Saturday, March 18, 2017

Eating Disorder Recovery: Motivation for the Journey

Recovering from an eating disorder (ED) is not for the faint of heart. It can be a rugged journey filled with disappointments, heartache, and a whole lot of weariness. When you comb through the research on what it takes to fully recover from an ED you will get recommendations about the need for a complete treatment team, descriptions of the levels of care (outpatient, intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization, residential), medical guidelines, appropriate weight restoration, etc. What you won't find is the "secret sauce". This secret sauce is different for all suffers. Motivation.

After decades of working with thousands of clients suffering from various eating disorders, it has become very apparent to me that one can receive the very best treatment available at any and all levels of care and still not experience recovery. When I am doing an intake on a new client one of the questions I usually ask is "Do you hate your eating disorder more than you like it?" The initial response to that question is most often a period of silence. Sometimes the tears begin rolling down cheeks. Many initiate treatment because someone else wants them there or their physician has sent them my way. They are still deceived by the eating disorder's trickery and lies. Their brain has been hijacked. Others shout out a resounding, YES! Whatever that response is at that initial intake ... motivation can be fleeting and has to be constantly pursued in order for recovery to occur.

In her book Restoring Our Bodies, Reclaiming Our Lives  Aimee Lui describes this pursuit of motivation as "the turning point when the sufferer SUBJECTIVELY reaches the
limit of distress and makes a personal commitment to change. There may
be one or several turning points initiating incremental change, but they have to come from within, not from outside demands or threats" Basically, you have to want recovery so badly for yourself that you are willing to tolerate the discomfort that comes with fighting an eating disorder. How does one tap into that depth of commitment and motivation? I believe the secret sauce of motivation is comprised of different ingredients for each sufferer. I want to encourage anyone who is recovery weary to begin assembling all of the ingredients that you will need to maintain motivation for the journey. Begin by looking through the bars of your eating disorder prison and identify what you truly value that cannot be accessed while you are in "prison". Is it a relationship with God and others? Peace of mind? Career opportunities or life adventures? What would freedom look like to you? This may be an exercise that you have to do daily to keep wind in your recovery sails!

Step back and take an honest look at all that your ED has robbed you of in your life. Get angry at your eating disorder (not yourself). Make a list of reasons to hate your ED. Read it over daily. Keep your fighting stance strong and determined.

Treatment for an eating disorder is vital. Cooking up your own secret sauce of motivation will allow you to fully embrace and benefit from recovery efforts. Then and only then will you experience full recovery.
Please feel free to share what you see when you look outside of your ED prison bars that motivates you!

Wishing all of you and the ones you love full, rich recovered lives!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What to do if Losing Weight is your New Year's Resolution

Choose a new one as quickly as possible! Bet you were not expecting that advise. You are going to be bombarded with crazy quick weight loss solutions in the following days. Each one more magnificent than the other. It is the same old song and dance every year. In fact, that those are great resolutions ... learn a new song and dance more often!😁

Seriously, how many times have you made weight loss your resolution for the new year? Dozens? The 60 billion dollar per year weight loss industry wants you to believe that losing weight will cure all of your ills, eliminate any sadness in your life and perhaps make you a millionaire! Fixating on weight loss is a sure way to make your life miserable and actually, more than likely, cause you to gain weight. 

I encourage you to focus on real quality of life issues. Enjoy the food you eat. Find some movement that makes you happy. Appreciate the body you have and make every effort to nurture your body, mind and soul. Embarking on a new year should fill you with hope, joy, expectation, and some excitement. Not the dread, anguish and suffering that comes from dieting.

Dieting is not a benign activity. Many negative consequences can arise from restricting your dietary intake. The most dangerous being an eating disorder. I want to emphasize that dieting/dietary restriction is often the first domino that falls in the development of all eating disorders. Disorders that kill 20 to 30% pf those afflicted and rob suffers of so very much in life. I know that no one who starts a diet every imagines that they could be one of those whose brains get kidnapped by an eating disorder. Don't gamble with your life. It could be you.

Wishing all of you a year blessed by God and full of LIFE!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Top 10 Confessions of a Renegade Dietitian

I have been a proud member of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formally The American Dietetic Association) since 1978.  However, I find that I don't think like many of my colleagues.  Yes, I am a renegade in various ways.  I am a true renegade when it comes to the many diets and food related misinformation that permeates our culture dominated by the media.  I am a renegade against the fat/body shaming that is touted by much of the diet and fashion industry.  I cringe at the artificially thin body types promoted by some in the dance, gymnastics and cheer leading world.  Don't get me started about the eating disorder behaviors that are passed off as normal "making weight" requirements for boys and men in the wrestling arena!  I could go on rambling, however, I am going to summarize my thoughts by listing a few of my top 10 "renegade" confessions.

