perfect” body is one that works, no matter what that means for you personally.
22. It’s okay for me to trust the wisdom of my body.
23. Just because someone looks perfect on the outside, doesn’t mean they have a perfect life. No one has a perfect life, we all struggle. That’s just what being human is.
24. If I spend too much time trying to be and look like someone else, I cease to pay attention to myself, my virtues, my path, and my journey.
25. When I look to others to dictate who I should be or how I should look, I reject who I am.
26. The last thing I should be doing is rejecting myself. Accepting myself as I am right now is the first step in changing, growing and evolving. When I reject myself, I cannot grow.
27. Self respect is underrated.
28. I can only go forward, so although I can learn from it, I refuse to dwell on the past.
29. ALL images in magazines are airbrushed, photoshopped, and distorted.
30. If people actively judge or insult me, it’s because they feel badly about themselves. No one who feels good about themselves has the need to put someone down to elevate themselves- they have better things to do with their time.
31. I have no need to put someone down to elevate myself.
32. I can be a good person if I choose to be.
33. It’s my life, I can choose the way I want to live it.
34. When I smile, I actually make other people happy.
35. Balance is the most important.
36. If I binge today, I can still love and accept myself, I don’t have to beat, berate and starve myself right afterwards, and I still have the very next moment to jump right back into recovery.
37. Recovery is an ongoing process that is not linear in fashion. If I slip up, I’ll take the opportunity as a learning experience and get right back to my recovery goals/program.
38. Progress is not linear. It’s normal for me to go forward and then backward, and then forward again.
39. I enjoy feeling good. It’s okay for me to feel good.
40. Having an eating disorder is not my identity.
41. Being skinny or fat is not my identity. I am identified by who I am on the inside, a loving, wonderful person.
42. I choose health and healing over diets and punishing myself.
43. My opinion of myself is the only one I truly know and it’s the only one that counts. I can choose my opinion of myself.
44. When I am in my head too much, I can return to my breath, just breath and be okay. There is only this moment.
45. It’s okay to let others love me, why wouldn’t they?
46. I am good stuff.
47. I am compassionate and warm. My presence is delightful to people.
48. My very existence makes the world a better place.
49. It’s okay to pay someone to rub my feet every once in a while.
50. If I am hungry, I am supposed to let myself eat. Food is what keeps me alive.
51. Getting older makes me smarter.
52. It’s okay not to be the best all the time.
53. My well-being is the most important thing to me. I am responsible for taking care of me. We are each responsible for ourselves.
54. No one has the power to make me feel bad about myself without my permission.
55. My feet are cute. Even if they’re ugly.
56. I eat for energy and nourishment.
57. Chocolate is not the enemy. It’s not my friend either. It’s just chocolate, it has no power over me.
58. I can be conscious in my choices.
59. I am stronger than the urge to binge.
60. I am healthier than the urge to purge.
61. Restricting my food doesn’t make me a better person, being kind to myself and to others makes me a better person.
62. Being skinny doesn’t make me good. Being fat doesn’t make me bad.
63. I can be healthy at any size.
64. Life doesn’t start 10 pounds from now, it’s already started. I can make the choice to include myself in it.
65. Food, drugs, and alcohol are not the solution. But they might seem like it at times, but using these things can make more problems. I have what I need inside of me as the solution.
66. There is a guide inside of me who is wise and will always be there to help me on my journey.
67. Sometimes sitting around and doing nothing is just what the doctor ordered. It’s okay to let myself relax.
68. I am a human being, not a human doing. It’s okay to just be sometimes. I don’t always have to be doing.
69. My brain is my sexiest body part.
70. Looks last about five minutes– or until someone opens their mouth.
71. My life is what I make of it. I have all the power here.
72. My body is a vessel for my awesomeness.
73. My body can do awesome things.
74. If I am healthy, I am so very blessed.
75. I won’t let magazines or the media tell me what I should look like. I look exactly the way I’m supposed to. I know because this is the way god made me!
