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On Second Thought… August 12, 2010

Posted by Jen in Binge Eating, Emotional Eating, facing fear, Healthy Eating, Mindful Eating.
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You know how I said I was going to do a three-week elimination diet to see if I was having problems with eggs, dairy or gluten? And then I said last night I was eating when I wasn’t hungry to deal with stress reared its ugly head?

I think the two could be related. During the three-week period I was planning on eliminating certain foods I have a bunch of social events scheduled, and that was freaking me out. Plans include dinner with a great friend (she and I usually have appetizers, a drink, dinner, and sometimes dessert; we see each other about once every other month), a lunch out with volunteers for the non-profit for which I work part-time, a picnic with even more volunteers from the same agency, lunch out with my mom, helping to cater an event with a woman who makes the most fabulous desserts of all time, and perhaps other as-yet-unforseen events.

I realize that making changes for the better isn’t always easy, and that learning to stand up for yourself and what you want to put into your body is very important. For instance, if you decided to limit alcohol or sugar consumption but always give in when a friend or family member insists you have more, that’s no bueno. However, since doing this elimination diet wasn’t essential for me at this time, and because I am afraid it might be causing adverse emotional and therefore eating reactions, I’m holding off on it.

This is the lesson I’ve learned over the years: You must listen when something feels off. I was starting to feel anxious about the whole process of the elimination diet. The events I had coming up, the fact that I’ve been so happy and steady with healthy eating already, the fact that this reminded me of restrictive diets from my past, and the amount of time I was spending worrying about how I was going to handle this all were pushing me over the edge.  I can see why I was feeling anxious!

So, no three-week detox for me. I’m going to continue with my standard way of eating, which is veggie and fruit heavy, involves whole grains, some dairy (mostly organic and not every day), some local eggs, beans, dark chocolate, desserts once or twice a week, a glass of wine occasionally, and plenty of listening to my body for signs of hunger and satiety. Phew! That feels so much better.

Just wanted to get that off my chest!

What about you? Any recent diet changes? Are you feeling stressed or anxious about any of them?


Once a Binge-Eater, Always a Binge-Eater? August 12, 2010

Posted by Jen in Binge Eating, Emotional Eating, facing fear, Meditation, Motivation.
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they say that alcoholics are always alcoholics
even when they’re as dry as my lips for years
even when they’re stranded on a small desert island
with no place in two thousand miles to buy beer

-Ani Difranco’s “Fuel”

I’ve been stressed out this week. Little things started to add up. Though I’ve continued trying to take care of myself all of the ways I know work (eating regularly, eating a diet of whole foods, eating balanced meals, exercising, journaling, talking to friends, dealing with problems as they come up, meditating), I was still feeling the pressure of the week building. And building. Until it burst. And by “burst” I mean “eating more than is necessary”.

What can I say? Old habits die hard. Which is why I put the lyrics from the lovely Ani Difranco’s “Fuel” at the start of this blog. If I once had an eating disorder, do I always have an eating disorder? What if I overeat once in a blue moon but normally deal with things in a healthy, whole way? I certainly don’t have Binge Eating Disorder anymore; you can read how WebMD defines that here. 

I’m not perfect. That’s something I’ve had to face this week. And it goes for my eating and dealing with emotional issues, too. I believe food will probably always be one of the things I think about turning to when life gets too stressful. I also think that most of the time life won’t get too stressful, because I’ve got so many useful tools to deal with ups and downs of my days, and that when I do think of using food, I usually won’t use it. I have better ways. I can face things now. I’m okay. I believe there will always be that little tug somewhere that reminds me of the way things were. I also believe I’m healed in so many, many ways. I believe helping others deal with these problems further heals me. I believe I don’t have to have all the answers. Especially to the question I posed above, whether or not I still have an eating disorder because I once had on. Who cares what someone else might define me as?