  1. I believe calorie counting is a waste of precious time and energy.  A calorie is merely a unit of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius.  Unless you want to carry a bomb calorimeter around with you in which to blow your food up prior to eating, you will never know exactly how many calories you are consuming.
  2. I predict that requiring the caloric content to be included on menus and menu boards will not enhance the health of our country or contribute to a decrease in obesity.  The accuracy of the caloric content of any given menu item cannot be guaranteed.  Research shows that less than 30% of people actually look at the calorie listing (for some who do it could actually be detrimental - the eating disorder suffers). Cities who have had this requirement enforced for a period of time (e.g. New York) have not been able to document solid beneficial outcomes.
  3. Clean eating is a form of elitism and disordered eating, in my opinion.  We have kidneys and a liver for detoxing our body.  Many countries who barely wash their food, don't know what a toxic cleanse is, or have no concept as to what "organic" means have lower infant mortality rates than the U.S. Many of those countries have a life expectancy as long or longer than we do.  I define "clean eating" as washing your food and your hands.
  4. There is no one food that should carry the label bad or unhealthy.  One may consume an overall unhealthy diet or an overall healthy diet, however, neither is defined by one food, one meal or one day.
  5. I don't believe what and individual's BMI or weight gives a clear indication regarding their health and it surely does not define who they are as a person.  Why did we ever begin weighing human beings?  Produce and livestock, I get that!  I have wondered if their is a connection between slavery and weighing people other than what I observe in my clients on a daily basis.
  6. The scale is a hunk of metal.
  7. Participating in regular activity/exercise should be about self-care, not calorie burning.
  8. Dieting is not only useless, it can be harmful on many levels.  Many archived blogs address this issue.
  9. God gave us taste buds in order for us to enjoy our food.  Diets encourage joyless, automated eating.
  10. One can be thoughtful and aware of their nutritional intake without being obsessive and rigid. 
Join me in becoming a renegade against the artificial pursuit of thinness, calorie counting and anything else that might rob you of a peaceful relationship with food, eating, weight and exercise!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

15 Reasons to NOT Make Dieting a New Year's Resolution!

This is a bit of a reprisal of an old post.  The reasons to not go on a diet (despite what every media outlet available will tell you) have not changed.  For additional insight visit the link below.

15 Reasons for NOT Going on a Diet in 2016!

Ah, time to once again consider New Year's Resolutions! Each year one of the most frequently made resolutions is to; go on a diet to lose weight. Think of how many times you have made that resolution only to become disillusioned and frustrated. If you have overeaten during the holidays (who hasn't?) or dropped your exercise program and gained weight, going on a diet is not the solution!

Because the diet industry (remember the multi billion dollar a year industry with a miserable success record?) knows that you may be thinking about dieting more intensely at this time of the year, there will be a media blitz promoting diets and diet products. Don't be swayed by their shiny print ads and flashy TV commercials promising quick weight loss accompanied by exciting changes in everything from your job to your sex life. Resolve to not go on a diet this year!

Here are my top 15 reasons for encouraging you to not go on a diet in 2016:

  1. You have experienced the mind numbing obsession with food and eating that follows outlawing certain foods.

  2. Evaluating your self worth according to whether the numbers on the hunk of metal we call a scale go up or down is an emotionally draining experience.

  3. When you have driven your weight down by following diet rules and constraints that are unrealistic in real life, the weight will be regained.

  4. Fixating on weight loss can distract you from more important life matters like family, friends, school, job, and spiritual pursuits.

  5. The people around you get tired of hearing the dreary details of what is allowed or not allowed on your diet, how many "points" cheese cake is worth, or how "bad" you were at the restaurant last night.

  6. Dieting can be a boring, monotonous and tedious effort that leads to binge eating.

  7. Food is not the enemy and therefore should not be the focus of any "war on obesity".

  8. Sharing meals is part of socializing. Dieting can be isolating.

  9. You have taste buds for a reason.

  10. The diet industry has sold you the lie that losing weight, being a certain size, etc. will lead you to all that you have ever yearned for in life.  Rebel!
11.  The time and effort you place into dieting could be invested towards learning a new hobby, spending time with friends, or nurturing self-care activities.

