Tag Archive | healthy

Back to School: Recovery Focused!

For all of you who are going back to school – middle school, high school, college – there are some challenges that you may face. You want to be “armed” for these challenges and not let them hurt your recovery. For those of you who are parents of children, adolescents, or young adults with eating disorders, the following information will be helpful for you as well.

Summer, for many individuals, is a time of less structure, less pressure, and less exposure to the stress from peers. For students, it may involve a summer job, camp, vacation, a summer class or two, or just relaxing with friends and family.  Then, toward the end of August and the beginning of September, all that swiftly changes. Academic and social pressures begin again. Perhaps there is a change of school entirely, such as the change from middle school to high school, or high school to college. College students may leave home for the first time or begin living in an apartment, dorm, fraternity or sorority house.

Whichever the case is, transition back to school is a time of challenges for many students. It is especially challenging for those with eating disorders.

Structure, on the one hand, is very good for people with eating disorders. Getting back to the structure of a school day where there are specific times for specific academic and extracurricular activities, can be very comforting. The distractions that school provides, as well as the focus on new subjects, sports, and other skills, can also take the focus off the eating disorder and provide the sufferer with some relief.

On the other hand, going back to school can elicit some unforeseen stressors that can exacerbate an existing eating disorder. First and foremost, the anticipation of school (or leaving home to go away to college) will undoubtedly create anxiety. The fear of the unknown is a powerful source of anxiety. Social anxiety can also escalate. Anxiety can also relate to academics, lockers, teachers, making friends, and  living arrangements (at college). And, of course, there is tremendous anxiety related to body image, clothing, and food. I’ll highlight some of the specific stressors in my next few posts, and try to offer some solutions. Ultimately, it is important to be acutely aware that “back to school” time is a transition that individuals with eating disorders may struggle with. The issues are very real and must be handled with care and sensitivity.

The first topic I will discuss is “the lunch table” at school.

A number of my student clients are fearful of the lunch table. If you are a parent, you may be thinking “What types of stress could the lunch table create?”

Stressors that middle school and high school clients experience at the lunch table are:

  1. What should they put their lunch in – paper bag or lunch box (more typical in middle school)? Believe it or not, this decision causes an enormous amount of stress. They fear that if they put their lunch in the “wrong” container, they will get made fun of.
  2. Should they bring lunch, or buy lunch? This decision is stressful because they want to feel comfortable with what they eat for lunch, yet if their friends are buying lunch, they want to fit in. Also, there are usually lines of students waiting to buy lunch. Standing on line may be uncomfortable for the eating disordered student, as well as waiting on line creates a shorter amount of actual eating time. This can be challenging for the student who takes a bit longer to eat.
  3. If they bring lunch, what should it be and how much should they bring? Many individuals in recovery are on a meal plan that requires specific amounts of food that must be eaten at each meal. There is an enormous amount of conversation that occurs at the lunch table regarding what everyone eats. When a student eats anything that appears “different” in the eyes of anyone else at the lunch table, there is the potential for unwelcomed attention on the sufferer and their food choices. This is especially challenging when the sufferer is eating “more” than the others at the table.
  4. For female students especially, there is excessive “diet talk” at the lunch table. Comments such as “I am not eating carbs anymore.” Or “I only eat XX amount of calories a day.” Or “I have to lose XX pounds by Thanksgiving.” Or “I only eat pretzels at lunch.” This talk can trigger someone with an eating disorder, even when they are doing well.
  5. During the first few days of school, one of the biggest stressors my student clients experience regarding the lunch table is “where do I sit?” When an individual with an eating disorder has social anxiety and/or has only a few friends, and there is no comfortable person for him/her to sit with at lunch, he/she may experience an enormous amount of anxiety and may try to skip the lunch room altogether.

What are the ways to cope with these lunch table stressors?

