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.

Should You Weigh Yourself?

Should you weigh yourself?

There are a few popular approaches when it comes to stepping onto the scale to check how much you weigh.

Some people say it is a good source of accountability for maintaining their weight.  These people likely weigh themselves daily, or every week, or so.  They tend to know their weight at all times.

Others say that the scale is meaningless and to throw it out.  They say they rely on how their clothing fits instead of their weight.  These people might know roughly how much they weigh, but they don’t make a habit out of reminding themselves out of a conviction that it doesn’t really matter.

And, there are others, who haven’t decided one way or the other what to do with their scale. They get anxious just thinking about stepping on it, and they get anxious just thinking about throwing it out.  Mostly, these people are just anxious.

It’s interesting to note how people approach their scale and how much power they give it.

A generalization is that those people who weigh themselves daily care alot, or more likely, too much, about how much they weigh.  They are known to be happy when they see lower numbers on the scale and upset when they see  higher numbers (assuming they are maintaining or trying to lose weight).  Their whole day might very well be a reflection of the number they saw on the scale earlier that morning.  They might eat more or less based on their weight.  They might think they are a better or worse person depending on the number they see.

But this is only a generalization.  There exists many people who are in the habit of weighing themselves regularly who are not in the least tempted to base their success, happiness, or morality on what the scale reads.  They may make adjustments in what they eat based on how much they weigh, but it only goes as far as that.  They don’t view themselves differently or expect others to view them differently if their weight goes up or down.

In the same way, it would be a generalization to say that the people who rely on their clothing as the indicator of their weight, were of a balanced approach (as popularly taught).  They may not routinely weigh themselves, but they may be caught up habitual self acceptance or self hatred based on their body weight (how their clothing fits on it) on any given day.  They have the same mindset as the person who relies on a magic number on the scale only it is directed at a number on their wardrobe tag.

The truth is, no matter what you do with your scale, or if you have one at all, it doesn’t really matter.

There is alot of advice about the scale, these days.  People get very passionate about the topic. They may say to step on it daily to keep yourself motivated (to either maintain, lose or gain weight) or get it out of your house immediately because your weight is only your gravitational force to planet Earth (interesting point).

The important thing to remember about scales and using or not using them, is that it is your choice.

If you want to weigh yourself, you can.  If you don’t, you don’t have to.  If you want to remain anxious about the whole idea, so be it.

Know that no matter what the scale reads, it is your choice with how you will respond.  No matter how your clothes fit, you get to decide how you will feel about yourself and your day. And if you decide to remain undecided, you get to choose how you will deal with not knowing.

So, do what works for you.  Use your scale, or not, or never decide.  It is my opinion that your weight has nothing to do with anything noteworthy about today, but again, that is up for you to decide.

What do you think about this?  Do you think it matters how much you weigh?  How much others weigh?  Do you have a better day when you weigh a specific number or does it not mean very much to you?

Leave a comment to share your opinion!

 

Image from Smart Alex.

 

 

 

Image from Pinterest.

Eating Enough to Reduce Urges to Binge, Part 4

This is Part 4 of the Series: Eating Enough to Reduce Urges to Binge.

You can read what has been posted so far by clicking on the link above.

In Part 1, I wrote about how under-eating can lead to urges to binge.  Part 2 went over the physical and mental signs of under-eating, and Part 3 gave examples of what under-eating might look like for the average person who wants to eat healthy, but very well might be under-eating and experiencing urges to binge.

Part 4 will offer suggestions on increasing your eating to reduce the urge to binge.

It seems crazy to suggest increasing how much you eat when we are bombarded with the message to eat less.  Eating less has its place, and is an effective way to lose unwanted weight, but eating less is not usually the most effective approach for those who are caught up in the habit of binge eating.  Eating less is usually what triggers the actual urges to binge, increasing the likelihood of binge eating.

It is worth considering removing the period of dieting (under-eating) that leads up to urges to binge as a means to experience less binge urges.

This is a practical approach, but may be very intimidating or even scary to the person who is used to under-eating and bingeing.

I suggest exploring this approach as quickly or slowly as it appeals to you.  The reason for this is that our actions tend to follow our thoughts (beliefs) and if you do not believe that eating more will reduce your urges to binge, you likely will not enjoy the process of eating enough and you might not stick with it.

This does not mean that eating more is not an effective approach to reducing binge urges because it certainly is!

It only means that eating enough will be frustrating and uncomfortable for you if you do not believe that it is a plausible practice.

