Archives

Q & A Friday- I’ve Stopped Binge Eating but I Haven’t Lost Weight- Help!

Q & A FridayToday’s question comes to us from Pamela in New Jersey.  This is a super common and difficult question that comes quite often in ED recovery. 

Question –

Hi Leora,

I have an ED therapist and ED nutritionist and I’ve been seeing them for over a year. I’m also in a weekly ED recovery group.

I think I’m doing good with recovery but I’m not losing weight. I think it’s because I’m still eating to take the edge off. Not in a binge sort of way but in a starting point sort of way. I’ve been paying more attention to using the hunger scale recently and that’s improving. Not losing anything since starting a serious recovery program is very discouraging. I’m no small fry, I’m over 300 pounds. I have very low energy and still sleep quite a bit which makes sense considering my body is very large. Everyone in recovery says it’s not about the weight. It’s about healing the behaviors and the weight I suppose will come off eventually. I’ve found a lot of peace but it’s not easy being so large.

When I bring up weight loss to my ED nutritionist she say’s that should be on the back burner for now. However even after all the progress and peace I am discouraged and down mood wise. My poor body has endured much with the BED. I’m getting up there in years now (55yo) and it’s not getting easier carrying the extra weight. I understand the goal isn’t to “lose” weight but to find more normalized behaviors around food and resolve the need for emotional eating.

But i am tired, I am feeling low and today I’m discouraged. I’ve done a good job not making about the weight over almost the past two years and weight wise I’ve let go of 10 pounds or so. When do I let it go of the big excess weight. I know you cant tell me but there must be a way to combine releasing extra weight with recovery even if it is some form of a “diet”. There has got to be a way to gain physical health and normalized eating together. I have no illusion of being super small, I think I have a very real thought of what my body is comfortable size/weight wise. But when I bring it up I am told that losing weight cant be the focus. But that doesn’t change that it’s just to hard and humiliating carrying this extra 150 pounds. Yes Humiliating at times when I cant sit at a table at a restaurant for example, or cant sit on someone’s couch bc it wont hold me. I’m in pain emotionally and physically over this weight issue and I need someone with some direction other than put it on the back burner.

I’m asking you bc whenever I read what you have to say you make sense.

Any thoughts? Thank you Leora,

Answer-

Your question is such a good one.  As long as I have been working in Eating Disorder Recovery, this conundrum has come up on an almost daily basis. People either start to gain weight in their recovery and it’s very upsetting for them, or they find that they have been not bingeing, not purging, no restricting, and not dieting — but they have not lost any weight. They then become extremely discouraged and also very angry.

The anger is usually directed at recovery or at their recovery team. They wonder why they’ve wasted all this time not on a diet when they could have been on a diet and lost weight rather than what they’re doing right now. 

My friend Sheira, who is a well known eating disorder therapist often says, “when you focus on weight loss, you make a pact with the devil.”  As an Eating Disorder Therapist, when you promise anyone that you will help them lose weight or you focus on weight loss with them, you begin corroborating with the societal message that got them into their Eating Disorder to begin with.  The very first thing we need to do with someone who is recovering from an eating disorder is to help them take their focus off of food and weight and the scale and diets and weight loss and help them to refocus on their mental and physical health.  Dieting and the pursuit of weight loss does not equal health. The problem is that we have been told that it does– not only does weight loss equal health, it also equals beauty and it equals our worth in the world. I remember an interview many, many years back with Duff (she was one of the first MTV Vee-Jays). She was a model and model thin– and then she became ill. While going through multiple chemotherapy treatments she became really skinny, sick skinny– and people started complimenting her on her weight loss and saying things like, “whatever you’re doing- keep it up! You look great!” She was appalled. She was already super thin and then she was sick. Skinny culture is not about health.  This is why we don’t focus on weight loss in ED recovery. We focus on health. And sometimes health means weight gain while focusing on mental health recovery. 

This is a super common argument that occurs when the Eating Disorder Community gets into a room with the Obesity Awareness community. When we go to Eating Disorders conferences, there are always inevitably lots of folks from the Obesity recovery community. The obesity researchers look at weight loss while the ED recovery community feels that the goal of weight loss most often ends in an eating disorder for the ED population, so treat the eating disorder and weight will come to its natural place. The belief is that concentrating on weight loss will bring you back to a place of obsessing on the scale,  feeling like a failure and then reverting to eating disorder ways. In ED recovery, we want to treat your brain first and help you to find a place of peace. We believe that your healthy body will come concurrently with a healthy mind. 