  1. As far as the container you bring your food in, for the first few days, bring it in a paper bag (unless you know that the other students are using lunch boxes). Look around and see what everyone else brings their lunch in, and then you can re-assess whether the bag is the best choice or a lunch box. I’ve never heard of anyone getting teased about bringing lunch in a plain brown bag. Remember though, if you don’t have an ice pack in the bag, you shouldn’t bring anything that is perishable (lunch meats, fish, dairy, etc).
  2. Regarding bringing or buying lunch is concerned, keep your recovery at the top of your priority list when making this decision. If you feel most comfortable bringing lunch in order to meet your recovery goals, then bring lunch. As time goes by, and you can see what is on the school lunch menu, and you have seen how long it takes other students to get their lunch, then you can decide if you want to change your mind and buy lunch.
  3. You need to bring to lunch the amount of food that will carry you through until the next time you can eat (after school snack), or the amount of food that you and your treatment team have deemed necessary for your recovery. If you bring too little, you may struggle later, as you will be too hungry. This is true, no matter what type of eating disorder you have. In terms of what to bring for lunch, you want to bring the types of food that meet your nutritional requirements and foods that you like. If you need a supplement at lunch, you can bring it in a sports-type of bottle so that it appears like a sports drink. Try to bring foods that are “common” so as not to draw attention to your eating. I want to add here, that I understand this advice may cause some controversy. I’d love to say to my student clients to bring whatever they want to the lunch room regardless of what anyone might say, but I also want to protect them from any unwanted attention and comments. I had a male middle school client who brought tuna for lunch once and everyone at the table said “Ewww! That smells!” He threw his lunch away and ate none of it. A female high school client brought stuffed grape leaves to lunch and the others at the table commented on how “gross” they looked. She didn’t eat them and was too uncomfortable to sit at the lunch table again. Instead she ate in the nurse’s office.  You have to bring foods you like, but if there are foods that are pretty common looking, you will go unnoticed. These might be foods like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or other sandwiches, yogurt, cheese sticks, pretzels, fruit, cookies, salads with chicken and cheese, granola bars, etc.
  4. When other girls start talking about their diets, you can try your best to ignore the conversation, start a separate conversation with the person sitting next to you, or change the topic altogether. Try to sit next to a “safe” person that you can rely on to help you out. If you are being too triggered, find an excuse to leave the lunch table (and take your remaining food with you). Unfortunately, diet talk is a pastime for so many people. You will likely not be able to escape it very easily. Also, many teens “talk” about their latest and greatest diets, but most of them don’t act on them. You must do your best to tune the “diet talk” out. Remember, in recovery, you have to stay focused on your needs, not the behaviors of others.
  5. Get as much information as possible in advance of the first day of school about who you know that will be in your lunch period. Ask them to meet you outside the lunch room before lunch starts so you can walk in together. Ask them to sit next to you as well. If you don’t know who will be in your lunch period, try to find a fairly empty table and bring a book with you. If you have a book to read, you might feel a bit more comfortable. While you are sitting there, try to look around for someone you know and then move to their table if there are empty seats. If there is someone else in the lunch room that seems like they are sitting by him/herself, you could try sitting at that table. He/she might be relieved to have someone sit with him/her. Or, if you are feeling courageous, you might try to use the lunch period to meet new people and sit with people you don’t know.

Remember also to talk to your family, friends, and/or treatment team about the anxiety you might feel about “back to school”. They will surely understand and might offer some great support.

Stay tuned for more posts regarding “back to school.”


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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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Why Can’t I Just Stop?


“When I’m having a bad day at work, I fantasize about the food I have at home.”

“When I’m making dinner for my kids after a long day of doing a million things for them, I can’t wait till I put them to bed so I can be by myself and eat all the leftovers.”

“I look forward to the times my husband goes away on business so I can do whatever I want with food.”

“The split second I am upset, I race into the kitchen and eat, eat, eat, as though my life depends on it.”

“As I feel the anger start to bubble up, I race to the box of xxx and crunch until I feel calm.”

“On Sundays, I feel so lonely I can’t wait to dive into the xxx to feel better. Then afterwards, I feel even worse. I also feel defeated, like I will never get better.”

“I feel so overwhelmed at times, I just can’t stop eating. I’m not sure whether I am overwhelmed and then can’t stop eating or if I can’t stop eating which causes me to feel overwhelmed, or both.”

“As I am jamming my hand into the package for another mouthful, I am promising myself that this will be the last bite but I can’t stop until it’s all gone.”

The above quotes from some of my clients illustrate that an eating disorder is not about the food. It is about the “state of mind” or “state of being” that the food and food behavior accomplishes. These quotes also illustrate the urgency these clients experience when thinking about getting to use the food behavior, as well as the helplessness that they feel.

I consistently try to help my clients see the relationship between their food behavior and what they are trying to “accomplish” by engaging in that behavior. Look at the words highlighted in the quotes above:

Bad day>>>fantasize

Doing a million things>>>be by myself

Look forward>>>do whatever I want

Upset>>>my life depends on it

Anger>>>feel calm

Lonely>>>feel better>>>defeated

Overwhelmed>>>can’t stop eating

Can’t stop until it’s gone


If an eating disorder were just about food, these clients would be able to “just stop” doing these types of behaviors and eat without all the urgency and subsequent remorse. But, an eating disorder is a complex combination of brain “hardwiring” and chemistry, environmental and familial issues and traumas, inability to communicate and feel authentically and effectively, etc. These food behaviors are an adaptation to many things.

If you are suffering from the type of eating disorder that causes any circumstances similar to the types of scenarios mentioned above, you personally know how hard you have tried to “just stop”. It doesn’t work that way. It’s not that simple.

But, there is hope.

