Tag Archive | Commitment

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

 

 

 

 

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Stuck and Powerless

How many times have you felt stuck in your recovery or in other areas of your life? Have you ever felt powerless against your eating disorder or powerless in areas of your life making you want your eating disorder even more?

These two states of being are extremely powerful forces in one’s recovery, and in life as a whole. You can either allow them to debilitate you, or help move you to a better place.

In the past month or so, I have felt these two states of being particularly powerfully, not in my eating disorder recovery because I have achieved a recovery that is sacred and won’t be damaged by these states of being, but in several areas of life. It made me think of how difficult life is for my clients when they feel “stuck” and/or “powerless” and how often we experience this in life, and in recovery. Feeling stuck and powerless also forced me to make some decisions. The first decision I had to make was based on one question? “Do I FEEL stuck and powerless, or AM I actually stuck and powerless?” The first part of the question indicates that the way that I feel doesn’t necessarily reflect reality. The other reflects a different scenario entirely. In either case, something needed to be addressed. Through my process, I was much more clearly able to see my clients’ difficulties and thus hopefully enable me to help them more effectively.

Three clients come to mind when I think of being “stuck and powerless”. One is stuck in a few areas of life and therefore feels somewhat powerless. The second is stuck at a place in recovery, is tempted to not push to go further, and is having urges to go back to using eating disordered behaviors to “feel” more “powerful”.  The third feels powerless in her life, and historically turns to eating disordered behaviors to distract herself from the issues in life and when she feels badly about herself, thus perpetuating the feelings of powerlessness.  All three feel a bit defeated, and I can understand why.

Mirriam Webster defines powerless as:

1. Devoid of strength or resources

2. Lacking the authority or capacity to act

Stuck means “firmly positioned in place and difficult to dislodge”. Related words are: bonded, cemented, glued, anchored, clamped, embedded, entrenched, impacted, implanted, attached, bound, fastened, secured, immovable, unyielding.

No wonder these two states of being are difficult to manage.

If you are experiencing these issues, first stop to think and reflect on the first definition of powerless. Are you truly devoid of strength or resources?  Do you completely lack the authority or capacity to act?

Often individuals feel a sense of powerlessness as a result of events of the past. Many individuals learned early on that speaking up for what they needed would be met with negative consequences. This learned helplessness or powerlessness is often perpetuated through adulthood, even when the events are in the past.

You may often think you have no strength left, and your resources aren’t plentiful, BUT dig deeper than you ever have before and look for even the teeniest bit of strength to help you through. It is in there. It may be hidden, but it is inside you and you can find it. You also may need to look even harder for resources and “safe” people. They are out there in all sorts of places – in friends, acquaintances, organizations, religious and other spiritual leaders, therapists, teachers, family members, online resources. If you feel you have exhausted all your resources, begin a new search. Remember also, that YOU are your biggest resource. If you think you lack the capacity to act, reflect on the reasons you think that way. Are you basing your reasons on your past experiences or cognitive distortions (distortions of truth), or are you basing them on facts. Ask someone you trust to help you. Maybe you are unable to “see” ways you can act because you are deeply entrenched in the negative feelings that you have lost healthy perspective. Maybe you cannot act now, because of certain circumstances that are beyond your control, but perhaps you can come up with a plan to act within a certain time frame.  You need to continue to search and search for ways to improve your situation.

 

During the times when you are “stuck” at a place in recovery or in life – firmly positioned in place, embedded or entrenched, try to imagine it as an opportunity.  Being stuck is a clue that perhaps you aren’t ready for the next step. What is the next step? Is it too big? Have you not prepared well enough for it? Are you scared? What is expected of you if you take that step? Is it too unfamiliar? Do you need more time? Do you need to strategize more? Are you afraid of you take that step, there’s no turning back? Are you afraid to trust the process and take the leap of faith? Do you not have the confidence that you will be successful? Pay attention to the thoughts and feelings that are coming up, the powerful thoughts and feelings as well as the subtle ones. Also pay attention to your eating disordered thoughts. When we are stuck, we often revert back to wanting our eating disordered behaviors as a distraction or to sabotage our progress. In my opinion, being stuck is progress in itself, if you use it wisely.

Below are a few quotes that I thought might help you get “unstuck” and reclaim your power!

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. –  Martin Luther King, Jr.

You can be absolutely certain that when you feel you are being most unfairly tested, you are being prepared for great achievement. – Napoleon Hill

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart…. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. – Carl Jung

All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience. – Henry Miller

 

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Is Recovery Worth It?

