Should You Begin a Healthy Eating Challenge Today?


It’s the first day of the month. And it’s Monday.

A perfect day to start a new diet, wouldn’t you say?

If you are on top of the latest trends in healthy eating and frequent the healthy food websites, you would be privy to the popularity of beginning a diet today. Or another first of the month, or another Monday.

30-day challenges, 21-day detoxes, 3-day reboots.

There seems to be magical dietary hope in a new month. A new week. A new chance to get yourself healthy. Get yourself slim. Get yourself unstuck of the bad habits you picked up the last few weeks, or the last few months, or however long it has been leading up to you finally showing junk food and poor choices who’s boss.

I don’t have anything against doing challenges, or cleanses, or reboots. They can be a very practical way of replacing negative and unhealthy habits with better ones. They can expedite the body’s ability to reduce inflammation, or release excess water weight. They can teach you alot of insightful things, such as what you place dependency on (afternoon treat, anyone?) or help you develop your self-control muscles.

Healthy eating challenges can be positive and enlightening for many people.

But they are optional, and not necessary for improving your health (even dramatically), and they are always your choice to do or not do, no matter how popular or amazing they really are.

I spent many years, many firsts of the months, many Mondays, cleaning up my diet, and starting over as a healthy eater, always with the idea that this reset would reset them all. That this time, my relationship with food would be freshened up for good.

That this time, I would be good.

My experiences with strict dietary challenges have certainly opened me up to new ways to think about food. They have allowed me to improve my sleep, my joints, my skin, and my emotions.

But they have not saved me the way I always wanted them to.

Knowing that I would be starting a strict and clean diet would usually lend me bingeing on everything the diet forbade in the days leading up to the big start day.

When I would finally decide to stick to a respectable food plan, I would feel good about eating so well, but mostly I would feel saved from myself, from my potential to self-sabotage through food, from the vulnerability to go at my health goals alone.

It was inevitable after beginning a strict plan that I would eventually break the diet, or mess up. It was likely that I would be frustrated with how time and thought consuming it was, or irritated at how critical its biggest fans were.

And it was inevitable that the diet would only take me so far. That it would improve my health for as long as I adhered to its guidelines, but guilt me into thinking I was an utter failure when I “fell off the wagon” or “cheated” or “just couldn’t do it”.

I know there are people who would disagree with this, and maybe even think it’s the wrong approach to take, and that is OK. I know challenges and diet plans can be maintained without them adding stress or trauma to a person.  I realize that if I really wanted to keep a food challenge (and by this time, you would be correct to suspect it a Whole30 or 21-Day Sugar Detox or an I Quit Sugar plan), that I could.

I could get through the temporary discomfort of forgoing my beloved tamari, or bananas, or a square (or two) of 85% dark chocolate.

I could call every restaurant I would attend for the time of the challenge, and ensure they only cooked with ghee, olive, or coconut oil, and I could make certain there was no soy or corn fed to any animals I was consuming, or that there was not dried fruit or candied nuts in my salad.

And I could skip every invitation to dine at a friend’s house whose cooking was not “approved” by my newfound redeeming health plan.

By my new, Good News.

By my new Savior.

But I will tell you, I’ve done all those things.

And I don’t do them anymore.

I’ve spent alot of time studying food. Studying its make-up. Studying how nutritious it is. Studying how evil it is.  How it helps us.  How it hurts us.  How it ruins the planet, and how it saves souls (oh wait, I meant, how it helps you improve your body composition).

I’ve learned alot in my studies, but the things that nutrition could never teach me was how to trust myself to eat healthy, everyday, without fear of failing a plan, without the obsession on perfectionism, and without needing anyone else’s approval.

Food challenges are amazing for alot of things, but it takes determination and commitment to decide to treat your body well, with kindness, and with compassion, after they are over.

It takes will to make your own rules, to let in only helpful opinions, and to turn your eyes and your ears from anything that doesn’t empower you.  That doesn’t give you confidence, or energy, that doesn’t root you in self-assuredness, and that doesn’t serve to make you a better version of yourself.

You can follow plans, and challenges, and diets, and enjoy them, and benefit from them, but never forget that you can experience health, and enlightenment, and self-growth all on your own.

If you think you need to learn more about food to make your own choices, study it. Find out how it effects your body. Learn how it can make you feel well.

Experiment with it. See what works for you. See what you like.

And then, know when you’ve studied enough. Know when it’s time to trust yourself, trust your body, and get on and live your life.

Be responsible, but be in charge.  Be yourself, and be proud of it.

So, if you asked me if it was a perfect day to start a new diet, I would say, maybe, but maybe not.

Instead, I say it’s the perfect day to start trusting yourself with food.

