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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. 

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What’s Best Versus What’s Right For You

Many dysregulated eaters have an unhealthy preoccupation with doing what’s “right”— take the job offer, stay with the spouse, invite Betty Sue to the party, or go with low-fat over low-carb foods. Big and small decisions are focused on what the correct thing to do might be. Hope of being right and fear of being wrong underlies difficulty figuring out what and how much to eat along with being overly-oriented toward pleasing others. What if there is no “right” answer to many questions, no “right” response to certain problems, no “right” way to eat or to live? In order to become a mentally healthy person, you need to consider this possibility. More often than not, there is no “right” way to do something, but there’s often a “best” way—and a world of difference between the two. “Best” means making an informed choice by gathering all the evidence you can and making a decision...

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Being Too Nice Can Ruin Your Relationship with Food

I taught an eating workshop this fall in southwest Florida to a wonderful group of women. They exemplified the positive traits of the “nice” girls I write about in my book Nice Girls Finish Fat: Put Yourself First and Change Your Eating Forever), as well as the problems caused by having nice as a singular identity. I’m blogging about them for all the women and men (yes, there are men who are too nice for their own good) who tend toward being overly nice in any situation, then end up struggling with dysregulated or unhealthy eating because of it.    (An aside: When I came up with the book’s title in 2009, I thought it was catchy and my publisher, Simon & Schuster, loved it. Now I feel that it’s insulting to use the word “fat” so pejoratively. In truth, I would never choose that title now, but the book is stuck...

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Creativity and Binge Eating

You may have read the title of this blog and thought I meant to pair creativity with “cooking” not “bingeing.” But the way creativity relates to a binge is exactly my focus, because much of what you get out of it is what you’re seeking in your wild food sprees. In “Creativity—A Bright Light in Your Golden Years” by Walker Meade (Better Living, 7/13), Alice Flaherty, assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, says the creative drive results “from an interaction of the frontal lobes, the temporal lobes, and dopamine from the limbic system.” Although you may think that folks are either creative or they aren’t, according to the article, “A good deal of research suggests that everyone is capable of tapping into his or her creative spirit.” This is good news if you’ve been abusing food rather than expressing your creative drive more appropriately. Have you ever heard someone...

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What’s Normal Behavior

Disregulated eaters who’ve had dysfunctional childhoods often have a very skewed view of what’s healthy behavior in adulthood. I’m not talking about eating here, but the nature of expected behavior as a mature individual. The more you understand what’s healthy, the more you can work toward it and acquire effective life skills. Members of my  "Food and Feelings" message board sometimes express wishes to think and act in ways which are unrealistic and only makes them feel badly about who they are. I get the sense that they think others are always fearless, secure, and excellent deciders, that they perceive most people know exactly how to handle problems. They think, “They must be doing it right and I must be doing it wrong.” In fact, the people they admire often appear as if they’re smart and in the know when in fact they’re not. Remember each of us see only each...

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Treat Yourself Like You Treat Your Dog

Last week I was talking to someone with an eating problem who joked about treating her dogs better than herself. She described feeding them exactly what they wanted and her joy in loving them unconditionally. My first thought was how common her attitude is among dysregulated eaters who often treat family members, friends, and, yes, pets better than themselves. Maybe you’re one of these people who are caught in a vicious cycle of devaluing yourself which leads to disordered eating which erodes self-love which perpetuates more disordered eating. The process of putting all your good feelings into an “other” and holding all the bad ones inside yourself is called projection and stems from discomfort with feeling lovable and worthy. Think about it: Why would you treat an animal better than you? You’d only do it if you didn’t think you deserved as much as Fido or Whiskers. I’m not suggesting that...

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How to Stay Motivated

I had a conversation with a client a while back about how to stay motivated to grow and change. We talked about how prodding yourself forward with harsh demands doesn’t work and how words like “should” only trigger a desire to rebel. What, then, is left for us? Here are two useful mental constructs: the observing ego and the ego ideal. According to Wikepedia “the observing ego is that part of the self that has no affects, engages in no actions, and makes no decisions. It functions in conflict-free states to merely witness what it sees. It is like a camera that records without judgment. It is never weighing any thought, gesture or action on the scale of right and wrong, sane or insane, good or bad. It is a psychic entity that is intact and separate from what is taking place before it.” Of course, there’s no actual part of...

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How to Change Habits

We all want to know what the best way is to change unwanted habits. Here’s some excellent advice from Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 1/1/15, “Advice Goddess” by Amy Alkon, 61E). Duhigg states that, “Habit is a choice we deliberately make at some point, and then stop thinking about, but continue doing.” Alkon explains that research cites three components of habit which Duhigg describes as a “CUE (a feeling that triggers behavior), the ROUTINE (the behavior itself), and the REWARD (some sort of payoff that tells your brain to repeat the behavior because it was enjoyable).” I know what a habit is, you may be thinking, but how do I stop the ones I don’t want to do any more? Duhigg suggests “swapping out the middle step, the routine.” So, say you always eat a bag of chips while you’re watching the news waiting to make...

