Tag Archive | Eat

Top Ten Strategies to Use at Meal and Snack Times


Until you are fairly far along in the recovery process, you may need varying degrees of strategies to help with your eating. Ultimately, you will be able to achieve a more peaceful relationship with food and your body, but until then, here are ten strategies to use. Also remember that you are very vulnerable to the “voice” of your eating disorder in the moments before, during, and after you eat, so mentally “arm” yourself for the possibility of hearing negative, critical, and catastrophizing statements during these times. Take your power back!



1.  Write down and use positive healthy statements for eating times, such as “I am going to do what is best for my recovery at this meal, no matter what negative thoughts I have.” “I need this food to help my body stay strong.” “By eating this meal, I am helping to gain clarity.” “There is no such thing as a perfect meal, but I will do the best I can to eat well.” “I need food for my organs to function at 100%.” “Even if I eat more than I set out to eat, I will not beat myself up because I am doing the best I can.” “Nothing bad can possibly happen to me by eating this meal right now. Only good things can result from giving my body nourishment.” “I will not base what my nutritional needs are on the negative feelings I have about my body. I will eat what I know to be the best meal for my overall health, and my psychological well-being.

2.  Try not to go longer than 4 waking hours without food. The body is designed to be fed at regular intervals and going too long without food may create heightened food obsessions, cravings, and extremes in hunger. By sticking to a fairly regular schedule of eating, you will be better able to think clearly and tune into your body’s needs better.

3.  Make sure you are in a calm emotional place when you sit down to eat. Eating while upset, angry, anxious, or in any negative emotional state can alter your hunger and fullness cues, and increase eating disordered thoughts, urges, and behaviors.

4.  If you need meal time support from a family member, friend, or other loved one, ask for it before you sit down to eat. Once you sit down with food in front of you, you are already too vulnerable. Sometimes a supportive person can distract you from the negative eating disordered voice and can help make the meal/snack a more enjoyable experience overall.

5.  There’s a saying that goes “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Try to think about what your day is going to look like in terms of schedule, activities, places you will be, and people you will be with. Think about, and plan for how you will meet your nutritional needs. You don’t have to obsessively plan everything you will eat, but be prepared for the day. Clients often say to me “I didn’t have time to eat this food or that food.” “I didn’t have time to prepare my food.” “I didn’t have xxx food in the house, so I just grabbed something at the last minute.” “I didn’t know what I wanted so I didn’t eat.” “I didn’t have anything I liked to I just ate random stuff.” “I ran short on time so I just grabbed something and ate it in my car.” These are excuses, justifications that are not putting recovery as the top priority. Decisions like these will ultimately set your recovery back. Recovery must come first, and having a plan to eat well, and often, must be priority #1.  (I am very busy during the week, and I never ever go to work or anywhere without either bringing plenty of food with me or knowing where I can buy a very satisfying meal/snack. Planning to be well fed reduces my anxiety and assures me that I will be able to meet my needs as well as I possibly can.

6.  Try your best not to multitask while eating. Even if you need distractions while eating, try to be as present as possible. The more mindful you are, the more you can be attuned to what your food needs are. Try not to eat while driving, watching TV, on the computer, or working?

7.  Make sure the meal/snack “counts” psychologically. Too often, people with eating disorders make food choices based on rigid rules, not based on what they like. If you are on a meal plan, or if you are working on intuitive eating, choose foods that appeal to you. Choose foods that you are in the mood for, not foods that you think you “should” have. Eating the same exact foods every day, eating by strict rules, eliminating certain food groups or nutrients, eating less than you know is best for you, are all forms of restriction and will potentially backfire sooner or later.

8.  Make sure you are working on incorporating a wide variety of foods and all the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, and fat). The human body has a need for all the nutrients, to work optimally. It is best to have at least three or four food groups at meal time, and at least two food groups at snack time. By having a variety of food groups, and having foods that appeal to you psychologically (strategy #7), your body will be well fueled and you will feel satisfied. By accomplishing both physical and psychological satiety, you will also get food off your mind a bit easier, obsessions may diminish, and your mind will be freed up to focus on your passions and other pleasures. Remember though, that your eating disordered “voice” will try to beat you up for eating foods that give you pleasure. Tell that negative voice that by eating foods you like, you are getting stronger and closer to recover

9.  Eat sitting down at a table or counter, with as pleasing of surroundings as possible. Use appealing tableware, tablecloth or placemat, and utensils. It is optimal to have all the conditions possible to have a pleasant, mindful meal. You could even make your own special placemat, bowl, or plate. Try not to eat standing up. Food eaten while multitasking or standing up doesn’t “count” psychologically, sets you up for feeling dissatisfied, and increases urges to crave more food.

10.  If one meal or snack doesn’t go well, or if you have used an eating disordered behavior at any time during the day, don’t write the entire day off as a “failure”. At the very next time you need to eat, in order to maintain your structure, you have the opportunity to turn things around. Try to never, ever, end the day with an eating disordered behavior or disordered meal. Make sure you end your day doing something positive with your food. There is no stronger statement you can make regarding recovery than going to bed having done the best you could at the end of the day.

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Are You a Casualty of Dieting? Tips for “Normal” Eating

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 weight management, 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, or nutritional or “fun”. “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 the high 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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Top Ten Diet Myths That Won’t Go Away!

The following are the top ten diet myths that I debunk on a regular basis! I don’t know why these continue to be perpetuated. Let’s set the record straight!

Myth 1: Fad or crash diets help you lose weight permanently.

Fact: A fad diet is the worst way to manage long-term weight goals. Most fad eating plans advocate cutting out certain foods to lose weight quickly. Although this may sometimes be true at first, in the long run this will prove to be unhealthy. By avoiding certain foods, the body may be deprived of nutrients. Also, people get tired of such diets fairly quickly and regain the lost weight all over again. Research has proven that eating healthy and exercising moderately will help you develop a healthier lifestyle and maintain the appropriate weight for you.

Myth 2: You can lose weight by skipping meals.

Fact: Your body requires a certain amount of calories and nutrients each day. When you skip meals, your body tries to make up for the lost calories by demanding more food. In all likelihood, you will end up eating more at the next meal! Studies have shown that people who eat a nutritious breakfast are healthier and maintain a “healthy” weight more than those who skip breakfast.

Myth 3: Snacking will make you fat.

Fact: Snacking will not make you fat. The total amount of calories is what matters, but you can split your food up any way that you would like. Some people enjoy eating three large meals/day, while others prefer eating six small meals/day.