This argument however does not really fly when people feel that their weight is negatively impacting their lives. People tend to interject society’s negative connotations of their weight with their own feelings about how wrong they are and feel in the world. The answer is to address the problem that you’re dealing with, not the weight. For instance– pre-diabetes. The recommendations for reversing  pre-diabetes includes eating healthy food and exercising 30 minutes a day.  Exercise does not have to be pejorative or punishing or painful. It can be a walk with your kiddos around the neighborhood, it can be swimming, it can be a yoga video, it can be jumping on a trampoline. Pre-diabetes is having an elevated blood glucose level and can be helped by exercise because when you utilize your muscles they will pull glucose out of your blood for energy and stamina.  And healthy eating doesn’t have to be a diet determined by someone outside of you. Healthy eating includes eating lots of whole unprocessed foods when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re body is satisfied and allowing yourself to eat foods for enjoyment (like ice cream!) in a non-bingeing and loving way.

Having no energy is something that you can work on as well.  People of all shapes and sizes (especially women) feel that they have no energy. Ways to increase your energy again include getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night, exercising and eating for both health and enjoyment.   If you are able to eat when you are hungry, stop when you are satisfied and incorporate loving, healthy movement into your daily routine– your body WILL come to its healthy weight without you focusing on weight loss as the goal. Try to shift your focus instead on personal health and inner peace. 

According to Deb Burgard of The Association for Size Diversity and Health,  (The Health at Every Size movement) “…advocates eating in a manner that balances individual nutritional needs with hunger, satiety, appetite, and pleasure. We also enthusiastically support individually appropriate, enjoyable, life enhancing physical activity rather than exercise for the purpose of weight loss. A “normal weight” is the weight at which a person’s body settles as s/he moves towards a more fulfilling, meaningful lifestyle that includes being physically active and consuming nutritious foods. Not all people are currently at their most “healthy weight.” Movement towards a more balanced life will facilitate the achievement of a “healthy weight.” “

When my clients ask about weight loss, we try to look and see what they think weight loss will offer them. Often answers vary from things like: Losing weight will give me:  more friends, more confidence, more energy, more love, the ability to go out and do things that I’ve been missing, I can wear whatever I want… The truth is, you can reverse engineer this. Don’t think about losing weight as the antidote to the issues. When you look to treat each issue individually, you wind up finding the benefits that you think weight loss will give you. Chasing the almighty number on the scale– for someone who has been in that rat race for a number of years, will only keep them in it.  Chase true health instead. 

What do you think? Does it makes sense? 

For further reading on the topic,  go to: 

National Eating Disorder Association Thoughts on The Health at Every Size Approach 

Health at Every Size Approach 

Health at Every Size Book 

 

I hope that this response was helpful for you. Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating? 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. Are you interested in online therapy or coaching to deal with your eating disorder? Please contact me to discuss getting started. 

Round Up of ICED 2016

imgres

It’s been more than a week since I’ve returned from the International Academy of Eating Disorders annual conference (though returned is really a silly word as it was only 12 miles from my house this year), and I’m finally able to sit down and gather my thoughts about it. If you’ve never been, even if you’re not a clinician, I highly recommend. There is a lot of advocacy and research there and many things to learn.  Next year it’s going to be in Prague! I certainly won’t be able to go, but I was psyched to have an opportunity to go this year as it was in San Francisco. With two littles at home, big travel is hard.

There were  a few main themes ICED 2016 (International Conference of Eating Disorders) that were floating around:

Eating disorder research and treatment vs. obesity research and treatment.  Wow. There was serious, serious controversy there. This is because obesity researchers as well as state funded grants (think NIH) are still using ideas such as food restriction, caloric restriction and BMI to measure recovery. All eating disorder clinicians and researchers have evidence that all of this, dietary restriction, BMI, “weight management” and dieting all lead to disordered eating patterns. Obesity researchers believe that obesity has to be treated because it leads to heart disease, Type II diabetes, etc. But Eating Disorder researchers and clinicians (and me too!) believe that when you focus on the obesity as the health problem, you are doing a disservice to the patient – you should be focusing on health and treating the specific disease. “Treating Obesity” continually leads to failure. Obesity isn’t a disease, but heart disease is.

Next off we discussed ADVOCACY a whole lot. People often think of eating disorders as a white woman’s disease, but the truth is that EDs hit not just white women, but women AND MEN across all races. In fact, Latina women have a higher incidence of eating disorders than white women. But most people of color or folks who aren’t cisgender tend to shy away from treatment – for many reasons. It’s not accessible (affordable), it’s not relatable- treatment is geared toward one gender and one race, and it’s stigmatized and unsupported by family and community. For instance, many years ago I had a client who, despite the fact that she had a horrific case of bulimia, her family would not support her treatment because they said it was a “white women’s disease.” She did come in for treatment and got great support from our treatment center and the treatment community but not from her family or her own community. This is not an uncommon situation. The fact that she came in for treatment is really fantastic, but most people don’t.  The conference spoke a lot about getting it out there that EDs strike everyone everywhere and nobody should be ashamed to try and get help. And, as a community of ED professionals- we have to provide more help in different and more accessible ways. So lots to do there. And a note, if you are a human being who is not a white woman and you are suffering from an ED- please do reach out (you can even reply to this post) and I’ll point you in the right direction for treatment- thanks to this conference I have some really great resources now.