Bingeing is a physical act that requires physical action to end, but all physical actions begin as a thought, often subconsciously and emotionally.  Putting the effort into ending binge eating requires both a physical and emotional change in approach, so go easy on yourself as you explore the two, and get comfortable with your own growth, no matter what its speed.

Some benefits of eating more throughout the day besides experiencing less urges to binge are:

  • Feeling more satisfied after meals.
  • Feeling more satisfied after snacks (if you need them at all).
  • Experiencing less anxiety around food.
  • Experiencing freedom to think about more than just food and eating.
  • Reduced discomfort from dieting.
  • Increased concentration.
  • Increased focus.
  • Increased sexual desires.
  • Improved moods.
  • Improved digestion (assuming you are bingeing less or not at all).
  • Increased ability to eat along the usual meal schedules of those around you (this is more of a convenience).
  • Bingeing less (and not at all).
  • Less regret, guilt, and shame attributed to bingeing.
  • Weight loss (if it was needed).
  • More stable hormones.
  • Freedom to enjoy your life without the burden of binge eating.

So, on that positive note, here are some ways that you can increase your eating which will reduce your urges to binge:

  • Increase the portion sizes of your meals.  If you have two eggs for breakfast, try adding an extra egg (or two).
  • Add new foods to your meals.  If you have eggs for breakfast, try adding some avocado or some spinach, or some olives, or fresh fruit.  If you have yogurt, try adding some macadamia nuts.
  • Add healthy fats to your meals.  Fats will keep you fuller longer and definitely add to your satiety levels.  You can experiment with olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, butter, ghee or even lard (best from organic sources).  No need to worry about the extra calories from a serving of fat–extra calories are the whole idea in this experiment!
  • Increase the amount of protein you eat at each meal.
  • Add some satisfying carbohydrates to your meals.  Carb have gotten a bad wrap over the last twenty or so years, but provided you do not base your entire diet on them, they can be a very beneficial addition to your diet (especially if you exercise or are a female with hormonal imbalances).  Try sweet potatoes, white potatoes, yucca, carrots, beets, white rice, bananas, or plantains.  I generally advise sticking with vegetables and fruits as your carb choices simply because gram for gram, they are more nutritious than grains and legumes (but do not feel that you cannot have grains or legumes!).

These are only a few ideas for increasing your food intake so that you are eating enough and experiencing less urges to binge.

You do not have to follow this advice, as it is always your choice how to go about this, but you will probably find it relatively easy to increase your food intake with healthy, whole foods, and you will probably find them delicious.  Your meals will become more palatable, and you will feel satisfied, calm, and able to go on with the rest of your life as they are digesting and providing you energy.

I caution against adding processed foods and foods high in sugar to your diet as you increase your food intake.  The reason for this is that these foods are known to not satisfy, not leave you feeling calm or clear, and do not offer benefits to your digestion, skin, joints, and mental well-being.  For someone who has dieted and binged, healing what has been damaged will do wonders not only for the obvious physical reasons, but for your mental health.

Know that you may choose less than healthy foods to increase your intake and it will have no impact on your morality–only your physical and mental health.  You can still stop urges to binge with less than healthy foods, but it might be more difficult.  This is for you to determine.

Mathematically, implementing a few of the ideas above each day can increase your calories by as little as 100 or several hundred.  If this frightens you, remember that if you are dieting and bingeing, you are eating very little followed by periods of eating amounts that are far too much for anyone.  Eating increased portions throughout the day, and not bingeing, always ends up being less food over the long-term, than dieting and bingeing.

Remember that trying to maintain a diet of 1,600 calories or less is likely what got you into the cycle of dieting and bingeing.  Do not feel guilty about increasing your daily calories.  Most people do best on at least 2,000 calories a day.  If this sounds crazy, think about how crazy dieting and bingeing has felt.

It is worth trying something new.

Experiment with this if you are currently dieting and bingeing.  You might come to enjoy this way of eating and you will certainly enjoy less urges to binge.

In Part 5, I will write about bingeing even after you are eating enough.  Bingeing begins as a way for your body to receive enough nutrients after a period of starvation, but often becomes habitual.  The good news is that habits can be changed so read on as we continue the Series: Eating Enough to Reduce Urges to Binge.

For now, leave a comment if you have tried any of these ideas and let us know how they have helped to reduce your urges to binge.

Image from Tumblr.

Eating Enough to Reduce Urges to Binge, Part 3

This is Part 3 of the Series: Eating Enough to Reduce Urges to Binge.

You can read the previous posts by clicking on the link above.

In Part 1 I wrote about how dieting (under-eating) can lead to urges to binge eat.  In Part 2, I listed the physical and mental signs of under-eating.

