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,

Sunday, November 24, 2013

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

It is holiday time! We start with Thanksgiving, and we continue into the Christmas Holiday season that will extend all the way to New Year's Day. I am so weary of all of the hoopla about "surviving the holidays".  One well known eating disorder "expert" recently said another name for Thanksgiving is "National Binge Day" and if you are craving pumpkin pie that you might not have enough sweetness or comfort in your life!  Really?? What a way to reinforce food fears!  Whether you are a chronic dieter, have an eating disorder, or are just the average person ... you would swear that we are all facing sheer doom and destruction at this time of the year. Many are trembling with fear and trepidation. Come on! You should have visions of sugar plums dancing and prancing. Celebrations include food, eating, sharing meals, and truly enjoying delicious recipes that are only served once or twice a year. Food and eating should not be placed on a pedestal.  There certainly are many other important aspects of holidays and special celebrations. However, food and eating should not be feared and approached as if you were facing a rabid dog. This is the perfect time of the year to practice intuitive eating principles of eating what you really enjoy, honoring hunger, and acknowledging satisfied.

So, here are some suggestions to help you enjoy, experience, and thrive during the holidays as you continue your journey towards making peace with food, eating, activity and weight issues:

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

Saturday, November 2, 2013

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 27, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 18, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

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

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

10 Reasons for NOT Going on a Diet in 2013!

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

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

Here are my top 10 reasons for encouraging you to not go on a diet in 2013:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  9. You have taste buds for a reason.

  10. Diets don't work!

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

  • Add more veggies to your meals.

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

  • Eat breakfast each morning.

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

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

  • Decrease dependency on eating out.

  • Love the body you have!

  • If your body needs to lose weight, allow the weight loss to happen as a result of gradual, healthful changes you are making in relationship to eating and activity.
Be patient with yourself. Progress not perfection. No guilt!
What are your reasons for not dieting in 2013? Please share!

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