I met some of my heros of Eating Disorders, like Deb Burgard – and I was really seriously starstruck and took a selfie with her- it was more exciting to me than meeting say Johnny Depp (but honestly that would excite me too).  If you don’t know about Deb, please click her name above and check out her work. She is a brilliant Psychologist, speaker and advocate for size diversity and Health at Every Size.  I also got to meet Lizabeth Wesely-Casella from Bingebehavior.com – (have you read that blog? It’s awesome). And that was really exciting as well. Such amazing people do this work – it’s good work, and it’s hard work. 

Body Positivity – A lot of people ask me why as a a clinician treating Eating Disorders I advocate for Health at Every Size and why it’s important. The answer is easy- almost every eating disorder started with a diet. If we can eradicate people being told that they are not good enough and they need to diet, we can deeply change the internalized messages that dieting is the only way out – we then allow people to live in bodies that were meant for them. Those bodies might be big or they might be small- but what we want them to focus on is their true health. True health isn’t about getting on a scale to measure your health. It’s about giving your body what it needs- good healthy food and good healthy movement (where you can), but of course movement and exercise can be difficult for those in larger bodies because of the social stigma. So it’s all very challenging and there needs to be a lot more kindness and acceptance out there.  And the obesity paradox actually says that people in the “overweight” BMI category live longer and are healthier. So there you go. There’s no good science around these debates yet.

Body Image – The body image part was interesting. I talked to a lot of different experts on it. The consensus is really that body image is deeply ingrained and that we should be working on prevention more than anything else. The body project is a good example of that kind of early intervention.

I went to a ton of neuropsych panels that were fascinating, but I’ll metabolize them into a different and accessible post soon enough.

Eating disorders are notoriously difficult to both treat and understand, but people are working really hard to make it happen and to find help for those suffering. Fortunately many people have gotten to the other side of their EDs and recovery is possible. If you need help, please reach out, you can reply to this post, email me directly or go directly to NEDA or call 800-931-2237.

Top Ten Myths about Fat or “Obese” Women

la2-vx06-konsthallen-skulptur-1

I’m really sick of hearing people talk about how if so and so knew what she was doing to her health, she would just stop eating and start exercising, or why can’t so and so stop eating, or so and so is setting such a bad example for her children.  Let’s set the record straight. Here are the top ten stupid-ass things that I’ve heard people say (otherwise known as myths).

MYTH #1.  Obese women should be educated on how to eat right. 

Not true, In fact, because popular society is constantly reinforcing that being a women of size is undesirable, many women of size have a Phd knowledge of food, calories and exercise. When you are an obese woman, you are reminded of it constantly. Your doctors tell you that any ailment will be solved with exercise and proper diet, sometimes people yell shitty things at you in the street, friends try to be “helpful” by giving you pointers. Trust me, a woman who has been dealing with obesity knows more than her doctor does about nutrition so having information and knowledge about calories, carbs, fat, etc. isn’t what she needs more of.

MYTH #2. Obese women should just get to the gym and exercise. 

Totally lame. First off, there is such a thing as being fit and fat. In fact the Health at Every Size movement tells us that it’s okay to stop focusing on weight loss and let yourself be healthy first and foremost. Many women of size are fit and do exercise often. Why don’t you see many fat people at the gym or out jogging? Gee I don’t know, maybe some people don’t like being stared at, or condescended to, “hey buddy good job, you’re doing great… you go girl…”  Not helpful.

MYTH #3. Obese women are “easy”

This is disgusting. I take a lot of issue with any woman no matter what her size being called easy or slutty or anything like that. I can’t even go into why this misperception makes me so angry. A women of size won’t just take any scraps she can get just because of her size. Why does that stupid idea persist? I don’t know, but I want to go on record saying that a woman of size has as much discretion and intelligence as a skinny woman. Most women want to find a kind, loving partner to be with. And if a woman happens to have a one night stand  with a d-bag (who hasn’t?) the woman of size happens to stand out more. There are no statistics available that obese women have more promiscuous sex than smaller women.

MYTH #4. Obese women are setting terrible examples for their children

Being self-hating, self-berating, and self-critical is setting a poor example for their children. She doesn’t have to be obese to do that. Making an effort to love yourself and love your children and let your children see you love yourself is a great example. When you love yourself you will take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean being skinny, it means eating lots of healthy food often and less healthy food in moderation and getting out into the fresh air and being kind to yourself both physically and psychologically.