And so is tomorrow.  And next week.  And definitely, next month.

 

Image from What’s on the 6th Floor?

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If You Think Being Fat is Bad

You would not say it out loud, but you might think that being fat makes you bad.  Worthy of mockery.  Deserving of shame.  The worst thing in the world.

It’s not.

Being fat is a situation you might find yourself in if you have been in the habit of overeating or bingeing.  It might be a physical revelation of inflammation or hormonal imbalance or lingering weight from past pregnancies.

But being fat, having excess body mass, weighing more than other people, does not make you bad.

If you have ever thought that you are a bad person for being overweight, it is because you believe that fat is wrong.

You might believe this because you think the way to to get fat is to overeat, and overeating is wrong, so fat is wrong.

You might believe this because you think fat is ugly, or requires laziness, or dirtiness, and all of those things are disgusting which makes fat disgusting which makes you disgusting.

While some people do become fatter for eating too much or never moving their bodies, they do not become worse people, and they do not deserve public shaming.

Being fat may complicate your life (as may being thin) for a variety of reasons, but remember that fat is only extra weight your body is holding onto.

It is not your soul, your spirit, your mind.  It isn’t your sense of humor, or your generosity, your intelligence, kindness, love, or wonder for the world.

It is a physical condition, and that is all.

You can lose weight.  You can gain weight.  And in the end, you choose what you believe about it.  You choose what you do about it.

I am not suggesting that it does not matter if you are fat.  Being fat may make you suspect to disease, early death, or a difficult life (physically, at the very least, emotionally, because other people, including yourself, may view your fatness as a problem needing to be shamed).

What I am suggesting is that it matters how you view fat.

If you are fat, how do you view yourself?

Lazy?  Glutton?  Unfortunate?  Ugly?  Victim?  Bad?

You have not become a worse person for weighing more than you did at another point in your life, or more than people around you.

You can believe that or not, but try to keep perspective in the matter.

Hatred is bad.  Injustice is bad.  Bitterness is bad.

But extra weight is just extra weight.  Decide if you want to do anything about it, accept the situation you are in, and move forward how you like.

Reserve disdain for those tragedies that deserves such negative feelings.

Your body isn’t one of them.

Image from Pinterest.

Do You Accept Yourself?

I have been interested in eating healthy for most of my life, but it wasn’t to treat my body well or to feel good.  It was to lose weight.

I can remember being in elementary school, portioning out crackers to pack in my school lunch, wanting to know how many calories I was eating, hoping that I would become a slimmer version of myself by restricting my food.

Just one size smaller, just a few pounds thinner.  Then I would be comfortable and my life would be better.

Then I could focus on others things like hobbies and a career.

Then I would accept myself.

As I got older, I educated myself on nutrition, and was convicted to eat the purest and healthiest foods possible.  I counted calories for a few years, was a vegetarian for a few, got rid of all processed foods, and later adapted a diet of real foods.

I wish I could say that my goal was for health, but it wasn’t.  It was always to lose weight.

I finally did lose weight after college through very restricting dieting (too much which had very negative effects on my body and mind), and when I couldn’t afford to lose any more and I still wasn’t happy or accepting of myself, I became confused about why I tried to eat healthy at all.

It is not surprising that I cycled through periods of binge eating during my years of very restrictive dieting,  It was very difficult to maintain a weight that was too low for me, and very uncomfortable to starve my body of the nutrients it needed.

It often bewildered me that I would cycle through periods of very healthy eating, then periods of self-sabotaging eating that left me feeling sick and gross.  This opposing pattern proved to me that I wasn’t interested in health for actual health.  I was interested in it to get thin.  When getting thin was too hard, I wasn’t interested in it at all.

During this season, I had done quite a bit of reading on accepting myself, and eating to treat my body well, and quitting the diet/binge habit.  It sounded really nice–accepting myself, but I couldn’t.  I didn’t believe I was acceptable unless I was losing weight.

It was only a few years ago that I really gave some serious thought to accepting myself no matter what I weighed or looked like, and eating healthy to be kind to my body.

What if I only ate healthy because I cared about how nutritious foods made me feel?  What if I chose to be happy and comfortable with myself no matter what I looked like or what I weighed?

I attempted to take this approach, but it did not come very easily.  I did not decide to accept myself, and then became a natural at it overnight.

It required daily determination to stop letting my weight determine my value.  When a thought entered my mind that tied my personal success with my weight, it had to be replaced with truth immediately.  When disappointment surfaced after looking in the mirror, I had to remind myself that the self-hatred I was cultivating had gotten me nowhere, it felt unfortunate, was distracting me from more important issues, and was not helping me in any way.