76. What is supposedly pleasing to the eye is not always what is pleasing to the touch. Cuddly is good!
77. I can trust my intuition. It’s here to guide me.
78. Just because I am taking care of myself and being an advocate for myself doesn’t mean I’m selfish.
79. Not everyone has to like me. I just have to like me.
80. It’s not about working on myself it’s about being okay with who I already am.
81. My needs are just as important as anyone else.
82. Body, if you can love me for who I am, I promise to love you for who you are– no one is responsible for changing anyone else.
83. I will make peace with my body, it doesn’t do anything but keep me alive and all I do is insult it and hurt it. I’m sorry body, you’ve tried to be good to me and care for me, it’s time for me to try to be good back.
84. Thighs, thank you for carrying me.
85. Belly, thank you for holding in all my organs and helping me digest.
86. Skin, thank you for shielding and protecting me.
87. Other people don’t dictate my choices for me, I know what’s best for myself.
88. I feed my body life affirming foods so that I can be healthy and vital.
89. Taking care of myself feels good.
90. I can eat a variety of foods for health and wellness without bingeing.
91. There is more to life that losing weight. I’m ready to experience it.
92. If I let go of my obsession with food and my body weight, there is a whole world waiting for me to explore.
93. The numbers on the scale are irrelevant to who I am as a human.
94. Food is not good or bad. It has no moral significance. I can choose to be good or bad and it has nothing to do with the amount of calories or carbohydrates I eat.
95. I am still beautiful when I’m having a bad hair day.
96. My nose gives me the ability to breathe. Breath gives me the ability to be an amazingly grounded, solid person.
97. Being grounded and whole is what makes me beautiful. If I don’t feel grounded and whole, I can get there just by being still, breathing, listening to my intuition, and doing what I can to be kind to myself and others.
98. I am not bad and I don’t deserve to be punished, not by myself and not by others.
99. I deserve to be treated with love and respect and so do you. I choose to do and say kind things for and about myself and for and about others.
100. Even if I don’t see how pretty I am, there is someone who does. I am loved and admired. REALLY!
101. Beauty?… To me it is a word without sense because I do not know where its meaning comes from nor where it leads to. ~Pablo Picasso
You might also find some use with:
Guided Meditation Download for Positive Body Image
*Photo credit to A Merry Life
What if instead of being afraid of food or trying to control food or yourself, what if you made friends with food? What if he who was once the enemy became your friend?
If you have an eating disorder, you probably notice that a lot of what you deal with is fear. Fear of food, fear of parties with food, fear of being out in the world, fear of what people think of you, fear of how you look or how other people see you, fear of being liked or not being liked, fear of being good enough, fear of pain or emotional hurt, fear of gaining weight, fear of losing weight, fear of fat, fear of eating, fear of not eating…
But what if you disempowered the fear of food by making friend with it?
The other day, a client of mine was telling me that after every public speaking event that she speaks at, she sits down alone and eats an apple because she is so revved up and the apple helps her calm down. She said, “I know it’s just an apple, but still, I’m using food to dampen my feelings…” But here’s the thing. Food IS nurturing. It keeps you alive and nourishes your body. I asked her what it would be like to smile at that apple and say, “thank you for sitting with me and helping me to decompress after my event,” and then enjoy the apple. We then took that a step further and discussed what it would be like to talk to her food all the time. Like say, “hey brownie, I really want to eat you, but I’m afraid you might lead to a binge…” and then listen to what the brownie had to say. Maybe it would say, “I think that today I’m going to lead you into a binge, so maybe you should just avoid me right now,” or maybe it would say, “Yes, sit down and eat me slowly, I’m not binge food today,” or maybe it would say, “Eat half of me now and half of me later!” Or whatever it is.