“Is recovery worth it?” After you have answered the following questions, you will have a better idea for yourself if recovery is worth it?

Is it worth living a life that isn’t governed by unfair negative punitive thoughts?

Is it worth fighting to eat something, without doubting each and every bite and torturing yourself with catastrophic judgments surrounding a meal?

Is it worth being able to go to an event, party, wedding without obsessing about what you are wearing, or worrying if anyone is looking at you,  or panicking about what food will be served and when it will be served?

Is it worth trying to seek a passion, hobby, or career that fulfills you and makes you want to wake up every day in anticipation of the potential good that can come from the day?

Is it worth communicating effectively, and defending your wants and needs?

Is it worth feeling all your feelings, both positive and negative because it makes your life “real”?

Is it worth placing your energy and time on things that enrich your life, instead of the investment of time that your eating disorder behaviors take up?

Is it worth being free of the physical and emotional pain that your eating disorder inflicts upon you?

Is it worth eating foods that nourish your body and satisfy your appetite instead of eating foods you have convinced yourself you like but you really hate, just because they are “safe” and you incorrectly believe that they prevent you from going out of control?

Is it worth moving your body (if that is your choice) because it makes you feel strong and flexible, instead of hurting your body by exercising because a voice in your head says you need to in order to be “worthy” for the day?

Is it worth taking the risk of exploring who you really are beneath the cloak of the illness that you call your “friend”?

Is it worth really looking at your illness as a coping mechanism that no longer serves you and turning toward healthy coping mechanisms that are as effective as they are unfamiliar?

Is it worth trying not to be perfect as perfection is unattainable, but striving to simply do your best?

Is it worth waking up each day and saying positive things to yourself to start your day?

Is it worth looking back at some point and saying “wow, I am so much happier now than I was while I was in my eating disorder”?

 

I have never, ever met someone who after having recovered, has said that recovery wasn’t worth the time and effort. Everyone has the power and strength to recover. If you want to recover or even if you think you want to recover but you aren’t positive or don’t have the tools yet, keep moving in that direction and have the faith that you will get there. Step #1 is to make sure you strive for positive thoughts and shut down the negative ones. The positive ones are your foundation…the stepping stones on your personal path to recovery.

 

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What Does Recovery Look Like?

The second in the series of three questions I am asked the most is:

“What does recovery look like?”

Answer: Wow! I have changed my answer to this question over the years. In my opinion, recovery is a highly personal “picture”. Recovery to one person will look differently than to another. I’d love your answers, in addition to my own!

In my opinion, recovery doesn’t mean being a perfect eater. Recovery doesn’t mean having a preconceived body size. Recovery doesn’t mean eating to be a certain weight or size.

Recovery means consistently not using food behaviors to cope and communicate your needs and desires, because you have developed more effective healthy ways to cope and express yourself.

Recovery means never dieting.  That’s right! You can never diet again. This is such a challenging area for many people. So very often, clients say to me “Normal people diet. Normal people manipulate their bodies. Normal people overexercise. Normal people use diet pills. How come they can do these things and I can’t?”

“Normal” people don’t have a mental illness where any or all of these behaviors are symptoms of the illness, and when engaging in these behaviors are expressing symptoms of the illness and thus making it worse.

It is not “normal” to do any of those things. Just because something is common, doesn’t mean it is “normal” and it definitely doesn’t make it good or right or healthy or something to aspire to. In my opinion, recovery means not restricting, bingeing and purging, using other substances (diet pills etc), compulsive exercise behaviors, or any type of harmful behavior (even “mildly”).

Once you have an eating disorder, you are VULNERABLE to all things that “normal” people engage in related to food/exercise. That isn’t your fault. It is simply a side effect of having an eating disorder.

Even when you are in a healthy place in your recovery, certain behaviors will still put you at risk. Dieting, for example, is the number one behavior that triggers eating disordered thoughts and can be a catalyst sending you right back into your illness. So you can never diet again…ever. Recovery means redefining “normal”.

How does exercise fit into recovery? Again, remember that you are vulnerable. Exercise (even if it has never been a part of your illness) can be tricky. Everyone knows that movement is good for people. When you have a history of an eating disorder, you have to be attentive to the purpose behind the desire to exercise. If you are healthy and you exercise, you have to be cautious that the purpose doesn’t switch from being healthy to “feeding” your illness. Be honest with yourself and set healthy goals for your exercise. Make sure it doesn’t take on a level of importance where it becomes a “job” or a “behavior”.