It dawned on me one day that I might look the way I look today for the rest of my life.  Sure, I will look older, get wrinkles, and age spots, and gray hair, but I might weigh what I do now until the day I die.

Would this be OK?

Would I choose to stress about something that may never change for the rest of my life?  Would I let this obsession determine my happiness, comfortability, and confidence until I die?  Would I fret about this more than important issues that are happening all around me?  More than caring about other people?  More than connecting with family and friends?  More than making a positive contribution in the world?

We all have one life.  We get to choose what we value and how we spend our time, and what we believe.  We get to think what we want to think.  We get to feel what we want to feel.

I chose self acceptance because the path of self-hatred was exhausting.  It robbed me of happiness.  It kept me from being present.  It made my life small, and it didn’t even allow me to do what I wanted it to in the very beginning–eat healthy to lose weight.

Self acceptance is about so much more than being OK with what you weigh or what you look like, but for those who can’t even claim these things, it’s certainly a start in a positive direction.

What about you?

Do you consider yourself someone who accepts yourself?  Who accepts your body how it is right now?  If not, when will your body be good enough for you to accept it?  When will you choose to be happy, comfortable, and confident?  Do you really believe that a number on the scale or a size of clothing can provide you with the feeling you are looking for?

Image from Johanna Ost.

Binge Eating is Caused by Dieting, BONUS

This is a bonus post to the Series: Binge Eating is Caused by Dieting.

You can read Parts 1-5 by clicking on the link above.

In this post, I wanted to give some additional tips and reinforcement that can help you stop binge eating:

  • Remember that you are not alone.  Many people struggle with binge eating.  It’s nature is isolating and you might think you are out of your mind for doing it, or the only one doing it, but you aren’t.
  • Binge eating is a natural response to extreme dieting (under-eating).  It is the body’s way to make sure you do not starve.
  • Binge eating is a habit that can be changed.
  • One way to reduce urges to binge is by eating enough throughout the day.
  • Your “enough” will be different from the next person and will vary according to how active you are, how quick your metabolism is, and on your basic genetic needs for food.
  • Experiment with finding your “enough”.
  • You won’t be perfect at this.  Some days you will eat too much, other days too little, other days it will seem just right.
  • Perfection is not the goal.
  • Rather, nourishing your body with foods that make you feel great and keep you satisfied is.
  • You can eat any foods you want to stop bingeing.
  • Many people say that eating foods found in nature, such as vegetables, fruits, animal proteins, nuts, seeds, eggs, and whole fats are good choices when reducing urges to binge.
  • But you do not need to eat what anyone else says, nor do you need to follow a specific diet.
  • Eat the foods that leave you feeling your best.
  • Experiment with this.
  • Pay attention to how food effects your body, your mind, and your mood.
  • Pay attention to how food minimizes or maximizes your urges to binge.
  • Use food as your ally, whenever you can, but know that no matter what you eat, you get to decide if you will binge or not.
  • When you return to eating enough, and eating foods that make you feel great, you still might have urges to binge.
  • This is only your brain sending signals that it has been conditioned to send.
  • These urges do not mean anything.  They do not define who you are, they don’t have any significance, and they do not need to be obeyed.
  • Notice when you have an urge to binge, accept it as a part of ending binge eating, remind yourself that they are not that big of a deal, and celebrate that you are not binge eating anymore.
  • You can include others on this journey if you want.
  • You can attend therapy or groups that help you change your approach to food, or have an accountability partner.
  • But these are all optional.
  • Enjoy the friendships you make in these settings, but remember you still have to be responsible for your life, and for your eating.
  • Events may have occurred in the past or may be occurring right now that you do not prefer, and this is unfortunate, but they are not reasons to sabotage yourself with food.
  • Fix the situations that you can, and try to let go of the ones that are outside of your influence.
  • This is really hard.
  • But you can do it.
  • If you do binge eat, don’t beat yourself up.
  • It’s just a part of stopping for many people.  It doesn’t mean you are hopeless, it doesn’t mean you are dumb.
  • Learn from your experiences.
  • The past is over.  Look ahead.
  • Be kind to yourself, grow in compassion and empathy, and get right back on target with choosing to eat enough, choosing to resist binge urges, and choosing to keep at it.
  • Over time, urges to binge fade and lose their frustrating and distracting presence.
  • Over time, your efforts to replace the negative and untrue thoughts that led to binge eating with positive and true thoughts will pay off.
  • It gets easier.  It gets simpler.
  • Stopping binge eating is not the end all in life, and will not be your greatest joy.
  • It won’t solve all of your problems, or remove the stress in life that we all have from time to time.
  • But it will make eating easier.
  • It will relieve anxiety, and stress around food, and improve your health, your mind, and your mood.
  • And it’s worth it.
  • You are worth it.

