Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Part 1 Diet Mentality and Intuitive Eating

Part 1 Diet Mentality and Intuitive Eating: Based on the book "Intuitive Eating Workbook"

Fearmongering, in the name of health, in front of the backdrop of an appearance-based culture, has triggered the perception that we are one bite away from a disaster. It’s a cultural neurosis; the fork has become akin to a loaded gun—just one wrong move pulls the trigger. A substantial body of research shows that dieting is not sustainable and leads to a host of problems, including eating disorders, food and body preoccupation, distraction from other personal health goals, reduced self-esteem, weight stigmatization, discrimination, and—paradoxically—weight gain. As a result, people are weary of dieting and yet terrified of eating. People don’t know how to eat anymore. They are ashamed of their bodies and don’t trust that their bodies “work.” Intuitive Eating is a dynamic mind-body integration of instinct, emotion, and rational thought. It is a personal process of honoring your health by paying attention to the messages of your body and meeting your physical and emotional needs. It is an inner journey of discovery that puts you front and center; you are the expert of your own body. After all, only you know your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Only you know how hungry you are and what food or meal will satisfy you. No diet plan or guru could possibly know these things. You’ll need to learn body attunement, the ability to hear (and thus respond to) the physical sensations that arise within your body, such as biological cues of hunger and fullness—and other principles work by removing the obstacles to body attunement. The ability to perceive bodily sensations is known as interoceptive awareness, which is critical for attunement. This is because biological states, such as having a full bladder or feeling sleepy or hungry, have a physical sensation. Even emotional states have a physical sensation, which can be very subtle. Being attuned to the physical sensations of your body gives you powerful information into your physiological and psychological state, which helps you determine what you should do to meet your needs. If, rather than listening to your body, you have instead repeatedly followed popular diet crazes, you may find yourself thinking that you don’t know how to eat anymore. You may be feeling confused, conflicted, and mistrustful of your body. Obstacles to interoceptive awareness usually originate from your mind, in the form of thoughts, beliefs, and rules —such as rules about what you should or should not eat, beliefs about what a healthy body should look like, and judgmental thoughts about good food versus bad food. If you are not getting your basic needs met (such as enough sleep), it can interfere with body attunement. At best, it may make it difficult to hear, let alone respond to, the messages of your body in a timely manner. At worst, you might find yourself turning to food to self-soothe and cope. Remember, health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. At some point during your intuitive eating journey, you will normalize your relationship with eating and your body. Weight loss may or may not be a side effect. If you focus on weight loss, that preoccupation will interfere with your ability to make choices based on your intuitive signals, and it will place focus on appearance rather than inner wisdom. Placing the focus on healthy lifestyle behaviors, rather than on weight, provides health benefits with or without weight loss. If dieting programs had to stand up to the same scrutiny as medications, they would never be allowed for public consumption. Imagine, for example, taking a cholesterol medication that improved your blood results for a few weeks but, in the long run, caused your arteries to clog. Would you really embark on a dieting program (even a so-called sensible diet) if you knew that it could cause you to gain more weight and affect your emotional wellbeing? Many people are aware that dieting doesn’t work in the long run, but most are surprised to learn that dieting actually increases your risk for gaining even more weight. There are profound biological mechanisms at play that trigger rebound weight gain from dieting. As far as your cells are concerned, they are being subjected to a famine, and they’ll do anything to survive. Your cells have no idea that you are choosing to restrict your calories (or some group of foods) for weight loss. One well-known survival adaptation they have is to slow down metabolism. Another way the body survives dieting is by cannibalizing its own muscle. Energy is so important that the body will destroy its own muscle to burn as fuel (the muscle is converted to carbohydrates). Fat overshooting is another way the body tries to survive the dieting process. In essence, the loss of both fat and lean muscle tissue triggers the body to gain more weight in the form of body fat to survive. Hormonal changes also make you more hungry and preoccupied with food. High-quality studies on millions of people show that being at a lower weight does not confer better health or outcomes. Health should not be measured by a number on the scale or the size of your jeans. Many of our clients romanticize their first diet like a first love—it was so easy and effortless. The weight just came off. But that first dieting experience is the seduction trap that launches the cycle of weight loss and gain. With each diet, your body adapts and learns how to survive, making it even more difficult to lose weight. With each failed weight-loss attempt, a learned helplessness becomes stronger, resulting in poor self-efficacy and empowerment. Dieting contributes to body dissatisfaction, food and body preoccupation, food cravings, distraction from other personal health goals, reduced self-esteem, and weight stigmatization and discrimination. When the dieting mentality is engaged, your eating decisions are dictated by the diet rules, which mandate what you eat, regardless of your food preferences, energy needs, hunger, and so forth, all of which can trigger feelings of deprivation. No diet plan could possibly know your hunger level or the foods that satisfy you. The dieting rules also trigger an inner rebellion, because they are an assault on your personal autonomy and boundaries. It’s a process of listening and responding to the needs of your body. The dieting mentality erodes trust in your body, because “the rules” micromanage and dictate your food choices, regardless of how you feel. This creates a cognitive dissonance, a clash between what you are experiencing to be true and what you’re told to do, which leads to confusion about eating, with most individuals saying: “I don’t know how to eat any more.” It’s important to keep in mind that every eating experience you have, whether perceived as negative or positive, is an opportunity to learn about your body. Intuitive Eating is not a pass or fail process—it’s a learning experience. Have self compassion. self-compassion is associated with well-being, increased feelings of happiness, and greater personal initiative to make needed changes in your life. Self-compassion is simply having a neutral but understanding consideration of yourself and your actions. This is because self-compassionate individuals do not criticize or bully themselves when they make mistakes. This makes it easier for them to admit vulnerability and mistakes, change unproductive behaviors, and take on new challenges, such as Intuitive Eating.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Disordered Eating Part 4