Recovery means having a peaceful relationship with food. Food is an essential part of life, but when you are in recovery, food doesn’t occupy all your thoughts. In recovery, you think about food in a neutral or positive way. You don’t have strict black and white rules regarding food, unless medically necessary.

Recovery doesn’t mean having a perfectly happy existence. But, your worst day well will still be better than your best day sick because you won’t be sick and your life will be REAL. Life has ups and downs. Life is difficult at times and joyous at times. Your eating disorder just makes life more difficult on every level, in every way. So, without it, your life ultimately will be less difficult. You will also feel all your feelings – the positive ones and the negative ones. Your feelings are essential, and feeling themwon’t kill you!

Think of all the things you cannot do because of your illness. You will have the opportunity to do any of these things, if you choose, when you are in recovery.  It is freedom.

Recovery means practicing different forms of regular, consistent self-care. Everyone has different ideas of how they can practice this. For some, self care involves having hobbies like reading, blogging, knitting, or doing crossword puzzles. Others like to have creative outlets like singing, painting, playing a musical instrument, or other art forms. Some like listening to inspirational music every day. Whatever you consider self-care, you need to do it regularly.

Recovery is whatever you want it to be. It’s your life. Define it. You only get one life, make it the best one it can be! It’s worth going for!!!

 

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Can I Recover?

Many clients have been asking me lately:

“Do you think I can fully recover?”

“What does recovery look like?”

“Is recovery worth it?”

It is normal to be asking these types of questions. In my experience treating numerous people who have been and are continuing to go through the process, these questions come up often.

So, I’d like to answer them to the best of my ability in three separate posts. The answers are my professional opinions, based on my experiences.

Question one: Do you think I can recover?

Answer: I wouldn’t be working in the field of eating disorders if I didn’t think it was possible for everyone who has these illnesses to recover. But, what many people don’t often realize is that recovery takes an enormous amount of fortitude, time, insight, skill-building, and hope.

Fortitude during the good times is easier to attain. Fortitude when things are rough is much harder. It is during the roughest times that your fortitude will be tested, but will need to be an essential ingredient in the recovery process so that you don’t regress or relapse.

The time recovery takes varies person to person. I have never seen any individual recover in a short period of time though. You need to change your expectations if you thought recovery was going to be a “quick-fix.” Most estimates are between 4 and 7 years for the process. Some people make a quicker recovery and some take much longer.

Having insight into the origins of the illness as well as insight regarding it’s ongoing purposes is not only a gift, it is a necessity. If you know what your eating disorder’s functions are, you will be able to find better solutions for those issues.

Skill-building is the process during which you will need to practice using healthy coping mechanisms and communication skills in place of using eating disordered behavior. This new way of living is very challenging. It is uncomfortable. Resorting to comfortable eating disordered behaviors instead of healthy coping mechanisms is, in part, what causes the process to take time.

Recovery also takes support – in various ways – professional support, support groups, support of loved ones, friends, family, and peers. That doesn’t mean that you need to have full disclosure to everyone in your life, but seeking support in various ways from others is key.  Financially speaking, seeking the right type of professional support can be challenging, sometimes impossible. There are services that are free (some support groups and other group meetings). Finances may necessitate you being more creative in the types of support you can receive. There are also organizations like NEDA that have mentoring programs and group support via the internet. Project Heal offers treatment scholarships for people through an application process.

Resources are available. Support is available.

The question I often ask my clients when they ask me if they can recover is “Do you think you can recover? I believe in you, but you have to believe in you!” Often when people are in the throes of these illnesses, they truly don’t know the answer to this question.  They are unsure, scared, and haven’t build the confidence necessary to truly know. If you don’t know the answer to the question for yourself, you need to trust that others have gotten better and with time, strength, and practice, you can too.

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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.
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Is It Possible to Lose Weight ?

Many of my clients ask this question, whether their body has
changed as a result of their eating disorder or as a result of the recovery
process itself. Weight, size and body image are such sensitive subjects. They
are intricately woven into the complexities of eating disorders and must be
dealt with very carefully.