This concluded the Series: Binge Eating is Caused by Dieting.

I hope it has helped shed light on how binge eating starts, how it is maintained, and how it is stopped.

Implementing these tactics has helped me tremendously, and I share them because I think they can help you, too.

I used to think I was the craziest person for binge eating.  I would diet, and binge, and diet, and binge.

It was a time in my life that I cannot undo, so I have chosen to take everything I have learned from it and turn it into something positive to share.

If you ever feel like you are stuck in the cycle of binge eating, you aren’t.

You can stop today.  You can take care of your body, and you can be glad you didn’t give up.

Never give up.

 

 

Image from Comically Vintage.

Binge Eating is Caused by Dieting, Part 5

This is Part 5 of the Series: Binge Eating is Caused by Dieting.

You can catch up by reading Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 by clicking on their links.

In Part 5, we will explore approaches and practices that will help make resisting urges to binge easier.

We have already discussed that dieting (extreme under-eating) causes your brain to send signals to binge eat, that binge eating, due to its many emotional and physical consequences, is usually followed by a period of compensation (as if to undo the damage of eating so recklessly), and that resuming the original extreme diet serves to repeat the cycle of restriction, binge, and compensation.

We’ve gone over how eating more throughout the day will help lesson urges to binge, thus, reducing binge eating, and reducing periods of compensation.

And we have gone over how noticing and accepting urges to binge after you return to healthier eating habits will help to alleviate the frustration you may feel for still experiencing urges to binge.

Today I wanted to talk more about a very helpful part of accepting urges to binge:

This is to remind yourself that the feeling to binge is just a feeling.  It is only a signal that your brain is used to sending.  It doesn’t mean anything more than that.  It feels uncomfortable, and it is distracting, but it will pass, and it doesn’t deserve any more attention or effort or public announcement than it takes to notice and accept it.

Choose to not act on a meaningless thought.

Then, be glad that you did not binge!

This part of stopping binge eating is often neglected, but it is a critical part of accepting urges to binge after you are eating enough and have decided to form new habits.

It may sound strange to remind yourself of these things, but if you have been binge eating for any length of time, it’s likely you have forgotten that not all thoughts must be acted upon.

We have many thoughts throughout the day.  Most of them are habitual and serve to keep us on schedule.  We think, “I will brush my teeth” after waking up, or “I’m leaving to go to work now“, or “I will do a load of laundry today“.  These thoughts are quick and keep us on schedule, and we tend to not second guess them.  If we did, we might not get very much done in any given day.

Other thoughts require much more research and attention, and we are lucky if we have the information and freedom to make our own choices regarding them (Where to go to college?  Who to marry?  What to do with my life?).

And then there are thoughts that seem to trip us up.  They feel more like desires or urges and they can be confusing to experience.

These are the thoughts that we have, but don’t want to have, and they become greater in intensity every time they are entertained and acted upon.

For the sake of this blog post, we won’t get into all of those thoughts.

The urge to binge, however, after you have ended extreme dieting, and returned to eating enough food, is indeed, one of those thoughts so let’s keep it as our example.

You think bingeing is what you want to do, but you also know it is what you don’t want to do.

It can feel very confusing, and be a stumbling block if you don’t know how to make sense of it.

When you have the urge to binge, notice it and accept it as an old way to think that didn’t serve you well.  That’s all it is (provided it is not a sign of true physical hunger).

You do not have to give this thought any more attention than this.  It is simply an old signal the brain is still sending, but it gets weaker and weaker every time you do not respond to it.  It fades.  It goes away.  It appears less.  But it takes a bit of effort to stop giving it so much attention.

Try this just once, the next time you have the urge to binge:

Notice it, accept it as an old way to think, remind yourself you don’t binge eat anymore, and let it pass.  You do this already, with lots of thoughts.  Try it with binge eating.

And then be glad that you did not binge!

Positive reinforcement helps most people (and animals) continue on their path to better behavior.  If it feels silly to give yourself positive reinforcement, you don’t have to, but there is nothing wrong with it and you might enjoy it.

I hope this is helpful.  If you are struggling with binge eating, there is always a way out.  There is always a way to stop.  And it is always within you to stop.  You don’t have to rely on external accountability or make a big deal out of stopping.  You do not need expensive therapy, or years of self-exploration.  You don’t need to right all of the wrongs from your past, or change anyone’s behavior, or do anything that is not only about stopping the action of obeying urges to binge.  Some of these things may help to lesson the urge to binge, or may be beneficial to your intellectual and emotional growth, but they are not mandatory actions to stop binge eating.

