Tag Archive | Believe

Tips for “Normal” Eating

The following information is the best I’ve seen, as a basic model for trying to normalize disordered eating. It is especially geared for those individuals who have been chronic dieters. 

No matter how many years or decades you have overeaten or how many diets have failed you, you still can learn how to become a “normal” eater—eating when you are hungry, choosing satisfying foods, remaining aware while eating and enjoying food, and stopping when you are full or satisfied.

 

Note: You did not fail on these diets. These diets failed you.

To succeed at eating “normally”, you will need to:

  • Focus like a laser on eating “normally”
  • Stay persistent like a dog digging for a bone
  • Not expect overnight success
  • Switch your attention from the scale to your appetite
  • Learn effective life skills to manage stress and internal distress

Disregulated eaters can learn how to eat “normally.” Here are some tips to speed you on your way.

Using self-talk

Learn “normal” eating skills: Look in the mirror daily and tell yourself you can learn the skills of “normal” eating.

Think of foods as nutritional and non-nutritional: Instead of thinking of foods as “good” or “bad,” consider them as nutritional or non-nutritional. “Good” and “bad” are moral terms that are best avoided in the food arena.

Give yourself praise: Do not put yourself down for the mistakes you make with food. Instead, lavishly praise yourself for your successes, even the tiniest ones.

Try a different approach: If experience tells you that diets do not keep your weight off, do not try to convince yourself that you should diet. Instead, give yourself points for trying a different approach.

Become your own cheerleader: Never say anything to yourself that you would not say to a young child you love, including calling yourself stupid, hopeless, bad, a failure, or worthless. Become your own cheerleader by generating positive thoughts about yourself and your progress.

Avoid all-or-nothing thinking: Do not use words like “never” and “always.” Remind yourself that most of life is not black and white, but gray. Think incrementally.

Do not dwell on untrue comments: Detoxify negative things people say about or to you that are untrue, rather than repeating them to yourself. Remember that what people say belongs to them, not to you, even if your name is attached to their words.

Connect to your emotions: Ask yourself often how you are feeling, so you can connect more easily to your emotions, but explore only with curiosity, not condemnation.

Stop judging yourself harshly: Develop self-compassion. Treat yourself lovingly. Practice speaking to yourself with extreme esteem.

Keep a positive attitude: Do not keep telling yourself that learning to become a “normal” eater is hard, because saying so only programs you to find the work more difficult. Instead, substitute words like challenging or doable.

 

Recognizing hunger

Rate your hunger: Check in with yourself often to see how hungry you are by using descriptions such as “not hungry,” “moderate,” “very,” and “famished” or a 1-10 scale.

Evaluate if you are hungry: Every time you think about food, ask yourself if you really are hungry enough to eat or if you actually need something else.

Consider having smaller meals: Experiment with eating smaller meals more frequently.

Think about hunger as a signal: It means that you need fuel, not that you have to go out and seek the most fantastic eating experience of your life.

Know what hunger means: Practice believing that hunger is for fuel and pleasure, not for meeting emotional needs.

 

Choosing satisfying foods

Choose for yourself: Do not get hung up on what other people are eating. Instead, ask yourself what you would like to eat.

Forget about good and bad: Remind yourself that foods fall on a nutritional continuum (high value/low value), not on a moral continuum (good/bad).

Make a satisfying choice: Never eat without first stopping to consider what you want. Spend time making your decision by tuning into your appetite.

Stay clear of guilt or shame: Refrain from allowing guilt or shame to contaminate your eating decisions. Avoid secret eating.

Choose foods that you like: Do not eat foods that you do not find satisfying or enjoyable. Eating them will make you think that you are on a diet.

 

Eating with awareness and enjoyment

Look before you eat: Before you eat, look at your food, its portion size, and presentation. Breathe deeply. Look again before taking a mouthful.

Chew every mouthful thoroughly: Chewing a lot helps to thoroughly release the flavor of foods.

Let food sit on your tongue: This allows your taste buds to absorb the flavor and transmit messages about your appetite to your brain.

Talk or eat: When you are talking, stop eating. When you are eating, stop talking.

Stay connected: Pay attention to your body’s appetite signals while you are eating.

Forget about guilt and shame: Push away guilt and shame while you are eating. Focus only on sensory pleasure.

Pause while you are eating: Think about how you are feeling about your food in terms of quality and quantity.

Know when to stop eating: Stop eating when flavor intensity declines, as it is bound to do. Do not try to polish off all of the food in front of you. Instead, aim for the moment when flavor peaks and you feel an internal “ah” of satisfaction—then stop.

Evaluate how full you are: Keep asking yourself while you are eating, “Am I still hungry?” and “Am I satisfied?”

 

Stopping when you are full or satisfied

Know the definitions: Think of “full” as having enough food (fuel) in your stomach and “satisfied” as reaching thehigh point of pleasure.