In Part 3, I will write more specifically about what under-eating might look like on a plate.

This is difficult to write because everyone needs a different amount of food and sometimes eating very little is the natural way for someone to eat and it does not lead to urges to binge.

This post is only exploring under-eating with urges to binge.

If you experience urges to binge eat and you have been dieting for any length of time, it is worth considering that you do not eat enough.

So, what is not enough food?

An egg for breakfast, a salad with half a cup of tuna for lunch, a banana with a tablespoon of almond butter as a snack, and broccoli with a chicken leg for dinner.

This is about 600 calories.  This is not enough.

How about two eggs for breakfast, a bigger salad with a cup of tuna for lunch, a banana with two tablespoons of almond butter as a snack, and broccoli, a sweet potato and two chicken legs for dinner.

This is about 1,030 calories.  This is not enough.

Ok, how about three eggs for breakfast, a bigger salad with a cup of tuna and half of an avocado for lunch, a banana with two tablespoons of almond butter and a soft boiled egg for a snack, and broccoli, a sweet potato with a tablespoon of coconut oil, and two chicken legs for dinner.

This is about 1,460 calories.  This is still not enough.

Are you surprised that so much food is so low in calories?

Or do you think sample meals number two and three are not low in calories?

Over the last few decades, we have been told to limit our calories and increase our fitness to lose weight.  We’ve been doing this, but overall our weight has not decreased or even stabilized. Rather, it has gone up.

Many attribute this to the vast supply of processed foods available today (processed foods lack nutrition so despite being higher in calories, people tend to eat more food in general on a processed food diet because the body is never satiated–this leads to weight gain).

While there certainly is a direct correlation with increased processed foods and increased weight, most of the people who are not eating enough are not eating a diet made up of low nutrition, processed foods.

They are generally health conscious eaters, aware of nutrition ,and attempting to put quality ingredients into their body.

These people want to eat the right things, and not too much of them, and are likely to diet as an attempt to maintain or decrease their weight.

They might follow a meal plan from one of the samples listed above.

For most, none of the samples listed is enough food.  For most, all of the samples listed above will lead to urges to binge eat because they are two low in calories and nutrients.

They are starvation diets.

Starvation diets are diets extremely low in calories.  In today’s magazines and diet books, 1,460 calories diets are commonly preached for weight loss, but remember the Minnesota Starvation Experiment of 1944-1945? In this study, over thirty men were put on diets of 1,570 calories per day and most of them suffered extreme consequences.

Here is an excerpt about this experiment (taken from the link found above):

“Subjects had to be male, single and demonstrate good physical and mental health (largely based on the newly developed Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory). They also had to show an ability to get along well with others under trying circumstances and an interest in relief work. The final 36 men were selected from more than 200 volunteers and in November 1944 made their way to the University of Minnesota to begin their service.

The research protocol called for the men to lose 25 percent of their normal body weight. They spent the first three months of the study eating a normal diet of 3,200 calories a day, followed by six months of semi-starvation at 1,570 calories a day (divided between breakfast and lunch), then a restricted rehabilitation period of three months eating 2,000 to 3,200 calories a day, and finally an eight-week unrestricted rehabilitation period during which there were no limits on caloric intake. Their diet consisted of foods widely available in Europe during the war, mostly potatoes, root vegetables, bread and macaroni. The men were required to work 15 hours per week in the lab, walk 22 miles per week and participate in a variety of educational activities for 25 hours a week. Throughout the experiment, the researchers measured the physiological and psychological changes brought on by near starvation.

During the semi-starvation phase the changes were dramatic. Beyond the gaunt appearance of the men, there were significant decreases in their strength and stamina, body temperature, heart rate and sex drive. The psychological effects were significant as well. Hunger made the men obsessed with food. They would dream and fantasize about food, read and talk about food and savor the two meals a day they were given. They reported fatigue, irritability, depression and apathy. Interestingly, the men also reported decreases in mental ability, although mental testing of the men did not support this belief.

For some men, the study proved too difficult. Data from three subjects were excluded as a result of their breaking the diet and a fourth was excluded for not meeting expected weight loss goals.”

What do you think of this?  Knowing how this effected over thirty healthy men over sixty years ago, why are we advised to eat 1,600 calories a day (or fewer) by popular voices?  It seems like the very opposite of what would be good for us, especially when you factor in fitness (which is becoming more and more intense and chronic every year!).

Extreme dieting–not eating enough–has consequences.  If kept up for too long by anyone (which is going to be a different set time for everyone), it can have serious implications on your body and your mind.