 Disordered Eating Part 4: Based on the book "Surviving Disordered Eating"

Mindfulness is not a new idea. Cultivating conscious awareness of the present moment—along with the thoughts and actions within it—is a practice that has been taught and followed all over the world in many cultures and traditions, first as a spiritual concept, and, more recently, as a research-proven method for gaining greater peace and wellness. In a nutshell, mindfulness simply means acknowledging that life unfolds one moment at a time, and in each moment we have a choice of what to think, feel, and do. Many people have little conscious awareness of how their thoughts affect their moods and choices, eating disordered or not. A branch of psychology called cognitive behavioral therapy says that if people can learn to become aware of their thoughts, they can change them, and if they change them, they will feel better emotionally and, thus, behave in more satisfying ways. Another habitual thought loop that can develop in people with disordered eating is constant comparison and judgment of themselves and others. This can take the form of walking into a room and instantly sizing up everyone in order to: feel good if they judge themselves as the smallest person there, or feel bad if they believe someone else is smaller. Either way, the judgment is used to fuel the compulsion to starve, binge, purge, overexercise, and such. It is a never-ending cycle of dissatisfaction that ends in exhaustion, isolation, and despair. Notice destructive thinking as it is happening, stop, breathe (deep breathing calms your nervous system), and acknowledge that you are engaging in negative thinking patterns. Then, take another deep breath and think loving, positive, kind things toward yourself such as: “It’s okay. I don’t have to stay stuck in these thoughts. I am good and lovable just as I am. No need to compare or judge. I am on my own path to health. Others are on their paths. Be in this moment. Research has proven that learning to quiet the mind and body helps relieve depression, anxiety, stress, and perfectionist tendencies—all of which accompany disordered eating. If you can learn to quiet your mind, you can also become more attuned to your true emotions and needs, so that you can make healthy choices to fulfill your actual needs, not your habitual ones. Rapid or shallow breathing is interpreted by the brain as danger or stress, which raises the body’s anxiety level. Deep, relaxed breathing that inflates the belly tells your brain that everything is fine and it’s okay to relax. This is an important skill because, oftentimes, it is imagined stress and anxiety that trigger eating disordered thoughts and behaviors. Having the ability to calm and soothe yourself is critical to recovery. Because recovery from disordered eating requires you to relearn hunger and fullness cues, the ability to be fully present during mealtimes can be extremely helpful. Eating mindfully means eating with full awareness of the food, the setting, your body’s needs, and the emotions present. One way people unlearn their natural cues about hunger and fullness that all people are born with is by doing other things while eating which distract them from their bodies, such as reading, watching TV, driving, texting, talking on the phone, surfing the web, and such. Another way we learn to ignore our inborn cues is when other people interfere with comments like, “You’re not going to eat another cookie, are you?” Or, “Is that all you’re going to eat? Have more!” Mindful eating requires that you just eat, tuning into your own internal experience, while perhaps gently socializing if you are eating with others. Increasing momentary mindfulness is very possible; it just takes practice. Some simple ways to get started include: Turn off technology for a certain amount of time each day in order to focus more on real-life experiences. Take a sensory walk outdoors. For a minute or so, notice sights, and name them as you see them: tree, flower, bee, cloud, sidewalk. Then switch to sounds, and name them: car, dog, cat, leaves, airplane, wind chimes. Then, go through the other senses: smell, touch, taste. You might surprise yourself at the things you discover that have been there. As you are doing a simple task, such as washing dishes or showering, try to notice the smells, sights, and textures as you experience them. Name them, and let yourself fully feel the soap or the bubbles or the water. Sit quietly in a chair, or lie down, and become aware of your breathing. Don’t change it; just feel the air coming in through your nostrils and down into your lungs, then notice the exhale as the process reverses. Try counting each one, up to 10. If you lose track, start over, without judgment.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Disordered Eating Part 3: Journalling

