Skip to main content

BLOGS

Blogs are brief, to-the-point, conversational, and packed with information, strategies, and tips to turn troubled eaters into “normal” eaters and to help you enjoy a happier, healthier life. Sign up by clicking "Subscribe" below and they’ll arrive in your inbox. 

No unsolicited guest blogs are accepted, thank you!

How Looking Good on the Outside and Falling Apart on the Inside May Lead to Mindless Eating

I treat many clients who are successful and look great from the outside—well put together and functioning at a high level—but feel like a total and utter mess inside. They are well liked and appear to handle life superbly, while in reality they are anxious much of the time and often even depressed. One of the ways they manage their well protected, hidden inner turmoil is through mindless eating. To a person, these clients had difficult childhoods in which they could not express their authentic selves due to a rigid environment which brooked no challenge or dissent. Maybe it was Mom who needed to have everything go her way or she flew into a rage. Or Dad who maintained tight control over everyone in the household and losing his temper meant emotional or physical abuse to those who upset him. Can you see how this environment would produce children who obeyed,...

Continue reading

More on Food and Mood

Please know that you’re not crazy if you eat when you’re upset. Food does make us feel better for a number of reasons, among which is that it lifts our mood. However, as you know, it also may make your mood plummet after you’ve eaten (heavily of fat or sugar) or overeaten. Here are some insights on the subject from “Mood, food, and obesity” by Minati Singh (Frontiers in Psychology, 9/1/14, doi: 10.3389/pfsyg.2014.00925). First off, here’s a description of the mechanism for why you feel better when you eat emotionally: “Food is a potent natural reward and food intake is a complex process. Reward and gratification associated with food consumption leads to dopamine (DA) production, which in turn activates reward and pleasure centers in the brain. This type of repetitive behavior . . . leads to the activation of brain reward pathways that eventually overrides other signals of satiety and hunger.”...

Continue reading

Stop Trying So Hard to Be Good

If you’re a regular blog reader of mine, you likely know that I have a strong negative bias against using the words “good” and “bad” in relation to food or eating. In fact, I have strong negative feelings about those two words, period. I say and write them occasionally, but try my darnedest not to because there’s usually a more descriptive word to use for both of them. Here’s my case against the words “good” and “bad.” First, is there anyone among us who didn’t hear these words ad nauseum as children? We’re schooled to always try to be good and to, at all costs, avoid being bad. We’re even told that Santa knows which way we’ve been, so it’s not just about pleasing our parents, relatives or teachers, but we’ve got to mind out Ps and Qs if we want to receive any presents from old St. Nick. Second, it’s dangerous to...

Continue reading

Sufficiency

Eating problems stem, in part, from not knowing what’s enough food to satisfy or what’s enough to weigh. Culture tells us one thing and medical advice tells us another. Then there are the dictums from childhood and pressures from our peer group. The core issue here is recognizing sufficiency, that is, knowing when enough is enough. A sense of sufficiency comes from letting go of external standards and focusing on internal ones. Group think might work in promoting world peace, but idiosyncrasy is where it’s at when it comes to deciding what’s best for you, which means that each individual has to come up with her/his own answers. The fact is, a felt sense of sufficiency is at the root of “normal” eating and developing connection to it will help enormously in improving your relationship with food and your body. As children, we depend on parents to advise us when enough...

Continue reading

Being Uncomfortable and Doing Whatever It Takes to Recover

I was talking to a new client recently who mentioned that she’d sought me out as an eating coach in part because of what she’d heard me say on a podcast: I attributed my success to the fact that I would have done anything effective and healthy to recover from my eating problems. Can you say the same for yourself? Interestingly, I often run into clients who refuse to consider options I suggest which would help them progress in different areas—refuse as in adamantly reject an idea as soon as I say it or only appear to be mulling it over because they don’t want to offend me. When I ask their reason for declining a suggestion, they usually tell me they don’t want to be uncomfortable. Well, I can understand that. This whole thing of going from disregulated to “normal” eating, from an unhealthy relationship with food and body to...

