Monday, March 31, 2014

Intuitive Eating or Not?

If you're a binge eater trying to recover, you've likely come across the term "intuitive eating." Intuitive eating is an approach to eating that uses hunger and fullness - as well as the way foods make you feel - to guide what and how much you consume. In theory, your body intuitively knows what foods are best for you, and how much you need to eat; and if you can just be in tune with your body's sensations, you'll be able to effortlessly maintain a healthy weight. 

Intuitive eating is about trusting your body's innate wisdom. It involves following your tastes and cravings, but it's not just about eating what you desire in the moment.  It's also about being connected to how certain foods make you feel, and making food choices based on that. The result of intuitive eating should be a good diet that fits your lifestyle and fuels your unique body in the best way possible.     

Intuitive eating does work for some people, and I do see some value in this philosophy - provided it's understood properly, and not simply thought of as an "eat whatever you want whenever you want it for the rest of your life" approach. Intuitive eating can and does help some binge eaters give up the dieting mentality and food rules. 

Even though some aspects of intuitive eating may be useful, I think it presents several challenges for recovering binge eaters. Hunger and fullness, as well as food preferences and cravings, aren't usually very reliable after prolonged periods of binge eating/overeating. Stomach stretching, "addiction" to certain sugary/processed foods, digestive problems, and other physiological imbalances caused from binge eating can render your body lacking much innate wisdom. I know I could not have relied fully on my hunger and fullness when I first quit binge eating.  

Even those who aren't binge eaters should know that many of our modern foods make our body's natural hunger/satiety mechanisms less effective. As I talked about in my Listen to Your Body? post a few years ago, I don't think the appetite is completely dependable for most people, which is why we also need to use our higher brains when making food choices. 

If you want to explore more on this topic, the best source of information (in my opinion) on why intuitive eating might not be working for you is Gillian Riley, author of Ditching Diets, and Eating Less. She has a free e-book titled What is Wrong with Intuitive Eating? available on her website, if you sign up for monthly updates. The e-book is a great little summary of some of the pitfalls of this approach.     

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Paperback Now Available in the UK

   It is now possible to get a paperback version of my book through Amazon's UK store.  Here is the link:

I want to say thanks to all of the international readers who purchased the Kindle version. I appreciate your patience and continued support. I hope the paperback is helpful for those of you who like to have an actual book in hand.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Busting the Binge Group Coaching Program

I want to let everyone know that there will be a group coaching program starting April 9th, for anyone who feels like they need additional support quitting binge eating or overcoming any type of problematic overeating.  

Amy Johnson and Cookie Rosenblum.- both life coaches with experience helping women overcome binge eating and other food/weight issues - will lead the group.  They will discuss methods that are in line with Brain over Binge, but Amy and Cookie also bring their own unique expertise, experience, and methods to help you in areas you may be struggling.

To learn more about the Busting the Binge Coaching Program, click here:

As a free bonus for this group, I will be doing a Q&A with the participants on May 7th at 8pm EST (after the conclusion of the regular group sessions).  

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Let's Focus on Dieting Prevention (Eating Disorders Awareness Week)

“It’s fine to raise awareness about eating disorders, but I believe more focus should be on preventing dieting, because eating disorders are not illnesses that inexplicably happen to people.  Nearly all cases of anorexia and bulimia, and a large number of cases of  BED, would never occur without the initial diet, just like a drug addiction would never occur without that first hit.” 
- Brain over Binge, pg 276

My small contribution to Eating Disorders Awareness Week is to try to make you more aware of how you talk about food and weight when children are around. In being more careful with our words, I believe a lot of dieting behavior in young people (which can lead to life-threatening eating disorders in some, and lifelong misery in others) can be prevented.

We live in a country where 80 percent of girls have been on a diet by the time they are 10 years old. We tend to blame the media and “unrealistic” models and celebrities, but I think we also need to look at adult role models – parents, teachers, coaches, relatives, friends – who are too often discussing diets and weight when little ones are listening. Even seemingly innocent comments from adult role models add up over time, causing children to feel like dieting is a normal part of growing up.

