Broken and Blessed

 Several weeks ago, I broke my ankle. In the past, I would have had a giant pity party and lamented the pain and inconvenience to everyone around me. And even though it has put me a little behind in my writing, it hasn’t dimmed my enthusiasm or caused me much distress.

I am writing about it now for two reasons. The first is, I wanted to use this real-life situation to share how negative events can give birth to positive things – that is, if you look for them. The second is, it put a tiny glitch in my binge free life that I had to figure out how to deal with.

Positives From Negatives

I broke my ankle playing tennis. I know, it’s not a contact sport, right? But I couldn’t help going for an overhead that was way out of my reach. As soon as it happened, all play stopped on three courts and everyone rallied around me. They got me to the ER and stayed until my family arrived. After a few days, and when the swelling went down, the orthopedic doc cast it all the way up to the knee.  People sent cards and called to check on me. One friend even sent me a bedside bell. It sounded just like the bells on Downton Abbey except that when I rang it, no one came to my see what I wanted, I just heard peals of laughter coming from the other room.

Since our vacation was set for the following week, my husband rented me a scooter. With one knee propped up and my good leg pushing me forward, I felt like a kid at play. It was an enjoyable conversation starter too. People commented that I needed to have it motorized. I talked to more strangers and made more friends on vacation than I ever would have in the past.

While packing for vacation, I discovered that I could pack four different shoes instead of two pair. I’m not a clothes horse, but I like shoes, so I thought this was a good thing. And since I could not drive, I enjoyed the scenery while my hubby drove from our home in Georgia to the Florida coast.

I also found myself on my knees a good bit. I had to crawl in my bedroom and up and down the stairs. Being on my knees reminded me that I don’t pray as much as I could. It helped me to get back into the habit of praying, whether on my knees or not.

The Glitch

About two weeks after my ankle broke, I noticed my pants were feeling a little tight. I had gone from being active every day of the week to being non-active. At first this caused concern. The old thoughts started taking over.

“I can’t stand this.”
“I have to control my eating so I won’t gain weight.”
“What if I gain so much weight I won’t be able to fit into my clothes?”
“What if I get so bored, I can’t stop eating?”

I spent a couple days trying to work out what to do about these thoughts. And during that time, I noticed my anxiety level was high, my eating was erratic, and my pants were getting tighter. I finally remembered that my body is an amazing biological machine and it did not need me to tell it what to do. It knows how to heal my ankle and it knows how much sustenance I need to make that happen. I had to get back to trusting it.

So, I did what I have trained myself to do from the beginning of this journey. That is, I acknowledged the existence of the anxious thoughts without judging them as good or bad. This means accepting them as being a normal part of my (or anyone’s) journey. This quelled the thoughts and opened my mind up to a better understanding of my situation, which is -I don’t have to restrict my food.

My body will tell me what I need to eat to heal. And if I listen, it will also tell me when it’s time to increase my activity to strengthen my muscles.  If I gain weight during this time, it’s not a bad thing. I can still trust my body without expecting it to be any certain size. This attitude allows my body to function at an optimal level.

If I had not already been on the binge free path, this broken ankle may have put a major dent in my life and caused me much angst. But I thank God every day for my blessings, despite the broken ankle and other trials. It is true for me that mindset, and not circumstances, determine my happiness. This experience has cemented my belief that when I look for the positive, even in the negative, I will find it.

For more on beginning a binge free life start here.

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It May Look Confusing…Just Keep Going

Throughout my binge free journey I have attended therapy and clinics, listened to motivational speakers and read many blogs and books.  I did read a couple of books twice, only because the first time through it didn’t click, and something drew me back for a re-read.  One of these books is called ‘Intuitive Eating’ by dieticians Evelyn Tribole M.S. R.D. and Elyse Resch M.S. R.D. F.A.D.A.  The book describes, in detail, how to learn to eat without dieting and it addresses the phases people go through, based on clients they have treated.

