When was the last time you took something WAY too seriously?
You know what I’m talking about. You dropped the glass jar of jam on the kitchen floor, it shattered, and you wanted to tear your hair out. Or some driver cut you off, then proceeded to cruise along at about 10 mph below the speed limit, and you were ready to rear-end him.
Or you thought, as you are often wont to do, “What if this never changes? What if I have problems with food for the rest of my life?” And that sent you into a spiral of hopelessness and fear, and suddenly the rest of your life started to turn dark grey and shadowy.
We binge eaters have a nasty habit of taking things too seriously.
We get negative feedback at work, and suddenly we’re about to get fired. We get in a fight with our partner, and clearly we’re on the verge of a divorce. Tomorrow.
We are so hard on ourselves!!!
Can you relate?
If you want to stop binge eating, it’s very important to see this pattern, and to recognize what it’s really about.
It’s really about having a lot of negative emotion inside that spills out – and gets triggered – at the most inopportune moments.
Sure, everyone has an off day. Everyone’s patience has a breaking point. But if you find that your responses to life’s little (and big) bumps is often to freak out – either with anger or fear – there’s a good chance that your reaction isn’t really about what’s actually happening. It’s about old stuff, past hurts and wounds that haven’t gotten the attention they need. When there are a lot of old, bad feelings crowding your insides, it impacts the way you see the world. Things start to seem a lot more difficult than they really are. After all, there are plenty of people out there who are able to shrug at a shattered glass jar of jam. Or even to laugh about it.
And guess what – when enough of these irritating or frightening incidents pile up, hour after hour, day after day, and we react in anger or fear, at some point we’re going to need to self-soothe, get high, or shut down. Those of us reading this blog know that one of our favorite substances to use for these processes is food.
That’s how taking life too seriously causes binge eating.
So what do we do instead???
Can you see how a long, hard look at the actual reality of the situation can change your perspective, and vastly change your reaction? By reminding yourself of this new awareness – that your reaction probably doesn’t match the reality; that the shattered glass of jam or the crappy driver isn’t all that horrible – you have a really good chance at shifting your experience.
My clients know that I am ALL ABOUT emotional release. I’m always encouraging them to scream, cry, move around to release their feelings. It’s toxic to keep them pent up inside. So if you drop the glass of jam, and it’s just the last straw, and you feel like you’re going to lose it, let yourself have a yell into a pillow or a frustrated cry.
And then remind yourself of the reality – it’s no big deal. That’s what paper towels and sponges are there for. No one died.
Hey, you may even get to the point where you can look at your reaction and laugh.
“Wow – I got really worked up there. I seem to do that a lot, don’t I.”
Of course, we all know that we have no desire to binge when we’re feeling calm and chuckling at ourselves.
Does this sound far-fetched? I know that for many people, linking negative emotions to binge eating is a new and revolutionary concept. But in my experience, the two are closely linked.
So with that, I’m wishing you a day in which you can laugh at yourself and the world.
Stuck in a breakfast rut? Try these simple, healthy and delicious recipes that will leave you full until lunchtime. Remember, eating “breakfast like a queen, lunch like a princess and dinner like a pauper” is the ideal way to maximize your metabolism.
1. Eggs with white beans and greens
Scramble or fry your eggs in butter (down with margarine and that nasty spray stuff!). Saute a can of white beans and some greens of your choice (spinach and chard work well) with broth and salt or a boullion cube for flavor. Serve the eggs piping hot in a bowl over the white beans and greens. This keeps well – leftovers can be reheated for lunch, or for tomorrow’s breakfast.
2. Power-packed smoothie
Start with a blend of milks – try raw milk or almond milk – and then throw everything you can think of in there. Remember, you want a good amount of protein and fat. For protein try a raw egg yolk (from a trusted source) or protein powder. A bit of avocado or some shredded coconut can add both fat and a creamy texture. Frozen or fresh berries and bananas provide flavor so that you can sneak in spinach without tasting it. Go to town with whatever booster foods you like – spirulina, chia seeds, bee pollen – and feel super-virtuous about all the healthy stuff you managed to consume before 8 am!
3. Whole grain pancakes
Lots of people have a hard time digesting gluten, including me. I’ve experimented quite a bit with pancakes and my fave flours to use are teff (an ancient Ethiopian grain) and almond (yeah, the nut). If you live anywhere within striking distance of a natural grocery store you’ll be able to score at least one of these. While teff is a grain, almond, being a nut, offers more protein and fat. So if I’m serving teff pancakes I usually supplement them with yogurt (or bacon). Oh, and don’t forget the maple syrup – one of nature’s most delicious treats, as far as I’m concerned.
