triggers

How To Stop Procrastinating

As I mentioned in my last post, stress eating is a result of one of two things.

1.) You have no control over the outcome of something, such as  getting laid off or dealing with someone else’s reaction to something you said or did.

2.)You do have control over something, such as paying your bills or cleaning your house, but you can’t seem to get yourself to do it.

In the last post, I discussed ways to soothe yourself as you accept the things you cannot change. Now, let’s discuss how to actually get the things done that you can control.

To procrastinate is to delay important tasks to an unspecified future time. Often, people will replace the task at hand with something that gives instant gratification such as snacking or drinking or watching tv, surfing the net or doing something else that isn’t particularly necessary and can even be harmful in the case of compulsive behaviors such as spending, binge eating or drinking.

Procrastination usually results in guilt, stress and in some extreme cases, the behavior that replaces the task at hand (the procrastination behavior- what you do instead of studying/paying bills/cleaning/exercising etc.) can cause a crisis or an addiction.  Because procrastination perpetuates itself, it can cause guilt, shame, and isolation as some people might feel bad for not being able to complete the tasks that they were supposed to in a reasonable amount of time. These feelings can cause further procrastination as the person avoids what they need to do and they anxiety around it and redirects their energy into preparing food and eating it.

If you are already prone to binge eating, procrastination can be catnip for your behavior.

How to Stop Procrastinating and Beat Stress Eating

1.) Keep it Simple. This is not a black and white situation. You don’t have to complete this task perfectly. Sometimes people put off a task because it seems just so big and overwhelming.This is about progress, not perfection. Do the best you can.

2.) Take fifteen minute blocks. If you have something to do, set a timer for 15 minutes and just work on it for that long. After 15 minutes, reward yourself with a non-food activity, such as checking your email or facebook page. Give yourself a five minute reward, then get back to the task.

3.) Break it down into smaller bite sized pieces. Rather than cleaning out your whole closet, take just one corner of your closet and clean that section. Each day, take some time to clean out another small section. In a few days, it will all be done. Just do one small section, take no longer than 20-30 minutes each day if you’re trying to organize something. Eventually, it will be complete.

4.) Make a list of what exactly needs to be done. Think about which thing is the easiest. Begin to do the easiest things first, get that all out of the way. When you do, you will find that as you cross things off the list, you are feeling more confident and things are getting done and you are feeling more energized and confident about finishing your projects.

5.) Get a buddy. Talk to someone else who is a procrastinator and see if the two of you can plan to do things together. For example, you might meet at a coffee shop while you do your taxes and your friend works on her dissertation. You might get headphones and chat on the phone together as you clean your closets. If there is a particularly grueling task that you’ve been putting off, you might do them together, such as have a date to go to the DMV and then have tea afterwards.

6.) When you feel the urge to get up and go to the kitchen, set your timer for 20 minutes. Tell yourself that you’re just going to work on your task for 20 minutes, after that, you can go to the kitchen if you want. Hopefully this will offset the compulsive behavior and you will find that you are able to get absorbed in what you are doing.

7.) Remind yourself why you are doing the task and think about how you will feel when the task is done. Think about how you will feel if you put off the task by using food. Reminding yourself of consequences is a good way to keep yourself honest. Really think about the consequences of putting off the task by using food.

8.) Get away from a place that has your procrastination mistress, for example, don’t spend time in the kitchen. If you’re needing to do bills or taxes or work on homework or a paper or studying, get out of your house and go to the library.

9.) Bookend the task. Call someone before you start and tell them your intention. Tell them how long you expect the task to take you, tell them exactly what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it, tell them that you’re not going to use food to procrastinate. Give them an approximate time as to when you will be done with the task and call them to let them know you’ve completed it.

10.) Give the task less power and yourself more. You are stronger than the urge to procrastinate. You are smarter and more able than the task. You can get this done. You have everything inside of you that you need to do this. So, just go ahead and do it.

