Tag Archive | Grow

Well-Intentioned Mothers and Fathers

Several conversations I have had lately with mothers prompted me to write this post regarding parenting around food. There is an extensive amount of controversy over how to handle food and weight with children. The following opinions are based on the extensive experience I have had with parents, children, adolescents, and older teens. Since I am a nutrition therapist specializing in eating disorders, I see those individuals who have had a multitude of negative experiences around the issues of food and weight.

I’ll begin by recounting a story from the first mom I spoke with this past week. Her 13 year old daughter, “Abby”, came to her and said she was unhappy with her weight and wanted to lose a few pounds. Abby would be described as a normal weight girl by “normal” standards, but as a slightly overweight girl by the media’s unrealistic standards. Her mother said she approved of Abby’s plan to lose weight and would help Abby accomplish her goals. She told Abby to write down everything she ate so Abby could assess her portions sizes, and also recommended that she cut out “junk food”. This all seems innocent enough…except for a couple problems.

  1. Abby is 13 years old, which is right in the middle of growth and development. During growth and development, a girl’s body often gets a little larger prior to a growth period. It also gets larger prior to the onset of menstruation. This is normal and should not be interrupted.
  2. Abby is influenced by an array of negative, misguided and often inaccurate influences such as dieting peers, magazines and other forms of media that present a constant unrealistic source for body and weight comparison and dissatisfaction, and a constant barrage of internet sources that tout all types of unhealthy forms of dieting.  All these sources of misinformation may cause Abby to take her innocent diet too far or in a direction that could be harmful.
  3. Abby is not going to be under the supervision of a qualified nutrition professional that can help her through the process, therefore all her decisions will be made by herself and as a result of all the “outside influences”. This is a breeding ground for arbitrary, unhealthy rule-making.
  4. Dieting at any age is the number one behavior that leads to an eating disorder. Dieting at age 13 is tremendously risky.

The second mother I encountered this past week did some research on a particular method of eating that has been shown to have value in certain populations such as those with learning and developmental disabilities such as autism-spectrum disorders. As far as I know (I do not have all the information regarding her children), none of her four children have any type of learning or developmental issue. The reason I tell this story is because I have encountered many mothers who change their children’s diets drastically for one “good” reason or another and many (not all) children react in a very negative, adaptive way.   This mother restricted all breads and other wheat products, as well as all other grains from her children’s diets. I reiterate that I am not writing this post to discuss the pros and cons of any type of eating plan, just to illustrate the effect on children of drastic eating changes. These children frequently come over to my house to visit, and the family dines with ours a couple times a month.  The mother made me aware of the changes she was making to her children’s diet so I prepared meals that included a number of options that they were permitted by their mother to eat. I also included grains and breads for my family to eat, if they desired. On every single occasion the children have been at my house, they have “snuck” some type of bread or other grain while their mother wasn’t looking. I hadn’t been paying much attention at first, but my children pointed it out to me because they were worried the other children would get reprimanded by their mother and wanted to let me know that they were not encouraging nor discouraging the other children to eat any of the “forbidden” foods. They would sneak bread at meal time and would “raid” the cabinets for cookies and other snack foods. Whenever my children would notice, the other children would say “shhhh…don’t tell my mom.”

This mother’s intentions are to help her children but unknowingly, she is helping create a disordered relationship between her children and food. It would be my assumption that they are “sneaking” food in other places as well as my house. They may be feeling deprived of the foods they are not permitted to have in their home. The mother thinks her children are eating in one way when in fact they are eating in another.

I see another phenomenon over and over in my practice. Parents call me to tell me that their child is sneaking food. They find wrappers and all sorts of food paraphernalia hidden in couch cushions, dresser drawers, backpacks, garbage cans, etc. Their solution is to make the food environment even more restrictive, their child becomes even more creative in finding ways to get food, and the disordered relationship between the child and food worsens. If the child has the tendency to appear to the parents as “overweight”, the parents often become overly restrictive with food, reprimand the child for eating “too much”, criticize the child for his/her weight, and create unfair food rules for the child that the other children in the family don’t have to follow (if they are perceived to be of normal weight). An enormous amount of energy is spent by the parents trying to “control” the child’s eating, creating a stressful environment for all, especially for the child. The child ends up feeling deprived and becomes obsessed with food leading to a non-intuitive dysregulated relationship with food.