4. Japanese style breakfast
Serve cooked or raw fish, such as salmon or tuna, over brown rice mixed with some seaweed. Seaweed is one of the most mineral-rich foods on Earth, and sheets of nori are super easy to find. Sprinkle with Gomasio – a blend of sea salt and sesame seeds. If you’re really motivated, toss a dollop of miso in a bowl, pour hot water for it and stir. Now you’ve got two courses!
5. Eggs a la sweet potato
Did you serve sweet potatoes last night? Got some left over? Heat them up in your stove while frying or scrambling a couple of eggs. Don’t forget salt and butter or coconut oil.
In the past month I’ve spoken with several people who intend to start doing deep emotional work with me around their binge eating. They are interested in the One Day Intensive, or they’d like to meet ongoing.
Instead, I can tell from what they’re saying that at least part of their problem has to do with the fact that they’re nutritionally and biochemically out of balance. I know that once we stabilize their blood sugar and support their neurotransmitter production, along with making sure they are filled with satiating, nutrient-dense foods, their binging is likely to reduce, if not stop altogether.
So I tell them that I don’t want to waste their time. I’d rather we do work just on nutrition first. Often, this alone is enough to stop or dramatically reduce binge eating and cravings. If any compulsive eating remains, we can deduce that it is psychological rather than physiological in nature, and then we can start to work together on the emotional aspect. Yes, I am putting myself out of business. Maybe I should charge more?
It’s true – what you eat, how you eat, and your neurotransmitter levels can either cause or prevent binge eating. Here are the three most common nutritional causes:
1. Not Enough Food
Your body needs a certain number of calories per day. Everyone’s body is different, so everyone needs a different number. If you are not eating enough, your body will force you to make up for it eventually. If you’re skipping breakfast or eating only an apple, you will inevitably be prowling the cabinets at night. This isn’t an issue of “lack of willpower” or “lack of control” – it’s basic physiology.
2. Not Enough Nutrients
When you are hungry, your body is hard-wired to ask for two things: calories and nutrients. That’s why you’re hungry an hour after you eat fast food, or two bags of potato chips. If you get the bulk, but not the nutrients, your body will ask for more.
3. Not Enough Protein
This works in two ways. First, protein gives us energy. If we don’t have enough protein making sufficient energy, we will reach for refined carbohydrates or sugar as a substitute. Second, protein stabilizes blood sugar. If your diet is too carb-heavy, your blood sugar will spike and then crash; when your blood sugar is low, it’s common to have intense cravings for refined carbs and sugar. I see these dynamics a lot with my vegetarian and vegan clients who are not getting enough protein, and I can tell you that the ten years I spent as an almost-vegan (I ate dairy but no other animal products) were marked by weekly sugar binges. I recommend my clients eat at least 15 grams of protein per meal.
Of course, there are many other nutritional causes of binge eating; these happen to be the ones I think are most prevalent. What have you noticed about the link between how you eat and your cravings?
“I just need to change my perspective!”
“I need to be grateful for what I have, and appreciate the little things in life!”
“When I’m anxious, I’ll just ignore it, ’cause when I focus on it it gets worse. When I’m depressed, I’ll just try harder to talk myself out of it.”
Yeah…how did that go for you?
Positive thinking is the biggest scam in the self-help / psychology industry. (Well, maybe it works sometimes, for an hour, or a day, but before you know it, the anger/fear/pain/shame/depression rears its ugly head again, like a shadow looming over the rest of your life.) But in general…IT DOES NOT WORK. And when you learn these few simple facts about brain science, you’ll understand why (very simple, bear with me):
Your FRONTAL CORTEX is the part of the brain that governs reason and cognition.
Your LIMBIC SYSTEM is the part of the brain that stores and processes emotion (mostly unconscious, by the way).
So if you’ve got all kinds of negative feelings in the limbic system – fear, anger, sadness, shame – but you’re trying to deal with it by engaging your frontal cortex (i.e. “thinking your way out of it”), you won’t get anywhere. It’s like knowing you have a dirty kitchen, and stressing about it day after day, but cleaning your living room instead. Your living room will sure look nice, but nothing in the kitchen has changed, and it’s still making you nuts.
This also explains why insight alone usually doesn’t lead to a change in behavior. Have you ever thought “I totally understand my issues. I get why I binge eat. I just can’t make myself stop.” Well…you may understand it, but I can almost guarantee there are piles of painful feelings floating around your subconscious. And they’re the ones that are “driving the bus”, so to speak – not your rational brain.