Continue reading

People Pleasing and Emotions

Recently, while talking with a client about people-pleasing, she mentioned the frequent urge to feel what others feel or, at least, not to let people know that what she experiences seems different than what they are experiencing. I hear this a great deal from disregulated eaters, this desire to not appear emotionally different from others. This dynamic develops in childhood. Here are examples. Say Dad pushes you to be strong and courageous. If he withdraws his love—or worse, shames or punishes you—when you show any sign of weakness, you quickly learn that you’d better not let him know you have doubts and qualms, and therefore you put on a confident front. Or maybe your mother wants to stay happy and upbeat and becomes upset when you’re down and rain on her parade. Or maybe Mom or Dad is unhappy, and in you come jumping for joy over receiving an A in...

Continue reading

The High of Anticipation

Ever wonder why you love to muse about a future when you’ll be thin/happy/a “normal” eater/successful/popular/etc.? Or why much of your time is spent contemplating tomorrow rather than living in today? Science can explain why you do this. It’s no accident that we get a buzz from anticipation. Our automatic reactions are due to evolution, meaning they serve a life-enhancing purpose. In this case, the brain produces dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter (and rat equivalent of a food pellet), when it thinks about reward. Contemplation is a positive activity which can lead to strategizing and problem-solving to ensure that events happen as we want them to. Early humans who happened to get a jolt of dopamine when they were thinking about the future—killing a wild pig to feast on, finding a cave to provide shelter, or going through a special ritual to become an adult—would be more inclined to repeat contemplation to...

Continue reading

Dysregulated Eaters and Sensitivity

Reading an article about the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)—someone who’s unusually reactive to most everything—I recognized the temperament of many disregulated eaters. Interestingly, an equal number would seem to fall at the other end of the sensitivity spectrum, feeling pleasure or gratification only through unusual intensity. According to Andrea Bartz, author of “Sense and Sensitivity” (Psychology Today, July/August 2011), highly sensitive people tend to be creative, care deeply for animals, and are considered thin-skinned or touchy. They are greatly attuned to nuance, both positive and negative, and have exceptionally intense emotions and affective experiences. They often shrink from bright lights, loud noise and crowds. Heightened senses may make them acutely aware of stimuli others miss, but also make life difficult and sometimes painful. What seems just right for the average person is often too much for the HSP. One explanation is thin boundaries; another is a tightly-wound, easily distressed nervous system,...

Continue reading

Vulnerability and Strength

Yet another interesting discussion cropped up on my Food and Feelings message board ( http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings" http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings), this time about vulnerability and strength. You, too, might have concerns about them. If so, read on to learn what these terms mean and how you feel about them. Troubled eaters often confuse emotional vulnerability and strength with physical vulnerability and strength because if there’s been an attack on your physical self, especially when you were powerless to stop it, your natural reaction was fear—and that fear leads to feeling vulnerable from then on. Before you’re fully grown, you are both emotionally and physically vulnerable and weak because your brain and your body are still maturing. A problem occurs, however, when you’ve become physically able to care for yourself as an adult and are strong of body but still feel weak of mind, as if your emotional self hasn’t caught up to your new, more...

Continue reading

More on Meaning Making

Ever since I took Jon Connelly’s enlightening trauma resolution workshop back in July ( http://www.cleartrauma.com/), I’ve been more focused on how we make meaning of life events, sadly, often to our detriment. In order to heal from emotional wounds, traumas and eating problems, it’s crucial to understand how we arbitrarily and mistakenly couple together the random occurrences in our histories. Then learn to uncouple them. Some insights on the subject come from a review by David Chivers in The Humanist Network News (8/11), of THE BELIEVING BRAIN: FROM GHOSTS AND GODS TO POLITICS AND CONSPIRACTIES—HOW WE CONSTRUCT BELIEFS AND REINFORCE THEM AS TRUTHS by Michael Shermer’s. Shermer, says Chivers, shows “…that people are pre-disposed to see patterns in natural events, and further to ascribe reasons to those patterns.” We do this for safety and security. If we mistake a snake for a stick, we’re sunk, but if we mistake a stick...