A (well intentioned) dad once said to me that he was demanding  his 9 year old daughter spend at least 45 minutes on the treadmill each day because she was developing a “stomach”. He was so concerned that she would become an overweight teen and then an overweight adult. He insisted that if he didn’t “help” her, she would be bullied and have no friends.   I met this little girl. She looked like a beautiful 9 year old girl. She had a little roundness to her stomach, as many little pre-pubescent girls do. There was nothing noteworthy about her appearance. I later found out that the dad had been bullied as a child and became an avid exerciser to cope with his negative experiences.  I expressed my concerns to the dad. I explained to him that it was my opinion that his daughter was just fine and did not need to be on the treadmill  to “get rid of her stomach”. I explained that she was perfectly normal. She was probably going to get a little wider before she grew taller and experienced puberty. If allowed to eat a wide variety of foods and experience movement in a way that she enjoyed, she would not be doomed to a life of being bullied and having no friends. She would hopefully develop a healthy relationship with herself and food and he would be better off supporting her in all ways, instead of worrying excessively about her physical appearance.

A dad came to see me to discuss his picky eater. This dad was one of the most intelligent men I have ever met. He had numerous degrees and was very well respected among his peers. He said his daughter ate only a few foods and he was desperate to improve her variety of choices and help her develop a more “sophisticated palate”. I asked him what methods he had already tried to help his daughter. He had only tried two…force feeding and bribery. For every new food she tried and liked, he would give her money. If she tried it and didn’t like it, she’d get no money. If she didn’t try it, she’d get no money. If it was put in front of her and she didn’t want to try it, he would force her to eat a bite by actually forcing it in her mouth. My first thought was “Oh my goodness. This poor child is in a bad situation.” My second thought was “Intelligence sure doesn’t equate to good parenting with food.” He was shocked that I disagreed with his methods.  I gave him some helpful suggestions, mostly regarding giving his daughter the power to make her own choices, not making them for her. I also told him not to pressure her in any way. She would not develop a “sophisticated palate” via any of his methods. The only things that these methods would create would be disordered feelings about food, and food aversions. I informed him that the worst thing that might happen if he gave her more freedom and less pressure would be that she would continue to be a picky eater. I also suggested that he invest some of the “bribe money” in a good full-spectrum multivitamin for her so that she wouldn’t develop any vitamin/mineral deficiencies.

None of these parents are bad people. They clearly love their children and want them to be healthy and happy. They are possibly misguided or ill-advised. Perhaps their own issues have clouded their judgment regarding parenting around food.

It is always important, as a parent, to put extensive thought into the actions you take regarding your children’s diet. Bear in mind that a child’s perception is his/her reality. If the child feels deprived or hungry, he/she will take strong measures to meet his/her needs.  If a child is receiving negative or mixed messages at home and in his/her outside environment, he/she may not have the skills to decipher between what is healthy and what is unhealthy. Messages may be internalized and create distorted thoughts and feelings about his/herself.

Force feeding creates long term food aversions. Deprivation creates powerful cravings and rebound overeating.  Try to remove your own food/weight issues from the decisions you impose upon your children. If you are on any type of diet, be careful how you speak about food around your children. Be especially careful about the language you use about your own body and the bodies of others. I treated a 5 year old girl once who was convinced that her thighs were fat because she heard her mother repeatedly say that her thighs were fat. If you are constantly popping on the bathroom scale and commenting negatively about your weight, you are teaching your child that it is normal to base his/her self-worth on the number on the scale.

A great resource for parents is http://www.ellynsatter.com/. Ellyn Satter is a pioneer in the topic of parenting with food. She has written several books that are very informative and helpful. On her website are informative handouts for all types of issues around parenting with food.

Ultimately, when parents lay the groundwork  for their children’s  relationship with food and relationship with themselves, they need to use extreme caution, insight and sensitivity.

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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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The New Year: BEWARE of the Diet Propaganda

The New Year is once again upon us and the dieting industry will soon begin its massive onslaught of propaganda to convince consumers that they cannot begin the year without a firm resolve to change their body weight, shape, size etc.

Before we talk about how to fight back, here are a few insights into the way the marketing industry works.  Advertising is based on getting consumers to believe that they will NEVER be happy unless they buy this product, do this activity, eat this food, vacation at this place, and the list goes on.  When sellers look to market their product they seek to find a way to prove that “this” is where true happiness can be found.  Their message is that if you don’t buy, do, eat etc. this or that you will never be able to achieve real happiness. And of course you didn’t achieve this real happiness yet.  You haven’t tried this particular remedy.  So, the bottom line is, if you want to be happy do as the advertisement says.

Herein lie the dangers in New Year’s advertising.  New Year resolutions are often comprised of dieting and exercise promises.  The dieting industry goes all out in trying to convince their unhappy consumers that the ONLY way to start the year on the right foot is to buy new gym clothes, sign up to a gym, buy the diet pills and drinks, and begin a new and “all-improved” diet.  THIS year you are going to achieve REAL happiness by changing your body.

However, this is all a myth!  It is a lie perpetuated by the dieting industry, already a multi-billion dollar industry, in order for them to get richer on the backs of their trusting, vulnerable consumers.  This year, DON’T BE FOOLED!  The dieting propaganda is just that – PROPAGANDA!