Myth 4: Avoid eating after 8 p.m. since it causes weight gain.

Fact: It doesn’t really matter what time of day you eat! All that matters is how many calories you take in during the whole day and how much you lose due to resting metabolic rate, exercise and lifestyle.

Myth 5: You can burn fat by eating certain foods, like grapefruit and cabbage  soup.

Fact: No foods can burn fat. Celery, grapefruit, etc will not make you burn calories and lose more weight. “Negative” foods (foods that cause you to burn off more calories than the calories you get from eating the food) simply do not exist.

Myth 6: Foods high in fat are fattening and should be avoided if you want to be healthy or lose weight.

Fact: The body needs fat for energy, tissue repair, brain health, hormone production and to transport vitamins A, D, E and K around the body. Women need approximately 70g of fat a day (95g for men) with 30g as the minimum (40g for men). For example, although nuts and nut butters are high in fat, they have incredible health benefits. Also, most nuts have low amounts of saturated fat. Nuts contain protein and fiber. There is no such thing as a “fattening food”.

Myth 7: Drinking lots of water helps to “flush fat” out of your body and leads to weight loss.

Fact: Water has no real impact on weight loss, although it is important to overall health. Drinking ice-cold water also does not increase calorie burn.

Myth 8: Muscle will turn to fat if you stop exercising.

Fact: Muscle cannot turn to fat and fat cannot turn to muscle. It is not physiologically possible.

Myth 9: You should try to avoid carbohydrates/starches as they are fattening.

Fact: No matter what food group you choose, if you cut out the items from that group, you will reduce your caloric intake and lose weight. If you add foods, you will increase your caloric intake and gain weight. The problem is that if you cut your carbohydrate/starch intake, you also will reduce your nutrient intake. It is not necessary or desirable to cut carbohydrates from your diet. They are your body’s #1 preferred source of energy! Instead, make some of them complex carbohydrates. The best choices of carbohydrates/starches are whole grain breads and cereals, beans and legumes, dairy products, and fruits and vegetables like yams, turnips, and beets.

Myth 10: Eating spicy foods will increase the metabolism, causing weight loss.

Fact: If that were true, many people would be devouring chili peppers! Spicy foods do cause a slight increase in metabolism, but the effect is so minimal and short-lived that it does not make a difference as far as weight loss is concerned.

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I Just Want To Have My Ice Cream!

A patient of mine who struggles with binge-eating and who also has been a casualty of years and years of dieting came in this week and was clearly excited (well, maybe not quite excited) to share with me a “successful food experience” from the past week. She is getting much more adept at distinguishing between her healthy voice and the critical voice of her eating disorder.

She described a day when it was really hot and humid (this isn’t hard to imagine for Jersey in June). There is a “famous” ice cream store in this area called “Hoffman’s”. It has the best ice cream and people come from great distances to enjoy it. She decided she would take her children there to get them ice cream since she was in the area. When they arrived, she had an internal conversation that went like this:

“You don’t want any ice cream.”

“Yes I really do.”

“Do you really want ice cream?”

“No…I guess I don’t.”

“Why would you want ice cream when you constantly complain about your weight?”

“You’re right. I hate my body. I don’t want ice cream.”

“That’s right. You don’t. You will never look the way you want by eating ice cream and other foods like that.”

“But it’s so hot out and I know I won’t be coming back for a while.”

“Everyone here will look at you if you order it because you don’t need it and shouldn’t be here in the first place.”

“You’re right. Everyone will notice me and be making comments about me under their breath. I’ll just get ice cream for the kids.”

“Just buy the kids their ice cream and go home.”

“It looks so good. I’ll just order a ‘small’.”

“You will regret it. I promise you.”

“I might regret it, but I might regret more if I leave without having any.”

“You are a fat pig. Don’t get the ice cream. As soon as you walk out of here, you will beat yourself up.
If you get it, you better not eat dinner.”

“Ok, maybe I’ll get it and skip dinner.”

“You know you can’t do that. That never works. You are too weak. You’ll eat the ice cream, still eat dinner and you’ll end up bingeing and ruining your day. Don’t get the ice cream.”

“I’m so sick of the same old stupid conversation. I’m sick of arguing with you. I’m sick of feeling bad about myself. I’m sick of listening to you. I’m sick of feeling this way. I want the stupid ice cream. I’m entitled to make this choice. I just want to have a nice day with my kids. The ice cream is not going to make or break my day. I can eat ice cream whenever I want. I will never diet again. I’m taking charge of this eating disorder. I will not be bullied into avoiding foods I like and then bingeing because I feel like a criminal. I’m working hard at recovery and I’m not going to let one dish of ice cream on a hot sunny summer day turn into a battle ground where I lose AGAIN!”

This conversation with herself lasted about 2 minutes. It was a loooong two minutes. She went up to the counter, ordered her kids their ice cream, ordered herself a dish of “Rocky Road”, paid for it and walked out. She sat outside with her kids, and enjoyed her ice cream. She ate most of it but at some point she was a little full so she got a lid for it and took the rest of it home. She had never done that before. In the past, she would always finish it, even if she was full, because she would feel so guilty about eating it in the first place and would swear that she would never buy it again. On this day, she made a deal with herself that from this day forward if there is a day that she wants ice cream, she will drive to Hoffman’s and get herself ice cream.

On that day, she successfully took the power away from the food and away from her eating disorder. She had mixed feelings after the whole incident was over. She felt victorious, but also a little guilty, sad, and exhausted too. You see, although her ice cream adventure was ultimately a success, the struggle is still there. Conversations like this will happen in her mind again and again and again. Each time they happen, she will have to fight with all her energy. Her eating disordered voice is very loud, critical and unwavering. She has to fight equally as hard for herself, against it. In time, her skills will get better. Her own voice will get stronger. It will not happen over night. Her eating has been an issue for her since she was 5 years old. She is 45.

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Parents, Kids, Food Fight!

Too often, parents and children get into power struggles over food which NEVER fosters a healthy relationship with food. Also, a parent’s own food issues can often distort their objectivity and sensitivity when it comes to their child’s eating.

The following is a great article on how parents can healthfully and positively approach the topic of eating with their children in order to teach them positive eating skills.

Things Parents And Grandparents Say That Can Cause Eating & Weight Problems

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Donna’s Top Ten Nutrient Dense “Super Foods”

What is “Nutrient Density” anyway?  Nutrient density refers to the amount of nutrients in a particular food for the given volume of that food, nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, essential fatty acids, good quality protein or carbohydrate, and phytonutrients . So, for example, a handful of walnuts is a nutrient dense food choice because in a small handful, you will get a good amount of vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant), healthy fat and concentrated energy.