This is obviously another exercise in mindfulness and intuitive eating, but it’s a fun way to embrace your food rather than fear it. It’s a way to think about what you’re putting in your mouth and a way to learn to create limits and boundaries around food.
So, next time you are ready to eat, sit down and check in with your food, “are you what’s healthy for me right now? if not, what do you think I need?” Food is something that is here to sustain and love you. Your body deserves love and the food that you eat should be loving. Try it!
The very best way to lose five pounds in two days is to make a decision to take two whole days to stop dieting and chose to eat very slowly, very mindfully, and very intuitively, giving your body exactly what it needs to thrive.
I know that quitting dieting to get to a healthy weight sounds totally counterintuitive, but overeating is the other side of dieting, which means that when you choose to go on a restrictive diet, there is a very good chance that you are going to lose your momentum, then binge, and put on more weight than you took off.
Healthy, intuitive eating is the opposite of dieting and of overeating. If you really, truly stop dieting, just for a couple of days, and implement intuitive eating, your body will begin to settle into it’s healthy, comfortable weight. I know that it sounds unbelievable, but I promise you, it’s true. Quitting dieting is the sure way to find your healthy, natural weight and come to peace with food and your body.
One of my clients and I were discussing the other day how everything she’s done to her body over the past 25 years, all the diets, all the exercise, the thousands of miles she’s run, the millions of crunches she’s done, the bags of cookies she’s eaten, the loaves of bread and boxes of candy she’s binged on, the carbs she’s restricted, the low-fat diets she’s been on, the shakes she’s drank, the detox diets she’s done, the diet books she’s read, the leg lifts, the pilates classes, the workout videos, the gimmicks, the fads, the coconut oil she’s eaten, the kombucha she’s drank, the South Beach, the Weight Watchers, the Atkins, the Dukan, the Ex-Lax, the “as-seen-on-tv” exercise equipment and workout videos, the stress, the anxiety, the not leaving the house on “fat days”, the depression, all of it… it’s all basically been for something like five pounds either up or down. That’s it. In all the years she’s been dieting, she’s been either up five pounds, or down five pounds.
This client teeters between 130-140 pounds but hovers around 135. She hates herself at 140, likes herself better at 130 and struggles at 135, where she probably most naturally falls. And she has been at this weight since she was about 16 years old. And for all these years, she’s been trying to get down to around 125 pounds. Can you imagine how many pounds she’s lost and gained in the past 25 years? And the thing is, she really keeps coming back to the equilibrium of 135 pounds. Sometimes she’s 5 pounds up. Sometimes she’s 5 pounds down. But she’s never happy. She tries and tries and tries to get to 125 pounds. And she’s been trying and fighting with those pounds for 25 years. There’s no room for much else in her life. Her weight takes up most of her energy. And for just five pounds. Does that sound familiar to you? Is that you or someone you know? It’s not unusual, and for many people, it’s their whole lives. They strive to be a weight that their body just doesn’t want to be. They struggle with diets, they struggle with food and exercise, and they struggle with self image.
People spend so, so, so much time trying to lose weight, and all that work, all those years, for many it’s just for a few pounds. They’ve run 100 marathons, gone on a million diets, eaten 10 billion oreo cookies, spent hundreds of days fasting and dieting miserably, and yet… their bodies aren’t all that different. I call it the 5 pound paradox. All the work spent and, it’s usually around five pounds either way. Wouldn’t… acceptance be easier? By quitting dieting for 2 whole days and eating intuitively, there’s a chance that five pounds would drop off your body. But it would definitely drop from your mind, and that’s where it weighs the most.
If you didn’t have your weight to obsess on all the time, what else would you be thinking about and doing? Sometimes dieting and thinking about getting to a certain weight all the time is easier than dealing with what’s underneath, what you’re really trying to cope with. Dieting is a way of gaining control and coping with challenging feelings and situation.
