Do I HAVE To Like Myself?

While in college, I once met a guy at a bar.  I know…first mistake, right?  In my defense, the bar was mostly grad students blowing off steam.

This guy was a post grad in engineering and was leaving the next day for a focused study group in another city.  We hit it off with interesting and funny conversation, so we made a date for a Saturday night in two weeks, when he would be back in town.

I lived alone at the time, was struggling with school, being chubby, eating, and life in general.  When we made the date, I figured I could lose at least ten pounds in the two weeks, so the next time he saw me I would look better.  It didn’t occur to me that he must have been attracted to the way I looked that night, but that’s the story of the chronic dieter, right?  I set out the next day to go on the most restrictive diet I could find.

Two weeks later, and ten pounds heavier, I met my new friend for our date.  I was nervous as he approached my car in the parking lot of the restaurant we were supposed to meet.  My pants were so tight, it was hard to breath, and I wore the highest heels I could find, to look taller.  He smiled at me and we went into the restaurant.

During the dinner, I was mortified he would think I was disgusting since it was obvious I had gained weight since we met.  I stammered through conversation that didn’t flow as easily as the first time.  But I thought there was still some kind of spark and wanted to explore it further.  We didn’t go out as a couple after that, but became close friends.

One day, while sitting in the student center, he asked, “Why do you do this to yourself?”
“What,” I asked.
“You know, keep people at a distance. Try not get close to anyone- put up this sort of, wall.”
I decided to be truthful with him.  “Well, for one thing, I was interested in you romantically the first time we met and wanted to get to know you better, but when you saw me the second time and saw how fat I was, you backed off and only wanted to be friends.  It kinda hurt.  Why should I put myself out there to be rejected?”
“That’s, funny,” he quipped, “I thought you were the one who backed off, so I backed off too.”
We looked at each other and laughed.  We never did date but remained close friends.

Sometimes relationships just go like this. And sometimes we make relationships go like this.

After that conversation I began to realize I was ‘doing this’ to myself.  I was the one who thought I was fat and unattractive, so I was giving that information to myself and sending it out to the world.  I wanted to change my outside appearance, not realizing I needed to change my inside appearance.

Fast forward a few decades…one year into learning how to accept myself and my body exactly the way I am. I am beginning to appreciate my value because I am a human being.  Yes, I have accomplishments that I am proud of.  But if I use them as the basis for my self-esteem, I will constantly go through life worried that I must top what I’ve already done.

Don’t get me wrong, striving to be a better person is a good thing.  But when you accept your inherent value and like yourself regardless of what you look like or act like now, becoming a better person is a natural and straightforward process.

Think about it – Do you like to help people you don’t respect or those who don’t like you? It’s the same with yourself… If you don’t like yourself, you will find it difficult to help yourself or do the right thing.

How do you learn how to like yourself?
Know this – You are human. You overeat or binge to quell anxiety and stress.  And even when you are not stressed, you may overeat due to habit.  But your body is doing the best it can for the information you are giving itTake the badness out of this behavior and it becomes manageable in ways that you never even thought of.

With this new understanding, I gave up trying to mold my body and my personality to fit into what I thought others wanted me to be.  I used affirmations and any positive encouragement I could find. After 15 months of this practice, I am still learning new things.  I am happier and healthier in mind and body than I was a year ago.  If I can do this, you can do this too.

 What To Do

Stop using all your effort to berate and criticize yourself and put that same effort into telling yourself  how good you are.  It won’t take long for you to begin to believe in yourself and change your life.

Actions

Say positive affirmations about your worth, out loud, a few times a day.
Read inspirational books and articles.
Listen to encouraging messages.  I recommend  Joel Osteen podcasts (also available on Sirius XM.
Find upbeat people to be around.
Question your motives.                                                                                                                          Practice seeing the positive in every situation.

You CAN do this!

“You are not defective or bad, you do not lack willpower.  You do not have a character flaw or a bad attitude.  You do not have a past or a genetic flaw that you cannot overcome.  You are significant and hold a special place on this earth just like each person does.” MD

stmarysedited

 

 

The Anti-Binge

No one wants to be told what to do, especially a stressed person who is actively binging. They feel the need to have everything under control themselves.  If one thing goes wrong, like eating a cookie that is not on the food plan or getting an urge to eat chocolate cake, then the binge is on.