Yup, last night I ate too much to try to avoid worrying about things going on in my life. And then I stopped. And I was gentle with myself. And then this morning I woke up and moved on. I wrote to a friend and asked, point-blank, for a pep talk. I don’t have to resolve everything alone. I don’t have to always impress everybody. I don’t, and can’t, be perfect. I’m healing, I’m growing, I’m learning.


Elimination Diet August 11, 2010

Posted by Jen in Binge Eating, Emotional Eating, facing fear, Healthy Eating.
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For years while I was binge eating I would put myself on a new diet every other week. Who am I kidding? Every other day! Said diet would inevitably end in crash and burn fashion when, two hours or five hours or 12 hours into it, I felt overwhelmed/happy/sad/guilty and ate everything within arms reach. However, that never stopped me from planning my next diet as soon as I was through binging.

The diets I wasn’t attempting weren’t crash diets, no, I knew those could backfire. But they were usually restrictive in some way or another; not much fat, more protein than I normally like, no eggs or dairy, no sugar, only foods that start with b. You get the gist. I don’t even think it was necessarily the restrictive nature of the diets that got me binging again, I think it was that I was always dieting to lose weight, therefore always telling myself I wasn’t good enough, therefore providing myself more fuel for the binge-fire. In other words: people with eating disorders and disordered eating shouldn’t diet. EVER.

I know, I know, if you suffer with compulsive overeating or binge eating it’s probably really tough to convince yourself of that. However, dieting in that state just makes things worse. Much, much worse.

Even though I’m recovered from BED (not that I don’t sometimes struggle) I still don’t diet. I live a lifestyle that means I mostly eat whole, real foods with only occasional junk foods, but I don’t tell myself I can or cannot have something. So why am I embarking on a three-week allergen elimination diet starting next week? I’ll tell you this: It doesn’t have anything to do with weight loss. (But I am going to the beach in a few weeks, so if my body wanted to make my butt a little smaller before then, I’d be okay with that.)

It has to do with my health. Not health as a code word for weight loss, but my genuine health. For the past few months I’ve been having, um, well, let’s just say that the old Poop Factory isn’t working as well as I’d like. It’s working frequently enough, but the product it’s outputting is not always what it should be. I really didn’t know how else to say that. If Dr. Oz can talk about poop, hopefully I can, too!

Anyways…I’ve read sometimes imperfect BM can come from a food allergy or sensitivity. Common food allergens: Dairy, eggs, gluten. I personally don’t think it’s eggs, as I don’t eat them very often. However, starting next Monday I’m eliminating all of these products, plus caffeine and alcohol (which I consume once in a blue moon) for three weeks. The idea is to see how my body reacts without these foods and then slowly add them back separately in after the three weeks is up.

The hardest thing for me is going to be the gluten. I eat oatmeal like it’s my job. I’m sure I can live on quinoa, brown rice and millet for three weeks, though. I don’t eat much bread to begin with, but I’ll have to careful about things like soy sauce and alternative milks. I never realized how many things gluten can be in! I suspect my problem may be dairy, since my family has some lactose intolerance, but I’m really not sure. Also, it could be none of these things. This could be stress-related. It could be IBS. Who knows? However, the only way to find out is to try a diet shift and see if it helps.

Why am I even writing about this here? Because I have a pretty strong no-diet rule. And I am interested to see if these rules cause any friction in my happy state with food, and I thought it might be fun to talk about here, too.

Have you ever tried an elimination diet? Did it help or harm you?

Thankful For BED August 1, 2010

Posted by Jen in Binge Eating, Emotional Eating, Meditation, Motivation, Sprituality.
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Because I think everything about Operation Beautiful (and Healthy Tipping Point!) are fantastic, I wanted to write something for Caitlin’s book kick-off. I hope every subject I cover on this blog empowers readers to feel great about themselves, and this post is about me finding my way out of binge eating disorder (the really short version!)

When I was in the deep, dark, chewy center of binge eating disorder, it was very, very hard for me to ever see a way out of it. Well, other than putting myself on a new diet every other day.

