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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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Stop Weighting for Life to Begin

Many overeaters are “weighting” for their lives to begin. I think you know what I mean by that. You’re waiting to slim down enough to feel good about yourself so you can do the things you want to do—date, find a new job, travel, seek or leave a mate, or buy a new wardrobe. It makes me both sad and mad that the only thing stopping you is yourself! You may be sick to death of hearing people like me say that if you’re putting off life until you lose weight, you’re wasting your time. Please don’t bring up all the folks in this culture who hate fat and make fun of fat people. And don’t tell me you’re so uncomfortable in your body that you can’t get it to do the things you want it to do, or that life in some ways is more difficult when you’re fat. All...

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How Long Does Recovery Take

The question that arises perhaps more often than any other as I treat clients or on my  "Food and Feelings" message board is how long it will take to recover from disregulated eating. Although it feels far too glib to reply to such an earnest inquiry that it takes as long as it takes, that’s the whole truth and nothing but the truth. A more enlightening question is what makes disregulated eaters so obsessed with a recovery end date. As I’ve mentioned before, I worked in the field of drug addiction for six years and, interestingly, I can’t recall ever hearing clients ask when they would recover. Most definitely thought the process would be far quicker than it was, and some certainly believed they were done with drugs or alcohol only to discover they were only in early recovery, but their focus was not on when they’d be free of addiction....

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Fixing Your BIG Issues

Many disregulated eaters have emotional or interpersonal problems which truly stand in the way of not only eliminating their food challenges, but living a more satisfying life. We all strain and struggle with changing ourselves, but if you want the best life you can have, there is no other way to achieve it but by addressing what’s holding you back. Here are several “big” issues, with which you may or may not identify, all of which are changeable with patience and effort. Each of us has lessons to learn and areas to improve, so notice which of the following have your name on them and set an intent to give them your undivided attention. Perhaps you would benefiting from learning the art of self-reflection. Because you don’t care to dwell on painful feelings about the past or rush around unmindfully, you miss out on learning from them. You “do what you...

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If I’m Not Dead, I Will…

As Geneen Roth says, “It’s easy to want to change, but it’s hard to actually change.” Disregulated eaters often have difficulty sticking to self-care commitments, so here’s an excuse-proof way to stop wiggling out of them: An “If I’m not dead, I will…” edict which means just what it says. Sound a bit extreme? Perhaps, but it works. Do you have trouble following through on waiting to eat ‘til you’re hungry, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, meditating, practicing yoga, making time to socialize, or taking time for yourself? You may know these activities help you feel better physically and emotionally, but not do them consistently because there are pressing reasons to not do them: you’re a busy person, you’re exhausted, doing for yourself feels indulgent and unfamiliar, you want to be productive 24/7, or you hate to disappoint others. In short, you’re ambivalent, and more often than not, your desire to...

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How Do You Know?

When people make assertions that are flimsy or invalid, I have a friend who asks them, How do you know that? Deceptively simple, this question challenges intellectual laziness and uncritical adherence to falsehood and demands that opinions be backed up by facts. I strongly encourage you to use it to challenge your own irrational thinking. The counseling I do requires that I constantly push people to think critically and act rationally if they intend to become emotionally healthy “normal” eaters. That means finding evidence to support all of their beliefs. It doesn’t wash to say, “I just know it,” “I’ve always thought this way,” “I have no idea,” or but “Mom/Dad/whomever says so.” You need to back up every assertion, especially the ones you use to guide your eating and shape your view of yourself, with rock solid evidence. Moreover, training yourself to think with this kind of rigorous analysis around...

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Rationality

How rational are you about your eating and weight? Perhaps you haven’t given much thought to the subject. If so, you won’t get far in changing your beliefs or behaviors. Some thoughts from a winter lecture I attended on rationality and intelligence. The American Heritage Dictionary defines rational as “based upon reason; logical,” and irrational as “contrary to reason; illogical.” Being human, we have the capacity to be both rational and irrational; it’s part of our genetic make-up, coded into our DNA. An interesting note: you might assume that there’s a correlation between being intelligent and being rational. In fact, IQ does not equal RA (rational quotient)! Ironically, highly intelligent people are more likely to cloak illogic and false assumptions in sophisticated illusions to shield themselves from seeing the truth. There are two causes of what’s called disrationale. One is that our brain relies on short cuts to take care of...

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Skills for Goal-setting for Dysregulated Eaters

Many disregulated eaters are highly focused on goals, not just about eating or weight, but about many aspects of life. Unfortunately, frustration with not meeting goals or not meeting them fast enough, may trigger unwanted eating. Some thoughts about how to use goals effectively. Troubled eaters can get caught up in their heads thinking about their goals. There’s a difference between setting goals, planning for them, then going on to think about other things and obsessing and constantly focusing on goals to make them happen. If you’re working toward a goal, say, getting a college degree, you would want to do a great deal of research and exploration, make a loose plan, then start taking steps forward. Using this example, you would want to consider whether you could get a decent job in the field you’re studying, but don’t need to plan out where you’re going to be living and how...