Webster’s dictionary defines propaganda as “information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread…”  It is information that is biased and made to fit their agenda; to get you to do as they say.  In order to make you feel like they have your best interests in mind they will promise you the ultimate happiness if you just buy, do, eat their product.

Here is the truth!  You CANNOT achieve any sort of happiness through trying to change your external body.  Extreme dieting, exercising solely for weight loss, or any disordered behaviors (diet pills, laxatives, etc) can never help you attain real happiness.  Happiness, true happiness, comes from within.  It is a synthesis of your inner self, your inner values, and your external actions and behaviors.  It comes while bringing meaning and compassion into your life.  It is an inevitability that stems from nurturing your mind, body, and soul with healthy behaviors, actions, and thoughts.  Attaining the ultimate happiness is NEVER dependent on the way your external body looks.  In fact, by focusing only on your external body you lose the ability to achieve happiness.  Your vision of the world becomes narrow and you become constricted to a disordered space where it is virtually impossible to find happiness.

So don’t be fooled.  Don’t believe the ads when they tell you that they have the answers for you.  THEY DON’T!  YOU DO! The answers are inside your heart and soul.  Look within and stay strong.  Nurture yourself.  That is the ONLY way to find true happiness.


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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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You are Unique!

I came across a quote recently that I love.  It goes like this –

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, rather than a second-rate version of someone else. ~Judy Garland

The reason I like this quote so much is that I so often hear from my patients that they would love to look, act, be like someone else.  I believe this quote provides the answer to that.  You can never be more than a “second-rate” version of someone else.  Why not be a first-rate version of yourself?

Every one of you has a natural beauty and uniqueness that is exclusively yours.  No one can take that away from you…except, that is, yourself.  What I mean by that is that the power to either do away with, or embrace your unique individuality lies in your hands.  You do away with it when you focus your attention on what others have, wishing that it was yours somehow.  Unfortunately, when you do that you are losing out on the depth of who you really are.  Focusing on wishing that you can have what someone else has minimizes the beauty of your own existence in this world.  You are not simply a body or a mirror of others.  You are a beautiful, unique, amazing individual with the potential to do enormous, great things.  But you can only do that if you focus on your own talents, abilities, and inner qualities.

So how can you make sure not to lose your focus?

Spend some time every day thinking about what you would like your life to look like in the future.  Positive visualization is a powerful tool.  Imagine your life in a few months from now, a year from now, two years, five years, ten or twenty years from now.

Stay positive. Don’t place the focus on your body. Imagine having an enjoyable career, if that is something you want.  Imagine having a family, with children of your own.  Imagine having the ability to travel and see the world.  Imagine being free from the unrealistic unfair rules that govern your eating. You can accomplish this and so much more.  However, you must keep the focus on yourself, your uniqueness, and your inner strengths. You need to stay positive and have hope.

So go ahead! Become the best that you can be!  Don’t settle for second-rate.  Go for the gold!


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Awake and Alive

Originally posted on 11/17/2010

The following post is from a client of mine who is an extremely courageous, warm, loving human being, who is finally discovering herself separated from her eating disorder. I’m proud of you, PR!

Lately, I’ve been pinching myself to see if I’m really awake and alive.  I’m so afraid that it’s all a dream, a mirage, and that soon I’ll wake up and my recovery from my eating disorder will fade away and I’ll be sick once more.

It’s just that for the first time in my life, I thank God when I wake up in the morning and face the day with joy.  For the first time, I’m loving life and laughing with pure happiness untainted by obsessions and illness.  For the first time in my life, I see a future bright with sunshine and rainbows.  Oh, I know there will be hard times ahead and there will be days when the familiar feelings of self-hate and depression will come back.  I know there will be days when the black cloud descends and I may feel like I’ve fallen off the cliff again.  But I also know that when that time comes, I will be able to recognize the pit that lies ahead and use the skills I’ve learned over years of therapy to keep my head above the water until the waves pass.

I know I will be able to do that because for the first time, I believe in myself and in the strength I possess and in the potential for greatness which lies within me.  I know this sounds idealistic and “honeymoonish”, almost like my head is inside a pink cloud which will soon evaporate.  I know some people would read this and be cynical about my seemingly shallow understanding of what recovery is about.  But that would be because they don’t know my story.  They don’t know the story of suicide attempts, hospitalization, weight gains and weight losses, severe depression and a difficult, sometimes impossible climb through mountain ranges before I reached this peak.  In either case, I’d rather be in a pink cloud, which may soon disappear, than back in my eating disorder where I’m stuck inside a black cloud which never goes away.  Besides, during this time that I’m in the pink cloud I’m slowly building a fence around myself which will protect me during those times when I get too close to the edge of the cliff.  And during this time, I am reinforcing that fence every time I win over my eating disorder.  So I’m glad to be inside a pink cloud right now.