You only have to choose to stop, accept that is will be a bit weird for awhile, remind yourself that you have stopped, and then be happy about it.

It’s a simple process and it gets easier and easier the more you do it.

And if you do choose to binge, the next time you have the urge, accept your fallibility, dust yourself off, and get right back to living your life with kindness and patience.  Fail fast, don’t look back.  Eat enough, replace old thinking with new, and try, try, again.

You are still lovable and there is still so much life to live.

Never give up.  Always press on.

Does this seem like a doable approach to end binge eating?  Is it something you think you will try the next time you have the urge to binge?

Leave a comment if you like!

 

 

Image from Rebloggy.

Binge Eating is Caused by Dieting, Part 4

This is Part 4 of the Series: Binge Eating is Caused by Dieting.

If you haven’t already, read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

In Part 4, we will talk about experiencing binge urges after you have resumed eating enough.

We have already discussed that extreme dieting (under-eating) sends signals to your brain to binge eat, that binge eating becomes a habit, and that eating more throughout the day (ending under-eating) can dramatically lesson urges to binge, thus, lessoning binges, periods of compensation, and the likelihood of future urges.

Eating enough for your body is an adjustment period.  It takes trial and error to determine if you have had enough food if you have been in the habit of under-eating.  Often it will feel like you are overeating when you begin to eat enough.  Your body may need some time to adjust to eating enough so be very kind to yourself during this period.  Accept the transition as one that will help you stop binge eating.

This approach should help to encourage you!

The tricky part of binge urges is that while they begin as a survival mechanism your brain uses to keep you from starving, once activated, they become an automatic desire (urge) that is strengthened each time you obey it (each time you binge).

So, every binge increases the likelihood that you will binge again.

This may seem like unfortunate news, but it doesn’t have to be!

Instead, this news can serve you well.  Here is how:

When you feel the urge to binge you have two choices.  Obey it or dismiss it.  Since you already know that you do not want to obey it, you have to choose to dismiss it.

Part 3 of this series advocates eating more food throughout the day to lesson binge urges.  Feeling full and satisfied by your meals definitely reduces the urge to binge, but because of the many emotional layers that are intertwined with the physical action of binge eating, you might find yourself still experiencing urges to binge after you resume a healthy diet.

There are a few things you can do to dismiss the urge to binge that do not take much time and do not require a big fuss:

Ask yourself if you are physically hungry.  Physical hunger is located below the neck.  It’s a sensation in your stomach.  It’s a natural and non-threatening feeling that serves to keep you nourished and energetic throughout the day.

If your answer is that you are physically hungry–eat!

This is a simple solution that does not need alot of time, therapy, or work.  It only requires some food (or patience for you to get some food.  You may have to hold out until eating food is an option).

If you are not physically hungry, simply notice the urge to eat more (to binge eat).

When you notice the urge to binge, you are aware that your brain is sending signals to binge even though you are not physically hungry.

This can feel frustrating so the next thing to do is to accept the urge to binge.

Accept it?  But that sounds like giving up!  Like surrender!

It isn’t.  Not even close.  Accepting an urge is the kindest thing you can do for yourself in this situation.  Notice it.  Feel it (as uncomfortable as it is).  Accept it.  It is not you.  It is a signal your brain has been habituated to send.  Accept it.

How can you accept it?

Many ways.  You can silently (or even aloud) tell yourself that even though you feel the urge to binge eat right now, you are choosing to focus on whatever other task is in front of you in this moment.

You can breath deeply and imagine the urge being lessoned and becoming further and further away with every exhale.

You can remind yourself that your are being strengthened to stop binge eating in this very moment that you choose to not binge eat.  This is a rational and positive approach, but not necessary to stop binge eating.

None of these approaches require anything outside of yourself.  You do not need any special tools.  You do not need to go anywhere, or call anyone, or make any public announcements about your urge.

Just choose to not binge, accept the temporary discomfort of not giving into a meaningless urge, and if you wish, remind yourself that you are getting better at stopping the binge eating habit.

Then witness what happens next:

It passes.

It goes away.  It loses it’s distracting presence.  It fades.  It isn’t something you want anymore.

This approach has been incredibly helpful for me.  After I resumed eating enough for my body, my binge urges lessoned dramatically, but I would still experience them from time to time. Sometimes it was because I really needed to eat more food, but sometimes it was totally random.  In those moments, I had to choose how to move forward.

Modern therapy might encourage you to have a list of things to do for when an urge presents itself.  You might be told to journal, or call a friend, or take a walk, or paint your nails, or go for a drive.  These are all pleasant ideas, but not always an option if you have responsibilities other than breaking your habit to binge.