There are some foods that are nutrient dense and calorie dense, and there are others that are nutrient dense and low in calories. I had a difficult time narrowing all the nutrient-dense foods there are into one short list of ten. Unfortunately I left numerous amazing foods off this list.  Depending on your personal nutritional goals, you may want to add some of my top ten super foods to your eating plan! Remember though; don’t eat foods merely for their nutritional value if you don’t like them! Only eat foods that you find palatable and pleasurable.

Dried Fruit: There are many types of dried fruits on the market. You can try dried berries, apricots, cranberries, strawberries, blueberries and even tropical fruits like papaya, mango, and pineapple. You can give yourself a quick energy boost by eating dried fruits because they have less volume than their fresh equivalent and they are portable and non-perishable. They are packed with vitamins and minerals just like their fresh counterparts.

Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fats that can be a healthy addition to your diet. Macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pecans, cashews, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds are all good for you, offer a variety of flavors and can be eaten in a variety of ways. You can eat them by the handful or try nut butters made from them. Spread some apple slices or banana slices with nut butters for a nutrient-dense and energy-dense snack or make a trail mix with your favorite nuts and dried fruit. Try them in oatmeal or yogurt, on top of ice cream or a salad. Eat them raw or toasted!

Greek Yogurt: There are so many yogurts on the market, it’s hard to choose between them all. My favorite by far, is Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is packed with protein, sometimes double or triple the amount of protein in a regular yogurt. In a 4 to 8 ounce container you can get as much as 15 to 20 grams of protein. That’s almost as much as a 3 ounce piece of chicken! My favorite brands are Chobani and Fage. You can get these brands in plain as well as several delicious flavors.

Quinoa: Although not a common item in most people’s homes, quinoa is a protein-rich seed that has a fluffy but slightly crunchy texture and a slightly nutty flavor when it’s cooked. It looks like a grain, but it is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. It is an ancient “grain”, once  called the “gold of the Incas” because it increased the stamina of their warriors. Not only is quinoa high in protein, but the protein it supplies is complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids. 

Garbanzo Beans (chick peas): Even though legumes are known for their fiber, most people do not know how helpful the fiber in garbanzo beans can actually be for supporting digestive tract function. Garbanzos contain about 12 grams of fiber per cup. This type of fiber can help you regulate your blood sugar and will help lower your risk of intestinal issues. You can eat garbanzo beans plain, in soups or salads, or in the form of hummus.

Avocado:  Did you know that the avocado is often called the “alligator pear” because of its shape and the leather-like appearance of its skin? Avocados contain a great source of healthy fat as well as vitamins, minerals and fiber. They are also considered an anti-inflammatory food. You can enjoy them cut up in salads, as an addition to sandwiches or made into guacamole. Can you answer this question: Is an avocado a fruit or a vegetable?

Spinach: I feel stronger every time I eat a fresh bowl of raw or cooked spinach! There have been more than a dozen different flavonoid compounds identified in spinach that act as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agents. The vitamin K in spinach helps prevent the breakdown of bones. Spinach contains vitamin C and iron, as well as a host of other nutrients. You can mix spinach with pasta or in soups, or you can make a spinach salad and add feta cheese and toasted pine nuts.

Oats: Oatmeal, granola, granola bars made from oats, tofu/oat burgers (my own recipe) are all great ways to enjoy this grain. Oats contain a special kind of fiber that lowers blood cholesterol. Oats also help regulate blood sugar so you can feel energized for a longer period of time without suffering a low blood sugar “crash”. During the winter months, I love a big bowl of oatmeal with walnuts and blueberries and when the weather gets warmer, I love yogurt with an oat-based granola and raisins!

Dark Chocolate: Who doesn’t like to enjoy a “melt-in-your-mouth” piece of chocolate? Did you know that dark chocolate is good for your brain and can improve your mood? It is good for your heart and it also contains antioxidants that can help reduce free-radical damage. Cocoa, in dark chocolate, can also reduce inflammation. You can eat is by itself or mix it into other types of foods. Dark chocolate chips are a great ingredient in lots of your favorite recipes. My favorite is dark chocolate chips mixed into banana walnut muffins!

Green Tea: Green tea is the least processed of all teas. It has the highest concentration of “phytonutrients” and the least caffeine of all teas. Green tea is rich in health-promoting flavonoids, which play a fundamental role in green tea’s anticancer and antioxidant effects. These flavonoids are potent free radical scavengers. You can find great tasting green teas in every supermarket and health food store. You can drink them hot or iced.

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Let’s talk about LIPIDS, a misunderstood group of molecules that are CRITICAL to the functioning of the human body and are an ESSENTIAL part of your diet!

Understanding the Functions of Lipids in the Body

There are many functions of lipids in the human body. Many people tend to place a negative association with the term “lipid”, simply because it brings to mind the word “fat”. This “essential” nutrient is crucial to the intricate functioning of the body. The term lipid applies to a group of molecular structures which includes fats and oils, fat-soluble vitamins – vitamins A, D, E, and K, sterols, fatty acids, and phospholipids. Let’s take a brief look at the major functions of lipids in the body.

 Storing Energy

An important role that lipids play in the human body is to store energy. It is no great secret that the body gets most of its energy from carbohydrates, but what many people don’t know is that if it weren’t for lipids, we would have to replenish our energy reserves after every hour spent being active! Lipids make it possible to make the most out of the carbohydrates we consume so we don’t have to “use or lose” that energy. So because of lipids, the body is able to store the energy produced by the foods we eat as sort of a “reserve tank”.

Also, during all those hours of the day that you are sleeping (and not eating), your body relies on whatever fuel you have stored up during your daytime eating as the fuel it depends on. Remember, your body needs to work 24 hours a day and you only eat while you are awake. Your heart, brain, liver, kidneys etc need to be FED all day and all night long. Also, if you exercise, the fuel your body wants to use after a brief period of time comes from the fuel that is stored in these cells. If you don’t store fuel in the fat cells, your body would inevitably rely on your muscle tissue as its fuel source. And, you don’t want that to be the case.

 Cell Membranes

One of the little known facts about lipids is that they’re responsible for the protection of each individual cell. This protection comes in the form of the cell membrane. The lipids form a protective barrier that keeps the important cellular information inside the cell while keeping destructive substances out. For instance, oxygen, glucose, enzymes, and hormones are allowed to enter through the membrane while harmful chemicals are not. All this is due to the wonderful lipid cell membrane.