It's becoming common knowledge that dieting* isn’t an effective long-term weight loss strategy for anyone, but those who have kids or spend time with them need to know that dieting is especially dangerous in young people. Not only does it negatively affect their growth and development, neurological factors in children/adolescents make them more likely to develop an eating disorder in response to a diet. 

Areas of the brain that handle self-control and rational decision making are underdeveloped in young people, so it's their primitive brains and instincts that dominate. They have strong survival mechanisms which make them sensitive to any threat of starvation (which is what the body perceives a diet to be). When the primitive brain senses that food is scarce, it slows the metabolism, and produces strong cravings - usually driving the person to break the diet and regain the weight (often even more weight than was lost). Sometimes, however, this reaction is more extreme, and the starved brain will drive the person to binge eat, which can lead to bulimia or binge eating disorder. Conversely - in susceptible individuals, or after a prolonged period of dieting - the body/brain will "adapt" to starvation by shutting down the appetite and drive for food, which happens in anorexia.  

Without fully functional rational brains, children and adolescents are in danger of becoming trapped by these skewed instincts. Although there is more research to be done in the etiology of eating disorders, and there are certainly factors that render one more vulnerable; it is now becoming evident that the majority of eating disorders are brain problems caused by dietingand are not psychological illnesses. 

So, this week, while many are focusing on raising awareness of psychological risk factors and symptoms of eating disorders, I want to try to help prevent the cause.     

My simple message for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is this:  

Please be aware of what you say about weight and diets when kids are listening.   
Stop saying negative comments about your body, and stop talking about your desire to lose weight. Your children think you are great just the way you are.  

Stop commenting on the weight of others. Don’t say who has lost or gained, or who is too thin or too fat.  Teach children that we are all different and all worthy, and people are about much more than their appearance. 

Don’t say that a certain food is too fattening or will make you gain weight. It’s great to teach your kids which foods are the most nourishing, but don’t make it about body size.
After you’ve eaten, don’t express feelings of guilt in front of your kids. Don’t say you “shouldn’t" have eaten this or that.  If you feel you made a bad choice, move on and make a better choice next time. 

Please don’t warn kids that one day they’ll have to “watch their weight,” and they will no longer be able to eat whatever they want.  The truth is that an attitude of deprivation only leads to more overeating and weight gain in the long run. Of course we want our kids to make good food choices, but instilling a restrictive mindset in them won’t help them reach that goal. 

If someone tells you that you look nice, please don’t respond with something self-depreciating about your weight, or say “I think I look fat.”  Please, just say “thank you.” 

If someone offers you dessert, don’t say that you have a reunion or wedding coming up and you want to "fit in your dress." Teach your kids that making healthier choices is never just about looking good for an event. 

If you go to the gym, tell your kids it’s to be strong and healthy. If you run, tell them it’s because you like to.  

If you deny some junk food in favor of a healthier option, tell them it’s because you’d rather eat something that makes you feel more energetic - not because it has "too many calories" or you "don't have enough points."       

If other adults are talking about their weight in front of children, don’t join in. You don’t need to teach your kids it’s "bad" to talk about weight, but your kids are taking their cues from you about what’s important.

If you are offered cake at a child’s birthday party, please just say “yes” and enjoy it, or “no thank you.” Do not say 'yes', and then lament about how you “shouldn’t be eating it.” Likewise, don’t say 'no', and then add that it’s because you are on a diet. Let the kids enjoy the cake without hearing a lot of harmful background noise.

Don’t tell kids that they need to “put some meat on their bones.” Hearing talk of diets and weight loss, and also being told they are "too thin" is confusing to children - it makes them feel they need to be a perfect weight to be accepted. Some kids (and adults) are naturally skinny, and there is no need to make them self-conscious about their weight.    

Please don’t tell a child that he/she is chubby, or anything similar, even if it’s in a seemingly innocent and joking way.  There is no need to make them turn attention to their body shape, and one day they’ll learn that those words have negative connotations and be tempted to diet.