 Disordered Eating Part 3: Journalling Based on the book "Surviving Disordered Eating"

Journaling is a recovery tool you can use. It is a powerful resource that can help you in your healing journey and beyond. Journaling is nothing more than writing your thoughts and feelings on paper, in a private notebook or journal. Some people write only about events, some write only about feelings, and some write about both. Some people write poetry or make up stories. There is no wrong or right when it comes to journaling. It’s very important to understand that your journal is your journal. What you write in it is for your eyes only. You may write something that you want to share with someone at some time, but that is not the main purpose. The main goal is to write honestly about anything you want without fear of judgment or criticism. Next, you’ll need a good writing utensil. This is very important. You’ve got to find something that, like your journal, invites you to write and makes it a pleasant experience. Journaling is about more than what you say. It’s a physical process as much as an intellectual and emotional one. Your hand moves a pen across a page in a notebook. It needs to feel pleasing to you or you won’t do it. Finding the right writing utensil for you helps make the experience one you’ll enjoy. First thing in the morning, when households are usually quiet, and before the rush of your day gets started, you might find that your brain is able to focus in a more relaxed, open manner as you write about your life. Some people find that incorporating a few minutes of journaling into their morning routine helps them start their days feeling more calm and centered. If you aren’t a morning person, or there is simply no extra time, try journaling at the end of the day. Writing can be a great way to process the events and emotions of the day, now that you have time to focus. If you’re like many people, your day can fly by so quickly sometimes, that it seems all you can do is react, all day long. Taking time to check in with how you feel about what has happened, and how it relates to stress, anxiety, body image, and eating can really open your eyes as to how these things are connected, and what you can do about it. It can become a midday break that opens your eyes and awareness so that, if you need to make adjustments in your day, you can do so. Once you have gathered your materials and found a time and private place to write, how do you get started? First, commit to the following: You will always tell the truth in your journal, no matter how difficult. The truth may be hard to express, at first, but it is crucial if you want to heal. Following are some prompts to get you started. General Topics: Write about what you’ve been doing lately—homework, school, job, family events, things with friends, hobbies, and such. Try to describe the events in detail. Now, write how you feel about the things you’ve been doing—what do you find satisfying? What do you not like? Why? Describe some of the people in your life, in detail: looks, personalities, hobbies, ages, relationship to you, and so forth. Also describe how you feel about these people. Be honest! Remember, no one will read this but you, and if you don’t like having the truth about your feelings lying around after you’ve written them, you can always remove the pages and destroy them. Your journal may help you recognize and remember important things, but if it makes you uncomfortable to have your true thoughts out there in black and white, you can destroy the pages, knowing that doing so won’t destroy the truth of your feelings. Write about important things you remember from different ages in your life. Why are they important to you? What feelings do you associate with these events? You might go back as far as your memory allows, and then work your way up to present. Try one thing for each year of school, and then move onto important experiences of adulthood. Write about romantic relationships, attachments, or crushes you have had. What attracted you to these people? How do you feel about them now? Getting to Know You: Make a list of your favorite things: music, movies, TV, sports, friends, family, places, classes, animals, trips, clothes, stores, artists, and so forth. Pick one or more of the things you listed, and write more about it: a detailed description and your feelings. Make a list of your least favorite things, and describe some of them in more detail. What are some hopes you have for your future? These can be career, relationships, adventure, wild dreams—anything! Why do you hope these things happen? What are some things you will have to do to make one or more of them a reality? Is there a small step you can take toward one or more of them right now? What scares you about these things? How will you overcome your fear, if you want to? Describe yourself as you think your best friend would. What are your strongest qualities that have nothing to do with appearance or looks? How can these qualities help you achieve health and your greatest hopes? Family People don’t get to pick their families, but they are all part of one, for better or worse. Name some of the “better things” about being a part of your family; then name some of the “worse things.” What can you learn from being a part of your family that will make you a stronger person? Who in your family do you feel closest to? Why? Who in your family would you like to feel closer to? Why? Who in your family do you worry about? Why? How has your disordered eating affected your family? How do you feel about that? Describe the role of food in your family. Is it used in celebrations? Is it something not much thought is given to? Or can you recognize some food obsessions in your family members? Are others in your family struggling with food or body image issues? How do you feel about that? Who in your family is the most supportive of your recovery? Why? If no one in your family is supportive, to whom outside of your family can you turn? Some families experience trauma (very upsetting events), or some members of the family do. Things like: death, divorce, addiction issues, abuse, job loss, and the like. If any of these issues have been in your family, or have happened to you, try writing about them, including your feelings. Many times these types of issues are involved in disordered eating. Understanding struggles with your family traumas can help you achieve better emotional and physical health. Disordered Eating and Body Image Topics: Remember back to when your disordered eating habits began. Describe what was going on in your life and how you felt about it. Who knew about what you were doing? What was their reaction? Talk about your disordered eating habits and rituals today. Be specific and detailed. How have they changed since you first began? How do you feel about them now? Describe how you feel about your body. Be honest. How do you feel about how you feel about your body? Again, be honest. List things you like and/or respect about your body, such as, the fact that it keeps oxygen flowing in and out of your cells, 24/7, and you really don’t even have to ask it to do so. What would you like to change about your body image and disordered eating so that you could enjoy life, people, and yourself more? What are you doing to make these changes happen? What are some of your fears? These can be about anything, real or imagined. Talk about exactly what it is you fear about these things. Write a letter to your eating disorder voice. Give it a name. Many people name that voice ED (for eating disorder). Tell ED your real feelings about the things it says to you. Be honest and blunt. Tell ED your hopes and plans regarding recovery and health, and be bold about it. Your Worldview Describe your moral code of ethics. What things do you believe are right, and what things are wrong? Why do you believe this? What and/or who influenced the development of your sense of right and wrong? How well do you live by your own code of ethics? When have you fallen short? When have you stood firm? How did you feel in those situations? What problems or issues in the world today concern you? Write about what you can do to help solve that problem, both in small ways and larger ways, now and in the future. Write a letter to someone saying what you always wanted to say to that person. Don’t have the intention of sending it—just do it to experience what it feels like to say the things you need to say. Maybe you’ll want to share this with your therapist, maybe you’ll want to edit it and send it, or maybe you’ll want to rip it to shreds. The choice will be all yours. If you are new to journaling, you might want to start with some short writing periods, say 10 or 15 minutes. You can write longer if you want.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Disordered Eating Part 2