This mentality gets you stuck in, what I call, shamedom.  You either hide what you are doing so no one will know, or you eat in public, with a chip on your shoulder, daring anyone to even look at you funny. No wonder food never seems to satisfy!

The goal of my writing is not necessarily to commiserate about how difficult this journey is or to tell about the unpleasant things I have been through. The goal is to help people, who are actively learning how to eat normally, accept themselves and get some kind of dignity back in their lives.

With that in mind, I want to share the story of the first time I actively thwarted a binge. This was also the last time I ever had an uncontrollable craving, and that was over a year ago.  It would be easier to just write a list of things you should do to stop bingeing and eat normally, and in some posts I may do that.  But lists of things look a lot like rules.  And let’s face it, none of us likes to follow rules.  If we did, we wouldn’t be in this situation, right?

Here’s my story:

Its been three days since I started telling myself I could eat anything I want, any where I want, anytime I want.  I am walking through the grocery store and spot a package of Otis Spunkmeyer chocolate chip muffins.  I try to remain calm as I pick them up and look at the nutrition label.  Before I remember that I don’t need to do this anymore, I see the information- Calories 360, Total Fat 18g, Total Carbs 46g.

I put them down and think to myself, “I want something sweet, I am allowed to eat something sweet. So I will find something sweet and chocolate that is not as bad as these muffins.”

I rush over to the bakery department and as soon as I turn the corner on the last isle, I see tables full of cakes, cookies, pies and muffins.  They ALL call to me.  I am overwhelmed at how much I want to eat every single chocolate baked good I see.

I start to wonder if I could eat a whole cake in the car and hide the evidence before I get home.  I am disappointed.  My cravings seemed under control when I decided to eat what I want, and now I’m planning a car binge. Why?

Just then, a thought emerged,

“If you can eat anything you want, why do you think you have to settle for the low fat, low calorie or low sugar stuff?  If you want the Otis Spunkmeyer muffins, eat the dam muffins, eat a hundred of them if you want. You REALLY are allowed to eat ANYTHING you want. It’s okay”

I go back and pick up the muffins, thinking they will be good with a cold glass of milk when I get home, if I am still in the mood.

Those muffins stayed on my counter for three days before I even opened the pack.  I ate two in the next week and had to throw the last one away.

In my experience, if I had continued on the path of trying to find something to replace the muffins and trying to fight the urge to eat all the other sweets I saw, I would have bought a couple boxes of the bakery muffins and gobbled them down on the way home -all the while berating myself and telling myself how terrible of a person I was.

In the beginning of my journey, any thought of restriction or limitation was fuel for a craving. Once I decided to take off the restriction,  It took several days to realize that I did not have to actively try to limit my portions, and I did not have to find alternative foods for things I wanted.  Of course, it took me several years of therapy, reading and striving to be a better person to even get to the point where I could say, “I can eat whatever I want.”

But, after practicing this for over a year, my thought now is, “Why would I NOT eat exactly what I want?”

A list of tips and advice on how to Take Action to stop bingeing Click here

“I live the life I want to live.  There is no need to struggle if my actions are in line with my needs and desires. When my own needs and desires are met, I can help care for others with an open and honest heart.” MD

accentededgesdandelionsaccentededgesdandelions

 

How Much Is Enough?

One of my favorite movies is the 1969 version of  True Grit.  Set in the 1870’s, Mattie is a strong-minded young girl who teams up with a hard drinking US Marshall to find her father’s killer.  When asked why she doesn’t eat more during her first dinner with the rowdy Marshall, Rooster Cogburn, she replies in a straightforward way,

“I’ve had enough. Enough is as good as a feast.”

I have been mesmerized with that saying since I first heard it in that movie.  I used to think it was the brainchild of a savvy scriptwriter, but it’s actually an old English proverb that also appeared in the movie Mary Poppins.

For a long time, I wanted to agree with this proverb, but I couldn’t make myself really feel it or believe it.

“If enough is as good as a feast, why don’t I ever seem to have enough? I never feel like I’ve had enough, even when I am stuffed full and sick from all the food in my stomach. There is still something inside me which screams, “NOT ENOUGH.”

Of course, I realize now that part of the craving for more food had a lot to do with how I viewed myself and that I tried, during every waking moment, to eat a restricted number of calories per day.