What if you took the next two days and made a decision. No diets. No bingeing. Just for two days: “I’m going to eat slowly and mindfully, I’m going to implement intuitive eating, I’m going to eat what my body needs to be healthy, three solid meals per day. Whatever looks good. Whatever I want. No over the top thinking about it. Just giving my body what it needs three times both days.” After those two days, reassess. What is it like not to diet? What is it like not to obsess? Can you handle it for another day? Are you ready to let go of control? If not, that’s okay. But just give yourself two days. No weighing yourself, no measuring. This isn’t a free-for-all binge. This is, “pretend I’m a normal eater.” Think of the most normal eater you know. Your friend who eats three meals a day, orders what she or he wants without remorse, regret or overthinking it, Eats till she or he’s not hungry any longer, then stops. Try to embody that attitude for a two day experiment and just see how it goes for you. You might be surprised and you might feel liberated.
This question comes to us from Aubrey in Missouri.
“Help! I can’t Stop Eating Carbs!!!!!!!!!”
Because you shouldn’t.
“But carbohydrates make me fat!”
I’ve had several clients over the years come in believing this very thing, that eating carbohydrates would make them fat. So, what they would do was go on these all high-protein and high-fat diets, eating only eggs, bacon, butter, steak, water, vodka, and whatever else had very low or no carbohydrates in it for a few days, sometimes a week or two, then having a carb binge, only to beat up on themselves again and again, hating themselves for doing “the wrong thing.” Have you ever done this, or some variation on this?
Well, the truth of the matter is this, you can lose weight very quickly on an extremely low-carb diet. To say that’s not true would be a lie. However, it’s a bad idea. And it almost never works. And I know that because if it did, people would go on a very low-carb diet once, lose all the weight they wanted in a few weeks or months, and never look back.
Your body wants carbohydrates. It really does, and it runs more efficiently on carbohydrates and protein than on protein alone. Which is why starving yourself of carbohydrates will inevitably result in a carbohydrate binge (not to mention the strain it will put on your organs), and for most people, this isn’t usually a binge on garbanzo beans and yams, but on processed boxed foods (think Chips Ahoy, Twinkies, and Ben & Jerry’s).
Let’s look at why very low-carb diets result in quick weight loss. Your body relies on carbohydrates as quick energy, when you starve your body of carbohydrates, it’s going to have to go into your fat stores to burn for energy. Theoretically this sounds great. But, most people don’t get there. This is later on, after a few days when your kidneys have let go of all the water in your body. The initial dramatic weight-loss you experience is water weight, which is why if you eat like one potato chip, and knock your body out of ketosis (a state that very low-carb dieters strive for), and you will hold onto water again and feel as though you’ve gained all the weight back that you lost. This creates a really intense cat & mouse game between you and carbohydrates.
People tend to feel extremely grumpy, depressed and many experience some feeling of a cognitive decline when they are on very low carb diets long term, they have trouble with word recall, experience memory loss and battle with insomnia. If they are unable to stay on their low carb diet (not unusual) they start bingeing and feel grumpy because they’re bingeing… this is because your brain runs on glucose and depriving your brain of glucose in the form of a low carb diet can make one feel foggy, depressed, lethargic, and all around distressed. Because your brain is running less efficiently and your brain is foggy, it makes you more vulnerable to a binge. And what happens? You binge on lots simple carbohydrates – which then makes you more depressed and more apt to binge more.
When you don’t supply your body with any carbohydrates, it needs to slow down to preserve energy. This is why when people dramatically restrict their carbohydrates, they find that they are unable to exercise very much at all, they find that they are constipated due to lack of fiber, and they often become nauseated from ketosis. Because glucose stabilizes serotonin levels, some folks might find that they are depressed. Because your body runs so inefficiently on a very low carb diet, you will probably find yourself rebounding at some point with a carbohydrate binge. This sets up a cycle, again and again.