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Responding to Fat Shaming

The subject of being bullied, teased or shamed in childhood for being fat comes up often on my Food and Feelings message board and in talking with clients. If you have let these experiences from long ago shape how you feel about your body and self today, it’s time for a new take on the subject. By understanding the mistaken meaning you applied to these interactions and by correcting your impressions, you will feel more confident, secure, and fearless today. Many people who are fat were teased, bullied and shamed for it in childhood. Maybe it was your parents or a relative who did the shaming—an uncle or grandmother, your sister or brother. Or a neighbor, the kids at school, or your first crush and his or her friends. I’m not going to minimize the pain and suffering of being teased or bullied. It is one of the most awful experiences...

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Do One Thing Differently to Promote Change

A client did a relatively small thing differently in a friendship, which made a difference in her relationships in general and in her feelings about friends and herself. She hadn’t heard from someone in a while after having reached out to her twice. Instead of assuming her friend was angry or upset with her, or saying something hurtful in retaliation for how hurt she felt, my client approached her friend in an even, open manner. She said she wondered why she hadn’t heard from her friend after having made two attempts to connect. Her friend threw her arms around my client and swore she’d been unusually busy and wasn’t trying to avoid her. Then she asked when they could get together. My client felt proud of being appropriate and staying calm and was pleased with her friend’s response. Not a life-changing event, by any means, but progress toward a healthier way...

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Learned Lovability

We believe we’re lovable or unlovable based on our early experiences with people, primarily our parents. If they cared for us lovingly, we come to believe we’re lovable. If, due to their own limitations, they didn’t love us well, we may end up believing we’re unlovable. The whole lovability concept is that simple. Don’t believe me? Read on. Mentally walk out of the apartment or house you grew up in and go four doors down to the right, which we’ll call door #1. Now come back to your front door and travel down four doors to the left, which we’ll call door #2. Next, assuming that you have some sense of who lived there, consider what it would have been like to be raised by the person or people behind both doors. Maybe the folks behind door #1 were terrific—caring, stable, loving, bright, successful, compassionate, and sensible, with good jobs and...

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Fixed or Broken

A post on my message board (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings) a few months ago included the words, “Some of us are broken.” I hear often from clients that they’re “broken”—read as not fixable. However, there is no such thing as a totally “broken” person or a totally “fixed” one. This polarization is an example of unhealthy, all-or-nothing thinking that perpetuates the idea that anyone is wholly defective or entirely perfect. Needless to say, broken is not a good way to think of yourself. We all are lacking in some areas, and most of us excel in others. No one is a mess or completely okay. Each of us has our issues! Think of the most terrific, most together person you know, then consider their flaws. They have them, I assure you. Now think of the most dysfunctional person you know (not you!), then consider what they do well or have achieved. The problem isn’t...

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Be Really, Really, Really Proud of Self-Care

Sometimes you may feel as if you’re doing a terrible job of managing your life. You’ve just been dumped by your lover or lost your job, fight constantly with your parents/children/spouse/partner, and hate your body and the relationship you have with food. All you can think of is what mess your life is and so you make it worse by getting down on yourself which, of course, makes you feel more ashamed. One way to reverse this spiral is to focus on excellent self-care which makes you proud. You don’t need to engage in some grand gesture like go to a spa for a week or run out and buy a new wardrobe. The point is to act in ways that you know are healthy and make you feel better. However, you must not only do these things, but urge yourself to feel proud that you did them. You can’t brush them...

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You Can’t Power Through Hard Times

If there is one thing I’m sure to hear every week from clients, it’s their “need” to get through something. Maybe it’s getting over a break up or a job loss or having their teenager arrested for dealing drugs. Sometimes, it’s their “need” to lose weight or get their act together around food. Whether the challenge is big or small, they tackle it the same ineffective way by believing that if they want something enough, they’ll make it happen. Do you ever fall into this trap? The way discussion usually goes is that a client raises a topic, say, “getting over” a break-up, then says repeatedly in our session, “I’ve got to get past this,” “I can’t keep feeling like this,” or “I have to get on with my life.” What these words tell me is that the only way they know to feel better and move forward is by bullying themselves...

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Feeling Bad Before You Feel Good

As an overeater or undereater struggling to become a “normal” eater, you’re in for a bumpy ride. Things are going to get worse before they get better. Oh, no, I can hear you say, Things are already terrible. How could they get worse? Here’s how. By stopping old behaviors and ways of thinking and trying on new ones, you’re entering unchartered territory which is scary and strange. Plan on feeling frightened, frustrated, hopeless, overwhelmed, helpless, and impatient. Plan on wanting to give up and go back to your old ways. Plan on feeling like a stranger to yourself and thinking and acting in unpredictable ways. There is no way to achieve “normal” eating without going through this process. It is impossible. Everyone who has worked through their eating problems has felt similar to the way you do. No one had a good time, no one was thrilled with the process. But...