Vitamins A, D, E, and K are known as fat-soluble vitamins because they are molecularly lipid-based. These vitamins are stored in the body’s fat tissues as well as the liver and are very important to the human body—hence the reason they are called “essential nutrients”.

Vitamin A improves eyesight. This vitamin helps our eyes to distinguish light and color, and a deficiency in this vitamin can lead to vision troubles—particularly at night time. As for vitamin D, it is essential for the absorption of calcium and phosphorous. If it were not for vitamin D, our teeth and bones would never grow to become as strong as they should be. Vitamin D also helps to fight off autoimmune issues. Vitamin E is often associated with the health of hair, skin, and nails. It also plays an important role in other areas of the body. For instance, vitamin E can both protect against certain cancers as well as improve cardiovascular and circulation health. It is a powerful “antioxidant” and as such, it boosts the immune system. It can also lower cholesterol levels. Vitamin K is necessary for liver health and also helps the blood to clot. Every time someone gets a scrape or cut, vitamin K helps the blood clot, allowing the wound to seal up and heal.


Cholesterol is the ingredient that helps you make your male and female hormones. It helps separate the boys from the girls. (It is also a part of all the cell membranes.) It is an ingredient in bile (the stuff that helps you digest fats and help you get rid of waste products). It helps make a covering called the “myelin sheath” that surrounds and protects your nerves and brain cells.

Cholesterol comes in two basic forms: high density lipoprotein and low density lipoprotein, or HDL and LDL cholesterol (“good” and “bad” cholesterol). HDL (“good”) cholesterol is vital to the body as it makes those hormones and it transports the LDL cholesterol to the liver where it can be broken down and excreted from the body.  This type of “good” cholesterol is found in whole grain, fish, and nuts, and increasing these foods can actually lower LDL cholesterol levels.

Shock Absorption

A layer of fat surrounding the vital internal organs is essential as a protective mechanism against injury.

 Now let’s look at the function of lipids in the foods we eat.

  • Lipids contain more calories (gram for gram) than carbohydrate or protein, which makes them a “nutrient dense” food.
  • Lipids in food help create satiety which why you feel more satisfied and full after a meal containing lipids.
  • Some of the ESSENTIAL nutrients (essential fatty acids like omega-3s) are soluble in lipids and therefore primarily found in lipid-containing foods.
  • Essential fatty acids found in lipids-containing foods have amazing functions like improving heart health, brain health, lowering levels of blood cholesterol and triglycerides, defending against cancer, reducing inflammation in arthritis and asthma sufferers.
  • Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K are primarily found in lipid-containing foods.
  • Lipids contribute to the aroma and flavor of food.


Some of the best foods that contain valuable lipids are:

  • Nuts and seeds – walnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds
  • Certain fish – salmon, mackerel, tuna
  • Avocado
  • Olives
  • Oils such as olive oil, peanut oil, walnut oil, sunflower oil, canola oil
  • Soy foods

So, the next time you find yourself wondering why you need lipids, aka “fats”, in your daily diet, remember that fat is a NUTRIENT. Without it or without enough of it, all these jobs won’t get done. Human life would cease without these amazing molecules!

Give your body the nutrient that makes up your cell membranes, protects your heart and brain, provides you with essential vitamins and essential fatty acids, provides a valuable energy source when you sleep and exercise, helps you make your male and female hormones, helps make food taste and smell good, promotes satiety, and provides great nutrient density. Whew!!!!  What an amazing nutrient!

After writing this post, I think I’ll go make myself a fabulous snack of dark chocolate Dove hearts dipped in peanut butter!

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Why Is This Food So Misunderstood???

How can a simple wheat product that naturally contains protein and carbohydrate, and is fortified with iron and B vitamins, (and sometimes omega-3 fats) get such a bad reputation that people avoid it like it is a toxic substance, a drug, the devil?

Pasta is such a fabulous and versatile food. I cannot understand why so many people eliminate it out of their diet. I have heard countless times that pasta is “fattening”. If I had a dollar for every time I heard a negative comment about pasta, I’d be rich.

Let’s clear up some misinformation about pasta.


So why then do so many people avoid pasta? Why are they afraid of pasta?

People who don’t have the accurate information about the nutritional value of pasta “buy into” what they hear in the media and from other people who perpetuate myths and misconceptions.


  1. Pasta is a carbohydrate containing food that also contains protein, B vitamins, and iron.
  2. Pasta has approximately 100 calories per ½ cup (cooked), similar to other grains and starches, including starchy vegetables.  

End of story.

So…why do people fear this food??? I don’t want to upset or trigger anyone reading this post, but I want to present the facts and my professional opinion, instead of perpetuating the misconceptions.

In my opinion, when “most” people eat pasta, they are eating probably upwards of 2 cups (cooked), which seems like a reasonable entree amount when you see it in a bowl or on a plate. 2 cups cooked is approximately 400 calories. Unless you eat it plain, you are probably adding some type of sauce and protein (like meatballs), which will also contribute to the caloric value of the meal. Then, you might add bread with butter or dipping oil, salad with dressing, and other components to the meal. Your meal could therefore be naturally higher in calories than the original 400 for the pasta.  So perhaps the total meal is of higher nutritional value, and then all the “blame” gets placed on this wonderful “harmless” grain.

Pasta is a versatile food. It can be combined with all sorts of proteins, cheeses, sauces and veggies. It can be added to salads. It can be eaten hot or cold. It can be an entrée or a side dish. It comes in all different shapes and sizes. There are even whole grain versions, high protein versions, and non-wheat (gluten-free) versions. If you haven’t had it in a while, you could first have it as a side dish. Or, you could sample a few bites of someone else’s.  If you are “afraid” of pasta because of all the myths you have heard or because you have had a “bad” experience with it, remember, it is just a grain. It is worth trying it again. You might actually surprise yourself and have a positive experience! Bon appetit!!


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Who could imagine that these little bite-sized treasures could be such incredible powerhouses for your body? A handful of these gems provide the body with significant amounts of essential nutrients! They can be eaten with meals or snacks in many different ways. They are quite a versatile food.

Nuts provide protein, fiber, amazing high quality healthy fat, vitamins, and minerals, and phytonutrients. Wow! There’s a lot of goodness in such a small package. Not many foods can say that! They are not only super nutritious but satisfying and packed full of flavor. Everyone can enjoy nuts in their diet (unless they are allergic). You can eat an ounce or two of nuts per day and get all the benefits!

