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,



Sunday, March 30, 2014

What Makes a Diet a "DIET"?

How many times have you heard someone (maybe yourself) say "I don't diet ... I am just eating healthy, clean, organic, etc."?  I want you to consider how this can become a diet.  How does dieting evolve?  What does dieting really mean and is it harmful?  Since we can make just about anything we do with food a diet, this is worth examining.  One of my clients came in the other day worried that she was making intuitive eating another diet.  Believe me, it can happen!

Let's start by looking at the original definition of the noun "diet".  According to the Merriam - Webster dictionary the word is derived from the Middle English word diete, from Anglo French, from Latin diaeta, from the Greek root word diaita.  The word came on the scene in the 13th century and literally meant a way of life.  It was also used to describe what a plant, person, or animal eats.  Nothing about food/calorie restriction, no moral or legal pronouncements of "good" or "bad".  We have adopted a rather restrictive, obsessive and imbalanced definition of the word diet.  If a diet is truly a way of life it should give life ... not limit life.  Weight Watcher's claim to fame is that they are not another diet.  They are promoting a lifestyle.  Really?  Is that why Weight Watcher members weigh their clothing before attending a weigh-in to ensure that they are wearing their lightest apparel?  How about saving all of your WW points up for a binge in the evening of Oreos and ice cream?  That does not sound like a way of living that would enhance any one's well being.  I am sure that Dr. Oz would tell you that he does not diet.  Yet, he promotes rigid dietary rules and has been quoted as saying "eating should be automated and joyless".

So, what makes a diet a DIET?  A diet in our current societal terms sucks the life out of you.  You have to micromanage your food intake to completely eliminate foods you genuinely enjoy, it limits your relationships and social interactions, and it robs you of peace of mind.  If you are bound to rules about exercise and/or food choices .... you are on a diet.  A way of life, a healthful lifestyle is not black or white.  It allows you to go for a good average nutritional intake and activity level.  There is no guilt or shame.  No perfectionism in how you pursue taking care of your body and health.  When my client voiced concerns that she was making intuitive eating a diet, she meant that somehow she had bought into the belief that she could go the rest of her life without ever eating unless she was hungry.  No sampling of foods at Costco, no eating a bit of a friend's birthday cake because she had just eaten lunch, and certainly never eating some chocolate when sad.  In other words, she would fulfill Dr. Oz's goal of making eating joyless and automated.  This is the total antithesis of intuitive eating.  A healthful way of living involves balance, not ultimatums.

Taking all of this into consideration, are you on a DIET or a diet?
Wishing a wonderful life in the middle ground,