I was attending an out patient eating disorder program when my therapist suggested this book.  Three days a week, I drove to the clinic with the Intuitive Eating book and my food diary in tow.  In the food diary, I kept track of all the food I consumed, and once a week a dietician would examine my diary and make recommendations.

I learned a lot from the program and came out with a better attitude and more appreciation for my body.  But the eating puzzle still didn’t fit together.  If I could eat intuitively, like the book said, why did I have to measure and keep track of my food in the program?  And then there was the paragraph in the book, on page 90- “Beware of the I-Can-Eat-Whatever-I-Want, As-Much-As-I-Want, Whenever-I-Feel-Like-It-Trap,” which basically stated that you should eat unconditionally, but “eating whenever you feel like it, without regard to hunger and fullness, might not be a very satisfying experience and might cause physical discomfort.  Attunement with your body’s satiety cues is an important part of this process.”

Okay, now, I was really confused. There was a condition to ‘unconditionally.’  It just didn’t add up.  I was expected to learn to eat what I want, but it cannot be what I really want, it must be the best thing for my body and it must be enough to satisfy my body, but it can’t be too much or too little.  And it has to be when I am hungry, and I have to stop when I am satisfied. OMG!

I graduated from the program, ditched the book and looked for a food plan I could live with.  I checked out the overeaters anonymous food plans, the paleo diet and whole 30 plans.  I tried them all.  I kept journaling my food.  I played tennis more and rode my bike and joined a gym.  The bingeing lessened, but I struggled with it and still didn’t know what satisfaction with a meal felt like.

I need to skip some of the story here, which I will write about later, but let’s just say, two years elapsed and some things happened, and I finally made the decision to forget about the food plans, the diary and the scale.  I stopped exercising just to burn calories and began playing tennis and riding the bike for fun.  I cancelled the gym membership.  I began to do the one thing I have been wanting to do for years… that is –eat without guilt.

Despite the warning in the book, I decided to eat anything I wanted, any where I wanted, anytime I wanted, with no guilt.  Read that again, with no guilt.  That means I ate with no thoughts of dieting in the future to make up for it, with no thought of having to exercise to ward off the calories, no thought of eating less or ‘better’ tomorrow.  I stopped reading food labels.  I didn’t eat out of entitlement, and I didn’t give up on myself, I just ate what I wanted and what tasted good.  I knew this was the only way I would come to terms with myself.  So, I went all in.

For the first few months, I occasionally overate.  But it was only in guiltless overeating that I learned how to eat normally.  I did gain a few pounds during that time, and almost went back to dieting for this reason.  But I stuck it out, and within a few more months, I was eating and feeling satisfied and not overeating.  Bingeing seemed like a foreign language, I didn’t even understand the hold it once had over me.  And the book, which I read two years earlier made a lot more sense.  When I re-read it, I saw myself and understood it.  If it hadn’t been for that one warning paragraph, I may have tried this sooner.

The point is, when I try to control what, when, where or how much I should eat, my body sees this as a warning that there is something wrong with the food source.  So, it goes into craving mode to ensure I eat more food to thwart the coming restriction or whatever is wrong with the food source.  And when I become desperate to not overeat, my body fights harder to get more food now.  Suddenly, I want to eat anything that looks scrumptious.  And the only things that appear scrumptious are sweets and high fat foods which, as my smart body knows, are calorie dense.  And calories are what it is looking for to continue to function while the food source problem gets straightened out.

Of course, there was no problem with the food source.  The problem was me, giving my body a false signal.  As smart as my body is, it can not interpret my restriction of food as a good thing.  Why?  Because I wasn’t eating to nourish my body, my desire was to eat less to lose weight to be a better person, to feel like I fit in.  I did not honor my body, how could I expect it to honor me?

We must work with our body and not against it.  And the best way, I have found, is to allow myself to eat with no guilt or thoughts of restriction.  This way, my body is satisfied that there will always be food available, it will settle down and stop the cravings.

