Tag Archive | food phobia


When you go on vacation, wouldn’t it be nice to take a vacation from your eating disorder instead of having your eating disorder travel with you?

I’m sure some of you are not even able to go on a vacation because it so stressful that is sets back your recovery. I wanted to write this post because so many people will be embarking on vacations over the next couple weeks due to the spring break from schools. Also, summer is on its way and people often take vacations in the summer. This post is designed to provide you and your loved ones with insight into the challenges faced on vacations and strategies for working through them.

I recently got back from a vacation and realized how nice it was to not have my eating disorder tagging along. In the past, it would involve itself in every move I made, ruining the trip to the point where I was desperate to be back in the safety of my routine, the sameness, the disordered prison I called “home”.

Why is going away so challenging when you have an eating disorder?

No matter what type of disorder you struggle with, there are issues that you face that non-disordered people simply don’t worry about.

The following are some quotes from some of my clients regarding their challenging experiences on recent vacations, due to their eating disorders.

“I don’t remember anything fun about my family vacation. The months prior to the trip, I spent endless hours trying to buy clothes that fit and wouldn’t make me feel enormous. All this clothes shopping made me obsess even more about my body and reinforced to me how abnormal I feel. As the trip got closer, I pulled out all the stops and used every disordered behavior in my arsenal, somehow thinking this would make me feel better before I got there. So, by the time the day arrived when we left, I felt horrible, washed out and more obsessed than ever.

All I remember about the resort was scoping out every single bathroom there that I could escape to in order to use my behaviors. I spent the entire trip pretending to be normal and eating normally. Then when no one was looking, I would bolt to the least conspicuous bathroom. I was exhausted, bloated and depressed. I snapped at my kids and my husband because I couldn’t enjoy all the fun events we were partaking in.”


“I show up at a tropical resort after weeks or possibly months of anticipation. I’ve probably spent those weeks or months dieting and exercising because I need to look semi-acceptable in ‘resort-clothing’. Chances are that I have failed to lose any weight, so that weighs heavily on me causing me to be cranky.  Part of me says, ‘It’s not over. Try again.’ So, I decide to eat only one meal while I’m there. In fact, I even select cocktails that aren’t high in calories.

The attractive, thin, people around me make me self-conscious.  I feel awkward when I have to talk to them because I think they think, ‘She’s way too fat to be here.’ I decline when they out of pure politeness invite me to 8am yoga.

I try to make healthy food choices, but it’s hard because I am limited to what it available.  Depending on where I am, there may be a plethora of food, but the quality or the preparation may be bad, so I end up feeling unsatisfied, causing me to eat excess Carbs.  (Lots of Carbs at resorts!)  If the quality is great, then I probably indulge and feel guilty after.

Needless to say, at some point in my vacation, I snap and become super-bitch.   After I snap, I hate myself for starting a petty argument and that blows up to hating myself for EVERYTHING bad that I am and have including my body.”


“My family looks forward to this family reunion on a cruise every year. We all go away for a week where all there is to do is eat, eat, eat. For the months prior to the cruise, I agonize over wearing a bathing suit. I feel so awkward showing my body but I know it would be weird to not wear one. I find myself body checking more and more the closer the trip approaches. I strategize for weeks about how I will handle all the food. I devise a great plan to eat only three small meals, lots of fruit and vegetables, walk around the deck for exercise and drink alcohol minimally.

I am with extended family all the time. There’s no escaping them. The drinks are pouring. They are all feasting at every chance they can get. They stay up till all hours of the night at the clubs drinking and then binge at the midnight buffet.

I usually last about two days with my plan of restricting myself till on about the third day, I can’t take it anymore and a switch is flipped. I go wild. I begin eating like a crazy person. I gorge myself at every chance I get. I spend the next 5 days bingeing and purging over and over and over…usually at least 4 or more times a day. I keep trying to get myself back on track but I don’t have the energy to do it. I just resign myself to being disordered for the rest of the trip.

My personality changes too. I drink and become a ‘party animal’, so everyone thinks I am having a ball. Little do they know I am screaming at myself behind the scenes.”


“We usually go on a big trip, often to Europe, in the summer. Last year it was to Italy and France. The thought of going somewhere this summer sends chills up my spine. I have such a hard time breaking out of my routine of safe foods and my exercise plan. Everyone tells me that I will do a lot of walking on my trip but it doesn’t feel the same. I end up with strong urges to compensate for the lack of regular exercise. I also have a really hard time eating in restaurants and when we go away, we eat all our meals out. I just get so scared about all the changes and things I can’t control, I do terribly while we are away.