MYTH #5. Obese women are very unhealthy

Not true, in fact women who are considered overweight (according to the BMI) with a BMI between 25-30 have the same relative risk of death as women who are in what’s considered a “normal” BMI.  You can’t judge how healthy someone is by looking at them or weighing them. Blood tests, energy levels and quality of life is a better indicator or health.

MYTH #6. Obese women all binge eat

Not true. The research says that 20% of obese folks suffer with Binge eating disorder, which means 80% of obese folks are not binge eating.

MYTH #7. Obese women have no willpower

I’d venture to say that the opposite it true. As I said in myth #1, many women of size have been on multiple diets and willed themselves down over and over and over again. But as we know, restrictive diets don’t  work in the long term. 

MYTH #8. Obese women have a low self esteem

Lots of women have low self esteems, not because they are fat, but because we are constantly bombarded by a media that tells us we are not good enough. Being thin doesn’t make a woman immune to low self-esteem and being larger doesn’t make a woman more likely to have it. Self-esteem is an inside job. It’s a practice of letting go of beliefs about yourself that the outside world has given you that tells you it’s not okay to be you.  You don’t need to let go of weight to let go of beliefs.

MYTH #9. No one will marry an obese woman

That’s just  fucking stupid.

MYTH #10. Obese women should go on diets 

No one should go on a diet ever.  95% of people who go on diets will gain the weight back. In fact, many people who start out at a lower weight go on diets which then creates eating disorders and weight gain.

 

 

 

 

Ten Myths About Binge Eating Disorder

Ten Myths About Binge Eating1. All binge eaters are obese

Completely untrue. In fact most of the people I see in my practice are considered a “normal weight.”  Food is their drug and bingeing is something they do in private and something people will go at lengths to hide, including maintaining a normal weight. In fact, I’ve  had clients who were downright skinny but who binged on food often and felt completely out of control with it.

2. All obese people are binge eaters

Actually, binge eating affects 8% of the obese population. Which means that 92% of obese people are NOT affected by binge eating.  In fact, despite the media’s belief that all fat people are unhealthy, there are many, many people who are both fat and fit. 

3. People who binge eat need more will power and self-control

People who binge eat usually have incredibly amounts of will power and self control. And though this is not true for every binge eater, for the most part, people who binge eat tend to be extremely high achieving and controlled in many aspects of their lives, including controlling their food. It’s this control that tends to sometimes backfire causing an all out rebellion against  the person’s inner critic. What a person who binge eats actually needs is more self compassion and support, not more rules and self control. Learning to support oneself in a positive way, not in a pejorative way will empower the binge eater feel more comfortable around food and less likely to be overpowered by an all out binge.

4. People who binge eat purge by vomiting

Not everyone who binge eats purges by vomiting. Some people compensate by over exercising, some compensate by fasting, some compensate by dieting, some compensate by taking laxatives, and some don’t compensate at all.

5. Binge eating is a bad habit and not a true disorder

Binge eating is more complex than simply a bad habit, it’s actually an impulse control issue, although it is not technically classified as and impulse control disorder.  However, using similar techniques as are used in certain other ICDs (like compulsive shopping) binge eating can be healed.  I’ve seen wonders done with DBT and mindfulness training.


6. Men don’t binge eat

Actually, Binge Eating Disorder affects 2% of men.  However, men don’t tend to get help as often as women. In fact, it’s stigmatized as a woman’s issues, so men tend to shy away from support and feel that they have to just stop or do it alone. In his blog about healing from binge eating, Alan Standish says, “Guys, Binge Eating Disorder affects us just as much as it does women. Don’t be embarrassed.”

7. Binge eating is incurable

It’s really not as grim as it’s made out to be. In healing from binge eating, you really heal your life in so many different ways. You become more organized in your thinking and more thoughtful and mindful. You can come to a place where you are able to let go of your feelings and fears about food. Food becomes nurturing instead of the enemy. I’ve seen it happen over and over again with my clients and that has certainly been my own experience.

8.Binge eating is caused by chronic emptiness

Just because you are binge eater, it doesn’t mean that you are broken. It doesn’t mean that you have a bottomless pit that you will never fill. However, having binge eating disorder can feel hopeless and you might feel as though you are totally out of control and a total mess. But you’re not. You need support, you need compassion and you need some help to get you passed it.

9. Drinking a glass of wine can help curb binge eating

Sometimes people will have a drink in order to calm down the urge to binge eat. But it often backfires. This is what I call “the solution becoming the problem.” If you drink to feel more in control, your problem might then become the drink. And more often than not, people wind up bingeing if they have drank too much- if not that night, then certainly the next morning to deal with a hangover and the shame that often accompanies it.