Don’t compliment your children for being thin or tell them they are "lucky" to be skinny. They will learn that thin is to be praised and they should aim to stay that way.  This puts them at a high risk for dieting as they mature and naturally put on (healthy) weight.

Don’t criticize people for being overweight. There are overweight people in this world who have healthier lifestyles than you.  

This doesn't mean you can't teach children about nutrition or what habits will lead to a healthy life. Talk to them about nourishment, eating to feel good, and playing outside for fun. Don’t worry that without all the weight loss talk, they will end up not caring about their weight and therefore become overweight. In fact the opposite is true – they will stay more in tune with their natural hunger and fullness, and their body will regulate itself quite well.

Modeling a healthy, balanced, and active lifestyle - while avoiding teaching your kid to “diet” and “control their weight” - actually gives them the best chance at maintaining a healthy weight for a lifetime.

* In this post and in my book, I’m referring to “dieting” as depriving the body of the calories it needs (in an attempt to lose weight). I’m not talking about changing eating habits to better nourish your body. If you make healthy lifestyle changes, it's much better to focus on and talk about the other benefits you experience, rather than concentrating on weight loss.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Tips for Beginners...Continued (Inspirational Testimony)

     This post is an addition to the Tips for Beginners post. In that post, I asked readers to share what helps them detach from urges and avoid acting on them. I want to thank everyone who took the time to write about their experiences and insights in the comments section.

    I received an email last week from someone who tried to post there about her own experience, but because of the length, it would not go through.  As soon as I read her story, I knew it would be extremely beneficial for others to read; and I am fortunate that the author of this message was willing to share it in a separate post. I love the analogy she shares about the little yappy dog - it's brilliant. A special thanks to her!  

"While I was reading Brain over Binge, I had a light bulb moment. What the light bulb illuminated: "This book could be a real game changer for me. Am I ready to take the big step of having my game with food entirely change? Yes, I am!" And indeed, I have reached Step #5 in Hansen's list of steps: I am excited! I'm on Day 37 binge-free. I truly feel that binge eating has moved into my past.

Hansen asks, in "
Tips for Beginners," some specific questions of her readers, so let me answer a couple of those.

What's a problem I had in resisting urges to binge, and how did I overcome it?

My problem with resisting those urges, for many years, can be summed up with one word: inevitability. It sounds ridiculous to me now, but I truly believed, for the longest time, that my binge eating was inevitable, handed down from above, totally out of my control. What helped me to overcome it unfolded in a series of steps: I have a lot of weight to lose, over 200 pounds to get healthy again, and I happened to be reading, in the book 59 Seconds, a review of several different studies on what factors most enable people to achieve big longterm goals. When I looked at the list of factors, one of them stood out: "Go public." The author recommended, based on solid evidence, that if you want to achieve something big, you should announce it to the world—kind of like giving a press conference. As a result of that tip, I got online and went in search of a public forum dedicated to weight loss, a place where people announce their goals and give each other support. So I joined the 3 Fat Chicks (3FC) support forum, and announced my big project. Reading other people's success stories was inspiring. And one of the first things I identified that I needed help with was getting free from binge eating—because I've always binged without purging, so that's where all my weight came from. Just saying that to myself—"you need help with this"—in the context of all these friendly people on the forum trying to lose weight and maintain, sharing advice, began to chip away at that horrible sense of inevitability about my binging.

The next step came when I noticed that people at 3FC were setting "mini goals." That resonated with something else I'd read in 59 Seconds: One of the tried and true techniques in accomplishing a big goal, is to break the project up into smaller sub-goals, and work on them one at a time. So I set myself my first mini-goal: "Go 30 days without any emotional/compulsive/binge-type eating." (I think the longest I'd ever gone between binges was 13 days.) To make it public, I put the mini-goal in my signature appended to postings on 3FC, with something I edited every single day: "Days so far: X" By the time I got to "Days so far: 7" I started to freak out, thinking, "This might actually happen—eeeek! What's going to happen if I actually pull off 30 days binge-free?" Asking that question, in writing, helped me realize I had a crazy belief system underneath my binging: I believed I was actually holding the world together with my binging. Pretty nuts, huh? Well, I guess I had to be nuts to eat my way to some 350 pounds before I did something about it. And of course, like most crazy beliefs that sane people can have, it collapsed as soon as I verbalized it.

