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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.

 

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One Page Miracle August 3, 2010

Posted by Jen in Meditation, Motivation.
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Yay! Today a link to my post about how BED made my life better appeared on Healthy Tipping Point. In fact, that may how you came to be reading there very words! Welcome.

I have to say that I am in such a good place these days, I am just brimming with enthusiasm and bursting with excitement – and I want to share it! I have been through so many, many ups and downs, but I know, for a fact, that the more you work at improving your life, the better it’s going to get. I promise. You just have to keep getting back up after you get knocked down. And you will get knocked down.

For the last week or so, I’ve been reading Change Your Brain, Change Your Body by Dr. Daniel G. Amen. (I wrote another post about it here.)

One of the things I’ve been doing since I started reading the book is reviewing my life goals every.single.day. I’ve written down my goals many times before, but something about consistently reading them after I get up in the morning and before I go to bed at night seems to be having an impact on me.

Here’s what Dr. Amen suggests:

  • Write down all of your goals on one sheet of paper. He calls it the “One Page Miracle”. Apparently your brain really likes hearing/seeing your goals!
  • Write goals for a variety of areas in your life. The suggestions are relationships (over all plus sub categories for spouse/partner, family and friends), work, money (over all plus short and long-term goals), and health (over all plus weight, nutrition, exercise, and mental health).
  • Keep the goals short and succinct. This is my suggestion – if you’re going to fit it all on one page and read it daily, you’re going to have to keep the goals to a sentence or two – get right to the point! Your brain will thank you.
  • Read it every single day. Reading my goals in the morning at night is really becoming a habit. I concentrate on them and try to internalize them as I read them.
  • Ask yourself, “Is this action helping me reach my goals?” If one of your goals for mental health is to counteract negative thoughts, and you find yourself wallowing in them in the middle of the day, check in with yourself. Is this helping you achieve the goals you wrote down on your “One Page Miracle”? Or, if you’re reaching for a second or third glass of wine or cookie, is this action helping you reach your goals?
  • Tweak your goals as you go. This is another suggestion from me. I know my goals are always pretty similar, but I find having mini goals helps me stay on track, as does the ability to update and rewrite my goals. I intend to write my goals over each week, so each week I have something fresh to read over.

What about you? How do you manage your goals? Would you try the “One Page Miracle”?

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

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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.

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“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?

Your Ideal Day July 15, 2010

Posted by Jen in Meditation, Mindful Eating, Motivation, Sprituality.
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What does your ideal life look like? Okay, maybe that’s too big a place to start. What does your ideal day look like? How does it smell, taste, sound, and especially, feel?

Where do you wake up? Is it light or dark? Is it next to someone or alone? How does your body feel? Are you relaxed, excited, energized? What do you spend your day doing? Remember, this is your dream, no one elses. Below is a simple exercise to get you to get your creative “Ideal Day” juices flowing, but before that, I’d like to address something else.

Like, what the heck does your ideal day have to do with trying to lose weight, improve your body image, get in touch with yourself, and more? EVERYTHING, people, everything.

Why do you think you are so hard on yourself in the first place? Why do you think you eat when you’re not hungry. Let me tell you, it’s not because you’re living your dream life.

If you’re eating when you’re not hungry, you’re trying to avoid something else. If you are willing to go there, really go there, and explore what you want your life to truly be about, you’ll be one step closer to getting in touch with the real you, and getting your hand out of the Cool Ranch Doritos.

So, up for the challenge of imagining your “Ideal Day”?

  1. Go somewhere peaceful where you can relax, unwind, and be alone for at least 15 or 20 minutes. Bring pen and paper with you so you can record the details of your ideal day.
  2. Spend some time in your body. Take deep breaths. Wiggle your toes. Do some neck rolls. Close your eyes.
  3. Feel around for any tight or stressed-out areas in your body. If there is tension in your tummy, breathe deeply and see if you can’t let it go for now. Try to get to a place of presence and peace.
  4. Ask yourself, “On the perfect day, where do I wake up?” Fill in every single teeny tiny minute detail that you can. The color of the walls, the smell of the room or of breakfast, everything. Make sure to write down how you feel, and bonus points if you genuinely start to feel this way while you do the exercise!
  5. Ask yourself, “What am I looking forward to today? How will my day unfold?” Make certain to capture the feeling of what this ideal day will bring, and again, be as detailed as you can be.
  6. Walk yourself through the entire day, from the time you get up until the time you go to bed. Be detailed if you can!
  7. Notice where you felt the most excitement and the most reservation. This exercise could potentially bring up scary feelings and thoughts such as, “But I’d have to quit my job to be a ballerina!”, or “Oh no, I’d have to kick my 37-year old son out of the house to do the renovations I’m dreaming of!”, etc. Acknowledge the thoughts as they come up, but press on with the exercise.
  8. When you’re done, read over your ideal day. Fill your entire body with the deliciousness of how it would feel to be living this life.
  9. Keep the piece of paper. Read it every single day. Dream about your ideal day every single day. Let the good feelings wash over your body every single day. When you feel like beating yourself up over your weight or eating another doughnut, re-read your ideal day.
  10. Contact a life coach to get you started on your journey to actually living your ideal day! 🙂  Oh, did I say that out loud?

What’s your ideal day?

Books That Have Helped Along the Way July 1, 2010

Posted by Jen in Emotional Eating, Meditation, Sprituality.
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I don’t know about you, but I love to read. Of course, if you’re sitting somewhere right now reading this, you probably crave information, too!

Over the years my philosophies on eating, spirituality, find balance, health, and weight loss have shifted, and I thought I’d share a list of books that I found very helpful along the way. These books improved my life in some way, whether it was to teach me to take better care of myself, reward myself for progress, be kind and loving to myself, or how to make an awesome healthy recipe.

Help with the body image/food/eating patterns side of things:

Help on the Spiritual Side

There are probably more resources that have improved my life along the way, but those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. I hope you’ll check one or more of these works out on your own spiritual and wellness journey.