How to beat stress eating– 50 ways to cope with stress without food

If you give a normal person a list of five things to do, they will get started with the first thing on their list. If you give a stress eater a list with five things to do, they will get started by running to the refrigerator. Eating becomes a way to deal with procrastination, fatigue, and powerlessness. After all, a big part of stress is really just a belief that you are completely powerless over a situation. Eating is the immediate response to the stressor. It’s the thing that stress eaters go to when they feel powerless over the stress. So, how to stop stress eating?

In 12 step groups, the serenity prayer says:

grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

  • Stop! Think about the source of your stress. Is this something that you can control?
  • Figure out what  you can control.
  • If there is nothing that you can do about the situation, you might simply have to accept it and all the consequences that come with it.
  • Deal with the consequences of accepting that you cannot change the situation at hand and take care of yourself around that
  • Are you stressing about something that hasn’t happened yet? Stop. Don’t live in the future or in the past. All that exists is the moment. Make the best choice that you can for the given moment.

Here is a list of 50 things that you can do when you’re stressed instead of eating:

(this list won’t have you running to the fridge)

1.)Organize yourself, figure out exactly what to do and execute a strategy for getting things done. If you are not good at this, ask a friend who is good at this stuff to help you.

2.)Take a bath

3.)Go for a walk

4.)Go to the gym

5.)Meditate

6.)Drink tea

7.)Call a friend and talk out what is going on with you.

8.)Write in your journal/blog

9.)Stretch or do yoga

10.)Zone out and watch a movie that you like

11.)Curl up with a good book

12.)Take your dog for a walk, or pet your cat if you have one

13.)Clean your house

14.)Do some volunteer work– get out of your head by helping some other people out. Serve food at a soup kitchen, volunteer to play with kids at a homeless shelter, walk dogs or play with cats at the local animal shelter.

15.)Buy a meal for a homeless person in your neighborhood and bring it to them

16.)Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time

17.)Call a much older relative or friend. The advice of people older than you with so much more life experience can be incredibly valuable.

18.)Listen to music that you can lose yourself in

19.)Get out of your apartment or house and be out in the world with people, don’t isolate

20.)Draw, paint, do something artistic

21.)Walk around the block then attack your to do list.

22.)Promise yourself a non-food reward for every thing you cross off your list, such as 10 minutes to zone out on the internet.

23.)Get a massage

24.)Take a shower

25.)Water your plants

26.)Find something to break, like sticks or branches you find outdoors.Rip up an old tee-shirt. Anything that can feel cathartic and release some tension. Just don’t hurt anyone.

27.)Relax your jaw. Your jaw is the strongest muscle in your body and because of that, you hold a lot of stress in it. Massage your jaw muscles and try to relax them.

28.)Cry

29.)Scream into a pillow

30.)Dance

31.)Go to a spin class, kickboxing class, or to the boxing gym– something that exerts energy

32.)Go for a drive through a neighborhood that you like

33.)Go out to a movie

34.)Smell flowers

35.)Color hard with crayons– releases stress

36.)Garden

37.)Go to the beach and look at the ocean

38.)Think about people you love, call them, tell them your woes or don’t tell them your woes, just connecting can be healing

39.)Paint your toenails

40.)Window shop

41.)Play a musical instrument

42.)Make Love

43.)Write or read affirmations.

44.)Give yourself a foot massage

45.)Go for a good run!

46.)Write kind notes or emails to people for no reason

47.)Walk outside and smile at 10 strangers

48.)Write a letter to your higher self or your higher power or the Universe…

49.)Slowly inhale  to the count of 5 then exhale  to the count of 5. Do this for 5 minutes.

50.)Let it go.

Need more ideas? See 101 Things to Do Instead of Binge Eating

Coming up Next— how to deal with the things that you actually CAN change, but somehow can’t find the will to. 

When food is the third person in your relationship

triangulating food into your relationshipSome couples are drinking buddies. That is, they spend a lot of time going to bars together, or drinking at home together and alcohol becomes a big part of their relationship.  Often these couples aren’t exactly sure what they’d do together if alcohol wasn’t accessible.  Other  couples are eating buddies. Their relationship revolves around food and eating. They plan elaborate vacations where food and restaurants are at the center of their itineraries, they cook big elaborate meals together, they eat out together.