Continue reading

Trouble Accepting Compliments

There’s a curious paradox that often crops up in the personalities of some disregulated eaters (and plenty of “normal” eaters as well) that’s worth taking a look at: Even though you absolutely crave positive strokes, you also have difficulty accepting compliments and praise. A curious dilemma which needs straightening out for good mental health. For example, you tell a friend how you stood up for yourself when your boss started to chew you out, and she responds something like, “That’s awesome how you didn’t let him put you down. You’re really doing a great job not letting people get away with dissing you.” And you reply, “Well, I probably should have said something earlier and I wish I’d been more forceful. I’m really not all that assertive.” Sound familiar? Someone is trying to bolster your ego and you brush them off. Maybe you don’t disqualify everything they say; you just minimize...

Continue reading

Wondering versus Worrying

During a recent phone session, as a client remarked on something that might happen down the road, I realized that she’d finally stopped worrying about the future and had started wondering about it instead. And what a world of difference there is between the two. If you’re a worrier, why not consider converting your angst into wonder? Take a minute and conjure up what it feels like to worry—the knot in your stomach, slightly nauseous feeling, fixation on potential harm which may befall you, your energy narrowing into prevention of future threats, the present slipping by because your thoughts are racing ahead of you, your body tensing up, your mind unable to think clearly. Worry generates self-doubt, irritability, helplessness, shame, and fear. What other physical, emotional and mental sensations does worry trigger in you? Now remember what it’s like to wonder about the future. We often call that anticipation and associate...

Continue reading

Stress and Weight

We know it’s important to learn effective stress management to feel and be healthier. When you don’t take things personally, are okay with imperfection, take better care of yourself, have more fun, and effectively can chill out and unwind, you’re less likely to pursue non-hunger eating. Need another reason to reduce stress? Read on. In “Is Your Personality Making You Put on Pounds?” (Wall Street Journal online, 1-10-12), Melinda Beck tells us that certain personality traits may generate weight gain. For example, she describes “the stress junkie” as someone who “thrives on competition and deadline pressure” and who is internally powered by “adrenaline and cortisol.” Sound like anyone you know? She explains, “Those stress hormones supply quick bursts of energy in fight-or-flight situations, but when the alarm is unrelenting, they can cause health problems, including obesity.” I’m not climbing on the anti-obesity bandwagon here, but suggesting that there is a link...

Continue reading

Feeling Overwhelmed

Clients often complain that they feel overwhelmed without really knowing what the word means. What do you actually mean when you say you’re “overwhelmed? More importantly, what can you do to feel better or change the situation? According to the World Book Dictionary, “overwhelm” is a verb that means, 1. “to overcome completely, to crush, 2. to cover completely, as a flood would; 3. to help, treat, or address with an excessive amount of anything.” When clients say they feel overwhelmed, they’re generally referring to the first definition—“overcome completely” or “crushed”—but nothing of the sort is going on. They’re not actually “overcome,” not “crushed.” In fact, they’re still functioning, still putting one food in front of the other, alive and kicking. In the language of definition #2, they’re still keeping their heads above water. In short, “feeling overwhelmed” is an internal perception, not external reality. When you say you’re “overwhelmed,” what...

Continue reading

Why Are You So Private?

Clients and message board members sometimes mention that they’re “private” people, meaning that they tend not to share much about themselves with others. The problem with the word is that it sounds so above it all and benign, when the roots of “privacy” are often anything but. What if being private isn’t beneficial to recovering from eating problems? What if, in fact, it exacerbates and perpetuates them? In this let-it-all-hang-out culture in which we can’t turn on the TV without someone baring their innermost indelicacies, it might seem as if private is the way to go. But, when I advise loosening the reins on the sharing front, I’m not suggesting you go out and blab the secrets you’ve been holding onto for a lifetime around town. The idea is to achieve a balance between keeping everything (or practically everything) to yourself and opening yourself up with people you trust. We become...

