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Intermittent Fasting and Binge Eating

Intermittent Fasting - A cure for binge eating disorder or just new fangled dumbness?

Intermittent Fasting: 

The newest  old thing with a fancy name. 

I have been getting lots of emails recently asking me if Intermittent Fasting is helpful for people with Binge Eating Issues. I have lots of thoughts, but I want to start by telling you about my early experiences with IF. 

The very first time I learned about intermittent fasting was in 1985. I was in 5th grade and my best friend’s upstairs neighbor, who was in 6th grade had lost 13 pounds through intermittent fasting. I mean, we were children and it was 1985 so it wasn’t really intermittent fasting, it was that Shoshana drank a cup of tea for breakfast,  a diet coke for lunch and then whatever her parents gave her for dinner.  I thought that sounded CRAZY! But then in 7th grade, when my hips and breasts started coming in and my period started, I thought that I would try it. Of course it wasn’t called intermittent fasting back then. It was called  “the diet that we all went on so that our parents wouldn’t know that we were dieting.”

Puberty, incidentally is a high risk time for girls to begin eating disorders. That’s because in order to start menstruating, girls’ bodies begin to put on body fat and the changes that take place can seem sudden and out of control. I remember for sure that when I began maturing, my mother made many comments about how my body was changing and that I’d better watch out because once I got my period, weight would be impossible to lose. Wow! Crazy messaging!  But I believed it and wanted to do whatever I could to stop that cycle. So I went on Shoshana’s special diet of tea for breakfast, diet coke for lunch and dinner was whatever my mother gave me. 

Nowadays, you can’t open your computer or look at your phone without seeing something about intermittent fasting. An eating disorder for adolescent girls turned into a way of life for tech bros. People have written books about it, people sell programs, apps, meal plans… it’s just the next diet plan that people are looking to cash in on. I mean, Shoshana Kaufman could have written a book back in 1985, it would be called “How To Diet Without Your Parents Finding Out.”

Intermittent Fasting: Or How to Diet Without Your Parents Finding Out By Shoshana Kaufman – Grade 6. P.S.24, Bronx, NY 1985

Chapter One – Don’t Eat Breakfast

Chapter Two– Don’t Eat Lunch

Chapter Three- Eat Whatever Your Parents make you for dinner

Often I will write about certain diets and I’ll be attacked by people for having a differing opinion about them. I wrote a post about low carb diets some years ago and got attacked by the low carb mafia. Really nasty, nasty emails and comments. Here’s the thing… this is a blog for people who are trying to recover from an eating disorder. And for people who have eating disorders or disordered eating behaviors, these kinds of rulesy eating plans are always contraindicated.  However, there are so many promises that intermittent fasting makes that people are being led to believe that it’s a panacea for all that ails them. 

Intermittent fasting has lots of promises behind it:

Promise #1. You will become “clear-headed” and able to concentrate better if you’re not worried about eating.

My thoughts: Are you able to concentrate when you’re hungry? I’m not. In fact all I can think about is food. I remember being in school as a kid during my restriction days and just zoning out while I fantasized about food. I did this in college too and early on in my adult life when I was still in my eating disorder. In fact, the more I restricted, the less engaged in life I was because I was just focused on not eating and fantasizing about food and what I would eat when I finally let myself eat! 

Are there people who are clear-headed? I’m not sure, but what I do know for sure is that my anorexic patients do come to a place of feeling almost ethereal when they’re not eating. Why? It’s likely because their brain and their organs are beginning to shut down. Their body is using less energy and trying to conserve what it has to use. 

Promise #2. It gives you lots of energy. 

My thoughts: Well, as someone who was an athlete in high school and continues to be athletic now, I can tell you for sure that not eating NEVER gave me more energy. On the days that I would do Shoshana’s diet, I was super sluggish in swim practice. On the days that I did eat breakfast, I would fly through the water. As I got older and started running, I had the same experience. A banana goes a long way before a morning run. A run on an empty stomach in the morning is nothing but a way to run out of gas immediately. Again, I have no idea why people would suggest that their energy is increased. My suspicion is that if you are someone who wakes up and eats a very large and difficult to digest breakfast that creates more sluggishness in your day-to-day, then this would be an improvement. Yet that can also be solved with mindful eating, figuring out what gives your body energy and vitality through your own self-experimentation and trial and error. For instance, I’ve figured out that breakfast cereal will leave me feeling sluggish and hungry, but eggs and cheese and fruit carries me straight through my morning and holds me until lunch. That’s something I had to figure out on my own, not something that someone else could tell me. Your body, your needs. It’s okay to experiment until YOU find what works for YOUR body. No one else can tell you that. 