Quantify fullness and satisfaction: Use words, such as “nearly full,” “too full,” or “just right,” or a 1-10 scale to rate fullness and satisfaction.

Tell your body: When you feel full or satisfied, focus on that sensation, and broadcast it to your whole body.

Disconnect from food: When you are done eating, put down your utensils, push away your plate, and get up, if possible. At least mentally move on. Do whatever you need to do to disconnect yourself from the food.

Decide when enough is enough: Make sure you do not focus on food that is left in front of you. Recognize that you do not have to finish it or clean your plate.

Changing your beliefs:

 

From: To:
“I need to diet to lose weight.” “Diets do not work long term.”
“This is too hard.” “I can learn to do this over time.”
“This will take too long.” “If I do not change now, I will only end up back in this same place again, so I might as well get going on it.”
“Losing weight is the most important thing.” “I will lose weight if I honor my appetite and learn to eat ‘normally.’”
“I am bad/worthless/ugly if I am overweight.” “I accept my body as it is and still will try to improve it.”

 

Stopping emotional eating

Consider your feelings: If you have the urge to eat when you are not hungry, identify the emotion you are feeling.

Think of a different response: Remind yourself that feelings need an appropriate response—not food.

Know the emotions that trigger unwanted eating: Boredom, loneliness, anxiety, shame, guilt, disappointment, confusion, and helplessness can trigger unwanted eating. Look for more effective ways of dealing with these feelings.

Keep a feelings log: This will help you keep track of what is going on inside of yourself all day long.

Reduce stress: This will lessen frustration, helplessness, and the overwhelmed feeling you sometimes have that may drive you to eat.

Take care of yourself: Make sure you are taking care of yourself (with rest, sleep, hobbies, and fun) at least as well as you take care of others.

Learn from your behavior: If you find yourself eating when you are upset, do not take it out on yourself. Treat yourself with compassion and curiosity. Think about your behavior as a learning experience.

Find help: If you have a history of trauma or abuse, get help through therapy. A strong correlation exists between such a history and emotional eating and weight gain.

Take responsibility for yourself: Do not blame others for your emotional eating. Take accountability for your actions.

Build emotional muscle: Tell yourself that you can bear any emotion and practice doing so. You will find that the emotional muscle you build is amazingly strong and enduring.

 

References and recommended readings

Koenig KR. Nice Girls Finish Fat: Put Yourself First and Change Your Eating Forever.New York,NY: Fireside/Simon and Schuster; 2009.

Koenig KR. The Food and Feelings Workbook: A Full Course Meal on Emotional Health.Carlsbad,CA: Gürze Books; 2007.

Koenig KR. The Rules of “Normal” Eating: A Commonsense Approach for Dieters, Overeaters, Undereaters, Emotional Eaters, and Everyone in Between!Carlsbad,CA: Gürze Books; 2005.

Koenig KR. What Every Therapist Needs to Know About Treating Eating and Weight Issues.New York,NY: WW Norton and Co; 2008.

Contributed by Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, MEd

 

 

 

 

Share on Facebook

Accomplishments!

When you are in the throes of your illness, is it hard for you to see and appreciate your accomplishments? Does it feel like even when you achieve a positive step toward recovery, that others want more and more from you? Does it ever seem like when you accomplish a goal toward recovery, that you have a hard time accomplishing the goal repeatedly? Do you minimize the steps you take because there are numerous others that you haven’t accomplished yet?

Hopefully this post will help you develop a new found respect for the steps of your recovery.

Remember, first and foremost, that your eating disorder didn’t develop in a day, or a month, or perhaps even a year. If you have had an eating disorder for a “short” or a “long” time, the seeds of the disorder took time to develop, infiltrate your thoughts and manifest in behaviors. I’ve never met someone with an eating disorder who couldn’t trace “issues” back to a time period that predated the actual diagnosis. An eating disorder doesn’t begin on the day you are diagnosed with it. In this regard, you need to understand that your disordered thoughts and behaviors around food, developed over time.

It is an accomplishment in itself to be able to look at the specific behaviors and thoughts you currently have and identify which ones are disordered. Because eating disorders develop over time, people who suffer often aren’t even sure what is “normal” and what is “disordered”.  Differentiating between healthy and disordered thoughts and behaviors is accomplishment #1! Congratulate yourself if you have been able to sometimes discern (not necessarily always) between healthy and disordered thoughts and behaviors. This step is also is made much more attainable with the help of a professional who can assist you in gaining perspective, and challenge the thoughts and behaviors that you may have thought were “normal”.

Any single time you are able to act opposite of what your eating disordered voice says is “right”, that is a huge accomplishment. For example, a client of mine was able to successfully improve her dinner this past week and feel the fullness that accompanied it. Her eating disordered voice told her she was out of control for eating the additional amount, but she did it anyway. She called me right after the first successful dinner, because she was so proud of herself and couldn’t wait to share the good news!