My family ends up getting furious with me because I can’t enjoy the food like they do. I end up ruining all the meals because I always let them down by ordering the safest food on the menu. My parents get in arguments over my eating and then their trip is terrible. I feel like a burden.

When we get back from our trip, my parents get even angrier with me because my weight will be affected and then they are scrambling to get me to eat more to get back on track. It’s a disaster all around.”


Well…these four stories of vacations are all too real for those who struggle with these illnesses. So, what do you do? How can you go on vacation and keep your eating disorder from ruining it?

First, you need to understand that you have a psychological illness that has been used as a coping mechanism and it doesn’t just vanish because you decide to go away. (Wouldn’t that be nice if it did???) Depending where you are in your recovery, a vacation can be a positive experience or a negative one.

I have treated many clients who have had fabulous vacations, ones when their eating disorders haven’t ruined the trip for them. Those clients were either fairly far along in recovery and/or strategized for the trip so that they felt as comfortable as possible.

Some strategies for your vacation:

  • Accommodate the Time Difference: First, if you are going to fly, plan for your flight and the times changes if there are any. Often, when you are gaining time or getting up extra early, there may be some challenges with figuring out your meals. In my opinion, if you are awake for extra hours, you will need to have an additional meal or snack to accommodate the extra time. Plan for this “extra” and have something comfortable to add in for the day.


  • Bring Food:  If you are flying, bring food with you on the plane. You can either buy things at most any airport, or take food from home. Think about in what time frames you will be flying and what meals and/or snacks you would be consuming if you were home…if you weren’t flying. I have been to numerous airports and I have found the packaged foods to be quite universal. I usually bring protein bars, nuts, and dried fruits for snacks. Depending on what time my flight is, I will perhaps buy a sandwich or a salad at the airport if my flight will be during a meal time. I always buy a beverage after I go through the security gate so that I have a drink on the plane. If you are lucky, you might be offered something on the plane, but lately, you have to buy the food. Plus, plane food often sucks. Always be prepared. You never want to be left with no food choices while traveling. Always pack food in your suitcase. Plan to bring enough snacks for every day you will be gone, at every snack time. Worst case scenario, you can bring them home with you. I look at food as important as medicine, and you would never forget to take your medicine on a trip. If you have favorite foods (obviously they cannot be perishable if you are flying), bring them – cereal, peanut butter, crackers, bars, nuts, etc. 
    If you are going to a destination and staying in a house or condo, hopefully you will have access to a grocery store once you get there and you might want to go to the store within a short period of time after you arrive so you have all the food you need. You will most likely have some meals in the house/condo which will provide you with structure and familiarity.If you are traveling somewhere by car, bring food as well. The good thing about traveling in a car is that you can bring perishable food with you like yogurt, cheese, sandwiches, etc. If you like to make stops periodically to get food along the way, you will have a choice of either getting something at the restaurant or “rest stop” or eat what you have brought with you. This would be a good time to challenge yourself if the restaurant or ”rest stop” has comfortable food. Most restaurants have a variety of options for a variety of needs. Get as much information about where you will be stopping before you stop so that you have a good game plan.


  • Add Structure to Your Meals:  You may need to be flexible if traveling with several people because everyone’s needs will vary, but try to get as much structure in your meals as possible on travel days as well as on vacation days. When you know where you will be going, make a “healthy” mental game plan for your meals and snacks. The last thing you want to do is plan to use behaviors while you are away. That will certainly ruin your trip.  Try to make sure your plan is to eat as recovery-focused, comfortable, and satisfying as possible. Planning to restrict, binge or purge will put your eating disorder in charge from the start and you will not enjoy yourself.


  • Try to Avoid Catastrophizing Things:  No matter how long or short your trip is, don’t let the time you are away overshadow the work you have done the other days, weeks and months of the year. Remember, it’s a vacation – a reprieve from the stresses of life.


  • Try Not to Compare Yourself to Other People:  You don’t want to ruin your trip by making comparisons that will only serve to make your eating disorder stronger. If you are feeling awkward, remember that people don’t really care what you are doing. They are more interested in what they are doing. On my recent vacation, we were on the beach every day. It was so freeing to just enjoy the sun and the water without feeling the awkwardness that my eating disorder used to inflict upon me. There was the momentary discomfort of walking across the beach into the water but the water felt so good and I am sure no one cared what I wore or what I looked like. Even if they did, I didn’t know any of them and I will never see any of them again.