You see, I thought I could diet my way out of BED. I thought I could punish myself enough to make myself do what I wanted to do. I thought I could make myself stop overeating by restricting myself, by berating myself, but letting myself believe I was fat and unworthy. But I had it all wrong. I had to thank my disorder for what it offered, in the protection it was trying to provide, and find my way through it, not away from it.

Being thankful for a painful occurrence in life is not easy. Why would I be thankful that I had, for the third day in a row, stuffed my self full of peanut butter and bread and butter and chocolate and more bread and cheese and more food than anyone could ever comfortably eat in a single sitting? Why would I be thankful that I had spent the night hot and uncomfortable and bloated and feeling awful? Or spending the whole next day telling myself I was going to change, I was going to do “better” or “fix” myself?

Because my binge eating was a reflection of my life. Because my binge eating was giving me a gift, if only I would look at it. Because my binge eating was trying to protect me.

No one develops an eating disorder in a vacuum. No one eats uncomfortable amounts of food, or starves themselves, or purges their systems because everything is right in their world. Through therapy and lots and lots of reading and meditating, I finally understood that I was binging because I was unwilling to feel things. I was unwilling to deal with scary thoughts and emotions.  It had absolutely nothing to do with food. Nothing.

In my case, binge eating protected me. It protected me from scary stuff. It protected me from taking chances at things at which I might fail. It was trying to help me. Only when I realized this could I take a step back and say, “Thank you. I understand why you are here, and what your purpose is. But now I choose to face the scary stuff. I don’t need protection anymore.”

You can do it, too. If you have an eating disorder mild or serious, seek out the help of a counselor or coach.  Learn about it. Look into it. Read about it. Open yourself to the possibilities with which ED has presented you. You are a beautiful, stunning person. You deserve to live the most fantastic, joyful life possible. If something feels wrong in your life, thank it. Look into it. What is it keeping hidden from you? What amazing thing are you capable of?

Craving Control July 30, 2010

Posted by Jen in Binge Eating, Emotional Eating, Exercise, Healthy Eating, Meditation, Mindful Eating, Motivation.
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A few days ago I picked up the book Change Your Brain, Change Your Body by Daniel G. Amen, MD. This book, as the title suggests, is about ways to use, train, and change your brain to affect your body in a positive way. There are tips for craving control, balancing hormones, foods that help the brain, and more. The author, Daniel G. Amen is a clinical neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and brain imaging expert.

So far I’ve read through the chapter called “The Craving Solution” and “The Weight Solution”. I especially liked the former chapter. Amen’s suggestions include some things that I love to do and some things that I hadn’t thought much about. I thought I’d share some of this tips for craving control below.

  • Get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night. I feel like crap if I don’t get about 7.5 or 8 hours each night. The best way to achieve this is to pick a bed time 8 hours before you’re alarm is going to go off and get in bed at that time, no excuses. Also, stick to the same sleep schedule, even on the weekends. For instance, I’m not working today, but last night I was still in bed by 10:15 and woke up slightly before six. I feel great! No need to sleep in.
  • Maintain a healthy blood sugar level by eating frequent smaller meals. Do you wait until you’re starving and then cram down whatever you can find to eat? The book refers to a 2007 article by Matthew Gailliot and Roy Baumeister that shows self-control failures are more likely to occur when blood sugar is low. Drinking alcohol, skipping meals, and consuming sugary snacks or beverages cause dips in blood sugar and can impact how good you are at sticking to self-controlling behaviors. I didn’t know this before, and it’s great information!
  • Exercise to boost blood flow to the brain. You already knew exercise was great for your waistline, your butt, your heart, and your lungs. It’s also great for brain health and your overall well-being. Stop making excuses and start exercising! Even if you just start walking briskly a few times a week, you’re on the right track!
  • Practice mediation. Over and over I have tried to consistently practice meditation, and it’s getting easier for me. This book has convinced me to make it an absolute priority every day, period. If you’ve never meditated at all, just try sitting in a quiet spot for ten minutes a day and focus on your breath. At first it might feel very uncomfortable, but keep it up and eventually it will become much easier.
  • Create focused, written goals. When I read this recommendation I started singing from the rooftops. I love written goals. Dr. Amen states that the brain needs clear direction and that when you are focused on what you want, it makes it much easier to match your behavior to make it happen. Your mind is powerful and it makes happen what it sees. He suggests writing down goals for relationships, work, money, and health, and posting them somewhere you can see them every day. I have done this and plan on reading them each morning when I get up and each evening before bed.
  • Be careful with too much technology. Apparently we’re completely frying our brain’s pleasure center by being on the Internet, watching TV, and playing way too many video games. He suggests watching less than one hour of TV per day and keeping computer time (outside of work) to a minimum. This one is a toughie, but imagine how much other stuff you could do with your free time if you weren’t sucked into the reading the latest about Lindsay Lohan and the war.
  • Write down five things you are grateful for everyday. This is one of the many suggestions he has for calming the brains emotional centers. This helps you feel good and focus on the positive in your life. By focusing on the positive instead of the negative, you actually change your brain.