But even now, I have times when I want to eat more than my body needs. Sometimes I DO eat more than I need.  But now I can stop when I realize I don’t need any more. My body doesn’t necessarily tell me I’ve had enough all the time, but my head does.  And I know it’s OK to stop eating.  So, what is the difference between now and back then, when I had the obsession?

How do I stop myself from eating all the chocolate chip cookies I just took out of the oven before my family even gets home?

When I first started this process a little over a year ago, I would just tell myself, I can eat these cookies now or I can eat them later, or tomorrow or any day for the rest of my life. This took immediate pressure off and I no longer felt compelled to eat whatever I was craving. I could then make a choice about what to eat or not.

If I suddenly found myself reaching for a fourth cookie, I just took notice and told myself it didn’t matter how much I just ate, I could still eat what I wanted at the next meal or the next time I felt hungry. I did not berate myself or tell myself I was a failure in any way.

I said this out loud everyday,  “I can eat whatever I want now or the next meal, in two hours, two days, next week, or anytime, for the rest of my life.”  This helped me to really believe what I was saying.

Once I began believing this, I saw my disordered eating through a different lens.  I realized it was a normal response to the signals I give my body via thoughts about food restriction or permission, and that it is related to beliefs I hold about myself and my value.  In recognizing this, I am able to stop having pity parties every time I do something I consider ‘bad.’

Once the ‘badness’ is taken away from the food/hunger equation, it’s much easier to choose to eat what you think is good for you and stop when you’ve had enough, even if you don’t feel fully satisfied.

But don’t worry, as you continue this journey, satisfaction will be something you will learn how to feel more than ever before.  Most days, you will really feel like enough is as good as feast.  And for those times you don’t – everything will still be Okay.

“Just because I don’t feel good at any one time, doesn’t mean better things aren’t happening in my life.”_MG_1186

 

Can I Be Weightless?

My mom used to weigh herself every day. She kept the scale in the bathroom our family shared. She would go in, pick up the scale from the tile floor and gently place it on the fluffy bathmat in front of the tub. She explained to me that placing the scale on the bathmat made you weigh less. For years, whenever I weighed myself, I would try to find the thickest rug to place the scale on. One day, it occurred to me that if the scale resting on a rug was not a true representation of what I weighed, then why was I doing it? I realized that, like my mom, I derived a good portion of my self-worth from where the needle pointed on that scale. I didn’t want to be like that. I wanted to function without thinking about my weight or my body size. I wondered if it was even possible. The allure of the weighing machine was disturbing. It promised changes that could enrich or devastate my day, my week, my life. But it could only do this if I allowed it.

 

100_0501

I try very hard to be kind to myself and not judge myself or others based on body size. And just when I think I have become completely nonjudgmental, I find myself being delighted and high-fiving my husband when I mistakenly put on a smaller pair of jeans and they fit perfectly.

In my psyche, there is still a tiny space occupied by a belief that a smaller body is better. It takes up much less space than it used to, but it’s still there.

How do I deal with this? I check my thoughts as they come. When I find myself thinking about my thighs, I don’t judge them and I don’t judge myself for thinking about them. I just notice my thoughts, then let them go. No standing in front of the mirror and pinching my thighs from behind to see what they would look like if they were smaller. Yes, I used to do this.

So, when I was delighted for getting into smaller jeans. I told myself it was okay to be happy about that, but it wasn’t the thing that would make my day. I accepted my reaction and found more interesting things to think about to make my day exciting and fun.

I’m not missing the irony here.  Since I have stopped striving to be thin, and have begun eating what I want, my body is changing to more accurately reflect how I view myself.  But my view of myself is not necessarily thin. My view of myself is that I am a valuable person.  Regardless of what I look like or what has happened to me in the past, I am a good human being who deserves to be here.  By thinking this of myself, my body is conforming to that end – becoming healthier.  That weight loss may be a part of this is just a side bar.

Can you learn to accept yourself as you are – no matter your body size?

Over a year ago, I started to say this affirmation every day. It took a while, but it eventually began to sink in and, most days, I truly believe this. Use this or write your own affirmation to say everyday.

“It doesn’t matter what my body size or weight is.  It doesn’t matter what other people think of my body size. I don’t get my self-esteem from the size of my body. I am an integral part of this universe and hold a special place in it.”