The hardest part for me, in doing this, was trusting myself.  Even after I made the decision, I second guessed myself several times, but I persevered.  Then my body began to honor me by only wanting to eat at the usual meal times.  It stopped craving sweets and fatty foods.  And now, when I do feel like eating cake, I don’t need a whole cake or even a whole piece, usually a couple bites satisfies me.  The key is allowing myself to eat, and choosing what I feel like eating and not what I think I should have based on calories or fats or macros.

So, I eat what I want, where I want, any time I want.  I eat when I am hungry and stop when I am satisfied. (Yes, this is a real thing you can acquire.)  Sometimes, if I think I am full, but want a few more bites, I take them, and its okay.  Some days I eat more than others, but over a week’s time, it evens out.  I don’t force myself to eat more vegetables or healthier foods, but I eat them because I prefer them now.  And even though weight loss was not my goal, I have lost the weight I gained initially and have remained at an even weight since then.

So, I did exactly what I thought the book, in that tiny paragraph, told me not to do.  Maybe there are some people who actually want to keep overeating or bingeing and not worry about it.  But I will give my readers credit for being smart enough to know that it is not a trap that someone else ensnares you in,  it is will-full self destructive behavior.  And we’ve all had enough of that.  What we want is behavior that enhances our lives.  I figure if you are reading this post your goal is to nourish your body, satisfy your psyche and live a happier life.

I recommend you read the book.  It may not make sense the first time around, but let the information just sink in.  And don’t worry about the disclaimer, just eat.  Eat what you want, when you want it, without guilt or shame.  The more you do this, the more sense the book makes.

“It’s not the thought of eating everything in sight that is the problem, it’s the thought of restricting food to lose weight that makes you want to eat everything in sight.”

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There Can Be No Doubt

Recently I watched an online video by a doctor who stated that we should not eat from a certain group of foods.  He had a very impressive background being a surgeon, a public speaker and writer in scientific journals for many years.  He also lost weight at some point in his adult life and was determined that the foods he cut from his diet played a significant role in his weight loss and in keeping it off.

I was mesmerized with the video and how professional and scientific it was.  Just for fun, I googled the foods he restricts and found doctors with just as impressive backgrounds who didn’t agree with him at all.  Their websites were not quite as ‘in your face’ as his, but they, too, believed that certain groups of foods are unhealthy for humans.  However, their lists were completely different than the first doctor’s.  I added all these foods together and realized that if I restricted every food group touted as bad by someone somewhere, I would probably end up having to eat dirt and maybe a few wild berries.

In the midst of all the hype in the media about what is good and bad for us, it is difficult to feel comfortable eating whatever you think you want. We all want to do the right thing for ourselves and our bodies.  But the people we depend on for information about diet and nutrition have let us down.  And I don’t mean any disrespect, but just because doctors and medical professionals have degrees behind their names doesn’t mean they understand the problem of overeating and obesity.  If doctors, diets, pills, nutrition experts and exercise gurus had the magic solution to the problem of obesity, overeating and disordered eating, it would have already been solved by now!

And the reason it has not been solved is because we buy into what the ‘experts’ say.  We think they know better than we do what we should eat. This is false! No one knows better what you should eat than you and your body. And once you begin to trust yourself you will understand this concept.

The first several months of my binge free journey I would second guess myself.  I would hear of a new breakthrough diet or some new superfood that we should be eating and I doubted my decision to eat what I wanted.  I wondered if I should go back to counting calories or trying out the new food or stop eating certain foods. When these thoughts crept up, I found myself with cravings, which made it harder to eat sensibly.  In other words, thoughts of restricting portions of food (by counting calories) or thoughts of restricting certain types of foods (sugars, fats) caused me to crave more food and eat more.

I do advocate eliminating one thing from your diet, though, and that is guilt.  Yes, guilt is the number one cause of the restrictive thoughts that create cravings and make you overeat.  When you eat what you want, you must truly believe that you can eat anything you want now and forever after.  This means you cannot worry about how many cookies you may eat now, you cannot think about eating less at the next meal or running five miles to make up for these calories.  You can’t think of the cookies as a special ‘treat’ that you are only allowed to eat once in a while.  You must allow yourself to enjoy the cookies for what they are and tell yourself you can eat them anytime.