Promise #3. You will lose weight effortlessly

My thoughts: Now here’s when we come to the Binge Eating Disorder issue. When I did Shoshana’s diet, I was very, very, very likely to binge at night. And honestly, I did that crazy diet for many years. I did it from the age of 12 until I was in my early 20’s. Not every day of course, but I did it often and I binged pretty much every day. It was awful.  And did I lose weight? Actually, no I gained a good amount of weight because of the bingeing. 

If you have an eating disorder, intermittent fasting is likely not the right path for you. Here are the reasons: 

People with eating disorders tend to have black and white thinking. Thus, if you are planning to restrict your food for a set amount of time and then you “mess up,” it’s likely that it will trigger some extreme behaviors, like either a binge or compensatory exercise or a purge or a long period of restriction. 

People with eating disorders teeter between extremes so a full day of not eating could often lead to an evening of binge eating. 

People with eating disorders will often go to extremes to “get it right” even if their body tells them that they need to eat, so they might either completely ignore the cues of their bodies or they might engage in dangerous behaviors (like drugs or excessive coffee drinking) to ensure that they stick to their goals. 

Read How Intermittent Fasting Triggered my Binge Eating Disorder

Do I think that there is anything valuable about Intermittent Fasting? 

If you have a propensity toward eating disorders, I’m going to say that no, intermittent fasting is nothing more than the same diet you went on in elementary school that started this whole disordered eating thing to begin with. You could have written the book and sold the items. Intermittent fasting teaches you how to ignore your body’s cues for hunger. And those of us with disordered eating have known how to do that for years. And we know what happens when we ignore our bodies’ cues for hunger – when we are tired, our body fights back and we binge.  Perhaps for people who eat mindlessly all the time, a day or two of intermittent fasting might help them to hear their bodies’ cues for hunger and learn what that feels like, but beyond that, I don’t believe that this is the best new thing. I think that people have found a way to package an eating disorder into a new fangled diet with a fancy name.

What intermittent fasting does is the same thing that all diets do, it takes away choice – and in that taking away of choice, people feel safer around food. It creates a structure where they can control their food intake. As Soren Kierkegaard said,  “anxiety is the dizziness of freedom…” and it’s true. People become so overwhelmed with choice around food and diets, that this feels like an easy way to take away the choice and limit their food intake. 

As always, my opinion remains – listen to your body, give it what it needs when it needs it.  You CAN trust your body to guide you toward what it needs to be healthy. Your body knows. I can promise you that. You might not always get it right, but the closer you listen, the better you will get to know your body. Your body has so much wisdom. Unlike 1000 or even 100 years ago, food is readily available to you and so you have the opportunity to give it yummy, nourishing food when it needs it. 

Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent Fasting and binge eating
Intermittent Fasting and binge eating
Intermittent Fasting and binge eating

Intermittent Fasting and binge eating

intermittent fasting and binge eating

 

How Not to Binge On Superbowl Sunday

bingeing and superbowl sunday

You might be at a superbowl party right now feeling totally anxious about the giant display of 7 layer dip, tons of chips and ridiculous amount of beer, wings, pizza and whatever else there is there. You might not even care about football but be more interested in the food display.  Okay. Stop and take a deep breath and step away from the food table.  Let’s strategize a little bit here.

 

 

 

How Not to Binge on Super Bowl Sunday

1. Start by assessing the situation.

2. Look around at the snacks and decide what is it that you really want to eat.

3. Look around at the snacks and decide what you don’t want to eat.

4. Think about what sized portion you will eat, eyeball it by thinking about the size of the palm of your hand (fingers not included) and use that as a serving size.

5. Don’t eat more food than will comfortably fit on one plate. One plateful of superbowl goodies is enough to get a sampling and not deprive yourself or restrict, but not too much that you will wind up bingeing.

6. Don’t sit right in front of the food. Choose a place to sit that is away from the food, where you would have to get up to get something. This will cause you to interrupt the compulsion to eat food just because it’s there.

7. When you eat, try to eat S.L.O.W.L.Y.

8. If there is fruit or crudite there, get that into your system first. This way you are getting your vitamins and fiber in before you eat the typical superbowl less than healthy fare. Starting out healthy just changes your mind-set to, “I want to keep this healthy and safe.”

9. Enjoy the game! And if you’re not interested, find someone else who is not interested to chat with or find someone who is interested to explain it to you.

10. Bookend your game with supportive phone calls. Call someone and tell them that you are not going to binge at the game, give them your strategy and then call them back later and tell them how it went, it will give you some accountability. Don’t have anyone to call?  Call me. 415-820-1478 Call me and leave me a voicemail telling me what your no binge game plan is. Then, after the game is over, call me back and tell me how you did. Seriously!