It is not always an option to go for a walk.  What if you are at work?  You cannot always call a friend.  What if they are out of the country?  And the worse (in my opinion) is painting your nails. Who wants to paint their nails when they are feeling an urge to binge?  I could never get behind that idea.

In my experience, I found that I didn’t even want to do any of those things when I had the urge to binge.  All I wanted to do was binge.  Going for a walk or getting involved in anything else besides eating was not my concern at all.

After I chose to stop binge eating, I wanted an approach to use anytime and anywhere, and I didn’t want to make it such a big deal that I was resisting an urge.  I didn’t want to pay any more attention to it than it was worth.

Accepting my binge urges helped me do this and I think it is worth trying if you find yourself experiencing urges to binge after you are eating enough.

It may feel funny at first, but all new things do.

It is worth trying because it might change your life for the better.

Next we will explore ways that make it easier to accept binge urges.

So, what do you think about choosing to accept the urge to binge?  Have you tried this already Did your urge lesson?  If it persisted, was it because you really needed to eat more food?  What finally led your urge to pass?

Please share your experiences by leaving a comment!

 

 

Image from Tumblr.

Binge Eating is Caused by Dieting, Part 3

This is Part 3 of the Series: Binge Eating is Caused by Dieting.

If you haven’t already, read Part 1 and Part 2.

In Part 3, we will talk about eating enough food to lesson frantic urges to binge eat.

It is my opinion that binge eating is caused by dieting–extreme food restriction and that if you did not have the urge to binge eat, you never would.

Binge eating is an action and requires obeying signals from the brain to uncontrollably eat large amounts of food, usually in a short span of time, usually on the foods you have restricted (but not always), and usually alone.  It is often followed by feelings of regret, shame, and guilt, and a period of compensation (voluntary vomiting, over-exericisng, laxative use, or fasting) known as purging.

Binge eating’s nature is cyclical and it quickly becomes a habit.

Here is the cycle of binge eating:

Extreme dieting (food restriction/not eating enough), urges to binge, binge eating, compensation (purging), repeat.

Note that binge urges follow the act of not eating enough.  It is my opinion that by eating enough, binge urges will be dramatically lessoned.  If you continue to eat enough and lesson your urges to binge, you will binge less.  If you binge less, you will compensate less, and if you compensate less, you will be more likely to sustain eating enough.

So, what is enough?

This is difficult to determine on this blog post because everyone’s “enough” will look different, depending on their weight, height, activity level, genetic coding, and metabolism.  It is generally accepted that a six and a half foot and very active man needs to eat more than a five foot two and fairly active woman, but it is less accepted that the five foot two woman needs quite a bit more than she is eating now (provided she is a dieter).

Your most basic metabolic needs (your resting metabolism–energy needed to be in bed all day) is about ten times your body weight.  If you weigh 130 pounds, you need 1300 calories simply to stay alive.

Just to stay alive!  Forget about anything else.  Getting up to make coffee, catching the train, sitting at your desk to work, and definitely forget about any fitness routine.

Dieters are recommended to eat a very low number of calories each day, generally between 1200-1600.  I’ve seen these numbers published in magazines, on websites, and in books.  These numbers are dangerously low to sustain over time.  They are almost always not enough for anyone and will cause the brain to signal urges to binge because it believes (rightfully) that it is starving.

When I dieted (under-ate), I believed that I should be full and satisfied on about 1500 calories a day while maintaining an intense fitness routine.  I could manage to eat so little for a short amount of time (a week, maybe two), but then I would experience intense and distracting urges to eat everything in sight.  It felt strange, because I was health conscious and desired to eat nutritious foods, but when the urges to eat came, it was as if all my education and goals went out the window.  I would binge eat until I couldn’t eat anymore, regain my senses, and vow to get back on track with my low calorie diet.

And by now you probably know how that went.

I tried sustaining a low calorie diet for many years and found it frightening to imagine eating more to lesson my urges to binge.  I thought I would become a glutton, gain too much weight, or live a very sloppy life.

This is irrational because when you calculate all of the calories consumed during my binges for the week and added them to my low calorie days, my calories were always more than if I just ate enough food without dieting and bingeing.

Let’s say I tried to eat 1500 calories a day all week.  By day seven, I eat my normal 1500 calories but then binge on 3000 calories.  If I were to add my calories for the week, they would average to 1930 calories a day.

That may not sound so bad, but let’s say I binged twice in the same week.  Now my calories averaged at 2360 a day.

It was my experience that the more I dieted, restricted, and binged, the more I did it.  It was habit, and it escalated in intensity and frequency so that my binge days increased over each year and completely undid all of my very low calorie days.