This also explains why willpower alone doesn’t work. Just wanting something more, or working harder, or beating yourself up and resolving to do better, doesn’t end emotional eating if the emotions themselves aren’t getting addressed.
So…what DOES work?
Well…this is kind of what I do for a living and it takes quite a while to teach it. But here’s a summary:
Slooooowing down – giving yourself time and space to breathe.
Acknowledging your feelings. They need a voice!
Letting yourself feel your feelings. Don’t run away!
Helping these feelings move through and out of your body by figuring out what you need (screaming? crying? deep breathing? a bath? lying in the grass?) and doing it.
Time and time and time again.
Yeah, it’s way more involved than trying to think positive, or trying to ignore that gnawing anxiety or depression. It also works. Try it!
When you read that title, did you feel resigned and think of steamed broccoli, limp cooked carrots, or pale, listless peas rolling about your plate? Well, that might be the problem. So often we avoid veggies ’cause we just don’t know how to make them taste good. I’m here to solve that problem today.
Put ten nutritionists in a room and they’ll only agree on two things:
1. Everyone should eat breakfast.
2. Everyone should eat more vegetables.
I preach the gospel of breakfast all the time, and I never skip the first meal of the day. But even I am guilty of occasional veggie neglect. If you’re like me, maybe you crave a veggie here and there, but the thought of munching on these fibrous stalks and leaves doesn’t really excite you. Why would it, when you can eat cheese instead?!
It’s important to remember that we are all biochemically individual, which means that we all need different things. You require a different amount of sleep, a different type of exercise, and a different diet than your neighbor or your boss or your friend. That goes for veggies too – some of us don’t actually need to eat tons of the colorful crunchies. However, I think it’s probably safe to say that most of us should be eating more than we are! In the spirit of increasing our produce consumption, here are my three fool-proof ways to make veggies taste good:
1. The “Sneaky Smoothie” Technique
Sure, smoothies are a great way to add fruit into your diet, but have you ever thought of sneaking in some mild-tasting veggies as well? I never make a smoothie without adding some spinach or chard (cross my heart, you can’t taste them; they just turn the smoothie green) or some avocado (makes a nice creamy texture). Then I’m all proud of myself ’cause I’ve already gotten in the first veggie serving of the day. “Green powder”, which you can purchase at your local health food store, is also a great option for smoothies.
2. The “Drown’ Em” Technique
You all know how I am about fats by now. I’ll let you in on a secret – the only way I will eat broccoli is if it’s covered in cheese. I can’t deal with this “lightly steamed with a squeeze of lemon” stuff (though if you like it, no judgement, carry on!). Try dipping some crudite in Ranch dressing (make sure it’s good quality, with no added sugar), drizzling some melted coconut oil over a saute of carrots, onions and zucchini, dipping celery in nut butter, or the good ol’ standby, BUTTER, which can and should be slathered over everything within reach. Don’t forget to make use of your friends, herbs and spices, and NEVER forget the salt! Remember, veggies contain fat-soluble vitamins, meaning your body can only access these vitamins if you’re eating fat along with the veg.
3. The “Roast ‘Em” Technique
It’s kind of cheating – roasting creates caramelization, which activates the sugars in the veggies. I don’t care. It’s naturally-occurring sugar and it tastes damn good. And if it helps you to eat things you normally might not, like brussels sprouts, go for it (try drizzling them with a bit of maple syrup and butter and serving them with toasted almonds or hazelnuts). Kale chips – roasting bite-sized pieces of kale with a sprinkle of olive oil and sea salt – is often health newbies’ first foray into the world of kale, and I’m all for it – kale chips are highly addictiveand healthy. The reason you don’t want to roast every single vegetable that you eat is that vitamins oxidize (break down) at high heat. High heat doesn’t damage the minerals, however. In the end, mixing up your preparation styles – raw, steamed, sauteed, roasted and baked – is the way to go.
Hopefully your creative juices are now flowing, and you’re all fired up to create a cream sauce for tonight’s cauliflower. Two important things to keep in mind:
1. As always, QUALITY COUNTS
Vegetables are good for you. Pesticides and herbicides are not. Buy organic and local if possible. Best of all, start a small backyard garden or join a CSA.
2. As always, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
If you try a vegetable a few different ways, and it still grosses you out or feels otherwise icky, leave it alone. The body has innate wisdom about what works for it and what doesn’t. Lucky for you, you’re an adult, and you have no parents standing over you telling you to clean your plate! Eat what feels right.