12.  Dieting is dieting.  It is not confronting the issues that complicate your relationship with food, eating, body image.  Dieting is placing a lid on a boiling pot.

13.  Restricting your food, being bound by food rules could actually lead to a life threatening eating disorder.

14.  Leading a balanced healthy lifestyle is a much better example to set for your friends and family members than exposing them to various fad diets.

15.  Plain and simple ... Diets Do Not Work!  They offer quick fix promises that will only lead to more body hatred and lowered self-esteem.

This year make resolutions that will enhance your emotional and physical life. Make resolutions that are challenging, yet reasonable. Here are some examples to consider:
  • Increase the fiber in your diet.

  • Add more veggies to your meals.

  • Try new foods and recipes to add variety to your dietary intake.

  • Eat breakfast each morning.

  • Find a physical activity that you enjoy and can do regularly,

  • Enjoy your food more. Taste and savor you meals.

  • Decrease dependency on eating out.

  • Love the body you have!

  • If your body needs to lose weight, allow the weight loss to happen as a result of gradual, healthful changes you are making in relationship to eating and activity.
Be patient with yourself. Progress not perfection. No guilt!
What are your reasons for not dieting in 2016? Please share!

Wishing you all a happy, healthy, balanced and blessed New Year!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Merging "Eating to Live with Living to Eat"

Nearly every day I have clients coming into my office saying that they want to eat "healthier".  They may be struggling with an eating disorder, high cholesterol, weight issues or diabetes.  I ask them "why?" As you might guess, I get a variety of answers.  Everything from "to live longer" to "weight loss".  Pursuit of health and fitness is an admirable and worthwhile endeavor.  Some, however, chase those goals with such a vengeance that they lose out on quality of life.  I really believe you find peace in the middle ground when you merge the two seemingly incompatible concepts of "eating to live and living to eat". Kind of fits with my favorite oxymoron of "structured-flexibility".

For all of the emphasis on healthy eating, exercise and weight management that we have heard touted over the last several decades, did you know our life expectancy is only a few years longer than it was in the 1970s?  Most of that is due to a decrease in infant mortality.  We ate Cheetos, drank real cokes and ate more fat and less fiber back then.  I grew up with a canister of bacon grease on my parent's stove and that lard was added to nearly everything.  My parents still lived to be 77 years old (dad) and 81 years old (mom).  Despite the increase in official dieting and dietary restriction in general, obesity rates are higher now than 40 years ago.

The idea for this blog came from an article by southern author, Rick Bragg.  His elderly mother requested genuine lard for her birthday.  Throughout the years he purchased big screen TVs for her that she never watched, new washing machines that she disdained ... so he just asked her what she really wanted.  Lard.  Good old pork fat.  His comment was: "Grease is good.  It has shortened many lives, probably my own, but is a life of rice cakes really life, or just passing time?"  Then I recalled the quote, "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."  It is perfectly normal to look forward to visiting a phenomenal restaurant on your vacation.  It just doesn't need to be the only thing about the vacation you are focused on.  Sometimes there will be meals that you consume as mere fuel for your body.  You are hungry and you eat what is available.  That is merging the concepts mentioned in the title of this blog.  Life is short.  Food and eating is a part of enjoying life.  Eat with thoughtfulness and not obsession.  Make peace.

This blog is written by a woman who 39 years ago did not share the eating of her wedding cake with her husband.  I was trying to be "healthy".  That moment in time is gone and will never be again.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Food, Eating, Fear of Eating and the Holidays: Finding the Middle Ground

It is holiday time!  We started with Thanksgiving, now we are moving into the Christmas Holiday season that will extend all the way to New Year's Day.  I am so weary of all of the hoopla about "surviving the holidays".  Whether you are a chronic dieter, have an eating disorder, or are just the average person ... you would swear that we are all facing sheer doom and destruction at this time of the year.  Many are trembling with fear and trepidation.  Come on!  You should have visions of sugar plums dancing and prancing.  Celebrations include food, eating, sharing meals, and truly enjoying delicious recipes that are only served once or twice a year.  Food and eating should not be placed on a pedestal.  There certainly are many other important aspects of holidays and special celebrations.  However, food and eating should not be feared and approached as if you were facing a rabid dog.  This is the perfect time of the year to practice intuitive eating principles of eating what you really enjoy, honoring hunger, and acknowledging satisfied.

Be aware that even the mere contemplation of dietary restriction can increase food obsessions and compulsive eating.  Don't buy into the "I will wait until the new year and then I will cut out ______ and never eat _____" thinking.