Nuts are so good though, that it’s sometimes easy to eat more of them then you set out to. They can be a challenging food for some people. So, try to have them in comfortable amounts at times when you feel “safe”. Try not to eat them directly out of the jar or container because it may be too difficult to determine how much you have eaten. That could be challenging for you.

Before we discuss the many benefits of nuts, let’s clear up a few myths.

  1. Nuts are NOT FATTENING!
  2. There is no such thing as a fattening food.
  3. Eating fat does not make you fat!

Remember once again that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. Nut calories are no more or less “powerful” in terms of weight than calories coming from broccoli. Weight gain results from consuming more calories than the body needs, over a sustained period of time. Weight loss comes from consuming a deficiency of calories over a sustained period of time.

Nut Facts:

  • Nuts are a good source of non-animal protein
  • The unsaturated fat in nuts can lower your “bad” cholesterol
  • The soluble fiber acts like little scrub brushes to help lower total cholesterol in your blood
  • Nuts have good “nutrient density” – more nutrition per bite than some less nutritious foods
  • Nuts can improve heart health because of the monounsaturated fatty acids like omega-3 fatty acids
  • Their taste and textures are satisfying which enables them to be eaten in a wide variety of ways
  • The high levels of Vitamin E and phytonutrients help you fight cancers and heart disease
  • They are rich in essential minerals

You may wonder “which nuts are best?” The nutrient ratio differs slightly among the different nuts, so eating a variety is the best way to obtain all the benefits that they offer!


  • Have the antioxidant power of Vitamin E
  • Contain a natural form of the same drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease
  • Good source of magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron
  • Very versatile – taste great in oatmeal and yogurt or can be made into almond butter and eaten with jelly in a sandwich


  • Have high levels of essential minerals—iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and manganese
  • A great addition to Asian salads or made into cashew butter


  • A powerful source of vitamin E and phytonutrients, associated with building a strong immune system
  • Also called “filberts”
  • Taste great in biscotti or pancakes


  • Highest protein content of any nut, especially satisfying and beneficial for children, vegetarians, and those with higher protein needs
  • Rich in essential minerals, such as magnesium, copper, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc
  • Rich in B vitamins and phytonutrients
  • Make a great trail mix, especially when combined with dried fruit and m&m’s


  • Have more antioxidants than any other nut, and are used in the prevention of many diseases, including cancer and heart disease
  • Taste great candied and tossed in a salad with lettuce, pears and goat cheese


  • A great source of alpha-linoleic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid
  • Contain more omega-3 fatty acids than any other nut
  • Proven as beneficial for lowering total and LDL blood cholesterol levels, and reducing the risk of heart disease
  • Delicious in chicken salad, other salads, hot cereal, trail mixes, banana bread, brownies and oatmeal or chocolate chip cookies

Brazil nuts

  • Extremely high in the mineral selenium which helps the immune system fight viruses
  • May help to prevent cancer and heart disease
  • Eating just two gives you all the selenium you need in a day


  • Contain significant amounts of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids have been linked to reduced risk of developing macular degeneration, a condition that results in blindness
  • Can be added to muffins, pancakes, or oatmeal

You can choose nuts that are raw, dry roasted, roasted in oil, salted, honey roasted, spiced, candied, chocolate covered. Try out different types of nut butters (peanut, cashew, almond) or oils made from nuts (walnut oil, peanut oil).

Be adventurous with your nuts! Try them in creative ways.

  • Tossed in salads
  • On top of pasta
  • Mixed in chicken salad, stir-fry dishes or other entrees
  • Blended in yogurt with granola and fruit
  • In a trail mix
  • Baked in breads
  • Tossed in hot cereals

There are at least 50 different types of nuts. I bet you can’t name all of them! I know I can’t. So, maybe you could pick a few types and give them a try!

Oh…and by the way, peanuts aren’t really nuts. They are legumes (like beans). Coconuts aren’t really nuts. They are fruit.

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Body Image – Can you Learn to Like your Body?

Body image is a perception – it is your “inner view” of the outer you. It is how you see yourself in the mirror. It is also what you believe about your appearance. Body image is independent of your actual weight, size or how you actually appear to others. Your body image significantly affects how you think, feel and act in many situations. People with a negative body image are prone to depression, low self-esteem, unhealthy relationships and unhealthy behaviors in an attempt to lose weight. Those with a positive body image treat their bodies more healthfully, participate in better self-care, and have a more positive self-image resulting in happier, fuller lives.

It is normal for people to have negative body thoughts and feelings at times. However, we need to recognize there are certain things we can change and those we cannot. We cannot, for instance, change our height, our bone structure, our biological predispositions. We also do not want to be solely defined by size, shape or our weight and minimize all our other qualities. Our bodies are the vehicles in which we live and we need to take care of them, but they should not determine our self worth.

Environmental factors, family experiences, peers, media, moods and biology are a few of the things that influence body image. Starting before adolescence, we begin to develop our body image by our experiences with our bodies and by what others say about them. For example, if we lived in a family who placed high value on outward appearance, we may have experienced pressure to live up to that standard. If our mothers or fathers dieted, or talked about their bodies in a critical way, our own body image will possibly be affected. We may have received criticism or been placed on diets in an attempt to fit the mold set for us. We may have received praise for having a certain body or been at a certain weight.

During adolescence, when our bodies and our lives go through dramatic changes, our body image is affected as well. Receiving positive messages that were unrelated to our bodies help us to achieve a positive or neutral body image. Those of us praised for things such as a sense of humor, intelligence or kindness feel better about ourselves overall and have a more accurate and better body image. Personality traits such as perfectionism also influence body image. Expecting perfection in yourself or your body can fuel body image concerns.

The media also plays a critical part in determining body image. We are bombarded by unrealistic images of young, emaciated women. Many women feel inadequate after reading fashion magazines and pursue extreme methods of achieving the images they see, either to set up a pattern of yo-yo dieting, disordered eating, or eating disorders. We live in a society that does not embrace aging. On the contrary, it tells us to do whatever it takes to slow down the effects of aging by investing in anti-aging and cellulite creams and cosmetic surgery.  In addition, overweight people are often portrayed by the media in a negative derogatory way, further reinforcing negative body image.

Our biology also may play a part. The way our brain works and the chemicals it produces are being researched to determine if there is a connection between brain chemistry and body image.

What is the difference between positive and negative body image?