  • Keep Your Food Expectations Realistic:   No matter what eating disorder you struggle with, the food will NOT be the same as it is at home. It most likely will elicit some challenging thoughts and feelings. Your eating won’t be perfect. It’s not supposed to be. This goes back to what I said previously. Go into the trip with a “healthy” positive, recovery-focused game plan and expect that you can’t control everything. On my vacation, the food was not that good. I was in an all-inclusive resort. Frankly, the food was disappointing. But, I ate what I liked, felt excited about a few things and was disappointed by a number of things. The food is a big part of what I look forward to on a trip, but although I was a little disappointed overall, I tried to maintain perspective and for me, perspective is key! If I look too much toward the food as the “make or break” aspect of the trip, I am often let down.


  • Get Support:  If you are traveling with family or other people, find someone who will support you when things are difficult. Maybe this will be a parent, friend, sibling, or significant other. Reach out and speak up about what your worries are. They may not “get” it but they can help support you through a rough patch, it can help prevent a disastrous trip.


  • Change Your Movement Expectations:  If you worry about movement during your trip, remember, once again, you are on vacation. Things will most likely not be the same as they are at home. Try to change your expectations about movement. If you follow an exercise routine at home and you won’t be able to do the same routine while you are away, use the trip as a time to practice flexibility in your routine. Please try not to catastrophize the change. Change is often very challenging for some people with eating disorders. Sameness is so safe, but once again, try to keep your expectations realistic. I find vacations to be a good opportunity to recharge myself, not to put pressure on myself to do everything the same.  The more pressure you put on yourself about all the things you “should” do on vacation, the more “guilt” your eating disorder will make you feel.


  • Stay OUT of Your Head!!! If you start going into eating disorder mode, press your mental “reset” button and try to challenge any negative thoughts and behaviors before they take over.

Remember, there are 365 days a year and your vacation is a small period of time within that year. Try to make the most of it. Try NOT to let your eating disorder and all the associated obsessions and compulsions ruin what could be a fun-filled break from the stressors you experience during the rest of the year.

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Dr. Glenn Gaesser Tells The Truth About “Carbs”!

Dr Glenn Gaesser, exercise physiologist, professor at Arizona State University, and author of Big Fat Lies, posted a fantastic YouTube video debating Dr Oz’s claims that carbohydrates make us “fat”. Dr Gaesser is a well-respected pioneer in the “health at every size” movement, an approach to health that includes intuitive eating and pleasurable movement. Health at every size demonstrates that people can be fit and healthy at any size and that size alone is NOT a predictor of health. This video, debunking the myths about carbohydrates, is the best source of information I’ve seen!

Last week, Dr Gaesser was a guest on the Dr Oz show debating the “obesity epidemic” issue with Dr Oz.

I personally feel that our society has become so “fat obsessed” that we are missing the real truth of the matter, that wellness has much less to do with size and weight and much more to do with fitness, the quality of the food we eat, and overall lifestyle. One individual can be perfectly healthy and yet be considered “obese” by medical standards and another can be unhealthy and be considered “thin” by medical standards.


It’s time we place our focus on the goals that will truly make us healthy instead of trying to diet our way to “health and happiness”. These goals are:

  1. Trying to achieve an improved overall level of fitness
  2. Eating a balance of foods – some healthy, and some just for fun (I believe in the 80/20 guideline – 80% healthy food, 20% fun food)
  3. Practicing healthy and effective coping mechanisms and communication skills
  4. Maintaining good overall physical, mental, and spiritual self-care


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Your Teen May Be Headed For Trouble

Your teenage girl appears to have it all together.  She is bright, pretty, has good friendships, and is athletic.  She develops an eating disorder…what happened?  When a teenager feels out of balance, when the things she feels she CAN control are out of balance with the things she feels she CAN’T control, she feels uncomfortable.  For instance, she can’t control that school pressures are enormous and she studied as hard as she could for an exam and got a 92 instead of a 98.  She can’t control that her parents argue.  She can’t control that her boyfriend isn’t ready for a serious relationship and wants to break up with her.  If she is a perfectionist, these out of control situations may even make her feel like a failure.  She is vulnerable.  She decides to go on a “simple diet” to lose 5 pounds to feel better about herself (because she has been taught by the media that thinness = happiness).  On this diet, she realizes that her weight and the amount and types of food she puts into her body, are things she can control when other things in her life she can’t always control.  The more out of control her life feels, the more important it becomes to control her weight and her eating.  If she is vulnerable enough, the dieting could lead to an eating disorder.