If I were to simply eat more each day, let’s say 2000 calories (still debatably low), I would not only feel much fuller on any given day, but I would end up eating less than I did when dieting and bingeing.

This advice might sound far from everything you have read about losing and maintain weight, and it is, but we are slowly inching closer and closer to changing our beliefs about calories in and calories out and as we do, all of the old numbers we have been a slave to will lose their credibility.

Of course the only way to know for sure if eating more will lesson binge urges is to try it for yourself.  I’m not a fan of absolutistic thinking, so you won’t hear me saying that eating more is the only way to stop binge eating, but I will say it’s a very effective way to lesson binge urges, and the likelihood that you continue to binge eat.

You have probably heard that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over expecting a different result.

That was my approach with dieting, restricting, and binge eating.  I felt like a crazy person as I tried to fix the same problem by doing the same thing that was not working.

Eating more (enough for you) and not bingeing is possible and it will reduce stress that you may feel around food.  As you binge less (and not at all), your health will improve.  Your body will feel better and your mind will be free from all the focus and energy that bingeing requires.

Why not take a look at how much you are eating over the course of a week or two and observe if you are experiencing urges to binge.  If you are, try adding more nutritious foods to your meals. There is no need to count calories or be obsessive about it if you don’t want to.  Accept that you won’t do this perfectly.  Some days you will eat enough, some days less, some days more.  Start small, if you like, until you are comfortable with larger meals.  Choose foods that will nourish your body, eat in a way that is kind to yourself, and then note the intensity and frequency of your binge urges.

You have nothing to lose–except that which you already don’t want!

The next part of this series will explore resisting urges to binge after you are eating enough.

What do you think about eating more throughout the day to lesson binge urges?  Have you tried this approach?

Share your experiences by leaving a comment!

 

Image from Qomics.

Weekend Approach

It’s the weekend!

I live in Los Angeles and there is always so much to do, on any day, but especially weekends.

Movies in the park, museums, beaches, coffee shops, restaurants, concerts, conventions, flea markets–too much to even mention it all!

L.A. is fun and full of a lazy, sunny energy that I’ve grown quite accustomed to.  It’s not unusual to spend a Saturday “hiking”, as we call it, through Griffith Park, or riding bikes down 4th Street at sunset.

Sometimes weekends are spent picking through vintage treasures at the Pasadena Flea Market (although I personally find the best deals at Goodwill and Craigslist), or watching a Marilyn Monroe film at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (it’s not spooky, I promise!).

Weekends are fun.  Sometimes they involve tasks that aren’t all that exciting, but in general they are days to relax, be outside, be with friends and family, and to create memories.

When I was caught up in the obsession of dieting and bingeing, my approach to the weekends wasn’t nearly as romantic (or boring, if you are the type of person who skydives or trains lions).

I didn’t dislike weekends, but I did find myself more focused on how I would maintain perfectly healthy eating or how I would maintain and hide my binge eating.  When I was dieting, I was constantly threatened by events and people that might prevent me from eating, what I deemed, healthy foods.  When I was bingeing, I wasn’t focused on much of anything besides eating as many “off-limit” foods as possible, and then recovering from feeling sick, tired, moody, and depressed.

It was difficult, nearly impossible, to approach life with curiosity, compassion, and creativity in those days.

I look back on all the time I spent being obsessed with food, either not eating it or eating too much of it, and it makes me sad that I habitually chose to place so much emphasis on what I was eating as a means to provide my happiness.  It was narrow-mided and I often felt anxious, worried, and lonely for it.

I don’t think it’s wrong to spend time ensuring you can eat healthy during the weekends.  I think it should definitely be a part of how you plan meals and outings.  Eating healthy makes you feel your best, and gives you energy, and can contribute to a sane and creative mind.  Eating healthy makes things like taking a long hike (or, rather, a rocky walk) or a bike ride much more pleasurable than if you did not eat healthy.  It makes life easier and better.

But the obsession with eating, whether it is rooted in perfectionism, hedonism, or gluttony, can negatively effect your life.  It can take over it.

Of course, we all have the right to choose how we want to approach this.  You might resonate with my experiences and also seek to make your life about more than food, or you might resonate and disagree.

A challenge I have for myself is to approach the weekends (all days, for that matter) with an attitude that is ready to relax, ready to connect with people, ready to find beauty and inspiration in what I see and do, and ready to express love and creativity, and compassion to others and to myself.

It’s hard to get so wrapped up in perfect eating and self-sabotaging bingeing with these goals in mind.

It’s much easier to enjoy life, and much easier to enjoy the journey of healthy eating this way.