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How to Approach Struggle

Too often dysregulated eaters miss the point when the fight to change their eating habits. I hear them say they know they “must battle with their urges,” and “should be ashamed if they fail.” I note the high standards they set for themselves and the do-or-die way they attack the subject. What if you didn’t have to think in terms of battling and fighting with food and, instead, could view it as a process that was opening yourself to new possibilities? Because of the dysfunctional way you learned to view the world—in black-and-white or all-or-nothing terms—you often get things backward. I don’t mean this as a criticism, but as an observation. One example is your approach to change. This is what I often hear. “I don’t struggle enough in the moment. I should struggle more. What’s wrong with me? I ought to be ashamed of myself.” From the outset, the goal...

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Holiday Review

Okay, you made it through the big holiday meal. Now it’s time to use your curiosity and compassion to review how you did. Because this essential dual mindset is one which disregulated eaters sorely lack, engaging in it will help you grow healthier emotionally even if you’re unhappy with how you ate. No matter what happened between you and food on Christmas day, being objective and kind to yourself will teach you new lessons. So, how’d it go? Take a minute to think about what you did well around food. Generally disregulated eaters focus exclusively on what they did wrong, so I’m asking you to do the opposite: what did you do right? I don’t care how small and insignificant the behavior seems to you. Check it off in your head and congratulate yourself for whatever it was. Now, specifically, what didn’t go so well? Without judgment, consider, did you…eat too...

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What’s Best for You

There’s a voice in you that knows what’s best for you all the time—all the time! You may not seek it out or it may get drowned out by negative or faulty thinking, but it’s there. In working with disregulated eaters for over 30 years, I’ve yet to find one who doesn’t have a sense of what’s best for her or him given a little time. If you listen—really listen—to this voice, you will do what’s in your best interest with food and in all of life. Most of you are overly familiar with the wild child’s voice which wants what it wants when it wants it, rebels against rationality, and insists that you can live without consequences. You’re perhaps aware of, but are less well familiar with, the voice within who knows what’s best for you in the long run. Maybe it whispers so softly that you can barely hear...

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Developing a Mindfulness Practice

There’s no better way to detach from unwanted thoughts and feelings than by using the practice of mindfulness. I recently watched a 12-minute YouTube video, Befriending Your Mind, Befriending Your Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn, that nicely sums up the essence and uses of mindfulness. I also recommend two of Kabat-Zinn’s books, WHEREVER YOU GO, THERE YOU ARE and FULL CATASTROPHE LIVING—USING THE WISDOM OF YOUR BODY AND MIND TO FACE STRESS, PAIN, AND ILLNESS. Here’s my major take-away message from Kabat-Zinn’s video: mindfulness is a practice. As he says, we usually think of a practice as a rehearsal for a finished or final product. However, mindfulness is an end in itself, not the means to an end. It’s the doing of it that makes all the difference, the goal of which is not simply being, but the simplest kind of being—not thinking or feeling but experiencing the moment. Kabat-Zinn describes a...

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Pushing or Being Pulled Forward

There’s a big difference between pushing ourselves forward and being pulled toward the future, our goals, or our passions. Can you sense the difference? I’m known among my clients for pestering them about their use of words like “should,” “shouldn’t,” and “need to” in making choices and I’ve written about these external motivators in articles, books and blogs. When we use these words, we’re generating an outside pressure on ourselves to do something. When we tell ourselves, “I have to do the laundry,” “I’ve got to lose weight,” or “I need to finish college,” it’s as if a finger is jabbing at our backs and prodding us forward. Think of the times you’ve been on the receiving end of a push—on line for a concert, getting on a bus, or being crowded by the person behind you at the supermarket checkout. How did it feel being pushed forward by them? I’m...

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Eating Is Not a Life Skill

A client who’s recovering from alcoholism mentioned in a session that when she was anxious, she really, really, really craved a drink. We talked about how having a drink would affect her afterward—the shame and remorse she’d feel—and how, by drinking, she’d really, really, really be missing an opportunity to practice crucial life skills. Addictions do that: they not only make you wish you hadn’t engaged in certain behaviors, but they prevent you from learning and practicing effective skills. And when you don’t have life skills, you’re at a loss to manage, well, life which makes it more likely that you’ll turn to behaviors which harm you and don’t teach you anything useful. Life skills are strategies and behaviors which we all needed to learn in childhood, but didn’t because our parents were teaching us from their own often dysfunctional histories, distorted perspectives, limited knowledge base, and imperfect abilities. Specifically, the...

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