100_0535For tips and steps to take action to stop bingeing click here

BED Recovery – All Advice Is Not Equal

My recovery did not look the same as any of the classes I took, books I read, or popular websites I perused.  It almost pains me to see some of the advice medical websites post for people with disorders like this.  I remember wondering what was wrong with me that made this advice seem impossible to follow.  Most of those sites now, at least, tell you not to beat yourself up, which is very good advice.  But when you can’t seem to do anything else they suggest, it’s discouraging.

Here is a list of common advice I have seen and how I interpreted it.  I am not a doctor, a nutritionist, or a psychologist.  I am someone who spent her whole life struggling with weight and food and body issues and finally figured out how to eat and feel like a normal person by taking the best advice from many sources and discarding what didn’t work.  It took a long time to realize that I could discard seemingly good advice if it didn’t work for me.  As with anything you read on this subject, take what works for you and throw the rest away.

Common Advice:  Avoid Temptation by keeping all junk foods and binge type foods out of your house.
My Take:  This advice was not good for me. It reinforced the idea that I can’t be trusted around some food because it has a magical power over me which makes me eat it.  My recovery depends on me believing that all food is good and that I can trust my body to tell me what it does and does not need and want.  So, I buy sweets and other snack foods that I think my family and I will enjoy and I don’t  worry that I will eat them in a binge.  Allowing myself to enjoy any foods, including sweets, alleviates cravings and thoughts of bingeing.

Common Advice:  Listen to your body and only eat when you are hungry.
My Take:  This is overall good advice for a normal eater, but completely unattainable for me as a binger, who wouldn’t have known a true hunger signal if it knocked me over.  If I had the ability to eat only when I was hungry, I wouldn’t be in this predicament.  So, I just eat what I think I really want with no restrictions and no guilt.  After a year of this practice, I realize I eat for various reasons and not always just when I’m hungry.  And even though I feel compelled to eat when I am hungry, I choose what and how much I eat, the food doesn’t choose me.

Common Advice:  Eat at regular times and don’t skip any meals.
My Take:  This too, is good overall advice for the normal eater.  But I found that any type of scheduled meal times smacked of control of my mealtimes by an outside source, leaving my body out of the equation.  My goal is to let my body tell me when it needs to eat and how much it needs.  I am just here to choose the food, prepare it and enjoy it.  When I first started this practice, I would eat breakfast and be hungry again two hours later.  I allowed myself to eat as much as I wanted at this two-hour mark, sometimes another full meal.  Usually, I didn’t get the urge to eat again until that evening and sometimes the next day.  This must have proved to my body that I wasn’t going to restrict food, because after about 3 days, I stopped being hungry between meals and my hunger became more closely tied to typical meal times.  I did not force myself to eat at normal times, though, it happened on its own once I allowed myself to eat regardless of the time.

Common Advice:  Do not avoid fat.
My take:  This is excellent advice, since fat plays an important role in your digestion and helps you feel satisfied. But I took this rule a few steps further – Do not avoid any food that you think you want to eat.
During the first year, my tastes changed dramatically. Things I used to crave, I suddenly didn’t have a taste for, and things I used to dislike, I acquired a taste for.  It was almost sad, the day I realized french fries didn’t turn me on anymore.

Common Advice:  Eat mindfully, slow down and savor the flavors and textures.
My take:  Here again I knew instinctively this advice to be good, but had no idea how to carry it out. So I went back to the one thing that I DID know. And that was to eat anything I want, anytime, anywhere. So instead of trying to eat mindfully, I just observed how I was eating with no judgement.
Sometimes I found myself in front of the TV eating out of the chip bag, sometimes I found myself standing at the fridge eating leftovers, sometimes I noticed I gulped down my meal faster than anyone at the table.  No matter what eating circumstances I found myself in, I did not make any judgements. I didn’t feel guilty or like a failure for not eating like I ‘should.’  Eventually, I asked myself what I would enjoy more, eating leftovers directly out of the fridge or eating a fresh veggie stir-fry I could whip up in a few minutes?  I began to slow down and appreciate aromas and colors and textures of food because it made me feel good, not because I forced myself to ‘pay attention’ while I ate.