Then, there are couples where the obsession with food permeates every part of the relationship. They buy binge foods and sit home alone bingeing together rather than in private. They diet together, vowing to stay away from certain foods, then, as diets most often do, they fail together and begin bingeing together. The eating disorder becomes triangulated into their relationship. In family therapy, the concept of triangulation occurs when there is some kind of unspoken, unacknowledged conflict between two people. They then use a third person to mitigate that conflict. In this case, the person is the binge eating disorder.

When food is triangulated into a relationship, the couple will find that most of their conversations revolve around food–what they’re eating, when they’re going to eat, what they’re going to eat. They might also have a great deal of conversations that revolve around their bodies and how to “fix” them. Couples who triangulate food into their relationship will find that most of their social activities with each other revolve around food and food related events. They will also find that if there is something going on in the relationship, some kind of conflict or something that one of them or both of them are unhappy about, that they will avoid the subject and try to get closer by isolating as a couple and eating together.

If one partner begins to recover in a relationship like this, it can often be challenging for the other partner, who could then feel threatened as they lose their partner in crime. It can also bring forth all the conflict that has been stuffed and avoided with food. Sometimes, partners find that without eating and food, they don’t have much in common with each other.

How to Figure out if food is triangulated into your relationship.

  • Are you and your partner obsessed with food?
  • Do you often do events together that don’t revolve around food?
  • Do you binge and then vow to go on diets together then binge again? Is this a cycle?
  • Are you afraid that without eating, the two of you wouldn’t have much in common?
  • Are their things in your relationship that go unspoken about?
  • Does one of you become threatened if the other begins a healthy lifestyle regimen?
  • Does one of you unconsciously try to sabotage the other when they begin a healthy lifestyle regimen, ie: bringing them binge foods or taking them to a restaurant where the food can be a binge trigger?

If this sounds familiar, some steps that you can take to detriangulate your relationship are:

  • Talking about your feelings more with each other. When you each get home from work, take time to discuss your days with one another.
  • Begin to notice what role food plays in your relationship, for instance, if it’s a Friday night and you’ve already eaten dinner, but one of you decides that getting a pint of ice cream would be a good idea, discuss what it is that you’re avoiding. Are you disinterested in being alone together without food? Are you afraid of what you would talk about or afraid that you might not have anything to talk about?
  • Try to integrate some non food activities into your relationship, like going to museums or art openings, or taking walks or some kind of (non cooking) lesson together.

Restau- RANTS

Salon recently put out an article about what happens when people don’t get the food that they expect to get at a restaurant. It seems that people go into an emotional tizzy when they don’t get what they expected. It’s no surprise that restaurants can be very emotionally charged experiences for people. They order their food a certain way and when it fails to meet their standards, they then become agitated and angry. This isn’t an unusual phenomenon. Yet, it’s curious. Why is it that people are so incredibly attached to outcome when it comes to food? What is the expectation that food is going to be or do for them and when it doesn’t do that, what kind of reaction do they have?

It is common for binge eaters and bulimics to have a particular binge food, such as pizza or Twinkies or ice cream. For someone who uses food to elicit an emotional response, such as pleasure or calmness or to shut out sadness or anxiety, the Twinkie will consistently do exactly what they want it to do. It’s like taking a xanax. No wonder people become so anxious when their orders are screwed up. They had an expectation of the way the food would make them feel. The food has failed to do that, or the establishment has failed to live up to their expectations. What a let down.

Trying to let go of your expectations as to what food can do for you and trying to let go of  the outcome of your food experiences can be liberating.  Food isn’t xanax. Yes, it’s nice to get what you pay for, but if it’s so emotionally charged when someone gives you regular milk for your coffee instead of skim milk, it’s worth looking at. What am I expecting food to do for me? Am I really that rigid around food? Will two tablespoons of full fat milk in my coffee make a difference in the grand scheme of things?  Watching the anxiety that comes up for yourself, having and observing ego (the observing ego is the part of us that watches what we do and say in some objective manner, while tolerating the anxiety that is produced) as you notice yourself in a restaurant is a great way to let go of some of your issues around food. Letting go of some of the rigidity is crucial.

Free Food! But at what cost?