This is just a teensy bit of great information contained in just one chapter of the book. My favorite thing about the book is that it states plainly that the brain (and that includes will power and habits) can be changed. The more often you say “no” to overeating and “yes” to healthy habits, the stronger the brain will become. It will be easier and easier to keep up good habits!

Don’t Push, Pivot July 26, 2010

Posted by Jen in Binge Eating, Emotional Eating, Healthy Eating, Meditation, Motivation, Weight Loss.
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Photo credit: John Drysdale


Don’t think about elephants. Don’t think about elephants! Don’t think about elephants!

What are you thinking about?

This same idea applies directly to weight loss and overcoming emotional triggers for eating.

Let me explain: Let’s say you have a tendency to reach for the ol’ pork rinds after a stressful day at work. You’ve noticed this habit and have decided to change it. You get home from a stressful day at work and start thinking about the pork rinds.


“I can’t eat those pork rinds. I told myself I would do something else. I can’t eat those pork rinds. I can’t eat those pork rinds. Dammit! I’m eating those pork rinds NOW!”

The more you tell yourself not to do something, the more you’re going to think about it, and the more likely you are to do it.

That’s why I like to tell my clients (and myself!), “don’t push, pivot”.

What if you got home from work, but instead of telling yourself over and over to avoid the pork rinds, actually pushing back on the thought,  you pivoted to a new idea and, hopefully, a new feeling and action?

“I can’t eat those pork rinds. Uh-Oh, now I feel super laser focused on the pork rinds. I’m going to pivot my attention and energy to something completely different now. Such as leg raises! Or cat juggling! Or perhaps I’ll go search for shiny objects in the lint-trap! Excellent”

Okay, my example is sort of ridiculous, because who turns to pork rinds and who distracts themselves with shiny objects? (If I have offended you, I’m sorry.)

The point is: If you are constantly worrying about avoiding something, or worrying about not avoiding something, you’re spending way too much time focusing on the “something” instead of pivoting your attention to something that will enrich your life.

Focused on that giant bowl of ice cream your husband is eating? Get up and darn socks. Focused on how fat you think your pinkie looks today? Put on a pair of gloves and go shovel the driveway. Focused on how worried you are about your review next week? Try writing a letter to your grandmother/hairdresser/ex cell mate. There must be some way for you to pivot your attention to something positive.

Remember: Don’t push back on the thought, pivot away from it. Good luck!

How Do You Deal With Overeating? July 17, 2010

Posted by Jen in Binge Eating, Emotional Eating, Meditation, Motivation, Weight Loss.
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Let’s say things in your life have been going swimmingly. You’re making progress towards a healthy and satisfying life, your relationships are doing well, and you’re staying on track with eating for fuel, not for emotional reasons.

And then you have a bad day at work. Or get in a fight with a loved one. Or find out someone you care for is sick. Wham! You’re back at the fridge, doing the thing you used to do to comfort yourself.

