Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How Much Should I Eat?

This is a big question - one that I can't answer thoroughly in one post, and one that actually doesn't have a right answer because everyone is so unique.  However, I want to share some thoughts on this topic because I think that not eating enough can undermine people's ability to resist binge urges.  This post will give you some basic, broad guidelines to work with, and is meant especially for those who feel unable to fully rely on their hunger signals / intuitive eating.     

(Since I'm talking about nutrition, I will again remind you that I'm not a nutritionist or medical doctor, and to please to seek the guidance of health professionals if you feel you need it.)

Many recovering binge eaters already have a feel for what constitutes a satisfactory quantity of food per day, but some don't. Some people think that a banana for breakfast, a couple hard boiled eggs and an apple for lunch, and a grilled chicken salad for dinner should be plenty. In reality, that amount of food wouldn't even be enough if you were lying in bed all day. Many women I’ve spoken to believe they only need about 1300-1800 calories each day...or at least that's what they think they "should" be eating in order to lose weight. Even though that's not extreme starvation, an energy intake that low is going to keep the body in “survival" mode - keeping you focused on food, plagued with cravings, and making binge urges much harder to resist.

     Your resting metabolic rate - what your body needs just to support it’s basic functions at rest - is approximately ten times your body weight. So, if you weigh 150 lbs, you need about 1500 calories a day if you lie in bed all day and do nothing...not walk, not talk, not brush your teeth, not chew food, not go to work, not exercise...etc.  Is it any surprise that a 150 pound woman might not be able to stick to a 1400-calorie-per day weight-loss diet?  That’s not even enough food to support her basic life-sustaining functions! 

I personally believe that anything less than 2000 per day isn't usually enough for people, especially people with a history of calorie deprivation and binge eating. A range from about 2000-3000 usually works best for people, depending on their level of activity and metabolism. I realize that's a wide range, but everyone is truly different in their needs.  I don’t believe in getting overly mathematical with eating, or counting calories for any reason except to make sure you are getting a normal, nourishing amount of food. Don't feel like you need to monitor your calorie intake closely, and don't get obsessive about making sure you are getting the "right" amount; but it can help to loosely monitor your intake for a short time to get a feel for what is normal.  

     The culture of weight loss is thankfully beginning to shift away from calorie deficits, but it's been that way for so long that it can be hard for someone to believe that eating 2000 or more calories per day isn't excessive at all. If you truly think that 1500 calories is enough for you, I would recommend buying a simple electronic monitor to estimate how many calories you are actually burning. If you have hard proof of how many calories you are using, it can help you realize that upping your intake isn't being excessive - it's actually cultivating a healthy metabolism. I think the reason that over 2000 calories can seem like too much for some people is leftover from the unhealthy low-fat craze that's also (thankfully) ending. Yes, 2000 calories of plain rice and salads with non-fat / low-cal dressing sure seems like a high volume of food; but if you instead focus on adding some nourishing, calorie-dense foods like proteins and healthy fats, you will be eating normal-sized portions that are also satisfying.  

As I've said before, my book is not a method to become a better dieter. Please do not use ideas from my book or workbook to resist all urges to eat more than your calorie-restrictive diet allows, or to ignore real hunger signals. Trying to resist urges to eat over, let’s say, 1600 calories per day is the opposite of the intent of Brain over Binge. Limiting food intake while trying to resist urges to binge would be extremely difficult, and is simply not compatible because of survival instincts.

Something to note is that increasing calories can sometimes blur the line between normalcy and binge eating for those whose binges were small. If you were eating 1200 calories per day on your "diet" (and binge eating on top of that); and now suddenly you are nourishing your body with 2200 calories per day, you may feel like you are giving in to your lower brain. This is not the case at all. You are giving your body what it needs. For example, let’s say you are doing a very challenging exercise regimen and your body is needing around 3000 calories per day to support your routine, but you are subjectively considering anything over 2000 a binge; then you can see how that will be problematic. Eating the extra 1000 calories per day might feel like you are indulging, but you aren’t. The goal is not to banish your appetite or desire for food completely, but to restore your lower brain to its normal function in your life. 

One last argument against calorie restriction is that dieting weakens the prefrontal cortex...

Remember the part of your brain that allows you to resist the binge urges - the prefrontal cortex?  The rational prefrontal cortex gives us self-control - a function that happens to be unnecessary for your immediate survival during a food shortage. When you are starving, what do you think is going to be the first part of the brain to be shut down?  Definitely not your primitive brain that is in charge of keeping you alive! This is another reason why dieting leads to binge eating.  When you are starving, your prefrontal cortex is in an energy-depleted state; so you'll feel more out of control and less capable of resisting binge urges.  

Eating a satisfactory quantity of food ensures that you have a proper functioning prefrontal cortex that is able to resist binge urges. If you are tempted to keep starving yourself, know that it will only hinder your progress. If you’ve gained some weight from binge eating, and you are impatient about losing it, know that another diet will just ensure a slower metabolism, more binge urges, and likely more weight gain in the future.    



Sunday, June 1, 2014

New Workbook for Sale (Advance Copy, on Blog Only)

I mentioned in the comments of previous posts that I was writing a workbook, to help people better understand and implement the 5 Steps that gave me freedom from binge eating. Several people have inquired about the workbook recently, and I truly apologize it's taken longer than expected.

All of the workbook's content is now complete, but I'm still waiting on a cover design and for the table of contents to be "linked" (meaning you can click on a chapter title and you will go to that chapter). Since these are details that don't affect the content, I decided to go ahead an put an advance copy for sale exclusively on my blog for half price ($1.99). Once the workbook is officially complete (hopefully by June 15th), it will be on my website  for $3.99.

The workbook is designed to help you create your own insights, so that you will better understand your binge urges and how to avoid acting on them. You'll work on changing your perspective when the urges arise, so that you can find your own power to resist in a way that works for you. Brain over Binge was my personal story of recovery, and this workbook can help you create your own path to freedom from binge eating.  

Both the advance copy and the completed version will be PDF files that you can download. You can print the workbook or use a free PDF form filler program like PDFescape to complete it. I do hope to have a paperback and possibly a Kindle if all goes well, but it's going to take more time.  I wanted to get something out as soon as possible (because I've had many people asking for extra help/tools). The PDF version was the quickest/best option for now.  I will post when the workbook is available in other formats. 


I want to thank Cookie Rosenblum of Real Weight Loss for Real Women who encouraged me to create the tools and exercises in this workbook, and gave me valuable guidance.        


**Update:  I had requests from several people to add editable fields to the workbook, so that you do not have to print it or use an outside program like PDFescape to fill in your answers.  This is a great idea, but making this change will delay the final version until June 25th.  The half price version will still be available until then.**

**Update #2 (6-24-14):  I truly apologize, but due to a technical problem, I unfortunately have to push the release date of the final workbook back yet again. I will post here as soon as it's ready and available on my website.  The sale of the half-price version will be extended until then.  I'm sorry for any inconvenience. ** 

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: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Brain-over-Binge-Conventional-Recovered/dp/0984481702/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395846983&sr=8-1&keywords=brain+over+binge.

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:  http://dramyjohnson.com/busting-the-binge-group-coaching-program/

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.