I’m finally standing on my own two feet; something I never dreamed was possible.  I never could imagine what life would be like when I no longer listened to my eating disorder and followed its directions.  I wondered how I would manage without the support I received through intensive, weekly therapy.  And that’s why I keep pinching myself.  Because I’m finally basking in the sunlight which for so long seemed totally out of reach.  I’ve finally exited the narrow tunnel of my eating disorder.  I’m finally awake and I’m finally alive.

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Stop Keeping Score!

I don’t know exactly why I learn most of my life’s lessons on Sundays but it happens and I am grateful for my lessons…always.

Today (Sunday), I learned an important lesson that I’d like to pass along to you. STOP KEEPING SCORE!

It was a very typical Sunday morning and I was feeling pretty much the same as I do on every Sunday morning, a bit sad that the weekend is almost over and a little overwhelmed by the week ahead. Then my husband said “I’m going to clean up the garage today because it’s a beautiful day and I don’t want to be inside.” So, the first thing that went through my mind is “why do you consider being in the garage as being outside?” But the answer to that is that he keeps the door open. The second thing that went through my mind is “I know the cleaning of the garage is going to cause him to find things that he will get mad at me for keeping instead of throwing out.” You see, my husband is a bit of a “neat freak” and I am not. So, I know that whenever he starts cleaning anything, I will start to feel bad that I’m not as neat. He will also point out things that bother him…in a “friendly” sort of way.

So, I continued doing my morning jobs around the house when I heard the door from the garage to the house open up. In he walked with a large pot. It was presumably full by the way he was carrying it. He said “what’s this?” with an unpleasant look on his face. Well, I know exactly what it was. A couple months ago, I had made a huge pot of soup and after a few days of eating it, instead of portioning it out into individual containers, I completely forgot it was in the garage refrigerator, and so it sat. I’m sure you can only imagine what it looked like after a couple months. He handed it to me with a look on his face that can only be described as “I can’t believe you would leave this in the fridge for two months!” I simply took the pot from him and lightheartedly said “that’s what you get when you live with me!” I walked into the house and proceeded to dispose of the indescribable contents of the pot, scrubbed the pot clean and continued with my jobs around the house.

For the next two hours, there were more assorted things brought into the house for me to have to decide what to do with, like a hefty bag of clothes, a couple bins of food that my kids brought home from college, some other assorted containers, cups, and work-related items. Each time the door opened, I braced myself for some sort of sarcastic remark about how the garage is such a mess, how the garage is not a garbage dump, etc. Then, there were jobs I needed to help him with in the garage, like moving heavy things, rearranging and lifting things. I HATE moving and lifting things. I am a self-professed “weakling” and I have no spatial awareness. Inevitably whenever I help him with these types of jobs, he laughs at my lack of “skill”. Finally, and ever so quietly, I retreated upstairs to my study to write, thus avoiding the multiple comments and awful jobs. Here I sit to write about the “lesson” I have learned as a result.

I will NOT keep score! I will not keep score with MYSELF. You see, my husband doesn’t hold any of this against me. He knows he is a “neat freak”. He knows I am the “creative” one and I am not nearly as neat as he is. He knows that there are many skills that I am not only bad at, but really don’t care to improve upon. He laughs at the differences between us. He has strengths and weaknesses and I do too. He is bothered by certain things I do, but he still loves me.

The problem is that I have the tendency to hold these things against myself. But it doesn’t stop at the “neatness issue” or the “spatial awareness deficit”. I begin to start to keep score with myself. Only, it’s never fair. After a morning like this, I begin to think of all the other things I am not good at. I begin to make a mental list of the infinite traits and skills I DON’T have. Let me assure you, when I start making this list, it never ends. I have the ability to create things on my list that would be impossible for me to be good at. As I mentioned, it’s not fair.

Believe me, when anyone starts making list of their deficits, it is a slippery slope. There is nothing good that can come out of it. Well, maybe if you have a very strong sense of self and you can use a list to improve on a couple of the things you aren’t good at then I can see something good coming from it. But, if you are anything like me, a list will never be fair, and it will be fuel for the negative self-critical side of your mind to make you feel really bad about yourself.

I honestly don’t care if I stink at moving or lifting things. I care that I’m not a neat freak, but not enough to focus an enormous amount of energy on it. I am not good at geography or history. I’m not skilled in financial matters. I hate economics. I hate going to the car wash. I hate doing paperwork. I stink at many things.

BUT, I am good at a few things. The list may be small but it is all I have. PLUS, I am a good person. When I weigh that against all the stuff on the other list, being a good person is the one thing that is good enough for me. The stuff I stink at doesn’t make me a bad person, it makes me a person. I wouldn’t trade my few “good” things for ALL the things on the other list.