You’re eating. You’re stuffing down the fear, feeling the rush of biting into a piece of cake, and just want to keep moving, keep avoiding, keep eating.

Eventually, you’ll stop. Your stomach might be hurting, or you might realize the eating isn’t doing anything, or your spouse may have come home and you don’t want to get caught eating.

You brush and floss your teeth and get ready for bed. The anger and guilt are already filling you up, causing you to feel terrible about what you’ve done, terrible about who you are, and terrible in your skin.

This time is a gift. Yup, a gift.

See, this can go a few ways. You can continue to berate yourself. This does a few things: It helps you continue to avoid the feelings you were avoiding by eating, because you’re so busy focusing on how awful you think you are. It may also cause part of you to feel righteous, because you’re punishing yourself for being “bad”. Unfortunately, this type of behavior may lead you right back into binge eating the next day, as you try to avoid the ever-growing number of bad feelings piling up.

Another way this story can go: You make a plan to go on a diet. You decide you can overcome this over-eating problem by sticking yourself on a strict regimen. You will overcome. You will fix yourself, dammit! However, this method is going to lead you right back down binge lane, and, wouldn’t you know it, you’ve still managed to avoid thinking about or feeling the thing that upset you in the first place.

Or how about this story? You let go of the berating and the dieting. You let yourself go to sleep, telling yourself you’re a good person and you’re loved. In the morning you wake up and acknowledge the way your body feels, but you treat yourself with love. You take a few minutes to sit somewhere quiet and actually feel the feelings you’ve been trying to avoid. You journal. You meditate. Your forgive yourself for all the ways you’ve been punishing yourself. You plan some delicious and healthy food to eat during the day. You wait for your body to tell you it’s hungry. You get back on track. You are gentle and kind to yourself.

Which way feels the kindest to you? Which way would you like to deal with your problems?

Knowing Is Half the Battle July 14, 2010

Posted by Jen in Binge Eating, Emotional Eating, Motivation, Weight Loss.
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You’ve heard that “knowing is half the battle”, right? At least if you ever watched G.I. Joe you’ve heard it. I think it’s true, too, when it comes to dealing with food/body image/diet issues.

First you have to know you have an issues. You have to realize that you’re way too obsessed with being perfect, or your need to finish the entire cheesecake isn’t normal or healthy, or that worrying about your thighs day in, day out, isn’t going to get you anywhere.

But once you know, what the heck are you supposed to do next? I think a large part of the second half of the “battle” is believing.

Believing you can overcome your issues. Believing you have or can learn the tools to recover. Believing that even after a crappy day, meditating or stretching or petting your cat is better than whatever strategy you’re currently using to deal with stress that’s causing you harm. Believing even after you fall down 2712 times that you can still get back up and still live the life you dream of.

I think belief in myself, and subsequently following through with my belief in myself, was the hardest hurdle I had to tackle in  my Journey to the Center of Jen. In the beginning of my disorder (after I knew I had one) every time I overate, or used food to deal with my emotions, or felt sick from eating too much, I would beat myself up. Over time that changed and I stopped being so hard on myself. But, unfortunately my binges and compulsive overeating continued.

So what finally changed it? Many, many things, but I think one of the best things I ever did was to decide that I believed I could overcome my eating disorder. I knew I had every tool I would ever need to deal with my emotions without using food (meditating, exercise, inquiry, self-coaching, supportive and loving friends and family, a therapist, journaling, stretching, and on and on). However, in times of deep anxiety, I would throw that knowledge out the window and tell myself I couldn’t do it. When the binge was through I could say, “See, you can’t do it. You’ll never stop.”

Woah! That was some seriously self-defeating behavior, and until I decided, “You know what, I have everything I need and I truly believe I can follow through with these skills and use them to cope instead of eating” that I finally did overcome my eating and body obsessions.

First you have to acknowledge, or know, you have a problem that you want to change, then you have to believe you can change it.

Do you believe in yourself?