After gaining some weight, many of my clients want to revert
back to some type of restrictive eating in order to change their weight/lose
weight. This type of restrictive eating may be as simple as eating foods they
“know” are low-calorie foods but that the individual hates or reminds them of
their disordered/dieting days. Restriction can also crop up in subtle ways,
like the following:

  • Convincing yourself you like a food because it is healthy when you really don’t like it and have never liked it.
  • Trying to eat a smaller portion size than youknow will fill you because you’ve gained weight and think a smaller portion“should” fill you.
  • Trying to eat a volume of low-calorie foods to fill you up, hoping it will prevent you from eating what you really want.
  • Setting any unrealistic goal that you know deep inside goes against what your “inner eater” wants.

 

The following vignette is an example of this
phenomenon…inevitably slowing down recovery, giving power to the eating disorder,
and causing the exact behaviors one is trying to alter:

A client came in for a session last week. She has been on
both ends of the eating pendulum. During her restrictive days, she would limit
herself to very few foods as a means to an end (weight loss). Then she went
through a period of rebound bingeing that lasted for an extended period of time
causing some subsequent weight gain. She currently doesn’t want to restrict or
binge but she feels confused about what to do. She feels she is in a body that
is not her “normal” one but knows she can’t restrict to get back to normal. She
is repulsed by the foods she ate while restricting but desires to eat them
again because they are “healthy”. The thought of eating these foods again also
causes her to “rebel” and binge.

She’s trying to eat whatever she is in the mood to eat, but
gets frustrated because her choices are often “unhealthy” and are not leading
to weight loss. It seems though, whenever she tries to negate her intuitive
appetite, she eats more than she initially wanted to, she feels more out of
control, her weight goes up, and she wants to give up.

Not only are there psychological dynamics going on in this
situation, but physiological ones as well. When the body is deprived of food,
there are many complex physical/hormonal/brain side effects that occur as a
result that will ultimately create a temporary heightened hunger and appetite.
These chemical changes cannot be “willed away”. They need to be attended to and
understood. There is no specific time frame for these effects.

I also want to mention, as we all know, an eating disorder
and recovery from an eating disorder are not about the food itself. Recovery is
about achieving other healthy coping mechanisms so that food isn’t the ONLY one
used. Continually placing all the emphasis in treatment on the eating patterns
and the food choices themselves, will take the individual further away from the
ultimate goal…trying to understand what the food is being “used” for, and
reducing the need for food (in any way, shape or form) as the only coping
mechanism. Ultimately, when someone who has an eating disorder is using a
multitude of other coping mechanisms, effective communication skills, and
healthy forms of self-care, as well as experiencing and tolerating all of their
feelings, food can begin to be “just food”.

The following was written by Karin Kratina, a pioneer in the
field of eating disorders. It truly exemplifies this process.

Sometimes recovery from eating issues involves weight loss.
Sometimes it does not. Regardless, any focus on weight is a potential danger
zone since a focus on weight loss can cause a return to the eating behaviors
you are trying to change. If you are above your body’s set point weight range,
it is possible that with intuitive eating, your weight will slowly shift until
you are back at your set point range. But you need to first be doing the
following to heal eating issues (it does not work to try to lose weight then
heal eating issues).

 

Place a check mark next to the thoughts/behaviors that you practice on a consistent basis:

□   I know how to keep a food journal recording food, feelings and hunger/satiety.

□   I usually keep a food journal when I’m having a hard time with my food/weight.

□   I am in tune with my hunger and am comfortable beginning most of my meals hungry.

□   I am able to stop eating when physically satisfied, usually with no problem.

□  I am able to eat almost any food without beating myself up or feeling guilty.

□  I almost always take action to handle feelings and situations that trigger me to eat by:

□  making a choice between feeling uncomfortable or addressing the issue

□  making effective changes on my own when possible

□  reaching out for appropriate support from family and friends

□  engaging in counseling if I see my reaction to triggers not changing

□   My attitude towards my body is “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the
one you’re with.”

□   I practice numerous nurturing behaviors to fill myself so that I don’t need to turn to
food.

□   I usually know what my needs are and how to get them met by setting limits and
communicating directly.

□   I usually assert myself and rarely have to resort to yelling, arguing or withdrawing when
feeling frustrated with others around me.

□   I like my body most of the time.

□   I realize when I feel fat, an issue other than weight needs to be addressed.

□   I know that if I lose weight to feel better, that ‘feeling better’ is almost
always transient since it is not the weight loss that makes me feel better, but
what I think about the weight loss. I can feel better right now by changing the
way I think.

□   I have changed the way I think and feel content with myself most of the time.

 

If you are consistently practicing the behaviors above, some
weight loss may be possible. Make note of any thoughts/behaviors that you are
not able to do consistently and make them a priority. You may want to enlist
the help of a professional. Remember, never diet, it is the quickest
prescription to weight gain.