The lesson learned is that as a person, you cannot possibly be good at everything. Don’t make a list of good vs bad. There’s a good possibility that your list will be uneven like mine is. Then, as a result, you might use the list of “bad” things against yourself. This is where you could get into serious trouble. The self-critical side of your mind will use this “bad” list to make you feel bad about yourself and then how do you try to “feel better”??? Using your eating disordered behaviors, of course. You must must must focus on the “good” in yourself. “Goodness” isn’t about skills; it is about humanness and character. Goodness is about love, kindness, fairness, good intentions, sincerity.

Please don’t keep score. Don’t make a list. Try to imagine and focus on ONLY your positive self-affirming personality traits. I am going to immediately begin to focus on mine!!!

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Today (Sunday) I woke up thinking about all the comparisons people make with others, especially when they are unhappy with themselves. Comparisons can be a breeding ground for discontent and are not motivators for taking care of oneself.  So today, as an experiment, I decided to find all the ways I could “negatively” compare myself and my choices to others and see the types of negative thoughts and feelings that I could conjure up as a result. Remember, this was just an experiment. I don’t actually have these thoughts and feelings associated with these situations. If I did, I would be a very sad, unhappy person.

It started at the local Cumberland Farms store where I bought my coffee and a local newspaper. First thing I noticed was how many people were buying the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Enter comparisons #1 and #2: “I bought the local paper and others bought the New York papers. They must be better educated and smarter than I am. I put half and half and sugar in my coffee and they didn’t. I must be less healthy than them.”

Then, I went to the gym and while I was on “my” machine, a woman got on the same type of machine next to me and as I was going a comfortable level, she kept pressing the “up” arrow until her level was almost 3 times higher than mine. Enter comparison #2: “She is in so much better shape than I am. I’m weak.” 

Also while at the gym, I observed people doing way more “reps” of weights than I was as well as ordering protein smoothies when they were done. Enter comparisons #3 and #4: “I should be doing more reps. I am weak. Why don’t I get a smoothie after my workout instead of going to the diner for my breakfast? I don’t eat as well as others.”

As an aside, in my opinion a gym can be a place that can trigger lots of comparisons and negative thoughts and feelings if you are body image distorted or place excessive emphasis on your body. I always notice all the people who are in the gym because I get bored easily and like to “people watch” but I never focus or obsess about people there.

Then, I went home but in the parking lot, I observed all the cars yet chose to focus on the expensive ones. Enter comparison #5: “My car isn’t good enough. These people with these nice expensive cars must have better jobs and make more money than me. They must be so much happier than me.”

I went home and then left for the grocery store, another site of potential comparisons. I filled my basket with all the foods my family likes. This was a tough one because there were such a variety of people with a variety of choices I couldn’t find a comparison other than the woman who bought only like ten items. An eating disordered comparison, comparison #6 could have been: “She’s buying such healthy foods and only a few of them. She must be healthy and have self-control and with all these foods in my cart (including lots of sweets and snacks), I must be eating too much and all the wrong foods. I must have no self-control.”

Later today, I went to Starbucks and Target with my daughter. First, at Starbucks there was a woman in front of us ordering a “skinny latte”. Enter comparison #7: “She must be healthy, in shape and happier than I am. I’m a bad person for ordering my “non-skinny” drink.”

At Target, of all days, their bathing suits were on sale so the department was crowded. Enter comparison #8: “Everyone here is trying on bikinis. I’m sure they all look good in their bikinis and I would look terrible in one. They must have such a great life and be so happy because they wear bikinis and I wear a one piece bathing suit.”

Wow!!!  I really could have had a horrible day if I had actually been comparing myself to all these “strangers” with a negative distorted mindset. It truly makes me feel very sad pondering if this were actually the way I thought and felt. The good news is that I felt none of these things.

The moral of this story is that you can go through your day in a negative mindset, comparing yourself with a bunch of strangers, only to end up feeling sad, unworthy and defeated…OR…you can go through your day focused on living in a way that makes you feel good about yourself, surrounding yourself with loving people who care about you just as you are. Do the best you can each day to live the best life you can, devoted to the health and happiness of you and your loved ones.  Never compare yourself with others, especially when you make unfounded judgments about how they live and how they feel.

So, now I am going to drink my coffee with half and half, read my local paper, enjoy the good food I bought at the grocery store, take pleasure in sitting in my sweats (no bathing suit today…too cold!) writing for my blog. I am content having no one to negatively compare myself to. I will strive to do my best to avoid all negative comparisons, and I hope you can do the same.

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How many times have you gotten to the same place with your eating disorder recovery and then “quit” and gone back to the old familiar disordered patterns of behavior?

What makes you get so far and then quit???

What causes it? How long does it take before you quit?

Does it take one “bad” meal, one binge, a “bad” day, a week, a month???