Negative body image is an unrealistic, distorted image of your body shape and appearance. It is when you worry that others see you as negatively as you do and that your body is an indication of being an unsuccessful person. You feel uncomfortable in your skin and these negative feelings affect your ability to feel confident and happy. The feelings also negatively affect how you relate to others. Severe negative body image can lead to obsessive and unhealthy practices such as extreme dieting and eating disorders. Positive body image is a true and accurate perception of your appearance. You appreciate your natural shape and do not feel that your body is a reflection of your character or self-value. You accept your imperfections and do not obsess about “fixing” them. Essentially, your body does not define you.

 What are solutions for resolving these issues for you?

  • First, you must understand that a direct connection exists between your body image and your feelings. Try to understand why you have placed such value on your body and weight. Then, the more you work on saying positive things to yourself and trying to do positive things in your life, the better you will feel overall and your body image will improve.


  • I encourage you not to define or judge yourself by your weight or size. By doing this you are missing opportunities that life offers, now and in the future. You may feel exhausted by your attempts to control your weight. You may have been so focused on your body for so long that you do not know how to live any other way. You may have either been yo-yo dieting, restricting alternately with binging, using diet pills or laxatives, exercise, purging, all as a means to control your weight. It becomes all consuming and days are deemed either good or bad depending on what the scale says, how your clothes fit, or what you eat. Obtaining a healthy body image is about first caring for yourself on the inside. Then you will feel better about the outside. If you devote some of the energy you spend on negative body behaviors on positive self-care activities, you will open yourself up to other aspects of yourself you may never even know you possess.


  • You must also work on correcting the disordered  behaviors associated with your negative body image such as compulsive weighing, changing outfits multiple times, and looking critically in the mirror. Challenge your rigid, restrictive thinking regarding food and develop a road map back to normal eating. You must relearn what it means to eat for the right reasons: to fuel the body and to avoid using food behaviors to medicate.


  • Focus on healthy movement (if you are medically stable to do so) for well-being, not the weight loss. It is critical to choose a certain type of exercise because it makes you feel energized and increases your vitality, not for its calorie burning potential. A nice walk in a therapeutic environment is a great way to begin.


  • Learn to appreciate your body for what it can do, not what it looks like. Be grateful for each part and its function – your eyes, your hands, your legs, your feet etc.


  • Try to avoid focusing on body parts that you do not like. Learn to forgive your “imperfections” and wear clothes that make you feel more comfortable. Accessorize with jewelry, scarves and hats that are are not sized.


I believe we have to rethink about what makes us happy. Do we want to be remembered by others as the person who was on an eternal quest to be a specific clothing size or body weight throughout his/her life? Or the one who devoted his/her energy to things like helping others, laughing, being a good worker, raising healthy happy children?

Ultimately, it is essential to work on your body image, rather than your body. Working endlessly on perfecting your body will get you further away from self-acceptance and happiness. Attempts to change your natural shape are draining. You cannot measure happiness on a scale or with a clothing size, ever!

Nourish your body by eating a variety of good, quality foods and participating in pleasurable movement. Nourish your mind by participating in fun and rewarding work and activities. Nourish your spirit by connecting with supportive positive people with whom you can have healthy relationships. Learn to first tolerate, then accept, then like yourself for who you are!

You are all beautiful!

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What is Normal Eating?

The following is a great definition of  “normal eating” written by a pioneer in the field of  “eating competence” , Ellyn Satter.

Normal eating is being able to eat when you are hungry and continue to eat until you are satisfied.  It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it – not just stop eating because you think you should.  Normal eating is being able use some moderate constraint on your food selection to get the right food, but not being so restrictive that you miss out on pleasurable foods.  Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad, bored, or just because it feels good.  Normal eating is three meals a day, or it can be choosing to munch along.  It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful when they are fresh.  Normal eating is overeating at times:  feeling stuffed and uncomfortable.  It is also undereating at times and wishing you had more.  Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating.  Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.

 In short, normal eating is flexible.  It varies in response to your emotions, your schedule, your hunger and your proximity to food.

 Source:  How To Get Your Kid To Eat…But Not Too Much by Ellyn Satter

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Restriction vs Restraint

A client recently asked me what the difference between restriction and healthy restraint was. She suffers from an eating disorder where her eating behaviors range from severe restriction to binge eating. She rarely experiences times where her eating is comfortable, easy and pleasurable. I’ve been working with her on understanding that the periods of restriction are often followed by periods of bingeing and in order to reach the comfortable eating place, she cannot continue to give herself permission to restrict. She revealed to me that she knows no other way to avoid bingeing except to restrict. It’s “all or nothing” with her eating she says. She says sometimes it’s easier to not eat at all because once she eats she has strong urges to binge and finds it impossible to resist them.  Wow. This is such a powerful statement, yet one I have heard numerous times in the treatment of people with binge eating disorder. So, I have said to her on a few occasions that she may practice “healthy restraint” at times, because it has less of a chance of causing binge eating than restriction does. So…what exactly is healthy restraint vs restriction?

Restriction, in my opinion, is rule-driven deprivation of food that overrides the body’s natural intuitive hunger, its “starting point” for eating. It is a deliberate withholding of food despite the desire or appetite for it. It may include the withholding of overall food intake, of specific nutrients, food groups, times of day, time periods, etc. It is often painful and creates heightened obsessive thoughts of food. Restriction is quite common with individuals with anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. Also there are numerous individuals who don’t have a diagnosed eating disorder who restrict their food in order to be a specific weight or size. It is not a matter of “will-power” or strength. Restriction is unnatural. It doesn’t make someone more powerful or “in control”.  It is counter-intuitive and often backfires.

“Healthy restraint” is different. It is a behavior that many healthy people engage in every day in choosing what and how much to eat. Restraint is not about rigid rules, but more about choice. It is flexible, based on the body’s intuitive cues of hunger, appetite and fullness. Restraint is a mixture of intuitiveness and choice. It is knowing you are full or you’ve had enough and then telling yourself it’s ok to stop now because you are satisfied and you can eat more later if you want to.