The media, in all forms, sends messages to teenagers that in order to be happy, you must be thin and beautiful.  A teenager is bombarded by these messages in magazines portraying waif thin computer altered models.   Television is sending us messages that if dieting doesn’t work, you can even have an extreme makeover to fix your appearance flaws.  Life-threatening surgeries are portrayed as a brilliant quick-fix.

Teenagers also are living in a diet-obsessed environment.  65% of our country is overweight yet, if you’re not on the latest diet – South Beach, Atkins – something is wrong with you.  Everywhere you turn, in magazines, on TV, every news program, online advertisements,  you are bombarded with messages about how to lose weight.

Imagine being a vulnerable teenager, perhaps of normal or slightly above normal weight, struggling with all types of issues, and then having to sit at a lunch table trying to eat a sandwich where no one would eat a “carb” if their life depended on it.  Everyone is talking about how “fattening” bread is.  The peer pressure to diet is extraordinary.

So, you have this vulnerable teenager, feeling out of control, unable to communicate her feelings, experiencing academic and societal pressures, and peer pressure to be thin, and you have the perfect storm… a scenario that can create disordered eating and eating disorders – anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder.

What behavioral signs should a parent look for?

Behaviors vary according to the type and severity of the disorder.

  • If your teen talks more about her weight in a negative way
  • If she asks often “do I look fat?”
  • If she starts cutting out things in her diet such as foods that were once her favorite foods, such as desserts, and says she doesn’t like them anymore
  • If she exhibits rituals around her foods like cutting it up into small pieces, measuring foods, or pushing things around on the plate
  • If her clothes appear looser
  • If she avoids social situations where food is involved or makes excuses not to eat
  • If she has become a vegetarian but will not eat fats and oils or higher fat vegetarian foods
  • If she grocery shops or prepares food for the family but refuses to eat it
  • If she goes to the bathroom often after eating (to purge)
  • If she begins to exercise compulsively, doing excessive amounts of cardiovascular exercise, sit-ups, jumping jacks, leg lifts, push-ups
  • If she is using diet pills or laxatives on a regular basis
  • If, in secret, she binges on high calorie foods
  • If you see empty food packages in her room or in the garbage
  • If she avoids food at holidays


What strategies can a parent employ to help your teen avoid dieting/disordered eating?

  • Don’t diet – healthy weight can be achieved through normal eating and changes in lifestyle.  Be a healthy eating role model.  The “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy doesn’t work with food
  • Don’t discuss weight at home, yours or your teenager’s (especially dad)
  • Never criticize your own body
  • Get rid of your scale
  • Don’t criticize your teenager at mealtime; don’t engage in power struggles over food
  • Be a critic of the media
  • Encourage size diversity
  • Encourage your teen to appreciate her qualities other than her weight to help boost her self-esteem
  • Encourage your teen to express all of her positive and negative feelings with you
  • Have structured meals as often as you can to create a normal eating environment – if a teenager who wants to diet has an unstructured or chaotic eating environment at home, it makes it easier for her to diet and get away with it


If you see any of the above “red flags” or have any concerns about your teen, call a professional who is trained in the detection and treatment of eating disorders.





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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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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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Vic Avon on FOX Focus: Male eating disorders

Click below to read the story on Fox 23 News
FOX Focus: Male eating disorders

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Top Ten Reasons to Eat Dessert

Definition of dessert: a usually sweet course or dish (as of pastry or ice cream) usually served at the end of a meal.

In my opinion, dessert is one of life’s greatest inventions. I have dessert every day, sometimes twice a day. I strongly recommend you challenge yourself when you are ready, and try to adopt a positive attitude toward this fantastic part of the meal! 

  1. Dessert is pleasurable, and one of life’s greatest achievements is pleasure.
  2. Eating dessert regularly gives those types of foods less power over you in the long run.
  3. Dessert isn’t poison. If you eat it regularly, it doesn’t take away the nutritional value of the other foods you eat.
  4. Dessert balances out a meal and gives “closure” to the meal.
  5. Eating dessert is an opportunity to experience different flavors and textures that you cannot get in other foods like vegetables, meats, and fruits.
  6. Eating dessert is an opportunity to defy your eating disorder, tell it who the “boss” is, and overcome the “guilt” that has held you hostage.
  7. Dessert is social. It is a good way to bond with others. There’s nothing better than going to an ice cream store and sharing the experience with a friend or loved one.
  8. Dessert can be an opportunity to be creative. You can make interesting concoctions that you otherwise may not have thought of.
  9. Dessert isn’t “fattening”. Remember, there is no such thing as a fattening food!
  10. Last, but not least, eating dessert is a recovery-focused step that will help you become victorious over all the myths and misconceptions that you have held onto while you have had your illness!
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Sugar Addiction

This is a great blog post written by a well respected pioneer in the field of eating disorders, Nancy Matsumoto, co-author of The Parent’s Guide to Eating Disorders: Supporting Self-Esteem, Healthy Eating, and Positive Body Image at Home.