First off, you have to try to understand that you have a complex history of underlying issues, combined with a brain that is genuinely trying to make you feel better.  It’s not your fault that you have found a food behavior that “works” in the moment to calm you down, numb you out, or wash away the thoughts and feelings that are painful to you. If it weren’t such an “effective solution”, you wouldn’t be so urgently seeking it out. You wouldn’t obsess or fantasize about it. You would be able to “just stop.”

Second, you must be willing and able to be kinder to yourself. If a loved one were going through the same pain and suffering you were going through, you would have compassion for them. Give yourself the same compassion. Tough love or self-criticism is not only ineffective; it worsens the behaviors every single time.

Third, without judgment, you have to be willing to self-reflect about what the food behaviors are trying to “tell you”. What are they accomplishing? Insight is essential. Without it, you will continue to beat yourself up and try to “fix” the problem behaviorally. It never works.

Fourth, you have to be willing to discover and tolerate the feelings you are attempting to numb out from, without the fear that you can’t do it. This is an area where clients often ask me “how do I feel my feelings? I don’t know how to do that.” The answer is simple and complex at the same time. We know that the food behavior is designed to numb out the feelings, so by delaying using the food behavior, you will feel something. You most likely won’t be able to do this for more than a few minutes at a time. During the few minutes you are trying to be abstinent from using the behavior, you may only feel anxious and obsessed about wanting to use the food behavior, but use the time wisely to gain information about the function of the food behavior. You may want to say to yourself, “I want to eat xxx so badly right now, but I’m going to hold off for 15 minutes to try to learn something about myself. During these 15 minutes, I’m going to journal whatever I am thinking or feeling. Then after 15 minutes, if I want to eat xxx food, I will.” By doing this through repetition over time, you may get some answers and may elongate the time during which you can be abstinent from the behavior.

Fifth, take the information you have gathered and try to make some life changes with it. For example, the woman who found that she fantasized about being by herself with food, after a long day with her children, used the information she gathered to try to make more time for herself  during the day. This way, she wasn’t in such need for it at night. The client who experienced loneliness every Sunday, decided to plan an activity with a friend or at least reach out and talk to one or two people every Sunday to feel connected. By realizing what the food behavior is “telling” you, you can work on improving the quality of your life.

Lastly, seek support. Both professional and personal support will help you make the changes you are seeking. You truly cannot do this work alone.

By no means does this process change your food behaviors in a day, or week, or month. You didn’t get to where you are in a day and it will take some time to make lasting changes. It can be done though…one baby step at a time.

Through (1) understanding, (2) kindness, (3) insight and self-reflection, (4) taking time to feel, (5) making slow life changes, and (6) getting support, you will heal…


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A transition is movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another;  change

Transitions are challenging for those with eating disorders and need to be respected as such. Examples of transitions are:

  • Going from one job to the next
  • Transitioning from adolescence to adulthood
  • Transitioning from being enrolled in one school to another
  • Season changes – Summer to fall, spring to summer, etc
  • Going from being in a relationship to being single, or the other way around
  • Graduating from college and working on a post-college plan
  • Going from being employed to being unemployed
  • Going from living in one type of body to another
  • Experiencing the sickness and death of a loved one


There are numerous examples of transitions. Some are less anxiety provoking but others can evoke high levels of anxiety, insecurity, sadness and fear. When an individual with an eating disorder faces a transition, leaving the familiar and moving toward the unknown, they often have increased urges to use eating disordered behaviors as a way to feel “safe”, distracted, numb, or less anxious and fearful. This occurs even when the familiar situation is not a positive one. For example, if someone is transitioning from an unhealthy relationship to being single, and the change is for the better, it is still unfamiliar and will evoke uncomfortable feelings.

If you have an eating disorder and are in the midst of a transition, or if you are the loved one of someone with an eating disorder who is facing a transition, the first thing you need to understand is that increased negative feelings and urges to use eating disordered behaviors during this time are normal. Individuals with eating disorders like to feel in control and “comfortable”, and there are less feelings of control and comfort during transitions.

If you have an eating disorder, don’t set your recovery back by using eating disordered behaviors to feel better. Use the transition to practice your skills of feelings expression and communication. If you use eating disordered behaviors to feel better, the transition will still be a part of your life and you will be making it much worse by not facing your feelings associated with it, communicating your feelings and needs, and dealing with the necessary steps to help you authentically deal with the transition and feel stronger when it is over.  If you were to look at your transition objectively (not emotionally), how do you want to feel when it is over? Do you want to feel strong, empowered, and proud of yourself, or do you want to feel  worse physically and psychologically than you did before it started?