Then, there’s the free food phenomena. This is a binge eaters Achilles Heel. It sets up not just temptation, but a moral dilemma, “is it okay for me to waste this food?” There are many free food situations that get set up. But you have to look at the real cost in free food. Such as “if I eat this, will it set up a binge later?” “will I binge on this because it’s free?” “Is this unhealthy for me to be eating in quantity?”

There is the hidden cost involved with free food, and one that comes with a price tag that is much higher than the food. What will happen if you begin eating the free food? Ask yourself the following questions before you start.

1.)What is the cost/benefit analysis of eating this food?

2.)If I eat this food, just because it is free will I be happy?

3.)Will I be happier in the long term if I eat this free food?

4.)What are the consequences of eating this?

5.)After I am finished with the food, what might happen?

6.)If I eat this free food, will I be able to eat it moderately or will I begin to eat it compulsively?

7.)Will eating this food trigger a binge?

8.)If so, will I wind up bingeing for the rest of the day/night or for several more days?

9.)Will eating this food cause me to purge?

10.)If  I don’t eat this food, will I feel badly?

11.)Will I feel worse if I don’t eat this food than if I do?

Here are some common free food situations and ways to counter them.

Scenario: Babysitting

Situation: The parents have left tons of ice cream, candy, chips, cookies, cake, and other types of food and  junkfood for you to snack on while you’re there.

How to Deal: No matter how old you are, babysitting can be a trigger. You are at home alone, with very little to do and a whole open refrigerator full of free and new food. Before you go to babysit, have a plan. You might put a boundary on yourself saying that won’t eat anything there at all and eat a healthy nutritious dinner before you go. If it’s an all day thing or a time that will coincide with your dinner, you can pack healthy meals to bring with you. If the kids are eating meals that you are likely to binge on, or are likely to trigger a binge (most often I hear mac-n-cheese or pizza) simply decide that you are going to have something different. While you are there, make sure that you have a great book, or a great movie for after the kids are asleep. You might even ask the parents if it’s okay for you to have a friend over. If so, bring a safe friend who won’t engage in binge eating behaviors with you and bring games to play after the kids go to sleep.  If not, let someone know that you want to avoid binge eating have a friend to talk to and check in with while you are there. Bring something to do with your hands, like crafts to do with the kids, or knitting or jewelry making. Make sure to set your intention before you go there that you are not going to engage in binge eating there. The intention you set and the strategies that you set up will help you to refrain from acting out in eating disorder behaviors.

Scenario: Upgrade to First Class

Situation: You are fortunately upgraded to first class on a  long flight. With that comes unlimited drinks and food and as many snack packs as you want. Even though you ate a good meal before you got on the flight, you find that it’s hard to refuse the free food, despite the fact that you are not hungry.

How To Deal: Check in with yourself to figure out whether you are hungry or not. If you are not, let the flight attendant know that you are not ready to eat yet and ask if you might be able to save your meal for later in the flight when you are hungry. If you do choose to drink, don’t have more than one drink. People tend to drink a great deal on long flights and this can be dangerous. You might become dehydrated and get a headache, then feel miserable when you land. Think about what might happen if you choose to overeat or drink a lot on the flight. If you do, will you land feeling ready for your visit or to come home and get back to work/school? Again, this is a cost/benefit analysis. Will eating and drinking make you feel better or worse in the long run? There are many other ways to make a long flight pleasurable besides eating and drinking, and it’s nice to land feeling strong and healthy rather than uncomfortable, bloated, headachey and sick.

Scenario: Food Basket

Situation: Christmas, Get Well, Easter, Thanksgiving… whatever! Someone has sent you a basket full of binge foods.

How To Deal: Be honest with yourself about whether or not you will be able  to have them in your house to eat moderately. If not, regift it. Give it away, donate it, bring it to a homeless shelter, or a homeless person, or a friend.

Scenario: Free Pizza Party

Situation: You arrive at work/school and find that your class or team has won a free pizza party for whatever, but you know that pizza is either a binge food or a trigger food for you (a trigger food is one that you eat that you won’t necessarily binge on, but will trigger a binge later).

