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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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Food and Fear

A question came up recently on the Food and Feelings message board (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings) about eating out of fear that you’ll be hungry later and won’t have food available. This automatic deprivational response is an excellent example of emotion based on irrational belief leading to dysfunctional behavior. (For further reading on fear and food, see my Food and Feelings Workbook.) By the time we become adults, our fears are generally so long-standing that we don’t even recognize them as adaptive responses we learned in childhood. If you want to overcome an eating disorder, you not only have to notice how your fears drive your eating behaviors, but also understand how they came about. Fears of not being able to soothe, feed, or take care of yourself arise in two ways. We learn what is “right” for us by having our caretakers do things to and for us and internalizing this behavior. If...

Depowering Food

It’s amazing the false power we give to food, how we offer ourselves up as its hostage and let it dominate our lives. We fork over our power, then spend the rest of our lives trying to grab it back. When this happens, it’s time to think of Dorothy and her friends in The Wizard of Oz—we need the courage to unmask food and see it for what it really is so that we can get it working for, not against, us.Food is nothing more than molecules, some natural, some artificial that contain the nutrients we need to live. Any specialness we perceive is conferred on it by us. Although one food may taste better than another, likes and dislikes are a matter of preference. Food may have mood-altering and anesthetizing properties, but unlike alcohol and drugs, it does not have the chemical make up to actually remove us from reality...

What Makes You Special

I occasionally hear people discussing their eating problems by throwing around terms like disorder or dysfunction with a sly kind of pride, as if having a medical condition makes them special or unique. To be sure, these people are in the minority; the majority of troubled eaters minimize their condition rather than flaunt it. Most are filled with shame about their abusive relationship with food and want to keep it a secret. Sadly, however, some people use their eating dysfunction to get attention when they feel there’s very little else about them that is outstanding or compelling. After all, tell people you have an eating disorder and most of them want to hear all the gory details or at least cluck in sympathy and offer advice. As a culture, we’re riveted by the eating malfunctions of celebrities, their revolving-door stays in rehab, and their no-holds-barred memoirs. Ironically, these days, it’s almost...

Self-esteem

What do you believe you deserve in life? Maybe you think that half a loaf is better than none, that you should be grateful for what you have because other people have it far worse, that if you simply ignore what’s lacking in your life and concentrate on what’s right, you’ll be fine. There’s nothing wrong with any of these perspectives—except if you use them to justify staying in a situation in which you’re habitually unhappy. Whether or not you believe it, you deserve to be happy and successful, not of course every minute of every day, but in general, most of the time. You deserve to be treated with respect, to lead a meaningful life, to make your own goals and find appropriate ways to meet them, to have love and human affection, to live in peace and harmony with intimates, to receive support for becoming a healthier person, to...

Talk to Others in Recovery

I’m always amazed at the shame that underlies disordered eating and the release that comes from talking about it with others. Alcoholics Anonymous says that our secrets keep us sick, and that is an important truth. Being alone with an eating disorder is hell. Either you feel like a freak or, at best, only slightly abnormal. You know there must be a better way to deal with food, but you can’t seem to figure out what it is. Talking with people who are still stuck in disorder is a start because you’re at least breaking down your isolation. It can be a relief to realize that other people have more serious eating problems than you have or that they’ve had them for a longer time. It’s liberating to tear down your wall of shame by telling people about your bingeing, purging, or starvation. It can make you feel as if you’ve...

Body Acceptance

In her new book, Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss—and the Myths and Realities of Dieting, Gina Kolata puts forth a version of set point theory, maintaining that for mostly biological reasons, the body has a natural weight that it will return to again and again. She presents case studies and scientific evidence based on research that the body “fails” at dieting because it simply cannot drop below a minimum weight. If she is right, how can you learn to accept your so-called set point—when you’re eating both “normally” and nutritiously—even if you wish it were lower? The fact is, even if you can’t change your body, you can always change your mind. Many heavy people get on with life and don’t become obsessed with losing weight or being fat. They know they’re large, might or might not aim for fitness, and weight is not the focal point of...

Overeating and Alcohol

You don’t have to be an alcoholic to abuse alcohol in a way that exacerbates eating problems. All you have to do is drink enough to lower your inhibitions, and your desire to eat when you’re not hungry or overeat past full will take over by itself. There’s no question that alcohol is a relaxant that smoothes out your rough edges after a hard day at the office or with the kids. There’s also absolutely nothing wrong with taking a drink now and then to chill out and unwind. However, if you have difficulty relaxing without an external substance and begin to rely on alcohol and food in tandem to do the job, you’re headed for trouble. Let’s say you come home from work on a Friday night after the week from hell. You’re tired, grumpy, wound up, and looking for instant comfort. What’s easier than pouring yourself a tall one...

Eating Disorders and Food Allergies, Part 2

After it’s been confirmed by your doctor or health practitioner through testing that you have a food allergy or intolerance, it’s time to think about managing it vis a vis your eating problems. If you’re a restrictive eater, you may feel justified in eating little or even less than you have been, or upset that you can’t eat foods you rely on (eg, low-cal yogurt or soy products). Conversely, if you tend toward overeating carbohydrates that contain wheat (baked goods) or dairy (ice cream), you may feel deprived and resent that you have a food allergy or intolerance in addition to dysfunctional eating habits. As a restrictive eater, you must careful not to use a food allergy diagnosis to eat less and will have to work hard to push yourself to find foods that are nutritious and appealing. Because maintaining a healthy weight is essential, you may need to consult a...

Eating Disorders and Food Allergies, Part 1

It’s very difficult to have food allergies on top of eating problems. Not only must you be mindful of your appetite and the rules of “normal” eating, but you have to deal with the physiological and psychological consequences of eating certain offending foods. Typical food allergies include wheat (gluten), soy, dairy (milk), eggs, peanuts, and shellfish. Studies maintain that some 15% of people in the US believe that they are allergic to certain foods, but that only approximately 1% of adults and 5% of children have true food allergies characterized by an adverse reaction that’s triggered by the immune system. In a true food allergy, your immune system mistakenly identifies a specific food or a component of a food as a harmful substance. This causes certain cells to make antibodies to fight the culprit food or food component (the allergen). The next time you eat even the smallest amount of that...

Being Critical of Appearance

Not everyone feels the same way about their appearance. Some people could care less what they wear and how they look. They’re too busy with other things to fuss about clothes, have low self-esteem, or are depressed and lack the interest or energy to make a big deal about appearance. Other people are obsessed with how they look—striving for a perfect body, spending oodles of time and money on the right clothes, unable to leave the house without taking their appearance into account. Some of these people, as well, may suffer from low self-esteem and only feel good about themselves when they think they look their best. In the middle of the continuum are people who have a reasonable pride in appearance, but don’t go overboard . Much of attitude about appearance comes from what we learned in childhood. Think about how your parents viewed their looks. If you had a...