But that crazy belief did help me in a big way, because it brought me to Brain Over Binge. I liked the title a lot, it came highly recommended, and I was desperate to read the story of someone who'd fought the battle and lived to tell the tale. The next step came, then, when I was putting Hansen's technique to work, where the rubber meets the road, in dealing with a real-life urge to binge.

Now I'm going to address another question from "Tips for Beginners":

What did it feel like to separate myself from the urge to binge?

What it felt like, to me, was a mental feat. Since my most recent experience with pulling off mental feats is memorization (at the advanced age of 58) of vocabulary in a foreign language, I found myself reaching for one of the mental tools I've learned—specifically, vivid imagery (visual plus other senses) with some sort of action going on.

Let me formulate this as a tip for you, my reader, in confronting your own urges to binge. As soon as the urge arises, look for some way of dramatizing, in pictures and sounds, how you, as the higher self, are very separate from the binge urge, which is "neurological junk." For example, I thought of myself as a cool cerebral character playing chess, in a room where a ridiculous little yappy dog (the urge to binge) is trying to get me to play fetch with it. I imagined the dog as having a high-pitched yelp of a voice, barking away, and I imagined it holding the ball in its mouth and doing everything in its power to get my attention—butting my legs, knocking against the chess board, and so on. Meanwhile, I am not exactly ignoring it: I am merely observing its frantic, silly behavior while I contemplate my next chess move. (Since I'm a higher being, I can do both of those things at once. =laugh=) I'm not saying anything to the dog, nor am I reacting to it in any way. I don't need to tell you the end of this story, because it's obvious: the yappy dog eventually gives up and wanders off into another room. You can use, adapt, that little drama however you like, or better yet, come up with a new one of your own, but take care to make the scenario very specific (imagine the dog's little ratty tail), with more than one sense (visual, auditory, etc.) involved, with some kind of action taking place. The more ridiculous—even humorous—you make the urge to binge appear, the more easily you can be in the role of cool, calm, collected observer.

 I've had very few urges to binge since coming up with the yappy-dog scenario, and the ones that have arrived are so attenuated, they just float up briefly into my consciousness and drift away. To reinforce the thought that my binge urges are in the past, a couple of times I have visualized myself actually binging, and I've observed how the visualization, as if made of old fragile film stock, has a lot of little white and black blobs obscuring the view, like pixilated static, as it drifts further and further into the past. 37 days may not seem very long, but believe me, that behavior is ancient history. The last time an urge to binge surfaced, I just thought, "What's this? We don't do that anymore!" and the urge went poof! and vanished.

Thanks to all of you who've read this far, and best of luck in getting your own urges to binge into ancient history! I'll pass on one little gem that's floating around 3 Fat Chicks: "You've come too far to take orders from a cookie." You have! Don't let that food boss you around anymore.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Quick List of Helpful Resources