When you can take any single step toward leading a more fulfilling life, you have achieved a real accomplishment. A client of mine challenged herself to go out to a diner for breakfast with her family. She ordered something that was a “challenge food”. She overcame her fear and disordered thoughts and had a successful meal and rewarding experience with her family. She took a very important step in her recovery as she gets ready to go off to college.

Any time you can avert a single binge type experience, you have achieved a step that is enormous. This week, a client was mentally “preparing” to binge because she had “time” to engage in the behavior. She was able to slow down her thoughts enough to ask herself if the binge was what she truly wanted. She asked herself if there was a purpose for the binge that she could identify. She asked herself if there was any way she could delay the binge for a little while to give herself the chance to do something else to express what she was feeling or experiencing. She asked herself how she would feel after the binge was over. After she spent time asking and answering these questions, and taking some time to engage in a self-care activity, she was successful in averting the binge. She felt great about the accomplishment, even though she couldn’t replicate it again for a few days.

Any single time you can question yourself or challenge a thought or behavior and redirect it, you are winning the battle. An adult client had a special occasion to attend. She wanted to wear a dress that she had worn to a previous occasion. She questioned if it would fit because she hadn’t worn it in a while and wondered if it was going to be too tight. She was tempted to try it on anyway but asked herself “how am I going to feel if it is too tight? Will I beat myself up? Will I judge myself? Will it ruin my mood?” She decided she was too vulnerable and wasn’t willing to chance the thoughts and feelings that the experience would bring, so she didn’t try the dress on. Instead, she wore a beautiful blouse and pants and was able to take the focus off her body and enjoy her happy occasion.

Any single time you are able to catch yourself saying mean things to yourself related to your behaviors, and replace a mean thought with a neutral or positive thought, you are accomplishing a huge step in recovery. A client I have seen for quite a long time, consistently falls in the trap of beating herself up after she has engaged in a disordered behavior. She says things to herself that she would never say to another person, because they are cruel, unfair, and untrue. She says these things because she feels defeated, angry, and frustrated at herself for not being able to consistently avoid certain eating disordered behaviors. For the first time recently, she was willing to replace the unkind words with compassionate words (even though, at first, she didn’t believe the kind words). She began to say things to herself like “I’ll get there. I am trying really hard. I’m going to put this behind me and move past it. This behavior doesn’t make me a bad person. I am a good person with a bad illness. I’m doing the best I can.” In replacing the cruel words with words of kindness, she was able to slowly notice that her behaviors lessened a little.

Unfortunately, others in your life may not “see” your accomplishments because of their own fears, frustrations, lack of understanding, etc. They may also seem like they want more and more. Try not to let their lack of understanding, lack of compassion, or fear, discourage you. You need to appreciate and embrace the little victories!

Try not to get discouraged either, when you can’t seem to string together your little victories. New patterns of thinking and acting take time. It isn’t easy to translate new healthy insights into skills consistently at first. Skill-building takes time and persistence. Think of it like you would think of another type of skill-building. Let’s say, for example, you were planning on learning a new language, like Spanish (if you are English-speaking). You wouldn’t expect that you would be speaking conversational Spanish in a month. You would first learn how to read and write a few words. Then you might learn a few short phrases. Then, perhaps you would learn longer sentences, etc. Each word you learn is an accomplishment, but speaking conversational Spanish would take much longer.

In pursuit of achieving a full recovery, over the course of time, each of your single accomplishments will add up. Celebrate each one right now! Don’t focus too much energy on what is yet ahead of you and don’t let other people’s opinions diminish how you feel about your successes. You will succeed in putting each of your accomplishments together and you will see the big picture of recovery. Keep moving forward…one little accomplishment at a time!

 

Share on Facebook

Donna’s Top Ten Things to Tell Yourself in Those Moments When Your ED is Trying to Drag you Down!

When you are feeling beaten down by your eating disorder or questioning recovery, what do you say to yourself??? Here’s my top ten things to say to yourself when you feel like you need to reinforce staying in recovery.

  1. None of my problems will get better if I act on my eating disorder urges right now. Nothing ever gets better if I stay sick.
  2. Using this behavior right now is just masking the real problem. What am I trying to “accomplish” by using it? What is this urge trying to tell me?
  3. I cannot use a behavior just once and expect that I won’t want to use it again. Eating disordered behaviors are addictive. The more I use them, the more I want to use them.
  4. I need to stay stronger than my illness. I need to fight hard every single meal, every single day.
  5. I need to remember that recovery isn’t supposed to be comfortable. If I am not comfortable right now, I must be doing something right!
  6. Recovery doesn’t have to be perfect right now. I just need to do the best I possibly can in this moment.
  7. It is never too late to start over. No matter how long I have struggled, I can start my life over right now.
  8. My body doesn’t define me. I cannot hurt it through my eating disorder behaviors or other forms of self-harm. My recovery has to involve taking good care of myself – mind, body and soul.
  9. I need to eat food to nourish my body. I need to eat well each and every day for my body to be strong and healthy.
  10. I am NOT my eating disorder. My eating disorder is NOT my identity. It is an illness, not a choice but I am free and able to make the choices I need to make each and every day to get better, find my true identity and live free of this illness.
Share on Facebook

Who are You? What’s Your Passion?