By giving you a couple examples, it might illustrate the difference better. Allison has an eating disorder. She fears losing control over her intake of food time and time again. She has convinced herself that she overeats every time she is in the presence of a food she likes. She has told herself that if she doesn’t limit herself from all pleasurable foods, she will overeat. She avoids numerous foods, opportunities to eat out with friends and family because she doesn’t want to binge. She keeps a very limited array of foods in her house. She has developed very strong negative feelings and opinions regarding foods other than the very select few she deems “safe” or “good”. If she eats a food that isn’t on her safe list, she is convinced she will binge. She inevitably does binge on these foods and then restricts them once again, making her theory that she can’t eat them even stronger.  On a weekend night, Allison goes out to dinner with her family. Her family orders a variety of choices off the menu. Allison orders a salad with grilled chicken, dressing on the side. She says she doesn’t like anything else on the menu. She refuses the bread that’s on the table, she doesn’t eat a dessert.  She orders a diet soda to drink. She spends the meal making small talk meanwhile she is preoccupied with all the foods everyone else is eating, telling herself they are crazy for eating those foods, the foods are horrible, if she ate one of the entrees everyone else chose, she’d go out of control, gain tons of weight and her life would be miserable. She tells herself she is much better off only eating her “safe” “healthy” salad. Yet, all the while, she really knows she loves the other foods. She wishes she could let herself have them and eat them in the amounts that “normal” people do.   When dinner is over, she feels sad, angry and deprived. Somehow she convinces herself that it was the right thing to do. A few days later, in a “moment of weakness” while at the grocery store, she buys a box of cookies along with the other groceries. She barely gets the car door closed when she rips into the bag of cookies and eats half the box before she makes it home. Clearly, in this instance, Allison experienced restriction which led her, in part, to rebound binge on cookies. Not to say that restriction always leads to bingeing or that there aren’t multiple causes for bingeing but restriction is NOT a positive or natural behavior.

Robin also has an eating disorder. She has spent months trying to achieve structure in her eating by eating three solid meals a day and eating exactly what she desires at each of these three meals. Her breakfasts are not the traditional breakfasts. She prefers dinner foods for breakfast. She no longer follows her old restrictive rules. She listens to her intuitive side and eats well. On an occasion recently, she was invited out to lunch with several friends. As they were ordering, she listened to the women all speaking about what foods they wouldn’t order off the menu, how they would never eat “this or that”. They all ordered salads. When it was her time to order, she ordered a hamburger and fries. They all looked at her like she was crazy. She told them she wanted the burger. She had to listen them all comment how bad her choice was. Lunch arrived and she proceeded to eat her burger and fries with gusto. About ¾ of the way through her meal, she was comfortably full. It tasted delicious and she told herself that she could have eaten the whole burger and all the fries, but she decided that she had eaten enough to satisfy her and if she wanted a burger and fries again for dinner or the next day for any of her three meals, she would have it. There was no “need” to eat it all at lunch and push past the feeling of being satisfied into feeling “overfull”. She was exhibiting healthy restraint because she offered herself the choice to have it all or have it again whenever she wanted it next. This took the power away from the food and enabled her to use her intuitive skills to determine when to stop.

Now, some people truly don’t have intact intuitive skills like this so they must look at their plate of food and make sure they don’t stop prematurely, before they feel they are truly satisfied or eat it all simply because it is there. They want to go into the meal with an open mind instead of a restrictive, diet mindset or a “rebound” mindset. If they aren’t mindful, they may end up eating less than they need or more than their body wants them to.

Just recently a mom came in with her teenage son (who was not diagnosed with an eating disorder) to my office. She wanted to discuss why her son gained a significant amount of weight in only six months. I asked her what the food was like in her house. She said that she never keeps “junk food” in the house because every time she does, her son eats it all and exhibits no control over it. Also, whenever he’s at his friends’ houses, he overeats on cookies and soda. I asked him if he felt deprived of these foods so whenever he got the chance, he would take the opportunity to overindulge on them? He looked at me with a sigh of relief and  began to cry because I had said exactly how he felt. He was restricted from having these foods at home and that set him up for craving them all the time. His mother agreed to have an abundance of these foods at home from now on and to never let them run out. He agreed that he would try to take the power away from these foods. I have seen examples of this type of power struggle over food many, many times. The people who have had foods withheld from them are those who often have strong cravings for them. On the other hand, it’s those who have abundance and variety of foods to choose from who are often those who do not feel deprived and therefore can choose foods without the emotional “tug of war”. In time, this teenage boy will be able to have a wider variety of food preferences. He will most likey choose “junk foods” sometimes and other types of foods sometimes. He will be able to exhibit healthy restraint because his preferences will change and be based on intuitiveness and choice rather than restriction and rebound craving.

Note:  I want to emphasize that many individuals who are in the throws of their illness or who are in early stages of recovery may not be able to differentiate between restriction and healthy restraint and therefore must ask their treatment professionals if it is a skill they can work on together. It is easy to convince yourself you are exhibiting restraint when in actuality, you are restricting. This especially would not be a skill that would be appropriate for the early stages of recovery from anorexia.

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Peanut Butter!

To some people with an eating disorder, peanut butter is a fabulous food, and to others it is a fearful food. I am going to try to set the record straight on this misunderstood food!

Peanut butter is NOT a “fattening” food. As you all know by now, there is NO such thing as a fattening food. Foods that are high in fat are NOT fattening, they are merely a good source of fat which is an ESSENTIAL nutrient. Fat is as essential as calcium, as vitamin C, as carbohydrate, as water! Fat in food does NOT equal fat on the body.

Some of you may avoid it because it has been a binge food for you. I would encourage those of you who have had this issue to try to eat it only when you are feeling like you can eat it in safe amounts, or bring a small container of it with you to work or school etc, so it is self-limiting.

Here are the facts:

Peanuts are actually legumes, not nuts, and they originated from Brazil.

Most of the fat in peanut butter is monounsaturated, and has been shown to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. Peanut butter also contains polyunsaturated fat, which helps raise the “good” HDL cholesterol. By having this great combination of fats, peanut butter is an excellent good cholesterol regulator. Also, fats in your diet are a form of energy (second to carbohydrates), they help you make hormones, help your brain transmit messages more effectively, and they are part of every cell membrane in your body.

Peanut butter contains a good amount of dietary fiber, which helps in regulating both blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Dietary fiber also reduces the risk of certain cancers and helps you go to the bathroom.

Peanut butter is a great protein source.

It also contains micronutrients like Vitamin E, Vitamin B3, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and calcium.

Vitamin E is one of the most powerful antioxidants, which reduces the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Peanut butter contains much higher quantities of antioxidants than apples or carrots.

Vitamin B3 (also known as Niacin) is a vitamin that helps in the repair of cell DNA damage (protecting from cancer).

Iron is essential for the health of your red blood cells, and calcium promotes healthy bones and shields against muscle spasms.

Peanut butter has a fairly good amount of potassium, an essential electrolyte. Diets rich in potassium help you maintain a healthy fluid balance and offset the effects of dehydration. (Bananas are an even better source of potassium, so you might want to make a banana and peanut butter sandwich!).