The truth about so-called “sugar addiction”

In her discussion on the subject of “sugar addiction”, she cites a recent review in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition in which it states that “there is no support from the human literature for the hypothesis that sucrose may be physically addictive or that addiction to sugar plays a role in eating disorders.”

She further differentiates between a “craving” and an “addiction” and breaks down the facts about carbohydrate in a user-friendly way.

Thanks Nancy for enlightening so many people with your fact-based information!

In a recent post, I reported on a NEDA-sponsored panel discussion I attended during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. One panelist, who has been involved in a 12-step recovery program, described herself as being “addicted” to sugar. It was a substance that she simply could not ingest, she said, because it induced a kind of high and made her crave more and more sugary foods. For her, it was simply too dangerous to touch.

via www.eatingdisordersblogs.com

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Top Ten Ways To Eat Pretzels

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Lessons and Learning

Every day I learn something new about life and about myself. The lessons aren’t always positive but lessons, nonetheless. I learn about my relationship with food, myself, and the world. The lessons aren’t earth shattering either. Just lessons…

Today, one of the things I learned is that I truly love to make people happy with food. My kids were home from college and my daughter brought some friends home with her for a mini “vacation”.

We started the day with subs for lunch, and then went into hot chocolate with an assortment of cookies. Later we rolled into a dinner of chicken, three types of pasta, garlic bread, fruit and veggies. We ended the night with “make your own sundaes”.  I think, for me, food is an integral part of creating good memories. I have had so many bad memories of food; I am trying to replace old bad memories with new, happy ones.

During the days of my eating disorder, I would want to see people eat because I would get pleasure from watching them, but it wasn’t a “healthy” pleasure. Nowadays, I love to think of what people would like to eat and then go “all out”. I think it is partly a nurturing thing. I have to admit, I also like the “thank you’s” because it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something positive that brings people enjoyment.  I also realized though, that I don’t like to prepare food for friends who are connoisseurs of food. I have had dinner parties in the past where my anxiety was high due to the fear of the expectations of my guests. Now, my audience has to be easy to please, like my kids and their friends, or my family. I feel like part of my character is wrapped around being a good hostess. My kids, their friends, and family are easy to please. Plus, I like the simple foods too!

I also experienced a variety of feelings today…”good” ones and “bad” ones. Joy, happiness, and pleasure, but also worry, overwhelm and fear. It never ceases to amaze me that life is a mixed bag of everything.  I already knew, but certainly experienced today, the ups and downs of life. I will strive though, to hang on to the positive experiences and feelings, understand and allow the negative experiences and feelings. When the day is over, I will accept it all.

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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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Food Phobia


The above article is a story about a six year old girl, Emmie, who has a terrible food phobia.

I’ve worked with numerous children over the course of 20 years and this type of phobia is very real. It is not about spoiled kids or control or bad parenting. In fact, some of the “traditional” types of approaches (like letting the child get hungry enough they will eat anything) DOES NOT WORK. If this ineffective approach is attempted, the child would end up starving to death because they are terrified of feeling the fear, which is very real. Sometimes it is about sensory issues and textures, as is the case with many on the autism spectrum. Or, it is often due to gastrointestinal discomfort with the same types of children. But, I’ve also seen numerous children who have had severe strep throat as a child who develop PANDAS, or Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus. This type of illness can create obsessive behaviors around food, very much like Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Whatever the origin, this family is struggling to find answers for this poor child. This is a separate and distinct type of disorder from anorexia, bulimia or binge-eating disorder. It usually doesn’t involve fear of weight gain, body image distortion, etc.

Some of the comments posted on this article were infuriating, stating that Emmie’s parents are “bad” parents or they are “spoiling” their child because they will give her anything she wants to eat, just to get her to eat. The ignorance of people who write these mean, inaccurate comments astounds me! There is no “one size fits all” approach to eating issues. Eating issues are complex and require time, patience, support, hard work, and the appropriate type of treatment.  Obviously this poor family is suffering and anyone who has any compassion and intelligence can see that they are searching for answers to help their child feel better and lead a more normal life.

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