© Copyright 1999 Karin Kratina, MA, RD

Adapted from the unpublished work of Peggy DeMars, MS, RD

Download at www.NutritionTherapy.org Also visit www.NourishingConnections.com

 

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Owning My Recovery

The following post is from a client of mine. Thank you for writing this, PR. I think that many will find inspiration in your words.

A year ago I wrote a post titled Awake and Alive and I talked about the “pink cloud” I found myself in after committing to recovery. Today, I want to write about owning my recovery after a full year of struggling and fighting to stay “awake and alive”.

The “pink cloud” I experienced a year ago was the initial burst of good energy and happiness that followed my strong commitment to recovery. It was my first glimpse of how amazing my life could be without my eating disorder. It was the first feeling of freedom from the obsessions and rituals of my eating disorder. Unfortunately, the “pink cloud experience” didn’t last. It wasn’t that I gave up. It was just the natural evaporation of the cloud; as all clouds go. All was not lost though. Having the “pink cloud experience” showed me what my life could be like. It was a gift that gave me the opportunity to experience the beauty of life without my eating disorder. But gifts offer only fleeting moments of joy. True and lasting happiness comes from hard work and sometimes struggles through which one begins to establish ownership over their accomplishments. And that is what I’ve been doing for the past year. Struggling and fighting to own my recovery. Struggling and fighting to solidify my recovery and make it my own so that it could not and would not evaporate.

I will not whitewash the hard work of taking ownership of my recovery. There were times where I wanted to give up and times where I almost did give up. Then I would have to weigh the pros and cons. Did I really want to go back to my eating disorder with its obsessive, isolative nature? Or, did I want to continue on the road to recovery? I knew that the road of recovery was the only place where joy and happiness could be found. Yet, it was also a road full of obstacles, bumps, ditches, and boulders. Walking this road was tiring and sometimes I didn’t feel like going on. The battle of whether to continue the struggle or take the easy slide down was constant. And yet, amidst the tears I found moments of joy, beauty, and freedom which I knew I would never find elsewhere. By holding on to those nuggets of pleasure I managed to continue on.

There were days where bad body image skewed my ability to think clearly. Those were days where my perspective on life would become distorted and I would imagine that my happiness would only come from being a specific shape or size. On those days, I would cry and pound the walls in fury. I threw tantrums rivaling a two-year old. I hated myself and hid under the covers refusing to meet the world. And yet, despite the fear, terror, and self-hate that consumed me during those times I continued to walk on the road of recovery. Using reserves of strengths I never knew existed within me, I pushed onward.

Sometimes, the demands of my life overwhelmed me and I thought it would be impossible to go on. I needed my eating disorder to help me control my anxiety, and depression. I would dream about how nice it would be to use behaviors that would make me forget about everything else. Yet each time these thoughts surfaced I would force myself to see the bigger picture. Using behaviors and going back to my eating disorder was a packaged deal. Along with it, came the obsessions, rituals, and isolation. Later on would come the strong winds of depression and an inability to access the joys in my life. Did I really want to go back there? It was a question I faced again and again and again.

Owning my recovery meant learning to rely on myself for strength, encouragement, and love. This was perhaps the most difficult part of my recovery. When faced with challenges, I forced myself to go deep within and use my own resources to move forward. I built a support system for myself and wrote a list of activities that would distract as well as soothe me. Then, I made sure to use the list when the going got rough. I fought my eating disorder using every skill I could remember and created some of my own. I found the voice of my inner self and allowed it to speak against my eating disorder. I cried and laughed, learning to show and experience a range of emotions. I put words to my struggles and found new insight in every challenge. I made sure to learn from every mistake and used each experience as a stepping stone to greater heights. Most importantly, I learned to put the focus on myself. Recovering from my eating disorder was my responsibility. It was my fight, my struggle, my challenges. I was the most important person in my life and I came first. All the time, every time.

Today, I stand proud and tall on the top of the mountain. I see other mountains in the distance and I know that I must continue to climb. But today I am taking the time to notice and experience the joy of owning my recovery. I have scaled the mountain that is my eating disorder. I know there is no going back. The world stretches out before me, beckoning with all its beauty and hope. There is so much to live for and I am full of true joy and happiness. Life is beautiful. My life is beautiful. I hug myself and smile. I own my recovery. It is strong and solid beneath my feet.

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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???

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