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Stop Hating Yourself

No matter how hard you try, you won’t sustain “normal” eating if you hate yourself. I don’t mean not dissing your body, which is a mere manifestation of self-hatred. I mean understanding where your fierce animosity comes from and chasing it out the door. The reason that so many disregulated eaters find it difficult to love themselves is that they’re full of self-contempt and –disgust. That’s why when mental health experts insist that self-love is imperative for healing food problems, many troubled eaters simply can’t fathom going from here to there. It’s not as if they’ve been walking around feeling merely neutral or lukewarm about themselves. What they’ve been carting around for decades is a palpable self-hatred that touches every aspect of their lives. This mindset takes up far too much real estate in a disregulated eater’s thinking and is the underpinning for most self-destructive behavior. It crowds out achievement, pride,...

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Trying and Learning versus Succeeding

I have clients who’re making real progress in their lives—they used to do “A” around food or people and are now doing “B”—yet still tell me they’re “trying” and “learning,” while I’d call what they’re doing succeeding. Do you understand the difference? When do you stop saying you’re trying or learning and start saying you’re succeeding? Not that there’s anything wrong with “trying” or “learning,” but the goal is success. Let’s look at the word “trying” as in, “I’m trying to be more open about my feelings.” That implies that you want to be different, but it’s not happening or not happening often enough. Effort and intent are there, but not achievement. If you’re trying to wait to eat until you’re moderately hungry and not actually doing so, you’re not doing it. But what if you’re mostly putting off food until you hit the right hunger level? That’s not trying, that’s...

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Maslow’s Self-actualizing Attributes

A friend and colleague, psychotherapist/life coach Dr. Karma Kitaj, sent me psychologist Abraham Maslow's list of self-actualizing qualities. They speak to the life skills and attitudes that troubled eaters need to acquire in their quest to become “normal” eaters. As you read them over, think, “Which ones do I have? Which ones do I need to learn?”

To be what Maslow calls self-actualized, you need to do the following:See problems in terms of challenges and situations requiring solutions, rather than as personal complaints or excuses.  Respect your need for privacy and be comfortable being alone.  Be reliant on your own experiences and judgment—be independent—not on culture and environment to form your opinions and views.  Not be susceptible to social pressures—be comfortable being a non-conformist.Be democratic, fair and non-discriminating, which means embracing and enjoying all cultures, races and individual styles.Be socially compassionate, possessing humanity.  Accept others as they are and not try to...

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Solutions

An avid reader, I was struck when a character in a mystery I was enjoying proclaimed, “I won’t stop until I figure it out. There’s always a solution.” I wished right then and there that I could magically transfer this must-have, winning perspective into all the troubled eaters I know so they could focus on finding solutions rather dwelling on their problems. Rather than devoting your full energy to problem solving, how many of you ruminate about your eating struggles and the feeling that you’re not progressing? Acknowledge your problems for sure, but dwelling on them will only suck the life force right out of you and leave you in despair. We all have problems—if it’s not eating, it’s your spouse/parent/sibling/partner/kids/neighbors/boss; if it’s not people, it’s your health, job or financial situation. Life is replete with difficulties, broken only by occasional breathers in which to gather up your strength to tackle...

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Chasing Self-love

Are you constantly looking for acceptance, love, approval, or validation from others in order to feel good about yourself? Do you speed-read through self-help books, drift from therapist to therapist, and quest for magical wisdom at “transformational” retreats and workshops in the hope that something or someone will heal you? My advice is to cease this flurry of activity and, instead, seek answers within yourself. What the words self-help, self-approval, and self-love all have in common is, obviously, the word “self.” You have the answer for how to be with yourself in perfect harmony if you’d only stop running around looking outside yourself. Isn’t it true that no matter how many people love and validate you, you still don’t love or seem to be able to validate yourself consistently? Haven’t you noticed that the more you seek approval from others, the more you need it from them and the farther away...

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Speak Up, Don’t Eat Up

Unfortunately, disregulated eaters tend to think in extremes about more than food and exercise. In my experience, they view many aspects of life in polar opposition. Here’s an example of common, all-or-nothing thinking and behavior around communication and what you can do to improve it, your life, and your eating. A former client had been coming to a slow boil over her marriage for years. She’d finally tired of her husband’s frequent put downs, attempts to undermine her self-confidence, and shaming her in front of other people. For decades, she’d suffered in silence from his sharp tongue, tantrums, and unwillingness to have a civil discussion about their relationship. No surprise that when she had felt hurt by his cruelty, she had held her tongue and generally turned to food to comfort herself. (I wonder how many of you will read this sentence and heave a sad sigh of recognition.) As we...