One of the most interesting and unusual nutrients found in peanut butter is resveratrol, a natural anti-microbial and anti-fungal ingredient. There are studies that show many health benefits of resveratrol, ranging from anti-cancer, antiviral, anti-aging, brain-protective and life-prolonging (most of these tests have not been carried out on humans yet though.)

The next time you say you won’t eat peanut butter, remember how healthy and delicious it is! Peanut butter is also such a versatile food. You can have it creamy or chunky, natural or regular. You can eat it on a sandwich, in a celery stalk, on rice cakes, mixed in a smoothie, mixed in ice cream or yogurt, made into cookies, mixed in chocolate, or just on a spoon. The sky is the limit!

Please share some of the ways you enjoy this fantastic food!

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Holiday Parties with ED

Holiday parties can be stressful for people who suffer from eating disorders. Below are my top 10 ideas to help you negotiate through some of the difficulties you may face. Ultimately, it’s important to prioritize your self-care during the holiday season and try to make it as stress-free as possible.

  1. Try to stick with a routine of eating as often as you can. This doesn’t mean restriction; it means a comfortable yet structured way of eating…a routine. If you need to attend a party or family function, eat as normally before it as possible so that you stay as “regulated” as possible.
  2.  Before you go to any type of party, get as much information about it in a advance as possible, including what will be served, how it will be served (ie: buffet or sit down dinner) and when. This way, you can mentally prepare yourself for the food aspects.
  3. If need be, bring something with you that you are comfortable eating. Bring enough for others to share with you. It could be an appetizer, side dish, or comfortable dessert. The hostess will think you are very thoughtful and you will be more comfortable with that particular food.
  4. Inform a trusted person in advance that you may need their help during the party. Ask them to help you if you need it. Develop a “signal” that only the two of you know that means you need them. It may be that you need their help in an awkward social situation or with a food issue.
  5. Never go to a party or event overly hungry. Excessive hunger will heighten obsessions about the food and may cause you to feel “out of control”.  Again, eat on a regular schedule the day of the party.
  6. In terms of the food, do the best you can at the party. Remember, it is one meal of one day. Try not to catastrophize what you eat or how much you do or don’t eat while at the event. Once you leave the party, move past it. Try not to dwell on what you did or didn’t eat.  Once it’s over, it’s over.
  7. Spend as much or as little time at a party as you feel comfortable with. Because social events can cause anxiety for numerous reasons, plan your time according to your comfort level.  Also, try to have flexibility built into your plan in case you want to stay longer or shorter than initially planned.  
  8. Try to remember that the food is only one aspect of a party. There are other aspects that you may want to focus on. There may be one or more people there that you’d love to catch up with. There may be kids who you can play with to give their parents a break. There may be elders there who would love to share stories with you. 
  9. If someone comments to you about your eating, weight or size, try to immediately change the subject to something related to them. People like to talk about themselves. Take the focus off of you and put it onto them. For example, if someone says “Wow! You look like you lost (or gained) weight.” You could say “More importantly, how are you doing? What’s new in your life?” Also, try to realize that people who don’t understand eating disorders don’t realize that discussions about food and weight are very personal. They are usually just curious. Put a mental “protective barrier” around yourself and don’t let comments penetrate it.
  10. After a party is over, get back to your routine. End the day on a positive note. Give yourself a “pat on the back” for doing the best you could.


These are just some of the things you could do to make holday parties less stressful for yourself. Do you have any tips and tricks on coping with stressful holiday functions?  I’d love to hear your suggestions.

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Carbs, Carbs, Wonderful Carbs!

You are a human. You are not a plant. Therefore you cannot photosynthesize to get energy to live. You must get your fuel/energy from food. The “essential” nutrients in foods – carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water, provide the “raw material” to give your body life! The reason these nutrients are called “essential” is because life ceases without them!

Today’s post is on the topic of carbohydrates. Bashing carbohydrates is OLD NEWS. In fact, it never should have been news in the first place. Carbohydrates are your body’s NUMBER ONE source of energy. There are between 75 and 100 trillion cells in the adult human body. All those trillions of cells need carbohydrates to thrive.

Carbohydrates are essentially carbon (C), hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O) organized in teeny little carbon rings, either by themselves or bound together with another similar ring or in longer chains of rings. They are found mostly in foods of non-animal origin.

This is glucose. It is the only carbohydrate your cells can use. All other carbohydrates you eat have to eventually convert into this cute little molecule in your body. So no matter what food your carbohydrates come from, they ultimately will become glucose to give your cells energy.

Carbohydrates are the PREFERRED source of fuel for most of your body’s trillions of cells but they are the ONLY type of fuel that your brain and central nervous system can use. They cannot use any other type of nutrient as their energy source. They need carbohydrates to survive. Have you ever felt a lack of concentration, brain fog, from eating too little carbohydrate? After going long hours without carbohydrates, have you gotten weak and shaky, your muscles begin to tremble and your heart begins to race? Ever wonder why that happens? When your brain is “starved” of carbohydrates, it senses that it has no energy to survive. It sends messages to your muscles to tremble to release any stored fuel (carbohydrate) to send to the brain and it makes your heart beat faster to get the blood quickly to the brain to prevent the brain cells from “dying”. This isn’t a pleasant scenario and your brain is obviously showing you it is in danger.  Your brain is telling you it is desperate and has no fuel to work!

You need carbohydrates all day, every day for sustained energy for your brain and body. So, every time you eat something, whether it is a meal or a snack, it would be ideal to include a carbohydrate source with your other nutrients.

Also, contrary to some peoples’ beliefs, carbohydrates are NOT “fattening”. This concept is misleading and incorrect! Remember, from another post on this blog that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. Calories coming from carbohydrate-containing foods are no more or less able to change an individual’s weight than calories coming from other foods. That is a MYTH!  The more you avoid them though, the more you will set yourself up to crave them. If that has happened to you, the more consistently you are able to include them into your daily meals and snacks in a “safe” way, the more comfortable you will become.

In addition to the energy you will give your body and brain by eating carbohydrate- containing foods, you will also give it other fabulous nutrients, depending on which foods you choose. For example, if you choose to eat whole wheat bread you will also be giving yourself fiber and B vitamins. If you eat yogurt, you are also getting calcium, protein and vitamin D.  If you eat fruit, you are getting fiber and antioxidant vitamins. Or you could have a fun food like a candy bar and you will benefit from the energy from carbohydrate and a side benefit of pleasure (an essential ingredient in my opinion)!!

So, the next time you are considering what to eat, remember that carbohydrates are essential!  Your trillions of cells will thank you!

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