Common Advice:  Instead of snacking when you are bored, make a list of other things you can do like go for a walk, call friend, or take up a hobby.
My Take:  ‘Yeah, right!”  As one frustrated commenter wrote on a someone else’s recent post, “If I could do that, I wouldn’t be seeking treatment.”  I already know what I should do, the question is, HOW do I do it?
This was not an easy thing for me to figure out since this is the crux of the issue- Why do I binge or overeat instead of doing something more fun and healthy?
This subject requires its own article, maybe a whole book, or better yet, an encyclopedia. There are probably as many reasons for someone to binge as there are people who binge. We are all different. But I did realize, that to stop bingeing, I didn’t have to delve into all my personal problems and anxieties.  All I had to do was give myself permission to eat and treat myself with respect and kindness, regardless of my eating behavior.  This soon spread to other aspects of my life – If I made a bad choice or a wrong decision about a relationship or some other thing, I began to comprehend that it was Okay to make mistakes without punishing myself and just go on with my day.  It didn’t take long for my overall anxiety level to lessen and I was able to enjoy more of my food and my life overall.

Common advice:  Stop dieting.  Eat in moderation and eat sweets as an occasional treat.
My take:  Again, the ‘stop dieting’ part is great, the other parts, not so good.  I tried very hard to learn how to eat in moderation but failed miserably.  Eating in moderation meant I had to use some one else’s guidelines because I didn’t know what moderation meant for my own body.  It was only in allowing myself to eat totally guilt and regret free that my body taught me what moderation was.  I was surprised that my body wants about the same things as the suggestions I see on portion sizes and meal times.  But I couldn’t force this information on myself, I had to allow my body to show me.

Regarding thinking of sweets as a treat; I have not yet decided how to fit this into my new lifestyle.  If I think of sweets as something special, something more tantalizing than other foods, it raises my interest and creates a false desire for them.  I am trying to figure out how to think of them in terms of everyday food.  I try not to give them any special status and allow myself to freely partake.  I am finding myself not nearly as drawn to them as I was when actively bingeing.

 

Common Advice:  Stop berating and punishing yourself if you slip up.                             My take:  Part of this advice is really good and part not so good.  The ‘not so good‘ part is the term ‘slip up.’  It gives me the impression that I need to be doing something other than letting my body determine when and what and how much to eat.  It makes me think that if I deviate from a food plan or healthy eating program, or even my current course of eating what I want, then I have to forgive myself and get ‘back on the wagon.’                   The truth is, I don’t have a set program based on what someone else thinks I should eat.  And I never have to forgive myself for eating anything.  Eating food is not a sin.  It is a very natural process.  Even overeating and bingeing is my body’s response to deprivation signals I give it from my skewed thoughts of restricting food to lose weight.

The good part about this advice is – No matter what or how much food I find myself eating, I don’t judge or feel guilty.  I treat myself nice.  I respect who I am as a person.  There is no ‘getting back on track.’   There is only the next time I am hungry and all the food in the world that I can choose from to satisfy my hunger.

 

 “My value is intrinsic.  It is not determined by what I do, what I have, what I look like or what I can accomplish.  I am valuable because I am a human being.  Once I believe this deep down in my soul, I can function fully.” MD                                                                             Tennpond watercolor

Binge Free- First Steps

When I realized it was time to stop dieting and start eating, I was excited.  It was not like the excitement you get when you find the next great diet that would change your life forever, though.  It was more of an acceptance; a wisdom inside me where excitement doesn’t exist.

I just began to tell myself I could eat what I wanted and stop worrying about calories and macros.

Before I was binge free there were many times I allowed myself to eat what I wanted. The difference was, I did this with the understanding that I would do something later to compensate for eating.  I knew by allowing myself this food indulgence, I would either exercise, skip future meals, eat salad only, or purge to make up for it.  The price I had to pay for eating stayed on my head. No wonder I never felt satisfied with any food! I was too worried about what I had to do to make up for the sin of eating what I wanted.

New Attitude

“I can eat anything I want, anytime I want, anywhere I want.  If I want to eat cake for breakfast, I will.  If I want to eat 10 cakes for breakfast, I will. If I want to eat one thousand cakes for breakfast, I can and I will.”

The crazier my statements were, the better I understood the principle.  For a few days, I still found myself eating around foods that I used to restrict, but I did not berate myself or tell myself I was a failure.  I just took note of this, ate the food I really wanted and went on with my day.  I only had one mini binge in the first six months using this idea.

Actions

These ideas helped me, but your journey is unique to you.  You can do this your way.

