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Learn How to Enjoy Being Alone to Heal Your Eating Problems


Image by Debbie Digioia One of the major problems of dysregulated eaters is difficulty being alone. I’m not talking about the occasional feeling of loneliness that we all experience at various points in our lives. I’m speaking of actually feeling distressed when you don’t have people or a good deal happening around you. In too many of these situations, dysregulated eaters may become so uncomfortable that they seek relief from food. In “The Empathy Gap” (Psychotherapy Networker, Nov-Dec 2016, p. 32) psychologist Sherry Turkel stresses the need to learn to be by ourselves in order to have a functional adulthood. She says, “Children learn the capacity to be alone by being ‘alone with’ caring adults. Gradually, the child becomes comfortable being alone with him or herself.” There are many ways that this result may be derailed. Parents may be out working, too busy with their other children, or too preoccupied with their own...

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How to Calm Your Brain


Image by Debbie Digioia I was looking through notes I took at a workshop I attended last year on “Calming An Overactive Brain,” and found some ideas which speak directly to why it’s difficult for dysregulated eaters to not reach for food when they’re in internal distress. My hope is that by understanding what goes on in your brain and body, you’ll be better able to manage your emotions and, even when you don’t do so, that you will have compassion for yourselves when you can’t change brain patterns as quickly as you’d like. The brain processes the environment in two ways. In bottom-up processing, you encounter an environmental stressor that throws your body-mind off balance and your amygdala acts immediately, never mind what your higher-order thinking has to say. Top-down modulation is about controlling automatic reactions to keep the body in balance. Because visual stressors are so powerful in humans, seeing some leftover...

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Stop Measuring Everything Against Perfect

PERFECTION Blog March 27

Image by Debbie Digioia Perfect — what a seductive word it is. And what a lie it represents. And what pain it causes. I wish I had a dollar for every time a client says, “Well, my eating isn’t perfect, but…” or “It’s not a perfect relationship, but…” Tell me, why must anything be perfect? Why would we expect it to be? Is it really possible that it could be, or is perfection, most of the time, for most of us, made of hope and wishes? Consider what you your life would be like if you’d never heard the word or the concept. A lot better, I’d wager. I was asking a client how her relatively new relationship was going with her boyfriend and she said, “It’s not perfect, but we’re doing okay.” If she hadn’t looked a bit chagrined, I might have let the comment pass, because she was acknowledging that things were...

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Less Conflictual Relationships May Mean More Regulated Eating

Left alone many of you could probably eat quite “normally” much of the time. By left alone, I mean if people didn’t intrude into your lives. As much as they add joy to our world, humans can also be sources of stress, particularly when they’re what I call very difficult people ( The problem is how VDPs press our buttons, causing us to react without thinking. Doctors Rick Brinkman and Rick Kirschner offer excellent advice on how to behave around VDPs to reduce stress and improve relationships in their book, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst (McGraw-Hill, 1994). They help you understand what people want by breaking them down into four “intent” categories so that you can respond appropriately to others’ priorities. 1) When people want to get a task done, you’ll feel pressure to move quickly. To help them recognize that...

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Are You Teaching Your Children What's Enough?

Figuring out how much to eat is done through a felt sense in the mind/body. Knowing when to stop eating is connected to knowing when to stop working, playing, or doing any activity. In “The three faces of overindulgence” authors Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/26/2016, p. B2), explain how to talk to children about what’s enough. The effects of overindulgence described in the book, How Much Is Too Much: Raising Likeable, Responsible, Respectful Children in An Age of Overindulgence by Clarke, Dawson and Bredehoft, produce children who have “difficulty in delaying gratification, irresponsibility, disrespect and defiance of authority, incompetence, interrelational problems, and trouble developing a personal identity.” The first form of overindulgence involves parents doing too much. This includes over-focusing on children and asking them, “Are you hungry?” too often or forcing them to eat or eat more than is satisfying. Parents who constantly push sweets and treats...

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Use Laughter to Change Your Mood

We’ve all heard the saying, “Laughter is the best medicine.” Is there any truth to this maxim or is it an old wives’ tale? According to “Is laughter effective complementary medicine?” by Florence Chaverneff, PhD (Psychiatric Advisor, 9/26/16), it’s true. Then, why not use it to help manage the internal distress that drives dysregulated eating? The article about gelotology, the study of laughter, explains the neurochemistry of what happens to us when we laugh and how to put this knowledge to good use to manage pain. Studying the brain pathway for laughter, research tells us that laughter affects our bodies in several positive, healthful ways, including “muscle relaxation, improved respiration and enhancement of immune system defenses, mental functioning and pain tolerance.” It does this through four channels: “1. physiological effects on the muscular, cardiovascular, immune and neuroendocrine systems; 2. the promotion of one's emotional state; 3. the improvement of one's stress-coping...

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