I realize there are people who seem to do just fine on very low calorie diets.  They appear healthy both physically and mentally.  They do not have obsessive thoughts about food, about their body, and they do not have urges to binge.

This post is not about them.

This post is for anyone who is trying to maintain a very low calorie diet with urges to binge.

Consider the effects of not eating enough.  Consider eating more.  Perhaps it will change your life for the better by reducing urges to binge eat.

In the next post, we will go over how you can begin eating enough.

What do you think about very low calorie diets?  Have you tried to maintain one?  Did you notice increased urges to binge?  Do you think the sample meals listed above are too low in calories?

Your comments are appreciated, it helps us all make sense of the issue.

And, if you were wondering, almost every single “healthy” lunch you find in your grocer’s freezer aisle is not enough food.

This is why the vending machine down the hall is so appealing every day at about two or three o’ clock.

Image from Flickr.

Why I Binged on Food for 10 Years

Not unlike many people, I decided I wanted to lose weight when I was in college.  I had gained the average 15 pounds (maybe more, OK, it was 30) and felt defeated that none of my clothes were fitting anymore.  I purchased a fitness magazine and starting tracking my calories online.

I followed a calorie-restricted diet and lost alot of weight.  I lost too much, but that is a topic for another post. While losing weight, I had extreme urges to binge on food, and I would binge.

During a binge I felt uncontrollable, not like myself, and powerless to resist my intense desires for huge amounts of food.  This was frustrating, to say the least.

I didn’t realize that I was not eating enough for my body to feel satiated.  I was starving.  Consequently, I would experience urges to eat uncontrollably at random times.  I always gave in, felt relief to finally eat and then, of course regretted it.  But I always obeyed the urge and repeated the cycle.

I did this for ten years.

My bingeing was followed by fasting.  I have never purged in the form of self-induced vomiting and I’m too lazy to work out for hours on end to burn off the extra calories.  I would rather just skip a meal (or two, or three).

I thought that once I started eating normal portions of food again and weighed a healthy amount,  the binge urges would go away and no longer disrupt my sanity. But they didn’t. The urges continued after I resumed eating more food.  This was confusing.

It made no sense that I would desire to binge eat when I was eating enough.

So I read alot on the topic.  I became obsessed at learning everything about this weird and embarrassing way to eat.  The best books I have read explaining binge urges are Brain Over Binge by Kathryn Hansen, and Taming the Feast Beast by Jack and Lois Trimpey.  If you binge eat, read these books.  If you have any habit you feel you cannot kick, read these books.

It turns out that bingeing is habitual.  It starts out as a survival mechanism the body uses to get enough food but then it seems to just be a learned behavior.  A habit.  A normal way to eat.

People often think bingeing is associated with a traumatic past or feeling insecure, or an inability to cope with stress.  I thought these things, too. But I examined my past and I could not find trauma that required harming my body with absurd amounts of food (actually, I couldn’t find trauma at all, I really enjoyed my childhood).  I took a look at my confidence level and didn’t find it low enough to demand binge eating, and I could think of alot of other coping mechanisms for my stress that did not involve eating food.

It perplexed me that I was bingeing. I would binge in many different emotional states.  It was not limited to stress.  It could be when I was happy or tired or apathetic or excited or afraid.  There was really no dominant pattern.

It became obvious to me that I was not bingeing to improve my life, I was doing it because I was doing it.  I did not like that I did it, but it was easy to do and became my normal.

It did not matter that I was a healthy weight and that I ate enough.  I had learned to binge and my brain would signal to do it and I would.  Every time this happened, I strengthened the habit making it more likely that I would do it again.

After I learned that my bingeing was a result of habit, I was able to separate my morality and sense of self from the urges I continued to feel.  They became less threatening and I learned that they were tolerable, resistible and even meaningless.

I did not resist my binge urges right away.  It took experimenting with resisting a binge urge, actually resisting it, and giving in to them for me to really grasp how they were influencing me.  I started to change my beliefs about binge urges.  I decided I no longer had to obey them and that I would be physically fine, and better off, if I didn’t.

Other people have had different experiences with this.  This is just my own.

It was exciting to resist urges to binge.  I didn’t die.  I didn’t feel very much discomfort, to my surprise.  I actually felt happy that I could decide to take better care of my body.  It was rewarding. I noticed that my binge urges were the strongest if I had not eaten enough throughout any given week.  They were stronger if I had overeaten at any one meal and they were strong when I would have foods high in sugar.  They were less when I ate more protein and fat.