But this takes practice and time if you’re not used to it, so if you choose to makes these goals a part of your own life, show yourself patience and kindness when you seem to revert to old ways.    Keep at it.  Keep eating the kindest way you know how, keep choosing acceptance and love for yourself and others, and keep participating in the world around you.

Let me know–how do you approach the weekends?  Has your diet or the way you eat ever prevented you from relaxing and creating positive memories, either by yourself or with other people?

Special Note – If you are currently eating in extreme ways, such as strict dieting or binge eating, and it is something you wish you would stop but feel you can’t, email me!  Let’s chat more about it because I KNOW there is always a way out of these destructive habits.  myrightmindblog@gmail.com

 

Image from DustJacket.

 

Weekend Eating

It’s the weekend!

For anyone who is caught up in the habit of keeping a strict diet during the week, and then “blowing it” over the weekend only to start again on Monday, weekends tend to be highly anticipated and then highly regretted (at least in the food department).

This is common but it doesn’t mean it’s the only way to live.

Here are a few thoughts that may be contributing to this approach followed by statements that contribute to more rational and positive mindsets:

THOUGHT: “I’ve been good all week!  I’m having anything I want and as much as I want today!”

STATEMENT: So, I think I’ve been good this week?  Why is that?  Is it because I ate specific foods and limited my portions?  Do I really believe that makes me “good”?  Would not eating how I ate this week make me “bad”?  While it’s true that there are foods that are better or worse for my body, they never contribute to me being a good or bad person, only to the quality of my health.  Keeping that in mind, it doesn’t seem rational to make poor choices this weekend because I made good choices the rest of the week.  I think I will notice how hungry I am and see what foods are available and base my decisions on those things, instead.

THOUGHT: “It’s been a tough week, I deserve to let loose and eat without restraint!”

STATEMENT: Yes, it has been a tough week.  Things happened that I didn’t prefer and I hope life is not so difficult moving forward, but I am not a wild animal and do not need to “eat without restraint” to calm down.  If I choose to eat recklessly or too much, it might be a distraction for a little while, but it is not an act that I deserve for surviving a difficult week because I don’t use food as a reward or punishment.  Eating wildly would simply be a choice to eat like an animal.  I would rather not behave like an animal around food.

THOUGHT: “It’s so hard to eat healthy during the weekends!  There is so much delicious food around and other people eat it, so why cannot I?”

STATEMENT: It is not hard to eat healthy over the weekends.  It’s hard to dig trenches or to run marathons but choosing to eat in a way that nourishes and respects my body is not hard.  In fact, it gets easier and easier the more I do it.  Yes, there seems to be more access to palatable foods during the weekend, but it is always my choice to eat them or not and I always have that choice.  Since I choose foods that support my health during the week, I am capable of choosing them during the weekend.  What anyone else eats is none of my concern.

This weekend, remember that you are not defined by the foods you eat.  They do not make you a better or worse human being.  Sure, foods impact your energy, mood, attractiveness and body size, but they do not remove your responsibility to think (rationally) for yourself.

You always have the choice to eat enough and to eat nourishing foods.  Likewise, you always have the choice to eat foods that do not positively contribute to your health without them miraculously making you a worse person in need of punishment come Monday.

So, be kind to yourself!

Enjoy the weekend, enjoy eating and enjoy your life!

How do you think about the weekends and food?  Share your thoughts by leaving a comment!

 

Image from Remarkably Retro.

Eating for Right Now

It’s a good idea to get in the habit of asking, “how can I be kind to myself right now?” when you are choosing something to eat.

This question is different than, “What should I eat?” or “What am I supposed to eat?”.  There are enough diets in the world to answer these questions.  All you need to do is look any of them up and you can find rules and menus to last a lifetime, you might never need to think for yourself again!

Asking yourself how you can be kind when choosing what you will eat right now is different because it requires you to be in tune with your body’s needs in this very moment.  Not yesterday or tomorrow or last week or next week, but now.

Now might reveal that your body would do well with protein.  Now might inspire you to choose vegetables as part of or even your whole meal or maybe none at all.  It might lead you to more carbohydrates or more fat or maybe less of everything, because right now, you are not that hungry.

Now will unlikely lead to to eat in a manner that is poor for your health.  It’s unlikely that it will tell you to binge or starve or choose foods that make you feel sick.  Now has your best interest in mind and can be used as a compassionate tool to guide your eating.

Staying present and honest in this very moment will help you make the best choices for your body right now.  Your choices might look different than a diet menu or what the next person is choosing, but that is OK because those things never need to be of your concern, anyway.  Let others also choose their “right now” and everyone wins.

If you find that you have a difficult time deciding on how or what to eat, try offering yourself a bit of kindness and ask what would be best for you right now.

 

Image from Super College Chef.