I was with a patient this week who told me that she would get through part of her day or her week and then something would trigger her to “fall off” the recovery wagon and she’d say “screw it” and just throw in the towel and dive back into eating disordered behaviors. Then she’d say to herself “See, I can’t do it. I’m a failure at recovery.” But when we’d look in detail at the situations that triggered her, she could see that at any given time, she could have turned things around and kept on moving forward. It was the attitude of defeat that created the “failure” of a day or a week or a month. It was the obsessing over the “failure” that prevented her from achieving her next success that might have been right around the corner!

Having an attitude of defeat will only create or exacerbate defeat and stop you from attempting to get better. Please remember that eating disordered behaviors are addictive and you most definitely will be much more inclined to “want” to use them than to “not want” to use them. They have served a function that is very strong and powerful, and they are exceptionally familiar and comfortable.

In order to get better you need to actively, mindfully, and yes imperfectly strive to fight your negative self-defeating thoughts and disordered behaviors each meal of each day. If you slip, you haven’t failed unless you want to fail. If you want to fail then you may want to stay sick. If you want to get well then you have to want to succeed and you have to have an attitude of success. BUT, you have to also realize that recovery is based on a series of successes and failures (let’s call them “slips” from now on). No one recovers in a day, a week, a month…etc. No one recovers without slips. I’m not saying that you should negate or minimize your slips, but you have to be able to pick yourself up after a slip, put it into context, learn from it, and move past it. Eventually, the successes will outweigh the slips and you will begin to see recovery much more clearly. Your attitude is key!!! If you look at your slips as slips and not as failures, you will want to continue to try again and again and again until you regain your life. If you have a positive mindset, you will allow yourself to experience and appreciate your successes and not define yourself by those slips. Then, in time, the fruits of your efforts will emerge and you will experience recovery to its fullest.

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Sliver of Light

A powerful journal entry by CRK, who is beginning to experience hopefulness!

When I’m absorbed and drowning in the excruciating discomfort and helplessness, It’s virtually impossible to see any vestige of opening to thick encasing infinite black cavity of suffocation. In those moments it’s even harder to acknowledge the concept hope exists.

But in the moments of clarity (however fleeting) it’s undeniable. The shimmering beacon of hope, love, and reward for the pain and challenge is revealed and i cling onto it with every breathing fiber of my essence. The benefits to the pain I had to go through are made apparent and it fills me with a surge of boundless joy, of love, and of fortunateness to be blessed with this unique life I’m granted.

However intensely i dread the pain of existing and i acknowledge its still there (even in the moments of inspiration) when i could finally see the glittering blaze of light, there’s no denying the love and even benefit of what i had to endure to be complete. All the suffering, discomfort, and despair finally culminate into  a stunning ingenious work of art, a master plan. If not for the pain and darkest moments of despondency and utter helplessness there’s no way i could acquire the value and deep quality of the lessons i learned about life and it’s meaning. There’s no way i could’ve been able to appreciate the insight i was granted through the blackness.

The blackness remains, but in this moment I’m empowered with the clarity of not only the worthiness to go on and keep striving for life, but to accept and appreciate the blackness for it’s priceless potential for growth.

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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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How to Raise Your Self-Worth

Do you find yourself worthy?

Self-worth is your ability to appreciate, accept, and value yourself independent of success, failure, or the opinions of others. It means having an overall favorable opinion of yourself, believing in your right to feel good, and therefore choosing your thoughts, actions, and expressions based on the belief that you matter.

If you plan to achieve your goals, whether they are goals of ending your unhealthy relationship with food, or overcoming stress, sadness, or depression, you will also need to build a valid sense of self-worth. While self-worth is not about your achievements, it is about spending energy and effort in pursuits that are meaningful to you and your happier life. When you feel worthy, you feel motivated to make behavior choices that support your overall goals of success and joy.

What is the definition of self-worth? Low self-worth is best described as having a low opinion of yourself and feelings of being unworthy. It can result in some common thoughts, actions, and behaviors including:

  • Low motivation
  • Feeling stupid, fat, ugly, useless, or unwanted
  • A sense of not being good enough or on equal ground with others
  • Not feeling strong enough to handle things on your own
  • Feeling judged by others
  • Needing to be more articulate, prettier, smarter, richer, etc.
  • Finding it hard to forgive yourself for making mistakes
  • Dissatisfaction with life
  • Depression
  • Low energy levels
  • Feeling helpless to change things
  • Feeling either superior or inferior to others, never equal
  • Withdrawn from social contact
  • A sense of defeat and hopelessness

One of the problems of believing yourself to have low self-worth is that you will act according to the belief you hold. If you believe you are unworthy of love, you will act as though you are unworthy of love. If you believe you are an outcast, you will act as if you are an outcast. Your beliefs define your reality. In truth, you are so much more than what you believe about yourself. You are the breath of creation in human form, the combination of spirit and physicality. If you currently have low self-worth, there is hope! You can make a decision to change it.