So, here are some suggestions to help you enjoy, experience, and thrive during the holidays as you continue your journey towards making peace with food, eating, activity and weight issues:
  • Try not to let yourself get overly hungry.  Even though this can be a hectic time of year, don't skip meals or go too long without eating.
  • Mindfully focus on enjoying your food and eating experiences.  Be thankful for meals shared, time to celebrate and foods that you enjoy.
  • Participate in self-care activities like going for a walk, listening to music, or carving out time for your hobbies.
  • Ditch the diet mentality and all that goes with that faulty way of thinking.  Don't buy into guilt, stay off of the scale and tune out all of the diet ads that spike at this time of year.  Learn to trust and appreciate your body.
  • Remember your goal of living in the middle ground.  Avoid extreme, all or nothing thinking.
  • If you are entering into an eating/food situation that normally would cause anxiety have a plan of action and rely on support systems to help you deal with the challenge.
  • Commit to enjoy this wonderful time of year without the fear, guilt and anxiety that might have plagued you in the past.  There is incredible power in what you tell yourself!!
Wishing you all peace and blessings now and in the year to come,

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Conquering the Fear of Flying and Eating Disorder Recovery: What are the Similarities?

Professor Robert Bor, a clinical psychologist, is one of the authors of the book Overcome Your Fear of Flying.  As I was reading an article discussing his book I was struck by how some of his suggestions regarding conquering this phobia can apply when one is recovering from eating disorders, disordered eating and chronic dieting.  "Treat it as the irrational terror it truly is and travelling will be a breeze."  Wow.  Sounds kind of like telling someone who is terrified that eating pizza will make them fat to just treat that thought as an irrational fear and eating pizza will be a breeze!  If only it were that simple.  But, there is a nugget of truth in that admonition.  A phobia is defined as "an overwhelming and unreasonable fear of an object or situation that poses little real danger but provokes anxiety and avoidance."  We all have waves of anxiety at times.  Phobias lead to a level of anxiety that negatively impacts your quality of life and  can be quite paralyzing. Recovering from an eating disorder or chronic dieting is quite a complex undertaking.  However, at some point in that process learning to confront irrational beliefs about food, eating, weight, and exercise is essential.  Let's explore how suggestions from the above mentioned book might be applicable in overcoming fears/phobias associated with dieting, eating disorders and disordered eating.

Don't Avoid Flying
Avoiding what we fear only compounds the problem and gives power to the phobia.  Someone who fears flying probably should not begin confronting that phobia by taking a transcontinental flight.  Perhaps they start with a brief one hour or so flight.  Likewise, do not avoid your fear food.  Start with a "planned/spontaneous food adventure".  I call them PSFAs.  You can read about them in a previous blog.  Go get one cookie or go somewhere you can purchase pizza by the slice.  Be brave!  Go with an understanding friend who can support you as you undertake this necessary step.
Think About the Destination, not the Journey
I love this suggestion.  In the case of fearing the flight, you focus on the fun you are going to have when you land.  The friends you will spend time with at the end of the flight, the wonderful experiences you will have.  In addressing food or weight fears, focus on the benefits and rewards that come with being able to eat freely, without guilt and shame!  Appreciating and optimizing the body you have vs. shagging after artificial thinness.  No compulsion to exercise as a means of compensating for what you have eaten.  Peace of mind!!  Recovery work can be an exhausting journey.  But, the destination is so worth that effort.
Challenge Your Negative Thoughts
If you have a fear of flying and you experience turbulence during a flight you must challenge the catastrophic thought that turbulence = the plane is crashing.  Turbulence is merely a result of shifting air currents.  Not a sign of mechanical failure.  With food fears, you confront those with truths that you might tell someone else.  Imagine a friend saying "I can't believe I ate that burger.  I feel so guilty and fat.  I won't be able to get into my jeans by tomorrow morning."  You know how you would respond!  Learn to coach yourself.
Talk to the Cabin Crew
If you are flying and you hear an noise that spikes you flying phobia, speak with the cabin crew.  Ask them for an explanation and assurance.  Express your fears.  In eating disorder recovery your cabin crew is your treatment team and your other support systems.  Let those who want to see you recovered and whole assist you in working through your fears.

So, yes, there are some similarities between conquering the fear of flying and eating disorder recovery!  I challenge you to practice some of these suggestions and then share how they worked for you!

Wishing you peace of mind and true freedom,