11. After the party, when you go home, eat a HEALTHY and light dinner, like a salad with some protein or a rich full of veggie stir-fry, drink some tea and go to sleep feeling good.

Good Luck!

 

 

 

How To Stop Binge Eating? – Top 20 Ways to Stop Binge Eating

Quick Tips on How to Stop Binge Eating

How To Stop Binge Eating

 

Here is a quick little round up of different tips on how to stop binge eating and how to heal from binge eating disorder. Several of these tips are longer posts in other parts on this blog, so you can bookmark this page and come back and read more when you are ready or just go through the tips quickly. Enjoy!

1.)Eat a balanced, healthy breakfast with protein every morning. Starting your day off with a solid meal will stave off hunger and mindless eating during the day that can trigger binge eating.

2.)Give up Dieting. Diets actually cause binge eating. Instead begin to adapt healthy eating patterns by adding a healthy habit instead of subtracting a kind of food or food group.

3.)Get Support. Binge eating is a disease of isolation and secrets. When you attempt to recover in private, you perpetuate the isolation that drives the disorder. Getting support helps you to be accountable and helps you to talk it out with other people who are going through the same issues. Good places to go to for support: A therapist, a 12 step group, an online support forum, online or telephone meetings or the Recover From Binge Eating online program to help support and teach you how to stop binge eating.

4.)Don’t let yourself get very hungry. When you let yourself get very hungry, your blood sugar drops which in impairs cognitive skills. Your body just needs glucose and it needs it now, so instinctively, you will start to grab for anything you can to raise blood sugar. Instead, use the hunger and satiety scale to help yourself eat what your body needs. One of the tricks that people use when they are figuring out how to stop binge eating is to eat protein first, at least 30 minutes before a meal to help stabilize their blood sugar.

5.)Learn intuitive eating. This is the opposite of dieting, where your body is the wise one that lets you know what, how much, and when you need to eat. Your body wants to be healthy, so learning to listen and respond to it, will help you to find peace with food and with your body.

6.)Exercise Daily. This doesn’t mean spending arduous hours at the gym or running 5 miles a day. This is about moving your body. The more you move it, the more aware of it you are, and the better you begin to treat it. This can mean anything from 30 minutes of walking each day, to doing yoga, or going on a jog, or lifting weights or even just window shopping. But moving and being out in the world is crucial. Need some motivation to exercise? Try this.

7.)Learn Mindful Eating. Mindful eating is the act of slowing down and actually noticing, tasting and being with your food. Mindfulness is about being in the here and now. Binge eating is about chasing the taste. You don’t necessarily taste your food when you’re bingeing because your waiting for the next taste, the next bite, and this hunger is insatiable. When you incorporate mindful eating, you learn how to stop and interrupt a binge. Mindful eating is peaceful, yet it is an amazingly effective tool in fighting binge eating. If you would like a free mindful eating meditation download, click here! 

8.)Add more protein. Nutritionally, protein will feed your brain, keep you feeling fuller longer and it will help your brain to function better so that you can make better choices about what kinds of food to eat.  This doesn’t mean eschewing carbohydrates, but eat your protein first so that you can make better choices about the next bite.

9.)Set a timer. When you feel the urge to binge, set a timer for 20 minutes, in that time, do something different other than binge. Let yourself know that you can binge if you still want to in 20 minutes. Often the very act of interrupting the compulsion will stop it.

10.)Meditate. Daily meditation will help you to slow down so that you can think about what you’re doing. You don’t even have to do it every day or make a big deal about having a practice. You can spend a few minutes each day breathing. Even in the middle of a work day, you can escape to the bathroom, close your eyes and breath for a few minutes to help slow down and ward off stress. You might want to download meditations to stop binge eating.

11.)Eat by the clock. If you are too entrenched in binge eating, the when part of intuitive eating might be difficult. So, at the beginning of learning how to stop binge eating, when you are first starting to recover,  you might want to set some parameters around when to eat. Example. Breakfast 8am. Snack 11am Lunch 1pm. Snack 4pm. Dinner 8pm. Or whatever feels right for your. Don’t forget to include at least three meals per day.

12.)Give Up Diet Coke.  A lot of people who suffer from Eating Disorders are addicted to Diet Coke. There are some theories that postulate that diet drinks cause weight gain. That may or may not be true. But what is true is that many binge eaters attempt to substitute food with diet soda. This causes bloating, discomfort and lethargy, all of which contribute to body disconnection making  binge eating more palatable.