Five Ways to Increase Your Self-Worth

Raising self-worth is a very personal and often complex process. There is no one magic formula to make you believe you are a worthy individual. It takes time, effort, and awareness to allow a sense of worth to deepen. Since strengthening your sense of worth takes motivation and action, you have to have to want and choose this as your goal before you can improve it. Dare to love yourself. It is your journey, and without your support, you are not going to get anywhere at all. However, if you are ready, below are a few suggestions that can and will actively build your self-worth.

1. Realize You Have Control Over Your Future

Encourage yourself to focus on the dreams and desires that are important to you. Begin by giving yourself permission to imagine and pretend that you are living your most perfect life. What ideas awaken passion, creativity, intuition, and gut feelings? What makes you laugh, feel good, and come to life? What do you stand for? Once you have an idea of what goal or direction is important to you, decide to spend time, energy, and action involved in those pursuits. When you become involved with the things that are important to you, your sense of worth increases.

2. Think Better Thoughts

Begin to notice your automatic thoughts. Are you inner voices supportive and loving, or critical and abusive? Consciously watch your thoughts as a detached observer. There is no need to fight your thoughts, pretend to ignore them, or even judge them. Instead, bring your thoughts out into the open. Acknowledge their existence, write them down, and speak them aloud. Sit back and say to yourself, “Isn’t that interesting that I am thinking these thoughts.” It’s okay to feel insecure or anxious, and you still love yourself. It is also okay to add the supportive and loving thoughts you really want to hear. Your thoughts are your responsibility and while you cannot erase negative thoughts, you certainly can learn to challenge them.

3. Express Your Self

Self-worth is your ability to feel free to be yourself. So it makes sense that if your self-worth is low, most likely you will invest your time role-playing, and pretending to be something, somebody, other than who your really are. You will find yourself behaving in ways others expect you to behave so that they will like you. Yet, inwardly you will feel self-critical, judgmental, and believe yourself to be different in some non-okay way. It is your right to be who you are, expressing your innermost truths, and not feeling like you must live up to someone else’s expectations. You have the right to say, “No” when you mean no, or, “I don’t care” when that is what you really feel inside. However, self-worth also includes your decision to communicate directly, state your preferences and opinions, and speak in a concise assertive voice.

4. To Err is Human

Self-worth is your ability to acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses while at the same time accepting yourself as worthy and worthwhile. If you want to raise your self-worth, allow yourself to gain a realistic perspective about mistakes, obstacles, setbacks, and failure. Failure is actually the only way to become successful. Although no one really wants to experience failure, you can remind yourself that failure is a natural aspect of every ultimately successful journey. Think of misfortunes as temporary and specific instead of permanent and general. In other words, your current effort may have been unsuccessful, but that doesn’t mean that your overall goal or dream is unattainable. Learn from your setback, revise your action plan, and begin again.

5. Be Responsible for Your Success

Raising your self-worth includes being responsible for your own happiness and success. To achieve this, learn how to be your own best friend and supporter. Constantly tell yourself what a good job you are doing. Actively seek out evidence of your success. Praise your efforts. Learn to be excited by your choices. Recognize your many triumphs – however small they may seem. Self-worth is the overflowing of love and acceptance from within you directed to you. Decide you will allow yourself to feel successful with each step you take, no matter what the outcome is. It is enough that you have taken the step. You are enough.

Self-worth is your right to live and be happy. Follow these steps and you will find that you have set into motion forces that allow you to deepen your sense of self-worth. Good luck and good self-worth!

Copyright 1997–2011 Annette Colby, PhD. All rights reserved in all media.

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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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Honesty vs Dishonesty

This is a tough subject to broach because I think most people strive to be honest and good quality people. All of the clients I see are wonderful, honest, beautiful people. When it comes to their eating disorder though, that’s where honesty becomes “fuzzy”. The most honest individuals can become somewhat “dishonest” in the realm of their eating disorder.

Do you ever try to convince yourself that what you are doing is “fine”? Do you ever rationalize, minimize, catastrophize, stretch the truth, omit certain details to yourself or others, either to defend your eating disorder or so you don’t have to face the truth about it, because you are scared or uncomfortable?

Or, are you in denial about certain issues and behaviors surrounding your disorder? Do you simply “not see” what you are experiencing? By being in denial, are you avoiding facing and tackling certain obstacles?

By coming out of a place of denial and by being honest with yourself each and every day, you may feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. Perhaps in being honest, facing the details of your illness and the eating behaviors that accompany it, you will face the changes that are crucial in making a full recovery. Are you ready to do that?