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Recovery Takes Time and Practice

There are many life skills that disregulated eaters need to become “normal” eaters and you will not—ever! never!--become one without them. Developing a positive relationship with food is about far more than eating. It’s about acquiring skills to live a quality life. Two of these skills are patience and practicing until you succeed. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know when I say that you’re probably not very patient and want success, like, today. You’re focused on bringing the future to yourself now. Your attitude about the future tends to be unrealistic, as if you have the ability to bend time to your will. “I want to be a ‘normal’ eater today,” the voice inside you cries and, rather than remind yourself that this is impossible, you think you’re a failure because you haven’t achieved what is not achievable. A clear case of disordered, all-or-nothing pretzel thinking. You’re not a...

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Achieving Excellence

A common concern of disregulated eaters is what it takes to become a “normal” eater. The process involves patience, persistence, curiosity, self-reflection, self-honesty, the ability to tolerate discomfort—and the practice of excellence. What does practicing excellence mean? You may be surprised to find out.Journalist Daniel Coyle studies excellence and wrote a book called THE TALENT CODE: GREATNESS ISN’T BORN. IT’S GROWN. HERE’S HOW. I haven’t read it, but I like what he has to say about the process of achieving excellence. Observing people learning different activities, he says (Psychotherapy Networker, March/April 2012), “Whether it was a little kid playing soccer or somebody playing the harp, there was this uncomfortable place where they were reaching intensely, failing, sensing that failure, and reaching again for the right answer. And when you really zoom in on what’s happening when you’re in that state, you’re making new connections in the brain—building a map of what...

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The Brain in Childhood and Adulthood

If you had a highly a distressing childhood, you may have difficulty as an adult managing anxiety and stress, a trigger for food abuse. But by understanding how the brain works, you can reduce fear and anxiety and begin to eat more “normally.” Through brain research over several decades, we’ve gained valuable insights into the formation and retention of memories, especially fear-based ones, and how they play out in life. This information is useful because it provides a makes-sense reason for why at times your level of anxiety is far too great for a situation. For a thorough explanation of emotions and brain function, read THE EMOTIONAL BRAIN by Joseph Ledoux. As children, our brains are still developing and reach maturity somewhere in our late 20s. The part of our brain we rely on as children is its most primitive component—our fear response. As with other animals, our primary goal is...

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What You Need to Overcome Eating Problems

I attended a lecture a while back given by a social psychologist on assessing teacher performance which included a set of simple criteria which are’ surprisingly relevant to recovering from eating problems. Although we know that recovery is a complex process, a point I can’t underscore strongly enough, using these criteria will provide you with excellent tools to gauge your potential for success. The factors that impact and can be used to measure performance include 1) motivation, 2) ability, and 3) constraints. Obviously, we’re not measuring your success as a long-distance runner or a professional educator here, but we can still say you’re working to perform at a certain level, ie, as a “normal” eater. That is your motivation. Without a doubt, you need to have unilateral motivation to succeed. Said another way, mixed feelings (conscious or unconscious) about eating more intuitively or losing weight, will derail success. To achieve optimum...

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No Short Cuts to Recovery

There must be something in our DNA that makes us think we can take short cuts to reach our goals because we all skip down that road once in a while. But if you think you can sneak a short cut to resolve your eating problems, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Ironically, the less often you try to take the easy way out, the faster you’ll progress. Be honest, do you hear what experts say about making progress and think, “Well, that may work for other people, but I’ve got my own plans and ideas,” read a book on recovery and believe you can get around the author’s advice? Or maybe you know folks who’ve resolved eating problems like yours, and view their path to wholeness and health as too long and arduous, so you follow your impatience down a short cut that turns out to be a dead end. There’s no...

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The Clinician’s View

Ever wonder how your treaters view working with you as a troubled eater? This topic came up at a workshop I taught last week for the Mountain Area Health Education Center and the Center for Disordered Eating in Asheville, NC. Here are some of participants’ sentiments, which are representative of clinicians in general. The clinicians in the workshop—nurses, therapists, and dieticians—work in clinics, private practice, hospitals, and rehabs and treat a range of problems, including anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating, body dysmorphia, nutritional imbalances, depression, anxiety, and bi-polar disorder, along with medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. All are committed to helping clients: eat more “normally” and healthfully, love their bodies at any size, reduce health risks and increase longevity, decrease food obsession, fight destructive cultural values condemning fat and extolling thin, use their bodies more functionally, turn to people instead of food or weight/food preoccupation when distressed, and live a...

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Eating and Chronic Illness

A message board member ( HYPERLINK "http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings" http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings) asked me to blog about chronic illness and eating. Chronic illness is stressful—intermittent or ongoing pain, medication protocols, doctors’ visits, unexpected reoccurrences, indeterminate remissions, and lifestyle limitations that make "normal" eating difficult due to lack of exercise from pain or limited mobility, being home a great deal surrounded by food, increased depression, and using food for comfort or to reward yourself. Although I’m no expert on chronic illness, my take is that your relationship with food before chronic illness is often (but not always) a predictor of your relationship with it when illness sets in. Ask yourself: how healthy was my relationship with food before my illness? A similar example is that disregulated eaters who develop food allergies have trouble coping with restriction because it generates feelings of deprivation and unfairness, whereas “normal” eaters aren’t so bothered by saying no to off-limit foods....

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