How To Deal: Again, think of the cost benefit analysis. Will you feel better or worse if you eat the pizza. Can you eat one or two slices and stop? Can you eat one or two slices without bingeing afterwards? Can you stop at one or two slices? If the answer is no to these questions, refuse the pizza and instead stick with lunch that you had planned. Is saving $5-$10 for lunch worth the way you are going to feel if you trigger a binge?

Scenario: Home to visit the parents

Situation: Parents house is completely full of junkfood. You are stressed out being at home– all the old feelings of your childhood have come up. You want to binge after they go to sleep.

How To Deal: Remember that you are no longer a  kid and that you do have control. You can choose exactly what you want to eat, whether you want to binge or not, and what time you go to sleep. The food in their house won’t make you feel better, but it will trigger the old binge cycle. Tell yourself the first night that you are not going to touch the junkfood, but if you want to the next night, you can.  See how you feel when you wake up the next morning. If you remember waking up in the past feeling full and uncomfortable and full of shame, notice how nice it is to wake up feeling well rested and comfortable in your body. If you choose to eat the junk food that night, make sure that you have a healthy dinner and choose one or two small things to eat. When you eat, do it slowly and mindfully. Check in, are you doing this to shut down? If so, try to stay conscious. Try to eat slowly and actually taste what you are actually eating. You will find that you are more satisfied with a small bit of the food than you are when you binge on it or compulsively stuff it down your throat.

Scenario: Someone is taking you out to dinner

Situation: You are invited out to dinner by a friend who wants to take you to a place where the food is unhealthy and triggering. They urge you to order foods that you know will trigger a binge.

How to Deal: Don’t go to the restaurant very hungry. Understand that you don’t have to eat to make anyone else happy. You eat to feed yourself. You don’t have to eat something that will make you feel uncomfortable or trigger a binge later. It’s okay to say, “no, actually I don’t want to order the macaroni and cheese or the s’mores pie…” or whatever your mate wants you to order that you know will hurt you. Tell them that because they are so excited for you to try that,  you would love a sample of theirs, but you really are in the mood for something different. You never have to eat something to make someone feel better. You are not responsible for other people’s reactions, only your own.

Scenario: Happy hour- free bar snacks with drinks

Situation: You go for drinks after work with your friends and they are giving out free wings, mini eggrolls, chips, dips, ribs, pizza rolls, whatever! It’s free so it’s enticing, but you also know that it isn’t a proper dinner and if you get started you won’t stop.

How to Deal: Really, stop after one drink and have soda water. It’s very difficult to turn down free salty food when under the influence. Don’t stay too late and remember that you will feel better if you don’t drink or eat too much. Think about how free food is not necessarily good food. It’s unhealthy, and probably not prepared very well. It’s probably nothing more than microwaved or deep fried boxed foods, worth very little money. Again, let’s say you eat $$8.00 worth of free food. Then you feel yucky afterwards, did you actually save $8.00? Not really, the cost of feeling ill is much more than you saved. Decide that you are going to save your appetite for a proper dinner.

Scenario: Expensive All You Can Eat Buffet

Situation: You are in Las Vegas and it’s suggested that you go to the Bellagio for their Brunch Buffet. You pay $60 for the all you can eat buffet, but once you get there, you realize that all you really want is an omelet and some fruit salad. You become upset because you realize that you are going to have to pay all that money for a very small amount of food. What do you do?

How To Deal: This is a tough one. It’s really challenging to know that you paid that much money for a couple of eggs and a piece of melon. So here’s where you have to begin to think. What is my $60 worth here? Is it worth the company of my friends? Can I tell my friends that I’ll meet them afterwards and to enjoy their brunch? If not, can I enjoy the company without without bingeing? Can I eat slowly and moderately? If I pay $60 and I binge, is that okay? Did I pay all that money for yummy food or did I pay all that money to do something that made me feel horrible? These are things to think about carefully. If you feel horrible after the buffet, than that was not worth the $60.  You can sample some things, but eat slowly and really taste and appreciate your food. Don’t turn it into a race to make back your money. Try to enjoy the environment, the company, and the food.

Candy Corns, Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Spice Latte’s, Mini Candy Bars– What do I do?