10. Quitting carbohydrates can help stop binge eating

No. It doesn’t. It really doesn’t. I’m very much a proponent of eating whole foods as much as possible and eschewing processed foods for the most part. So, eating lots of foods out of a box, probably not the best idea for overall health, however, unless you have sugar issues (as in hypoglycemia or diabetes)- it is not advisable to give up fruits and vegetables- even yams and potatoes. Your body runs more efficiently when you are eating a variety of whole foods. If you wind up on a very low carb diet, it’s likely that you might find yourself bingeing on carbs. It’s not because you have no lack of control, it’s because your cells are screaming for glucose and your body will push you into getting what it  needs for survival!

How to Be In Your Body

If you are suffering with an eating disorder, you might feel disembodied. Lots of people tend to be in their heads, but those who suffer with eating disorders really avoid being in their bodies and spend lots of time up in their heads. Many try and avoid the feelings that they have in their body and even avoid the fact that they have a body because it’s so fraught. My clients with eating disorders are often very intelligent, intellectual, and constantly going over things in their heads, some would say, “thinking too much.”  One client reported that she feels so wrapped up in her thoughts that she believes she’s missing the world around her. She told me that  people often say “hi” to her in the street or at work, and she doesn’t even notice because she’s so lost in thought– soooo in her head.

But when you’re up in your head… who’s minding the store? If you’re constantly in your head, when do you get to be in your body.   Are you avoiding your body? How can you you take care of a body when you’re not present for it?

I was talking to a client  who said that she didn’t want to be in her body until her body is perfect. “But your body is perfect and needs love and support now,”

“No, after I lose 50 pounds, then my body will be perfect… then I can let myself meditate, do yoga, be in my body, but I don’t want to be in my body now. Yuck.”

And that’s the irony. She believed that she couldn’t be in her body until it was perfect, but unless you loved and respected your body, at any size, then how could you treat it well? How could you nurture and treat something with respect that you avoid, neglect, and hate?  You can’t change something in order to make yourself like it. You know that with people, partners, and you know that with yourself. But unlike toxic people, you can’t avoid your body. It’s there, it’s yours. It’s important to embrace it. Or just be in it, not avoid it. Your body needs to be cared for and treated with love and respect.

So here’s a little exercise for you to learn to be more in your body.

1. Take 5 minutes, close your eyes and breathe. Notice the position that you’re in. Notice your feet on the floor, the bend of your knees in the chair that you’re in, the way your head feels… really let yourself feel what it’s like to be in your body. Stretch if your body wants to stretch, bend if your body wants to bend, roll your wrists, your neck, your ankles, whatever you need…

2. Next, do a body scan– Start by noticing the bottoms of your feet and slowly make your way to the top of your head  feeling into each part of your body and noticing what’s happening. Itches? Cricks? Muscle tightness? aches? soreness? tingles? See what feeling (physical) is screaming out to you, trying to get your attention,  and just be with that feeling for a few moments, without judging it, without trying to change it. Name it. For instance, your nose is itching, breathe into it and say, “itchy nose.” If your shoulders are tight breathe into them saying, “tight shoulders,” and just breathe for a few moments into whatever part wants your attention.

3. Then ask your body, “what do you need?” Your body might say, “more water,” or “more kindness,” or “more vegetable,” or “more fresh air…” whatever. When you are in your body, you know exactly what you need.

When you are in your body, you are more likely to nurture and care for it rather than treat it poorly with bingeing, restricting, too much exercise, too little exercise…

Try to do this a couple of times each week and see how your view of your body changes. All bodies deserve love, no matter what.

 

Other ways to be in your body:

  1. Dance!
  2. Go for a sensory walk– touch things around you, smell the smells, notice what you see… use all five senses.
  3. Get a massage
  4. Walk up a hill or go on a hike and feel your muscles working
  5. Drink a glass of water and feel the water going down through your digestive tract.
  6. Rub lotion into your hands and feel the sensation of rubbing your hands. Use scented lotion and smell your hands.
  7. Smell essential oils
  8. Give yourself a foot rub
  9. Give yourself a scalp massage
  10. Take a bath and close your eyes and feel the warm water on your body
  11. Jump into cold water. Jump into hot water. Jump into cold water.
  12. Touch your face and feel your hands on your face, massage your jaw. Your jaw is the strongest muscle in your body. Because of that it tends to hold a lot of tension. Sometimes people binge eat to relieve that tension.
  13. Brush your hair.
  14. Jump up and down on your bed

What are some things you do to be in your body?

 

 

Would You Rather Be a Mermaid or a Whale?

via: Delphine Fieberg on Facebook

the photo is French model Tara Lynn

A while back, at the entrance of a gym, there was a picture of a very thin and beautiful woman. The caption was “This summer, do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?”