Women, Food and God. What Are You Waiting For? July 13, 2010

Posted by Jen in Binge Eating, Emotional Eating, Mindful Eating, Sprituality, Weight Loss.
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Did you see Oprah yesterday afternoon? She had Geneen Roth on as a follow-up to her May show, in which Roth also appeared, discussing her best-selling book Women, Food and God.


If you missed it, you can read about the show here. I’m just gonna say it: I think Geneen Roth is brilliant. I think her ideas and methods are the way out of the cycle of hell known as yo-yo dieting. It’s her methods that I use in my own life and that I encourage my clients to use as well.

If you haven’t read her most recent book, and struggle with food and dieting and body image, I’d go pick it up right now. Some people hate this book, as is true with anything anyone has written, ever. Some people don’t get what she’s talking about when she mentions “God”. Some people think she’s just plain wrong. I think some of those people are just plain scared.

It’s scary to give up dieting. It’s scary to trust your body to know what it needs and when it’s hungry and full. It’s scary to feel your feelings, especially when you usually numb them out with food. But you know what? It’s worth it.

It’s worth it to uncover your fears and dreams and hopes. It’s worth it to listen to and respect your body. It’s worth it because you deserve it. If you do what she says and get in touch with yourself and listen to what I call your “essential self” instead of what I call your “social self’ (she calls it “The Voice”), you’ll lose weight. But that’s not the reason to do this. The reason to get in touch with you, with God, with your spirit, with your center, is because you’ll be fulfilled in ways you never thought possible.

What are you waiting for? How many more diets do you want to start and fail? How many more nights do you want to spend with your hand in the cookie jar? How much longer can you avoid feeling your feelings and living your dreams? We’re all meant to do something wonderful. And that includes you. Stop stuffing down your wonderful self with food.

Why Do You Really Want to Lose Weight? July 5, 2010

Posted by Jen in Emotional Eating, Motivation, Sprituality, Weight Loss.
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Why do you want to lose weight?

It’s an important question I have to ask all of my clients. I may call myself a “weight loss” coach, but I really only want my clients to lose weight in a slow, steady, natural way, that includes them paying attention to their hunger and fullness signals, moving their bodies because it feels good, paying attention to the emotions that trigger excess eating, and being mindful in their life.

And one of the most important things to be mindful of are your reasons for wanting to lose weight. Over and over, I see people who want to lose weight because it feels like a way to “fix” themselves, or make themselves “better”. Losing weight may do a few things, including lowering your risk for some diseases and cancers, lowing your cholesterol, and may even make you happier. For a while. Most people will still feel the same way they did before losing weight emotionally.

Which brings me back to my original question. Why do you want to lose weight? Here are some common answers, and the truth that may lie beneath.

  • I want to be thinner (I want to be better. I want to impress others. I want others to love me. I want to be worthy of love.)
  • I want to look better (I can’t imagine I look good now, no one could love me like this, I have to change and be better than I am now.)
  • I want to fit into a pair of jeans I used to wear (I was better before, and I need to be that way again. The way I am now isn’t good enough. No one could possibly like the way I look in these jeans.)
  • I want to be happy (I can’t love myself at this weight, I can’t be worthy a this weight, I know once I lose the weight I’ll be happier, right?)
  • I’ll have more confidence in work and life (I can’t succeed looking the way I do now, people won’t respect me. I can’t stand up and do what I want until I’ve proved to myself I can lose this weight.)

I have another question for you: What if everything was exactly the same, even after you lost the weight? What if you still weren’t happy? What if you still weren’t brave enough to chase your dreams? What if you still felt unloved and undeserving? What difference would being thin make? Trying to lose weight over and over is just a tool to keep you removed from facing your fears and living your best life.

When you’re ready to open up to your true self, when you’re ready to accept that you are amazing and powerful, and can do anything, and when you’re ready to take a look at all the thoughts and beliefs in your head telling you you’re not good enough, then you’re ready to lose weight. And you know what? You’ll feel so good about the rest of your life going right that weight loss won’t even be the most important thing to you anymore. You will know you’re on the right track and worthy of the best damn life even, no matter what.