13.)Remind yourself “I can always have it later.” Because binge eaters view food as so black and white (this is a special occasion, I have to eat it now) they tend to justify their binges. Just because it’s Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you have to eat Pumpkin Pie. Seriously. You will not stay up all night regretting what you chose not to binge on. This isn’t the last time that you can eat ice cream, it’s not black and white, it’s not all or nothing, that pumpkin pie will always exist. But do you need it right now? Can you have it tomorrow instead? Think about what your body needs in the moment.

14.)Know your triggers. Does going to the movies make you binge on popcorn? Does Halloween make you binge on Almond Joys? Does going to your parents house make you binge on bread? Does looking at Facebook cause you to binge on candy? Does looking at fashion magazines cause you to binge on pasta? Get to know why and when you binge and intercept these events at the pass. Find ways to deal with the binge before it happens. For instance, if you know that going to the movies causes you to binge on popcorn, get there without time to go to the concession stand.

15.)Get more sleep. Being tired can cause binge eating. Again, being more cognizant and mindful of what you are doing can help you to extinguish these behaviors.

16.)Treat yourself with Love. Remember to do nice things for yourself at least once a day. This could be showering, taking care of your nails, your hair, your skin, making your bed.  Being self nurturing will remind you of your own value so that you can feel better about yourself.

17.)Don’t compare yourself to others. You have your own path and your own dharma. Comparing yourself to others takes you off your path and stunts you. Try to look forward and move forward on your path rather than stopping yourself by looking longingly at other people’s paths.

18.)Be kind to your body. Learn how to love your body.  Don’t say mean things to your body, don’t call it fat. Don’t engage in fat chat with other people. Don’t bond with others by discussing how fat you are or what different diets your going to go on. Don’t talk about other people’s bodies no matter what they look like. When you think about how to stop binge eating, a big part of that is letting go of negativity and bringing more kindness into your world.

19.)Learn how to fight the urge to binge eat. Remember that wanting to binge isn’t enough of a reason to binge. Even if it feels overwhelming. Remember that you are stronger than the urge to binge.

20.)You are not perfect. If you have a slip, just start again. You don’t have to wait for the next day, you have millions of moments to start over. Start over immediately. Wash your hands, wash your face, take a shower and just recover from the binge. You can do that in any given moment.

 

What's on Your Plate?

Fritz Perls, who developed Gestalt Therapy, encouraged us to understand the way we eat as a metaphor for the way we live.

At your next meal, watch yourself eat. Do it without judgment and without trying to change anything, just watch.  It can be enlightening to draw some parallels around how you eat and how you live.

Do you take in all of your food at once without smelling it, tasting it, chewing it? Do you do that with life? Is that overwhelming?

Do you avoid food? Do you avoid your feelings?

Do you eat foods that you don’t like? Do you allow other people’s negative thoughts to invade the way you feel about yourself?

Do you think constantly about what you’re going to eat next rather than focusing what you’re currently eating and enjoying it? Is life overwhelming because you’re always nervous about what might or might not happen in the future? Anticipating the next thing?

When you serve yourself a meal, pay attention to what’s on your plate. Try not to anticipate what’s coming next or how much you should or should not eat. Just go ahead and begin to look what’s on your plate and to allow yourself to eat that.  When you pay attention to your food and to your body and what it needs, you will find that at your next meal, you are able to make better choices about what you need. Your digestion will be a little easier as will your feelings of peace around food.  In life, it’s the same thing. What’s on your plate?  When you begin to worry and obsess about “what ifs” and the future, you can become overwhelmed. Pay attention to what’s in front of you. You will metabolize your experience more efficiently and be able to move through life with less worry, less anxiety, and with  more of a sense of peace, knowing that you are clear and focused on what’s in front of you rather than what’s behind or ahead.

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.

Getting Support

Many people have this thought that they want to come in and get help for their bulimia and binge eating or read a book and cure themselves. Unfortunately, this is a pretty challenging road. Eating Disorders are diseases of isolation. You act out in your behaviors all alone. Because eating disorders thrive in isolation, the more alone you are, the stronger the behavior can become. Yes, of course it’s true that some people are able to heal alone, however, it is a rare and difficult.

I believe that the most important resource in healing from an Eating Disorder is support. Support comes in many forms, friends, parents, partners… but also support groups, people dealing with the same thing that you’re dealing with. There are several different ways to give and recieve support. If you feel as though you are unable to recieve support from the people around you or you don’t have a primary support system, it’s possible to get support through various groups. The internet has online groups and there are several in person groups or even telephone groups.

Online:

(bulimia)

(compulsive eating)

(OA meetings – online or on the phone)

(Eating Disorder Anonymous Phone meetings)

(Something Fishy)

Face-to-Face OA meetings

Smart Recovery