The story goes, a woman (of clothing size unknown) answered the following way:

“Dear people, whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, seals, curious humans), they are sexually active and raise their children with great tenderness.
They entertain like crazy with dolphins and eat lots of prawns. They swim all day and travel to fantastic places like Patagonia, the Barents Sea or the coral reefs of Polynesia.
They sing incredibly well and sometimes even are on cds. They are impressive and dearly loved animals, which everyone defend and admires.

Mermaids do not exist.

But if they existed, they would line up to see a psychologist because of a problem of split personality: woman or fish?
They would have no sex life and could not bear children.
Yes, they would be lovely, but lonely and sad.
And, who wants a girl that smells like fish by his side?

Without a doubt, I’d rather be a whale.

At a time when the media tells us that only thin is beautiful, I prefer to eat ice cream with my kids, to have dinner with my husband, to eat and drink and have fun with my friends.

We women, we gain weight because we accumulate so much wisdom and knowledge that there isn’t enough space in our heads, and it spreads all over our bodies.
We are not fat, we are greatly cultivated.
Every time I see my curves in the mirror, I tell myself: “How amazing am I ?! ”

 

How amazing are you? Do tell in the comments!

108

trying to reach a goal weightThis is a more personal post, but a story that I think is important to tell.

My Mom was an amazing woman. She was smart, beautiful, kind, and cared about everyone she came into contact with. She was a dedicated junior high school teacher in the South Bronx in New York City and spent an incredible amount of her time taking care of her kids. She called all her students her kids. She loved them and they loved her. She was just an awesome person.

My mother however was not perfect- none of us are. She had an obsessive relationship with her body and a rigid relationship with food. Her meals and her diet were macrobiotic vegan and she was unwilling to waver and eat a piece of cake or drink a glass of wine or eat nachos or anything not considered healthy once in a while.

She also had an obsession with a number. The number.

A very petite 5’2″ and 112 pounds, my mother believed that she should weigh 108 pounds.  For as long as I can remember, every morning she would wake up, pull the scale out from under her armoire, step on it, curse and kick it back under. She hated that scale. She hated being 112 pounds. And so she obsessed. She did everything she possibly could to lose those 4 pounds. She ordered Sweatin to the Oldies, the Abdominizer, the Gazelle, Oxycise and other things that I forget and probably never knew about. And keep in mind, we had a small apartment in NYC, not a lot of room for these devises and contraptions. But she was a woman obsessed and the elusive 108 lbs was the object of her desire.

I remember her routine of  cursing and kicking the scale  as early as age 4. She did this for my whole life. By the time I was 28, my Mom became ill. Very ill in fact. Not from her food issues, but from a random autoimmune disease that life threw her way.  She lost a lot of weight very quickly. Her whole body deflated. She was nothing more than bones with skin hanging on it. I think that her final weight in her hospital bed was 68 pounds.   But that number, 108, it haunted her for most of her life. She was never quite satisfied with what she had because she was fighting so arduously for 108. But then, at 54 years old, her life was over. And she never got to her “goal weight.”

What the hell is a “goal weight?” It makes me so mad. It makes me SO mad. Because it makes me think of my mother and her obsession with her goal weight, and her inability to be happy with a body that worked. A goal weight is an arbitrary number that’s not grounded in reality. Who tells you what your goal weight should be? How is that realistic?

If you are a normal weight, and your body holds onto it, despite what you do to it,  you have to know that this is a healthy response from a healthy body. You are blessed. A healthy body wants to maintain the homeostasis.

You can run millions of miles, you can binge, you can starve, you can purge, you can diet, you can use laxatives, but no matter how much you abuse your body, a healthy body will do what it can to maintain the homeostasis.

So throw out your scale. Throw out your goal weight. Your goal should be health. Your goal should be a long healthy life with love, with adventure, with fun, with pain, with sorrow, with self love, with self criticism, with anger, with sadness, with joy, with excitement, with ups, with downs. But your goals should have nothing to do with sizes and numbers.

If you are healthy, your body will do what it can to get to its healthy number, and that might have nothing to do with what the BMI says, or with what Hollywood says or with what Met Life height and weight chart says.  When your body is healthy, it knows where it should go. All you have to do is treat it with love and respect. Feed it, exercise it, water it. Give it lots of fruit, lots of veggies, lots of protein, and even let it have a piece of cake or slice of pizza or a glass of wine every now and again.

I know it’s not this simple. It wasn’t for my Mom, nor for many, many people.  But it’s your one life. Take just one day or even one week if it’s doable to let go of your number and embrace health.

Going Toward Health Rather Than Going Toward Weight Loss

It’s not news that being thin doesn’t equate to being healthy.