    I just started a list of helpful resources on the FAQ section of my website (at the bottom of the FAQ page), and I wanted to share it on my blog as well.  I'll be adding to this list as I come across useful information. I've mentioned some of these resources previously in my book and blog, but I wanted to have it all in one place. 
Ditching Diets by Gillian Riley (This is a helpful, easy-to-read book for anyone who wants to learn how to eat well - without dieting, obsessing over food, or overeating. Gillian also has a more detailed book, Eating Less, which explains the same concepts, as well as a helpful website,
The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal (A practical book on using self-control to end habits that don't serve you well. It explains the science behind willpower, and helps you put your brain to work for you).
Rational Recovery by Jack Trimpey (A 1996 book on substance addiction, which helped me take responsibility for my own recovery from bulimia)
The Mind and the Brain by Jeffrey Schwartz (This book explains the science behind neuroplasticity. It helped me explain why my binge eating habit faded after I stopped acting on the urges.)
You are Not Your Brain by Jeffrey Schwartz (A self-help guide to using neuroplasticity to overcome bad habits and challenges)
Being Human by Amy Johnson (Although not specifically about eating disorders, this new book - as well as Amy's previous book Modern Enlightenment - can help you overcome/make peace with the thoughts that hold you back from living a life you want.)
The Quit Binge Eating Podcast (This is the first ever podcast to help recovering binge eaters. The host, Alen Standish, interviews people with many different perspectives on binge eating and recovery. It's good to hear a variety of voices and experiences, and see what resonates with you. I've actually been on this podcast a couple of times; and I apologize, I'm a much better writer than a speaker!)
Before I Eat App (Also from Alen Standish, this is the first App to help recovering binge eaters. It offers a variety of tools to help you navigate binge urges, as well as motivational coaching sessions, progress tracking, and a reward system for success. You can choose the tools that are most practical for you.)   
Clearing Your Path: The Truth About Weight Loss (This is an ebook written by a weight loss coach that understands binge eating and the importance of avoiding dieting.) 
I will be adding more to this list over time!

Friday, November 15, 2013

"Overeating," Part III: Practice Thankfulness

     Several weeks ago, I envisioned this blog post to be a little different. I thought I would share some practical tips for conquering any remaining problematic overeating, after binge eating stops.  I likely will still do that at some point (although I've already addressed the issue a bit in the Non-Hungry Cravings post, and my focus is primarily on helping people stop binge eating - not perfect their eating habits), but this week I was inspired to take this post in a new direction.
     "Inspired" is the wrong word….   

     I have been heartbroken seeing the events in the Philippines the past week, following the devastating typhoon. 

     I truly hope no one takes this post the wrong way (I am not trying to minimize your problems at all);  but, it simply felt wrong for me to write about conquering overeating, while so many victims of the storm were and still are starving as they wait for aid. Those of you who read my book know that my family was affected by hurricane Katrina in 2005, so this is close to my heart.

     I took a trip to the grocery store today - 4 kids in tow - and filled up my cart with a renewed sense of thankfulness for the food we have.  I've gotten into a bit of a funk lately in regards to feeding my kids, worrying about some of the pesticides/toxins/GMOs..etc. that's in the food we buy. There is a great deal of concerning information out there about conventional foods, and we rarely buy organic because it's just not financially feasible for our family of 6 right now. But, today in the store, I didn't have any of those worrisome thoughts as I pulled our  non-organic whole milk off the shelf.  I felt only grateful that I could give my kids something sustaining to drink.         

     It immediately occurred to me that cultivating a sense of thankfulness could be useful for those struggling with overeating. Most people with eating disorders have an antagonistic relationship with food, which only makes matters worse. They often lose the deep sense of gratitude for nourishment. I admit, before this week, I was letting those health concerns about food prevent me from truly appreciating what I have as well.  

     As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I am suggesting that as you eat your meals and snacks, try to shift your focus to gratitude when you catch yourself worrying  about overeating.  Try to remember how fortunate you are that you can nourish your body, feel satisfied; and then have more food available the next time you are hungry.  A mindset of being thankful for food in the present, while also being thankful for future food could curb the desire to eat too much right now.  If you allow yourself to feel deeply grateful that food will be there for you at your next meal or snack, you will be more likely to stop eating when you are comfortably full.     

     Trying to be more thankful doesn't mean you should feel guilty about having plentiful food when others have little.  I am simply recommending that when you begin to worry about eating too much of this or that, or when you feel a little too full after a meal; you could try gently reminding yourself that you are fortunate to be able to nourish your body, even if you don't always do it perfectly.  And be thankful that you'll have tomorrow to try again.  

     Gratitude can bring you peace in so many aspects of your life and your relationships, including your relationship with food.