1. No food is restricted. There is no ‘bad‘ food. Try to eat what you think is nutritious, but make all meals substantial and don’t worry if you want sweets, eat them too.

2. Don’t “eat around” any food.  Don’t eat an apple to try to satisfy your craving for a piece of cake.  If you want a piece of cake, eat a piece of cake.

3. Tell yourself, “I am allowed to eat anything I want, anytime I want, anywhere I want… I can eat now, later today, tomorrow, and for the rest of my life.  I will never restrict food again regardless of what I eat now.”  Tell this to yourself every few minutes, write it on your mirror, put this as a reminder on your phone.  Keep saying this until you absolutely believe this deep down in your soul.

4. Figure out what you really like to eat. At first it may be sweets or ice cream. It doesn’t really matter. As you get used to not restricting, your tastes will change. After a couple of months, I desired tuna and asparagus. Remember, since you don’t have to restrict, you don’t need to eat fat free or sugar free foods.

5. If you see something you want and begin to feel anxious, like you could binge on it, tell yourself you can eat ten or a hundred of those. Try to picture yourself surrounded by a hundred cakes or a thousand donuts and give yourself complete permission to eat them.  The crazier your picture, the better.

6. While trying to decide what to eat, check to see if you are having thoughts of losing weight or doing something later to compensate for what you are about to eat.  If so, tell yourself, you NEVER have to diet again, you will NEVER have to restrict food again.  Say this out loud, “I will never have to restrict any food again, not today, tomorrow, next week, next month or next year or in the rest of my life.”  Let it sink into your psyche that the food you want and need will always be available.

7. Do not judge or berate yourself.  If you ended up eating something you didn’t want, or overate or even had a binge, just take a note of it and go on. You may feel guilty at first, but once you recognize this, you can change it. No matter what you eat, it is OKAY.

8. If you want more food before the next meal time – eat. That’s Okay. Fix another full blown second meal and don’t feel guilty or wrong. It will take your body a little while to get it right. This will not last forever. The more you honor your hunger signal, the shorter time it will take for your body to space out meals to about 3 times a day.

9. Don’t think of the food on your plate as the only serving you can have. Tell yourself you can get seconds or thirds or fourths and fifths, or you can pile the food as high as you want on your plate.  The more you allow yourself, the easier it is to be satisfied with less.

10. When you are not sure what you want or how much you might want to eat, prepare one thing that you think you will like and tell yourself that you will re-evaluate after you finish this. You will be surprised at how often the first item you fix will satisfy you.  But if it doesn’t, don’t fret, eat something else.

11. Don’t feel bad about wasting food.  I used to put every scrap of leftovers in the fridge and then eat them before they went bad, just so they wouldn’t get thrown away.  But I now realize that eating something my body does not want or need is damaging for me and is more wasteful than throwing the food in the trash. I do not have to be a human garbage can.  Don’t feel bad about throwing food in the trash if you don’t want it.  As time goes by, you will naturally learn how to cook with less waste.

12. Do not beat yourself up, no matter what!  The KEY to success is to not beat yourself up or feel guilty; no matter what you eat or don’t eat. Even if you lapse into a binge because of thoughts of later restriction, don’t talk trash to yourself. Guilt is not helpful. A determination to not diet and to not worry about the amount of food you consume will take you further than you ever could imagine. Give yourself permission to eat and not be perfect. You will overeat sometimes, especially the first couple months, but normal people overeat from time to time. As time goes by it will get less and less and the food you choose will be healthier without you having to force it.

13. Be open and prepared to learn something new about yourself everyday.

………………………………………………………..

“It didn’t come to be natural to me, but when I learned to treat myself better, I found my whole life changing for the better.” MD

flowers

Your Body Is Brilliant

I am an American, so when I say your body is ‘brilliant’, I don’t mean the British version, where it’s wonderful or even awesome.  I mean it’s ‘smart’ as in highest IQ ever.  Your body understands microbiology functions that PhD level microbiologists don’t understand.  It functions to keep you alive in ways that scientists are still trying to figure out.

Your body understands how to function down to the atomic level.  It does this everyday; breathing, digesting, keeping your heart beating, healing.  It tells you to cover up when you are cold and fan yourself when you are hot.  In other words, your body does a lot of stuff automatically to keep you alive, stuff you don’t even know how to explain.  So why do we feel we have to tell it what and how eat?  Isn’t hunger one of the basic functions of our body?