However, did you ever think about the fact that aspiring to be thin can also be unhealthy? It can both mentally and physically detrimental. When the end goal is thinness, the means by which to achieve that end  can often be incredibly unhealthy. Some people live on cigarettes and red wine to reach their goal of thinness, some people go on restrictive diets where they just live on meat and diet coke to get thin, others exercise hours a day and restrict their calories or purge there food. They might be thin, but they’re certainly not healthy.

Unfortunately, when the only goal is to be thin, the road can be very challenging. Even thinking of the inherent goal is negative,  the goal is to lose something– you are focusing on getting rid of something. Shouldn’t a goal be positive? Shouldn’t a goal be going toward something, like health, vitality and longevity, shouldn’t you be trying to gain something rather than lose something?

Those who’s focus is to lose weight tend to become frustrated, either by the scale or their inability to stay on a restricted food plan. A woman I knew decided to go on a “no carb” diet. Each day she would eat nothing except meat, eggs, and bacon. However, every couple of days, she’d “fall off the wagon,” and add milk to her coffee or grab an apple or an orange between between meetings or grab a latte from the coffee vendor in her office building. Every time that happened, she felt as though she’d failed and would binge on donuts, cakes, cookies, chips, etc, then vow that she’d go right back on her diet the next day.   Had she been going toward health instead of thinness, she would have realized the insanity of believing that there was something inherently evil about a piece of fruit or some milk.

When you go toward health, you create a shift in your thinking. You begin to think of food as something that is loving and helpful for your body. You choose an apple for energy instead of a diet coke, you exercise to the needs of your body rather than pushing your body to injury, if you find that you’re eating something that you’d prefer not to, you stop eating it and love and accept yourself rather than continuing to eat and purging.

When you go toward health, your body finds its right place. You slow down a bit and give yourself what you need.

Linda Bacon, the founder of the HAES movement, published an article (Weight Science:Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift) this week in Nutrition Journal challenging the assumption that in order for overweight people to find health, they must  diet.  If the “obesity crisis” is truly at epidemic proportions, why the consistent push for diets, when they clearly lead to more weight gain and disordered eating?

Rather than depriving yourself in order to try and lose weight, add something new each day like a support call, a piece of fruit, or a nice walk in the sunshine in order to go toward health.

 

Friday Q&A- If I Can’t Diet, How Can I Lose Weight?

how can i lose weight if i don't diet?Question:

Submitted via email by Jen in Glasgow, KY

On your site, you say that dieting is a bad thing. But what about those of us who actually have weight that they need to lose? How the **** am I supposed to lose weight without dieting?

Answer:

Hi Jen,

I understand why you are confused. On one hand, the whole world is encouraging all different kinds of diets, yet a small contingent are telling you not to diet. My question is, how do you know that you need to lose weight? Is it because you believe that you weigh too much as, or is it because you feel that your weight is negatively impacting your health or your quality of life?  These are questions to think about.  I think it’s important to reframe the concept of dieting to lose weight to the idea of going toward health to improve your quality of life. Your body is your most valuable possession and therefore it deserves to be cared for impeccably. This doesn’t mean spending hours each day at the gym and polishing your muscles and kissing your biceps in the mirror. This does not mean spending money on plastic surgery or botox or liposuction desperately trying to change what you have. This is about embracing what you already and  have and taking really good care of it.  It’s like, if somehow you had possession of an original Picasso, would you paint over it to make it look like an Andy Warhol?  Or would you make sure to get it insured, keep it out of sunlight, store it in a climate controlled environment, and really truly allow yourself to enjoy it?  Taking care of it will keep it beautiful for a very long time, despite how much it ages. In fact, age enhances its beauty. It’s the same thing with your body.  Rather than trying to change it into something different, rather than disliking it the way it currently is, let yourself love it, no matter what size and shape it is. Your body deserves love no matter what it looks like. It’s your body, the only one you got. So take care of it. Feed it healthy food, don’t feed it too much and don’t feed it too little. Give it healthy amounts of fruits and vegetables and limit the amount of processed foods that you put in it. Exercise it, stretch it, wash it, floss your teeth, drink your water, be kind to it, rest it, give it adequate amounts of sleep, take it outdoors to get fresh air and sunlight, bring it into nature, be grateful to it for whatever it gives to you, limit alcohol, tobacco, diet sodas, and other “foods” made with chemicals, but don’t freak out if you eat them every once in a while, relax your mind, listen to music, dance, be kind to yourself and to others.  Rather than going on a diet and actively trying to lose weight, go toward health. When you do, you will find more peace and happiness than you will when you are actively looking for it from a scale.  When you take care of your body and your mind in a deliberate and loving way, you will find that your body weight naturally finds its right place. This isn’t a diet, this is thinking about the rest of your life and your body in a positive way. Strengthening it for the long haul!

So, in a nutshell, my answer is, try not to focus on the weight loss, it’s hard to focus on losing something. Change your focus to health, it’s much easier to gain something, in this case being health and well being.