Fall is the time for the beloved comfort foods as well as the start of the bingeing season. First comes Halloween with candy everywhere, then of course Thanksgiving, the national bingeing holiday and then there’s the whole month of December with gift baskets, alcohol, egg nog, and chocolate treats everywhere and no foreseeable end to the constantly filled candy bowl in the office.

There are two challenging issues here, the first and most obvious is the abundant candy everywhere and the sales on bite sized treats in every store that you walk into. The next issue is the seasonal treats that can be so tempting such as Starbucks holiday lines of latte’s,  Safeway’s hot pumpkin pies, Walgreen’s candy corns on sale, caramel apples at county fairs, and all those other autumn treats.  The idea that these treats are limited to only a few weeks a year can really activate black and white thinking. The belief might be, “oh no, Starbucks only has their Candy Corn Latte’s until Halloween, I just have to make sure that I get it now!” When in reality,  you never even drink latte’s.

So how do you deal with this?

1.)Ask yourself if you really want it or if the temptation is because it’s new, novel and going away soon. Really understand why it is that you are going toward that food.

2.)Ask yourself it will set up a binge if you eat it.

3.)Be brutally honest with yourself. If you know in advanced that it will set up a binge, tell yourself that you know that this will be back next year and that this year, you’re focusing on recovery. Next year perhaps you will be able to eat it in a healthy manner. After all, your long term health and recovery are more important than the instant gratification of a new flavored latte, which will of course turn into something that feels awful. You are not restricting food here, you are making a choice not to start on something that will probably trigger a binge. You know yourself well enough to know whether or not this will turn into an all out binge.

4.)If you don’t think that it will set up a binge, allow yourself to have some of these foods in limited quantities. For instance, decide to let yourself have that latte’, but rather than a tall or a Grande, order the short. If you want a pumpkin pie, don’t buy a whole pumpkin pie yourself, see if you can buy a slice and save it for desert after dinner. Or you can even bake a pumpkin pie and have people over for it.

5.)If you find that you want to binge on mini candy bars and Halloween candy, make sure that you don’t buy it to give out to kids. Don’t worry, MARS and Nestle will do fine without your support this year. My mom used to give out little Halloween goody bags with boxes of raisins, spooky pencils and pennies on Halloween. It was totally embarrassing for me as the kids would look in there bags and say, “Oh Man! Raisins and pennies!” Back then I thought that she was forcing her health food paradigm on the world, but now I understand why she did it. She didn’t want the binge food on hand and she didn’t feel right contributing to unhealthy eating. A lot of it for her was about integrity as well as protecting herself and her family from junk food.

Other alternatives to candy for Halloween are:

– Halloween Toys or Stickers

-Halloween Pencils

-You can make a bunch of oragami fortune tellers with your kids or your friends or your parents or nieces and nephew and give those out.

-Glow Sticks and Glow Jewelry!

Or, if you can’t forgo the candy, try these more healthy treats.

For many people, buying Halloween candy can trigger a binge. Plenty of people wind up with tons of leftovers that they wind up bingeing on. Kids get enough candy from your neighbors, it’s okay to take care of yourself by giving kids something different and fun.

6.)If you find yourself tempted in stores where all the Halloween candy is out, make sure that you have a plan before you go into those stores. Make a list of what you need to buy and leave your ATM card at home. Bring cash so that you can’t compulsively grab something. And don’t go shopping hungry! Not even at Walgreens.

7.)If there is candy sitting in bowls at the office, again, if it won’t trigger a binge and you know that you can eat one or two pieces in a healthy way, then allow yourself a set number in a day (like two pieces of candy). Don’t eat them standing up by the bowl, bring them back to your desk. Eat one and save the other for later. Make sure that you don’t substitute candy for lunch. If you think that eating that candy will trigger a binge, stay away from the bowl. Have a plan and be mindful when you have to pass that bowl.  Keep a bowl of non binge foods available for yourself such as a bowl of apples or almonds or oranges. If the bowl is haunting you, calling to you throughout the day, try to talk back to it. Tell it that you’re trying to prevent yourself from bingeing and the instant gratification that you will get from a Hershey’s Kiss won’t be worth the binge that you will have that night, that you’d rather have long term recovery and this season, even a small kiss can be dangerous. It doesn’t mean this is forever, but for right now, you are giving yourself some space in order to keep the bingeing at bay.