Do I need to know how many calories I should consume each day?

You think you know how many calories, fats and carbs you need, but on any given day, it could be different than the day before.  Your body knows exactly what it needs to function optimally.  It knows every fraction of a calorie you consume.  It knows, to the microgram, how many calories and how much protein is in that piece of chicken, and it knows exactly how to break it down and use it for your benefit.  It knows how to break down donuts and use them for your benefit too.  It is adept at using any food you put in it to keep you functioning. Why?  Because that’s it’s job.

I used to think I had to keep track of every gram of food that went into my mouth. Counting calories and carbs was a way of life.  But if my body knows how to process every scrap of food it eats, I thought, “it probably knows exactly how many calories are in that box of donuts I polished off this morning.”  I keep thinking I can tell my body what it needs to eat, but in reality, it tells me what it needs, I just don’t listen.

Its kind of like an emergency room, it doesn’t care what you look like or how you feel emotionally, it’s only job is to keep you alive and out of pain.  That’s what the body does all the time; whatever is required to keep you alive at a cellular level.  So, if  it thinks food will be restricted, it will go into emergency mode and compel you to eat now to keep you alive a little longer.

When you are in this mode and eating furiously, your anxiety may be high, but your body doesn’t fret. It uses what it needs and stores the rest for later. How smart is that? To know that it needs to store some for later because there may be a famine in the future is not just smart, it’s survival.  It evolved that way. Its coded to eat when the food is fresh, the harvest is in, the pig has been slaughtered. The trouble is, in our society, the harvest is always in, the meat is always freshly available, the garden is never brown.

My version of why we get cravings                                                                                      

When we tell ourselves we will diet tomorrow, skip a meal, work food off, or in some other way restrict food to make up for eating now, we give our body a message.  The message is, ‘Hey, I’m eating now, but I won’t be eating in the future.’ So, the body does what it does best, it keeps you alive by compelling you to eat more now.  It gets your dieting message loud and clear- “You are feeding me now, but you are thinking of restricting the amount of food I can have, there must not be a next meal coming, I better make you eat as much as you can right now so we can store some up for later when food will be restricted.”

This is what we anxiously call a craving.  And when you feel that craving, you panic because you think you will eat too much.  When you do eat too much, you feel guilty. Then you assuage that guilt with promises of being ‘good’ and staying on your diet the next day.   You have just fallen into the whirlpool of ‘binge-diet’ eating, trying to control your food intake until your body takes over, then feeling guilty for losing control, and  trying to take control again.  Your mantra becomes, “I will go back on my diet and stop eating sugar and junk food tomorrow.”

Then, the next day after you have been ‘good’ all day, you may come home and tell yourself you deserve a treat or a special meal.  You probably eat with entitlement, but not without guilt. You only feel justified in eating because you did not eat enough earlier.  You’ve already paid the price for being able to eat now, as if you can only eat after you restricted food for a time, or eat when you promise to limit food in the future.

This is where I was for years.  After seeking much help, going to treatments and counseling, reading books and blogs, it became clear to me that my body does not distinguish between my desire to eat less to lose weight and a scarcity of food. It treats them both the same. Whether I am thinking of restricting food or there is a real food shortage, my body reacts the same way. Why? Because it’s job is to keep me alive. And it does that job very well. So I knew I had to start trusting my body and letting it tell me what and when to eat.  It was not easy, but it was much easier than trying to control the uncontrollable urge of a craving.

How can you start trusting your body and stop cravings?

Tell yourself you can eat anytime you want, that you will never restrict food again. You will not skip meals, you will not eat low calorie versions of real food. You will not try to burn off calories just for the sake of burning off calories. Tell your body you will eat whatever it wants.

You will be surprised that it doesn’t want chocolate cake all the time. It doesn’t always want high fat, high sugar food. It only makes you crave that food when you try to restrict it.  At least this is how its works for me.

In my experience, cravings cannot exist when I allow myself to eat with no guilt, no remorse, no shame, and no thoughts of restriction in the future.  Its not that I will never overeat again, but overeating does not have a hold over me like it once did.

For tips and advice on how to take action to stop bingeing now. Click here.

…………………………………..

Everything is Okay.  This includes the appearance of my body and the appearance of everyone else’s body” MD

untitled