Be Well,

Leora

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.

Just a reminder of why you shouldn’t diet…

watch?v=M6wJl37N9C0
Today I spent the afternoon at a presentation by Andrea’s Voice author Doris Smeltzer.  Ms. Smeltzer lost her 19 year old daughter, Andrea,  to bulimia 11 years ago and now has a book and foundation dedicated to the prevention and treatment of eating disorders.

Andrea’s eating disorder began as a regular old diet that lots of 19 year olds wind up doing when they start college. Diets, of course can be deadly. And for so many reasons. There’s the obvious reason, where one can take a diet too far and become anorexic, but then there’s the other (and more common) reason.   When people diet, they deprive themselves. Eventually, they will binge. And sometimes they will purge. The majority of binge eaters are also compulsive dieters. They always think “Oh, this time, this will be the diet that changes it all…” It’s not about willpower. Our psychological makeup doesn’t want us to restrict food. We are built to survive. So, when we go on a diet, willpower won’t help us to resist food. We are predisposed to find what we need when we have a belief that food is restricted or hard to come by. When we diet, we have the mentality, “can’t eat this, can’t eat that…” and a survival mechanism kicks in and we begin trying to eat everything we can get our hands on because we don’t know the next time we’ll let ourselves eat. Most people have a lot of black and white thinking about it. “I am going on a low carb diet starting tomorrow, so night, I should really eat everything I want since I won’t be able to for a long time.” Usually after 2 or 3 days (and often after 2 or 3 hours into the first day), it backfires and you’re bingeing again.

Andrea had only been exhibiting bulimic behavior for a year when she died. We forget how quick and deadly bulimia can be.  Not only are you depriving yourself of nutrition, but when you purge and/or drink excessive water,  you are changing the balance of your electrolytes. When certain electrolytes go out of balance (when your potassium levels drop) your heart can stop. It can happen in a moment and it can happen to anyone. Purging, starving, overexercising, or hyponatremia (O.D.ing on water) can cause it.  I knew a woman who had a heart attack at the age of 26 from abusing laxatives. Fortunately, she lived through her trauma and recovered from her eating disorder.   Many people aren’t that lucky. Remember Terri Schiavo? She was another casualty of an eating disorder. She suffered from cardiac arrest at the age of 27. The primary assessment was an electrolyte imbalance most likely due to purging and food restriction.

So, how can you become healthy? Go toward health! But what if you believe that you need to lose weight? You might, but you might not. Let yourself eat! But let yourself eat healthy, without forcing yourself to go hungry. Exercise! But not in a punishing way, do things that are fun for you. Go outside, play frisbee, basketball, go for a walk or a run on the beach or through your town, go on a bike ride. Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Go to farmer’s markets, find new produce, give your body what it needs to be strong.

For lots of  people, giving up dieting also ends bingeing. Not for all people, but for chronic dieters who also happen to be compulsive binge eaters, ending the diet ends the binge. They are different sides of the same coin. Let go of one and the other goes away.

What’s really sad is that for every one person who is trying to be healthy and go toward healthy balanced mind and body, there are another 1000 people who are trying to push a certain diet plan. There is always some kind of promise of doing some kind of new revolutionary diet plan and finally becoming thin and therefore happy. There are all those commercials on TV with before and after pictures of people. In their before pictures they are large but miserable. In their after pictures they are slim and happy. They do testimonials about how they weren’t hungry at all on their diets,  how they used to be miserable when they were large, but now that they are thin, their marriage is great,  they are back in school, and they are rich! Whatever it is, each new diet not only promises a slimmer body, but a wealth of riches that come with it. A veritable smorgasbord of every jewel that life has to offer waits for you at the end of this diet.

It’s not true. You won’t find happiness in a diet. But you might find some more freedom and happiness in letting go of diets and going towards health. When you empower yourself to eat what your body needs when your body needs it and to exercise it enough, your body will reward you with energy and strength. Will you be thin? Maybe, but maybe not. When you go toward health you go toward the positive. You are trying to achieve something. When you go toward skinniness, you are going toward the negative, you are trying to lose something.  Your body deserves love, no matter what size it is. Love comes in all different forms. Feed it lovingly with life affirming fresh food – don’t starve your body or  punish it, don’t stuff it uncomfortably with artificial, unhealthy food. Exercise it lovingly and gently (and sometimes hard when you have the compunction). Don’t  punish it by pushing it to exercise when you are tired or sick or injured. Give it kind words and send it loving messages instead of telling it that there is something wrong with it. This is yours! It’s the only body you get! It’s a gift and itt deserves to be cherished,  treated with respect, love, and kindness.

You are beautiful just by the nature of being human. You might not look like Gisele Bundchen, but nobody does except for Gisele. You look like you, and that’s pretty great.