The inner critic part II

Often, we become so bogged down by the critic inside of us, that we are unable to separate ourselves from that voice, the voice that feels like it is us, but really is not us. It’s the little judge inside of us that is a perpetual teenage girl telling us things like “you’re so fat, you’re so ugly, you’re so stupid, no one likes you…” blah blah blah. This voice isn’t real. This feels like it’s you, but it’s the part of you that criticizes yourself needlessly. This critic is not helpful. Sometimes we feel like it’s helpful, like it will help you to be a better person, but it won’t. Think about a child. Does a child feel good about herself and try harder when the parent tells them that they are stupid, bad children? No, the child feels terribly about herself. She eventually acts out as a bad child because this is what is expected of her. But what if a child is loved and encouraged. She is then more likely to feel good about herself and achieve more in life.  One of the ways to challenge your critic is to first notice it. When you feel yourself hearing things in your head like “fat, stupid, ugly… no one likes you,” blah blah, the teenage girl mantra.. first notice it, notice that this is not real, this is your critic. No one else is saying these things about you, just you are. And what if they are thinking these things about you?  First off, they probably aren’t, most people are too self absorbed to think too much about other people. Chances are if they are thinking these things about you that they themselves are very critical to self as well. If they are having critical thoughts about you it doesn’t matter. The only thoughts that can hurt you are your own. So having loving, peaceful thoughts about yourself will just feel better. To do this you must actively challenge those critical thoughts and then find your inner nurturer.  So, you’re at a party or even just at the grocery store and you’re looking down and feeling as though everyone is thinking bad thoughts about you and you are thinking bad thoughts about yourself. Notice that this is not real, that this is your critic. Tell your critic to leave you alone. Take a deep breath, look up and smile at someone, anyone. If they don’t smile back, find someone else to smile at. Try to get out from under your critic by connecting with other people. If love and peace and happiness is put out and mirrored back to you, your feelings will begin to transform. If you are submerged by your critic, you will feel trapped under its crushing weight, only to find yourself angry, sad, and lonely. Give yourself love and try to let it in as well.  Next… finding your inner nurturer.

The inner critic part I

You know that voice, the annoying one inside your head that’s always saying things like, “you should workout more,” or “you shouldn’t have eaten so much,” or “you should be skinnier…” or sometimes even worse things like, “you’re a fat pig,” or “you’re stupid,” or “you’re dumb,” or “people hate you…” or “people will think that there’s something wrong with you…” do you know that voice?

If these voices sound familiar, you are intimately acquainted with your inner critic.  In simplest terms, your critic is the super-ego run amok. Your super ego is the part of your psyche that is set up to keep you from acting on the drives of your id. Freud described it as “retaining the character of the father.” So, basically, your super-ego is the internalized voice of the disciplinarian.  Your super-ego keeps you from acting out on your dangerous urges.

In those of us with eating disorders, the super-ego is overdeveloped and becomes out of control. It becomes not a way for us to maintain healthy boundaries, but a structure set up to emotionally abuse us if we step outside of the rigid framework that we’ve created for ourselves.

Why does the critic develop this way? There could be several reasons, or no reason at all. Some people have highly critical parents who only loved you when you did something right and punished you when you did something wrong. Some people might have parents who were very loving toward them but not very loving for themselves. It’s difficult to learn self love when it’s not modeled for you.

The critic tells you that there’s something wrong with you, when there’s probably nothing wrong with you. The critic tells you that other people are thinking that there’s something wrong with you, which might or might not be true, either way there’s nothing you can do about it, you can only really change your view of yourself.

As you begin to learn how to love yourself and to challenge the critic, you will find yourself feeling more comfortable with yourself and feeling more joyous…

In the next entry, I’ll be discussing some ways to work with the critic.

Staying binge free through the holidays.

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

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

First off, have an action plan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, now what about holiday parties?

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

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

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

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Warmly,

Leora