One aspect of my work involves teaching my clients practices that I call “listening to your body”.
As they master (or mistress) these practices, they learn to identify the foods their body is asking for, and they learn to sense how their body is responding when they eat those particular foods.
As you can imagine, this is an ideal process for anyone (ie, most of us) who gets really confused about all of the conflicting information out there regarding which foods we “should” be eating. In reality, there’s no one-size-fits-all diet, and the foods that work for you may not work for your friend. Once my clients really integrate these “listening to your body” practices, they have clarity about which foods are supportive for them and which are problematic.
In addition, this process is really helpful for deciphering cravings.
Early on, before getting clear on these practices, cravings really confuse my clients. Here are some of the responses I’m accustomed to hearing at that stage:
“Well, when I listen to my body, it asks for cake/cookies/wine/pizza! Does that mean it’s what my body really wants?”
“My body asks for oatmeal in the morning, but I heard that it’s important to focus on protein at breakfast, and don’t grains cause weight gain anyway?”
“I’m vegan, and I don’t agree with eating animals, but when I tune in this way my body is fiending for chicken! But isn’t meat bad for you?”
While sorting this out can be a process that requires guidance, you may also be able to learn it yourself from this blog post. So in hopes of that result, here are three of my best tips for determining whether your craving is a healthy one, arising from your body’s nutritional needs, or one that indicates imbalance. Remember, as I explained in my video blogs from August and September, that any food that’s hard to digest, from known “junk” foods to foods you’re allergic to, can trigger cravings.
1. How do you feel when you imagine eating the food?
A healthy, supportive craving feels different than an addictive craving. It’s slower and gentler. When you imagine eating the food, your body may feel relaxed, or warm, or calm, or simply just somehow right.
An addictive or toxic craving feels more sped up. If you and I are trying to sort out whether a food’s toxic to you, and I ask you to imagine eating it, if the food in fact is not a match for you, there’s usually a particular set of reactions. Your eyes might light up. You might have a speedy, “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!”, grasping response. When you feel into your body, you might notice a faster or heightened energy running through it – a bit of a “high”, in fact. It’s really common to have this sort of reaction about a food that contains sugar – don’t forget that includes alcohol and bread.
2. Is it a common allergen, or a food known to be not so healthy for you?
If the body-centered practices elude you, you can also go the intellectual route, although this won’t ultimately give you as much information. If you’re craving cake or cookies or candy or bread or beer, you can deduce that since these foods are known for creating addictive reactions, your craving is likely an imbalanced one. However, to throw a wrench in the works, there are also foods that are healthy, and that many people can digest with no problems, but which are also common allergens that are quite toxic to some people. These include eggs, dairy, nightshades, glutinous grains and corn.
Here’s an example of blending tactic #1 with tactic #2. I had a client once who asked me, “Is corn good for you?”
“Depends,” I said. “How do you feel about it?”
Her eyes started swirling like a cartoon character. She got a big smile on her face. “I LOVE grits,” she said.
“How often do you eat grits?” I asked.
“A few times a week,” she answered.
We explored her physical reaction a little more. Based on the “high” response she got when we were talking about grits, combined with the fact that corn is a common allergen, we deduced that in fact, corn was probably irritating her system, which was stimulating a craving response.
3. How do you feel after you actually consume the food?
This is a very easy one to track. Eat the food you’re craving, then notice how you feel immediately afterwards. Pay attention to any changes in energy, mood and digestion (as well as any other symptoms) for 12 hours after. Do you get a headache? Do you feel sluggish? Do you get a burst of energy and then feel irritable and tired? Do you bloat? Do you get diarrhea, or constipation? Or on the flip side, do you feel relatively stable and good?
This is not at all the definition of an allergy test. But it will give you some basic information on which foods your body likes, and which ones it doesn’t.
4. How would you feel if you could never eat the food again?
This one’s a question we therapists use when diagnosing addiction. Personally, I enjoy a drink or two sometimes. And if someone told me I could never drink again, I’d be bummed, no doubt, but my life would certainly go on.
If I told you you could never again have the food you’re craving, do you feel the same way – slightly bummed? Or do you feel outraged, or crushed, or like life would lose so much of its color?
You can probably sense where I’m going with this. If your response falls in the “outraged and crushed” category, the food has more power over you than it should, and that’s a red flag.
What did you think of these tips? Did you find them helpful? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.