Today I use my experiences with resisting urges to binge to my advantage.  I aim to eat protein, fat, and vegetables.  I avoid sugar (mostly) and processed foods.  I know these things help minimize and even remove binge urges so it’s worth it to me to be mindful of what I eat.

I realize that if I don’t eat foods that minimize binge urges, and I indeed experience the desire to binge, that I do not have to.  I never have to.  No one has to.

Knowing this, and because I believe it, my life has changed.  My thoughts have changed, too.  Bingeing no longer gets the best of me and I’m able to see it for what it is–a habit that can be changed.  My binge urges have lessoned tremendously and I’m able to enjoy life so much more.

When I do have an urge to binge, I notice it and allow it to pass.  It always passes.

What do you think about binge eating being a habit?  Have you had an experience with binge urges?  Do you tend to obey them or resist them?

Share your experiences by leaving a comment!

You can also email me at myrightmindblog@gmail.com.

 

Image from Under the Root.

When You Feel Great But Have Not Lost Weight

Maybe you have experienced something like this:

You are eating great, really staying on track with nutritious foods and serving sizes that are enough for your body.  Your meals support your health, make you feel your best and allow you to think, move and sleep better than ever.  You’re taking time to be kind to your body and you feel like it’s paying off.  Your jeans are fitting looser and you’re performance time in the gym (or out in the neighborhood, if you prefer nature) is improving.

This is working!“, you think, and you’re feeling pretty darn good.

So, you step on the scale and are sure that you will be down some weight.

But you are not.

Immediately you furrow your brow and feel perplexed about the last week you had.  You know, the week where you were eating the best foods for your body and thinking clearly and getting enough sleep and moving and simply enjoying life?  The week that you thought these lifestyle changes were working?

And, now, here you are, standing on a scale that reads the same number as when you weren’t doing any of these positive things.  What gives?

It can be tempting to use a scale that measures your body’s gravitational force to the earth as the measure of your healthy eating and living success.  When the scale reads up, your body feels a quick shudder as you remember last week’s indulgences and time on the couch and when it reads down, you celebrate (maybe do a little dance) and think you are on the right path.

But what does it mean when the scale doesn’t budge at all?

Were your efforts in vain?  Were the positive feelings about the new habits you committed to a silly joke?  Are you wasting your time?  Maybe you did not try hard enough and you need to eat even less and work out even more?  Worse and least helpful, maybe throw in the towel?  You’ll never get the results you want so why even try at all?

Don’t give into this thinking!  Replace it immediately with thoughts that are actually true and positive.

The scale measures your weight–in pounds, ounces, kilograms, whatever measurement method you prefer.  That is it.  That is all it does.  We could finish here.

But let’s dig deeper.

Yes, the scale measures weight, but it does not measure your worth, your ability to improve your health, your determination, your credibility and, very importantly, it does not measure your progress.

Really.  It doesn’t.

Of course, weighing less is a natural occurrence after your body sheds unwanted fat (or muscle).  And of course, weighing more is a natural occurrence after your body gains fat (or muscle), but weighing less, more, or even the same is not always directly related to the progress you are making as it relates to your diet and lifestyle.

You are probably familiar with different reasons you weigh more or less throughout any given day.  You lose weight because you drank less the day before (and you’re thirsty for it today).  You gain weight because you drank more the day before.  You retain water because it’s that time of the month.  You retain water because you ate salt (or any food, for that matter).  We could go on and on about why the scale reads higher or lower or stays the same but that is not the important idea, here.

The idea is that the scale will change from time to time.  It will go up and down, then up, then down, then down, then maybe up and it will stay the same.

And this will keep happening.

This is OK and to be expected so remember that when you weigh yourself, you’re only seeing a number that may have very little to do with the healthy, positive changes you are making.  It will go up and down and stay the same but it does not reveal how healthy you are.

It doesn’t remind you that you are replacing negative and untrue thoughts about your body with thoughts that are positive and true.  It doesn’t remind you that you are worthwhile to take care of simply because you are a human being and it doesn’t offer you any information about yourself besides a number that doesn’t matter to anyone else, anyway.

You are your own person and you can choose to weigh yourself (or not) as often as you like.  But if you are tired of measuring your progress according to what a scale says, know that you don’t have to and you are better off if you don’t.

Track your progress by how your body feels.  How it moves and sleeps and digests and fits into your clothing.  Track it by how your willingness to explore more positive approaches to life is expanding and how your peace of mind is fueling the capability to keep growing into an amazing individual.

When you feel great but have not lost any weight, well, then, so be it.

 

Image from Guitar Town.