Sunday, November 24, 2013

Rocking Your Recovery From Dieting/Disordered Eating During the Holidays!

It is holiday time! We start with Thanksgiving, and we continue 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".  One well known eating disorder "expert" recently said another name for Thanksgiving is "National Binge Day" and if you are craving pumpkin pie that you might not have enough sweetness or comfort in your life!  Really?? What a way to reinforce food fears!  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.

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,
P.S. Yes, this is a reprisal of my blog from last holiday season!  ( >;

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Tom Hanks, Diabetes, Weight Fluctuations and Eating Disorders: Lessons Learned

To proclaim dieting/dietary restriction as "dangerous" in this calorie conscious, weight obsessed culture currently engaged in a "war on obesity" is certainly going against the grain (to say the least).  Not everyone who drives their weight down by restricting their diet only to see it rebound develops diabetes.  Tom Hanks, as well as many medical professionals, believes that the huge weight fluctuations he has experienced in preparing for various movie roles might have contributed to his recent Type 2 diabetes diagnosis.  He lost over 50 pounds for his role in "Castaway" and had to force his weight up over 30 pounds for "A League of Their Own."  Medical research demonstrates a connection between eating disorders and the development of insulin resistance (pre-diabetes) or Type 2 diabetes.  Weight fluctuations, frequent swings in eating behaviors (restrict-binge cycles) confuse both body and mind.  Think about what the pancreas goes through when abruptly awakened from starvation slumber and thrown into overeating overdrive!  In my practice it is not uncommon to see my eating disorder clients in various stages of recovery have blood sugar irregularities.  One more reason not to diet!

No, not everyone who diets and experiences weight fluctuations will get diabetes.  They might get an eating disorder instead.  Some of you may remember the actor Dennis Quaid admitting to struggling with anorexia nervosa.  They called it "manorexia" back at that time.  We had not been enlightened as to the prevalence of eating disorders among males.  There was  hesitation and shame to call it what it was ... anorexia nervosa.  He lost over 40 pounds to play Doc Holiday in the movie "Wyatt Earp".  It took him several years to recover from the aftermath of starvation.

Let's learn some lessons about the possible consequences of dieting.  Please join me in sharing lessons learned. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Full Recovery from Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating: What, When, and How?

A young woman under the age of 25 years old walked wearily into my office this week to seek help in her effort to recover from an entrenched eating disorder.  In less than 5 years she had already received residential treatment for her illness at 3 different facilities.  She had virtually availed herself of every level of treatment that any textbook or evidenced based research would recommend.  Who could blame her for feeling a bit hopeless in regards to escaping the prison of her eating disorder?  As the session progressed, she informed me that she did not believe in full recovery from an eating disorder.  I was curious as to her vision as to what "full recovery" would mean to her personally.  She looked at me through teary eyes and in a shaky voice she said "I would never have any negative thoughts about my body, I would eat only healthy food, and I would never have any obsessive thoughts about food, eating, exercise or weight". Ah, so that was why she was feeling hopeless.  Her perfectionistic, all or nothing manner of thinking was defining recovery in terms that would be unachievable for just about anyone in this diet crazed culture.  We began exploring what a realistic view of full recovery might look like, when it might happen, and how we would proceed on the journey that she has already begun.

The statistics can be disheartening when you read about recovering from an eating disorder.  I would advise that you not dwell too heavily on them.  You are an individual struggling with what could be a deadly disease.  However, there are thousands and thousands of recovered people (one of them is writing this blog!).  Many of the top professionals in the eating disorder recovery field have fought the battle and won.  Part of the challenge is the definition of full recovery.  I believe ED recovery is a process that is quite the journey.  It involves healing physically, mentally, psychologically, spiritually and relationally.  There is no one "what" that would define recovery.  I believe recovery is best described in one word ... peace.  Does it mean that you never experience a disordered thought or ED-like behavior?  NO!  You just develop an arsenal to fight back, discover or retrieve your true identity, and soldier on.  With solid treatment, a genuine desire to get out of your eating disorder or disordered eating, God's help and the support of others full recovery can happen.

When does recovery happen?  Gradually you experience fewer lapses, fewer and weaker eating disordered thoughts. Eventually you arrive at the place where you trust your body, mind, and own ability to live a healthful balance life without diet rules or ED calling the shots.  There are times you might feel "affected" by ED or disordered eating thoughts, but you are no longer in bondage to them.

How does full recovery happen?  I think you will find the answers in some of my thoughts above. I would add that you have to be willing to tolerate discomfort in the battle.  If you are striving to recover from an ED and you are comfortable, there is a good chance you are not really fully engaged in the fight. Trust your treatment team, and keep a strong filter in your mind to weed out all of the body hating, diet touting, crazy making messages that come our way every day.

I wish you true peace and full recovery.  Please share any thoughts on this complicated topic. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

National "Dieting is Useless and Dangerous (DUD) Week"

Since National Eating Disorder Awareness Week occurs every year around the end of February to the first week of March (this year it is February 23rd - March 1st), I propose that we initiate a National Dieting is Useless and Dangerous Week.  We could call it "DUD Week".  That is what diets are ... duds!  The research is still out on what methods are most effective in preventing eating disorders.  However, we do know that dieting and the drive for thinness can contribute to the development of eating disorders.  By getting out the clear message that dieting is useless and dangerous we could possibly decrease the number of those suffering from eating disorders and disordered eating. 

My friend and colleague Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD has stated that she believes the diet industry should be forced to be forthcoming about the failure rates of diets.  I agree.  If there are warning labels on wine bottles, why not warning labels on Nutrisystem diet packages?  Or, perhaps a disclaimer on the door as someone enters a Weight Watcher's meeting?  There is a report in the April 2007 issue of American Psychologists, the journal of the American Psychological Association, that states that while dieters may lose weight initially, that about two thirds of people on diets regain more than they lost within 4 or 5 years!  This research was done at UCLA and was the most thorough analysis of dieting to date.  More than 31 long-term studies on dieting were analyzed.  Another study done in 2007 came to the conclusion that "95% of all dieters will regain lost weight within 1-5 years" (Neumark-Sztainer, Haines, Wall, & Eisenderg, 2007).  Need more evidence to show that dieting is useless and dangerous?  About 35 % of "normal" dieters progress to pathological dieting.  From that group, 20-30% will eventually develop eating disorders (Shisslak, Crago, & Estes, 1995).  Sometimes research seems far away from real life.  However,  we are talking about thousands of people who suffer emotionally, relationally, and physically from dieting every year.

Just this past week I had a dozen or so clients who have become causalities of dieting.  One of the saddest was a 15 year old girl who came in for an initial consult for treatment of her bulimia.  Her mom started taking her to Weight Watchers at age 9.  While there was some temporary weight loss, she swung into sneak/binge eating and gained the weight back.  At age 11 mom carted her back to Weight Watchers to "get fixed" because she had once again gained weight.  After this round of dieting she developed anorexia nervosa and now has progressed to bulimia.

I know I am preaching to the choir.  If you are reading this blog you probably already know that dieting is useless and dangerous.  Please spread the word.  We really do need to be activists against dieting and the diet industry.  There needs to be truth in advertising enacted.

Thank you for reading and please share your thoughts and experiences.