Continue reading

Strengthening Your Emotional Core

As an avid exerciser who’s used various fitness trainers over the decades, the commonality they’ve all had is their focus on strengthening core body muscles—specifically back, abs and glutes. Keeping your core strong provides balance and facilitates effective movement. In that same way, strengthening your emotional core will be sure to keep you steady and rolling smoothly along. By your emotional core, I mean all facets of emotional management—identifying, acknowledging, experiencing, and responding to your feelings, including: knowing specifically what you feel pretty much all the time or being able to figure it out down the road. Being open to and having fluency with your feelings—staying in touch with whatever affect accompanies you while you’re going about living your life—is the foundation of building an emotional core. The goal is to be able to feel any emotion any time and travel anywhere in the affective realm.recognizing your stuff/baggage/triggers and what belongs...

Continue reading

Why Your Brain Shuts Down

We all experience brain freeze at one time or another. But did you know you may be exacerbating the problem by overloading yourself with information, and that cognitive overload makes non-anxious people anxious, and anxious folks even more so? Not what any of us need, and certainly detrimental when making decisions about food. Here’s an example. Ever sit down with a menu—a really large one with a dizzying array of items—and draw a blank on what you want to eat? How much easier when the menu has variety but not so many choices that your head begins to spin. According to a March 7, 2011 NEWSWEEK article entitled “I Can’t Think” by one of my very favorite writers, Sharon Begley, “The booming science of decision making has shown that more information can lead to objectively poorer choices, and to choices that people come to regret.” The problem is that the brain’s...

Continue reading

Free to Roam Your Inner World – Part 2

In my previous blog, I talked about the benefits of feeling free to roam your inner world. Tis true, there’s nothing like it, but it does not come naturally to most of us. To gain this freedom, we have to unchain ourselves from the past and from mistaken beliefs that have kept us from traveling the full range of our emotional terrain without fear. If you want freedom, you have to work and fight for it—financial freedom, breaking away from abusive relationships, feeling easy with food, and liberating yourself from the craziness of your upbringing. However, you can’t just sit around waiting for these things to happen. First off, you need to believe that being able to roam your emotional world freely is possible and is your right, that it’s not a fantasy or dream. You need to accept that it can become reality with diligence, practice, and patience. Second, you...

Continue reading

Free to Roam Your Inner World – Part 1

Many disregulated eaters believe it’s healthy to fully experience emotions, but fervently wish they didn’t have to put themselves through the discomfort. They don’t understand the positive rewards that come from connecting with feelings, not only with eating but in life. If they did, they’d put up with the pain for the abundant gifts that will come their way. One of the biggest complaints I hear from clients is that they “dislike” feeling certain emotions—confusion, disappointment, loneliness, grief, helplessness. Oddly, they seem to have an affinity for guilt and shame, but that’s another story. If you look at emotional pain as annoying and unnecessary, you’re missing the point. Life has pain and life has pleasure, and we need humility to recognize that we don’t get to choose as if we’re perusing a dinner menu. Pain and pleasure are the only options when we sit at life’s table. Perhaps the child in...

Continue reading

The Past and Overeating

Too many disregulated eaters spend too much time thinking and talking about their binges and times of overeating. Honestly, think how much energy you put into an event that is long gone. In order to recovery from eating problems, you will have to extract what you need from the experience and move on immediately. Here’s why. Everything we think about gets encoded in our minds, imprinted in memory. The question is why you would want to imprint the memory of a binge. I meant it, think about it. Is there a purpose in returning to the scene of the crime again and again or are you on automatic pilot without even thinking about the harm you’re doing yourself. There are only two reasons that merit recalling the past: to revel in pleasurable memories or to improve thoughts or behavior in the present. If you have positive memories of getting married, receiving...

Continue reading