Once you can do this, shame-free, you will find yourself eating a few cookies and putting the rest away.  There is no urgency to eat them all now if you can eat them anytime you want.  And by allowing yourself this freedom, your body will reward you by giving you a feeling of satisfaction after a couple of cookies or telling you when it doesn’t really need or want cookies, and you will grow to be repulsed by the thought of eating the whole box.  You don’t believe this?  Give it a try and see the amazing results.

The statement, ‘eat whatever you want’ may sound like sketchy advice, but it is the only advice that helped me to stop bingeing and overeating. And I am not the only one. There is a large presence on the internet, in books and videos stating that restricting certain foods or portion sizes does not produce the results we hope it will, and even increases our chances of eating unhealthily and gaining weight in the future.  Unfortunately,  some of that hype places too much importance on keeping weight down.  (This warrants an entire article to itself, stay tuned.)

I don’t have the technical skills or the money to make a slick video just yet, but when I do, I will be as adamant as the doctor who wants you stay away from certain foods.   But my mantra is- don’t restrict any food from your diet.  I want to stand on the street corner and shout to everyone I see, “Eat what you think you and your body want and need, eat when you want, wherever you want, however you want, as much as you want, with no guilt, no shame, and watch yourself morph in to the person you have only dreamed about becoming.  Free yourself from bingeing and overeating forever.” Amen.

I have stepped down from my soapbox now. Thank you for reading!

Binge free- steps to start – click here

“Food is not something to try to avoid.  It is energy for your body.  Give your body some credit for knowing what to do with it.” MDfall color impression again

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 some cookies, getting an urge to eat chocolate cake, or even if the weather isn’t what you wanted today,  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.  And not because I forced myself to stay away from them, but because I allowed myself to eat them whenever I wanted.  This permission took the urgency to eat them away, and I didn’t open them until I felt like it.  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

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Is Enough As Good As A Feast?

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 stop when I realize I don’t need any more. My body usually tells me when I’ve had enough.  My mind now agrees and I know it’s okay 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.

Actions to take to begin your binge free journey click here.

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

 

Nourishing Advice

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 eating disorders or body issues.  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 good.  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 my input of what I think is a more ‘nourishing’ approach.  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.
Nourishing Advice:  Avoiding temptation 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.          Nourishing Advice: This is overall good advice for a normal eater, but completely unattainable for me as a binger.  I 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 have been a binger.  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.                         Nourishing Advice:  This too, is good overall advice for the normal eater. But I found, in the beginning, my desire to eat didn’t always coincide with normal meal times.  My goal now 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.
Nourishing Advice:  The common advice used to be ‘avoid fat.’ But since fat plays an important role in our digestion and helps us feel satisfied, more people are hopping on the fat bandwagon. But I take this suggestion a step 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.
Nourishing Advice:   Instinctively I know this advice to be good, but I 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.  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 caught myself gulping down my meal faster than anyone at the table. But, no matter what eating circumstances, 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 would be more enjoyable, 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.
Nourishing Advice:  My first thought when I read the above advice is ‘Yeah, right!”  If I could do something else besides eat, I wouldn’t be seeing help!  I already know what I should do, the question is, HOW do I do it?
This is not an easy thing to figure out.  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.
Nourishing Advice:  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 portion sizes I see listed on the food labels.  And I usually get hungry at normal 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.                                 Nourishing Advice:  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 myself 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; like a relief.

I began by telling 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 it 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.

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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.  You can stop feeling guilty for eating. It is doable and it is imperative when learning how to eat normally.

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.  It may take a couple of weeks.

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 try this food you have prepared. 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.

Working though eating issues? See Nourishing Advice for thoughts on how to cope with common advice people may give you.

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“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

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