Can you learn to recreate your view of yourself, practice self-acceptance and discover your healthy identity and passion? Whether we’re speaking out loud or running the tape in our heads, what we say has a huge impact on how we feel and what we do. Changing our language about ourselves and finding comfortable ways of standing up for ourselves is important in projecting self-acceptance. Finding for the first time, or uncovering passions that have been overshadowed by our disordered narrow view of ourselves is our doorway to a life of freedom and happiness.

The mirror is not the most accurate reflection of us, because that view depends on our perception, which is misrepresented, distorted by emotion, past hurts, and trauma. Getting a better and more realistic view of ourselves involves creating a “holistic” view. It involves surrounding ourselves with people who love and accept us and who reflect back to us the love and care we give to them. It involves supporting and enhancing the things both physically and psychologically that we like about ourselves and NOT focusing all of our attention on the things we don’t like about ourselves. It also requires a lot of work on our part to remove ourselves from the warped view that marketing imposes on all of us.

A healthy identity is one that is based on passion for things other than our body or our relationship with food. The more attention we devote to our passions, naturally the less time we will have to obsess about our food and weight.

Here are some strategies some of my clients have found in order to recreate and reinforce a new, more positive view of themselves and find their passions in life:

  • I hang out with people who make me feel good about myself. I avoid those who criticize me, those who I feel silently judge me, and those who constantly comment on weight gain or loss (mine or theirs).

 

  • Because I am a large size woman, I work on accepting myself as I am. I continually try to see in myself the non-physical qualities that my children and grandchildren see in me.  I am tired of going up and down the scale trying to be some number or size that is acceptable to society or me.  Even when I have been thin, I couldn’t be happy because of the fear that another binge was just around the corner.

 

  • I no longer deliberately look at younger and smaller women as a means to make myself feel bad about who I am. I now look at women who appear radiant, strong, or smart.

 

  • I found an unconventional role model for myself, someone who epitomizes strength, beauty, intelligence, and compassion. I visualize this person when I feel myself losing power.

 

  • I had a very negative image of myself in my head for many years. It took a long time, but I came up with a healthier image. I even sketched it out so I could be very specific. Now when my negative image comes into my head, I imagine it bursting like a bubble and I consciously replace it with my new creation.

 

  • I am a perfectionist in many ways so I have struggled with giving up the rigid standards I adopted for how I imagine I should look. I am working at accepting myself exactly as I am today and every day. I’ve had to force myself to stop looking at magazines because the images in them just reinforce for me this unrealistic view of “normal.”

 

  • Celebrating my talents instead of concentrating on my weaknesses has become a priority.   When I am calm and feel good about what I’m doing, food is not such a big issue.

 

  • I have worked on writing down the non-physical qualities that others have mentioned about me so that I can remember about what others truly care. I also have to remind myself that no one has ever said that they loved me more or thought I was smarter, funnier, or a better person, during times when I was losing weight. I am who I am, regardless of what the scale says.

 

  • I cleaned out a room in my house that has now become my sewing room. I set up my sewing machine and I started sewing again. I love making beautiful things out of fabric. It makes me feel so good about myself.

 

  • I picked up a few of the hobbies I had given up over the years. I forgot how good it feels to think about things other than my body. I enrolled in a class in a foreign language and joined a travel club where I can meet people and go on trips with others.

 

  • I took a few tennis lessons to refresh my skills and started playing doubles tennis. The last time I played was when I was in college. I was very rusty at first but then the skills and passion came back!

 

  • I gave up a teaching career to support my husband’s career goals and to have a family. I recently went back into the school system to be an aide. I love working with the kids.

 

  • I blew the dust off my stained glass-making equipment and began making small pieces for family and friends. I made a “sun-catcher” in the shape of a heart to put in my kitchen window to remind myself to love and accept myself.

 

  • I began riding horses. I feel completely at peace while on the back of such a strong animal. I gain inner strength from my time with the horses.

 

  • I love to paint with water color paints. I’m not very good at it but I keep reminding myself that I’m not doing it to become a Picasso. I’m doing it because I enjoy it.

 

How do you want to live the rest of your life???  Do you want your eating disorder to define you or can you take some safe steps toward rediscovering the “real” you???

Share on Facebook