I had a client come in telling me, “I once lost 10 pounds in two weeks eating just steak and red wine, I know I can do it again…” and despite how much we worked on integrating healthy carbohydrates into her diet, her belief was that all carbs, in any amount were bad. So if she woke up in the morning and “accidentally” had a piece of toast with her eggs, she believed that her whole day was ruined and would continue throughout the day by eating ice cream, cake, cereal, pasta, whatever she could get her hands on, then use that as proof that carbohydrates were the problem. She would then hate herself. It wasn’t that one piece of toast that started the binge, despite the fact that she told herself that she couldn’t eat any carbohydrates because she was addicted. It was the belief that she couldn’t eat any carbohydrates and the black and white thinking that triggered the binge. She got so angry at herself every time she ate anything with carbohydrates in it and she got so angry at herself for the binges. Each time she started her diet again, she believed that this time it would be different. This time she could stick to it. Her body didn’t want her to stick to it. And when she didn’t, she blamed herself and her lack of willpower. Finally, after many, many years of this cycle, she agreed to try something different. She saw that she’d been doing this for so long and now weighed more than she ever had. She agreed that for just one month, just 30 days, she’d work in some balance. “I’m still not eating pasta or bread!” she told me. “That’s fine,” I told her, “but what about some apples, some sweet potatoes, some onions and peppers, some beans…” She agreed and began bringing unprocessed carbohydrates into her regimen. She decided that for the month she would “eat anything that grew,” which was something that she’d read in Louis Hay’s You can Heal Your Life. Not forever, just for 30 days.
Our start date for her experiment was April 1st of last year and she agreed to go until May 1st without succumbing to the lure of a no-carb diet. Despite the fact that she was allowing herself to eat more, each day was a struggle because she really wanted to give in to her desire to reject carbs. As we discussed it over the month, she realized that a huge part of her wanting to control her carbs so intensely was also a desire to have some control in her life. When she gave that up, it opened up more space for us to discuss in therapy what was actually going on in her life that felt totally out of control, such as her career, her relationship, and some of her friendships. As carbohydrates stopped being the center of her focus, her real life, which was admittedly difficult, became something that she was actually able to focus on in therapy. Each day in April she let herself experiment with different whole food carbohydrates, such as potatoes and sweet potatoes, yams, apples, bananas, avocados, sushi with the rice, and she even ate pasta once or twice without bingeing on it, which shocked her.
The magic that happened in that month was the letting go. As she was able to work on what was really going on inside of her and allow herself to eat really healthy whole foods, she began to let go of bingeing. Those ten pounds that had been haunting her for years didn’t magically fall off in a month, but about 2 or 3 pounds did. No, it wasn’t the ten pounds in two weeks that she was hoping for, but the promise of that was what kept piling the pounds on year after year after year.
As of right now, she’s not on a no-carb diet, and she’s not on a high carb diet. She is just trying to be nutritionally savvy. She eats whole foods, and exercises and has recently began to feel at peace with her body. She has certainly lost weight and come to a comfortable place for herself physically, but that’s not what makes this important, what makes it important is that when she stopped obsessing, she was able to come home to herself.
That doesn’t mean that taking care of yourself by choosing not to eat certain refined carbohydrates is a bad thing, however it might be good to reframe your thinking not as a “low-carb” diet but as a “whole foods” way of eating. Allowing yourself healthy whole foods will do nothing but nourish your body. And if you wind up eating a piece of cake or some pasta once in a while, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed miserably, you haven’t knocked yourself out of ketosis and you don’t have to binge. This is just about being good to your body by choosing to bring in healthy whole foods rather than reject carbohydrates totally.
Most people find that they are able to fend off bingeing much more effectively when they reintegrate both carbohydrates and proteins into their daily meals. So go ahead, eat that potato and let go of the guilt. Carbs are not the enemy, in fact they will make your brain happier, calmer and you will begin to find more peace when you are integrating whole protein, fat and carbohydrates all generously back in to your daily diet.