A client of mine once told me that honesty was the “death knell” of her eating disorder, meaning that if she remained honest with herself and others, her eating disorder would not be able to survive. An eating disorder feeds and thrives on dishonesty and denial. If you are dishonest with yourself and others, your eating disorder gets to call the shots, twist the truth, dictate your behaviors and keep you sick.  

Are you ready to be honest with yourself, about yourself? Once you get past the fear, there is strength and empowerment in honesty and openness. Honesty is a gift you can give yourself and it will be extraordinarily powerful in the recovery process.

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Interesting Facts!


With the exception of infancy, we grow faster during adolescence than any other time in our lives.

Approximately 20% of our adult height and 50% of our adult weight is gained between 11 – 19 years of age.

It is normal to gain between 40 and 50 pounds between the ages of 10 and 16.

For girls, weight is often gained in the breasts and hips, mainly in “estrogenic” or “female” fat.  This is healthy and necessary for menstruation and pregnancy.

During the teenage years, girls will experience a widening in their hips.  This is normal and necessary for childbirth.

Women have up to twice the amount of body fat as men do.

Genetics play a huge role in determining the size and shape of our bodies.  You cannot change your genetics.


Facts About Advertising

The dieting industry generates 50 billion dollars a year with products we buy because we are dissatisfied with our bodies.

The average person in America sees over 3,000 advertising images in one day.

The average person spends approximately 3 years of time during his/her lifetime watching television commercials.

Television commercials/advertisements cost, on average between $250,000 and $500,000 each.

Approximately 180 billion dollars is spent each year, on advertising.

Advertisers use professional models to sell their products.

Computers have digitally altered the professional models that you see in magazines.  What you see is not reality, but an image that was created to make you spend money on something!

Many models have had plastic surgery to improve their appearance.

Many models have eating disorders, smoke and use drugs to try to prevent them from eating normally.


Check Out Our Obsession With Looks

Women looking for pouty lips are now pumping their lips full of Gore-Tex, the same substance that makes your winter coat waterproof.

If store mannequins were real, they would be too thin to menstruate.

The average lipstick wearer will swallow 10 pounds of lipstick over 40 years.

Americans spend over $40 billion on dieting and diet-related products each year.

American women spend $130 million a year on cellulite creams, which are as effective as smearing your body with glue to temporarily tighten your skin.

In 2002 about 54,000 teens had chemical peels and just under 53,000 underwent microdermabrasion. More than 19,000 teens had nose jobs.

400-600 advertisements bombard us everyday in magazines, on billboards, on TV, and in newspapers. One in eleven has a direct message about beauty, not even counting the indirect messages.

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), over 220,000 people under 18 years old had a cosmetic procedure in 2002.

Average cost of a one-year gym membership:  $450.

Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American people, yet they are the people that we are made to believe we should look like. 


5 – 10 million women and 1 million men struggle with eating disorders, in part because of our culture’s obsession with thinness, obtaining the perfect body and valuing people on the basis of physical appearance rather than inner qualities and strengths.


 What You Can Do To Help Prevent Eating Disorders

Learn all you can about anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Share your knowledge with loved ones. Genuine awareness will help them avoid judgmental or mistaken attitudes about food, weight, body shape, and eating disorders.

Discourage the idea that a particular diet, weight, or body size will automatically lead to happiness and fulfillment.

Choose to challenge the false belief that thinness and weight loss are great, while body fat and weight gain are horrible or indicate laziness, worthlessness, or immorality.

Avoid categorizing foods as “good/safe” vs. “bad/dangerous.” Remember, we all need to eat a balanced variety of foods.

Decide to avoid judging others and yourself on the basis of body weight or shape. Turn off the voices in your head that tell you that a person’s body weight says anything about their character, personality, or value as a person.

Avoid conveying an attitude to yourself and others that says, “I will like you better if you lose weight, or don’t eat so much, etc.”

Become a critical viewer of the media and its messages about self-esteem and body image. Talk back to the television when you hear a comment or see an image that promotes thinness at all costs. Don’t watch shows that you know promote these views. Rip out (or better yet, email the editor about ) advertisements or articles in your magazines that make you feel bad about your body shape or size. Better yet, don’t buy these magazines

If you think someone has an eating disorder, express your concerns in a forthright, caring manner. Gently but firmly encourage the person to seek trained professional help. If you suffer from an eating disorder, speak up and get the help you need.

Be a model of healthy self-esteem and body image. Recognize that others pay attention and learn from the way you talk about yourself and your body. Choose to talk about yourself with respect and appreciation. Choose to value yourself based on your goals, accomplishments, talents, and character.

Avoid letting the way you feel about your body weight and shape determine the course of your day. Embrace the natural diversity of human bodies and celebrate your body’s unique shape and size.

Support local and national nonprofit eating disorders organizations — like the National Eating Disorders Association or the Binge Eating Disorder Association.

Reprinted in part from Teaching Body Confidence, by Rebecca Manley, M.S.



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