Many of my clients this time of year have finished school and are in the beginning of their summer vacation. Some of them are going to college in the fall. They have just left the familiar surroundings of friends they have spent years with, teachers and coaches they knew what to expect from, and a variety of other expectations they knew how to navigate through. As time gets closer to starting a new school, the anxiety of new friends, classes, and moving away from home may escalate.  If they want to have a successful transition to college, they have to stay healthy over the summer and strengthen their recovery skills so that in the fall, they are as prepared as they can be to navigate the new circumstances they will encounter.

A client I met with this week is transitioning from a residential treatment center to a lower level of care closer to home. Stepping down from the intensity of treatment in a residential facility to having only a few one hour appointments a week can cause heightened feelings of uncertainty as well as additional responsibility. This is a transition that often results in lapses in recovery if it isn’t well planned and structured.

Two of my clients are pregnant and not only working through the transitions that they are experiencing with their bodies but anticipating the transitions that will occur after the baby is born – additional body transitions, changes in family life, responsibilities etc. This transition brings up feelings of fear and inadequacy, body image issues, and others. Pregnancy is an especially important time to work through the associated transition issues in a healthy, recovery-focused way so as not to harm the pregnancy itself.

Another client experienced a death in her family. She experienced the transition associated with the onset of the sickness and rapid deterioration of the family member’s health, and then his subsequent death. Her situation is an especially strong example of successfully experiencing transition because she was able to verbalize how challenging it was to abstain from using eating disordered behaviors to “help her” through the difficult time she faced and continues to face. She expressed how in the past, when faced with such uncertainty and then ultimately a grave loss, she would have engaged in eating disordered behaviors from the time she woke up until she went to bed, day after day, week after week, month after month, with the sole intention of numbing out all feelings. During this recent extraordinarily difficult circumstance, she was able to express her pain genuinely, and she was honest in talking with her family and friends about what she was going through. She is currently continuing to experience this transition in a healthy way, even though it is terribly painful.

The healthy way to experience a transition in your life is to face and discuss your fears and anxieties with loved ones. Share your thoughts with family and friends who may also be experiencing the same feelings. Don’t try to deal with it all alone. There is nothing worse than keeping thoughts and worries to yourself because if you do, your eating disorder voice will blow everything out of proportion and make everything seem destined to appear unmanageable, and destined to fail. Try not to let your eating disordered voice create negative or distorted scenarios about the future. Eating disordered voices are prone to creating fearful “worst case scenarios” to ignite worry and anxiety. Try not to focus on things you can’t control. Focus on the things you can control. Stay grounded and focus on what’s real, not what isn’t. Remember that every transition you get through in a healthy way will make you stronger and prepare you for future transitions. Life is full of transitions. They present themselves often, sometimes unpredictably. You can’t escape them, but you can use them as times to strengthen your recovery and your life as a whole.


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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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Holiday Cheer

It’s that time of year again when food is the focal point of the holiday and family gatherings are aplenty.  How will you manage the holiday season this year?  Better yet, will you be able to come through the holiday season stronger and healthier than before?

Here are a few points to keep in mind as you join your family for holiday cheer.

  1. Holidays are NOT about the food. This is despite that fact that they seem to be just one big party.  The key word is “seem”.  You need to tap into and find the real meaning of the holiday for YOU!  It may be about vacation, relationships, spirituality, or just all around fun.  Make the real meaning of the holiday your focus and ENJOY!
  2. Holidays are a time to create memories. Make them memories you will want to look back on.  Enjoy the scene of presents piled under a sparkling tree.  Enjoy the bright lights of the menorah.  Enjoy the joyous laughter and the hugs and kisses.  Soak it in by concentrating on the creation of memories that will last a lifetime.  Oh, and take lots of pictures.
  3. Take care of yourself. Excuse yourself when conversations become triggering.  Go to the bathroom and breathe, count to ten.  Prepare a list of reasons why you don’t want to use eating disorder behaviors.  Read it.  Memorize it.
  4. Don’t try to make everyone happy. It’s impossible.  Make sure YOU are happy.  This is difficult to do when you are around family; especially if you are a people pleaser.  Ask yourself if you are helping others at your own expense.  Be extra careful not to make your eating disorder happy.  It’s not worth a dime!  Don’t become your eating disorder’s holiday gift.
  5. Get support! Surround yourself with people that understand and can help you when the going gets rough.  USE your support team.  They are there to help you.

And the most important point of all…HAVE FAITH IN YOURSELF!  DON’T GIVE UP!

You can and will get through this holiday season.  It’s a once a year event and no matter what happens things will go back to normal on January 2ndSo sit tight if you must, breathe if you can, and SMILE!


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Is It Possible to Lose Weight ?

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

□  making a choice between feeling uncomfortable or addressing the issue

□  making effective changes on my own when possible

□  reaching out for appropriate support from family and friends

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

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

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

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

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

□   I like my body most of the time.

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

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

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


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

© Copyright 1999 Karin Kratina, MA, RD

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

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


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Who are You? What’s Your Passion?

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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