 Disorder Eating Part 2: Based on the book "Surviving Disordered Eating"

What are you really hungry for that has nothing to do with food? Eating for non-hunger-related reasons, or not eating when you are hungry, can often be driven by intense—and often hidden—emotional pain, which may have roots that run deep in your heart, mind, and soul. For some reason, such as not eating enough during the day, boredom, or avoiding unhappy relationships, evening and nighttime often trigger some type of disordered eating experience. By tuning into your body and mind, you can move through that time of day without sabotaging your recovery efforts. First, tune into your body. Is it giving you clues that you are truly physically hungry? Some people report physical hunger as feeling like an emptiness in the pit of their stomachs, a rumbly feeling and sound, sharp pains, slight nausea, lightheadedness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and so forth. If your body is giving you your particular signals, then feed it! Fix a portioned snack, and eat it mindfully. If you’re not physically hungry, but you’re feeling weak about fighting an eating disorder impulse, or you are emotionally upset, depressed, or bored, try one of these ideas: wrap up in a soft blanket, meditate on pleasant thoughts, and fall asleep; then wake up proud you didn’t binge and purge. Try getting involved in a creative activity just for the fun of the process, not to create a perfect product. Call a friend. Listen to music. Make a list of how you can help yourself during your hardest time of day, and turn to it when you need to. Oftentimes, underlying disordered eating is the belief that looking “perfect” according to cultural standards will lead to feeling happy, confident, and carefree. Along with that irrational belief might be the hope that if you could do everything in your life perfectly, you would feel calm, cool, and collected, and all your problems would be solved. People who believe that perfection is attainable are often anxious, unhappy, stressed, and lonely, because they are in pursuit of a goal that can never be achieved—unless they come to realize that messiness and imperfection is part of what it means to be perfectly human. Perfectionists often start the day with thoughts like these: “I am going to be good today. I’m not going to eat any bad foods, and I will work out harder than ever.” Because the list of “bad” foods tends to increase as disordered eating and thinking grow stronger, this can severely limit your food choices, often resulting in starvation, which can then lead to eating mindlessly, which can then lead to thoughts like these: “I wanted to be so, so perfect with everything, and now I went and ate some M&Ms. The whole day is ruined! What is wrong with me? I’m so gross; I’m such a pig!” This type of downward spiral can lead to more destructive behaviors and thoughts, and it all began with unrealistic and unhealthy expectations of perfection. Drop the expectation, and you’ll be surprised at how your attitude toward yourself might shift. You might be able to be more loving and helpful and make choices that nourish your body and mind rather than hurt them. Try embracing the concept of good enough. A brain entrapped by disordered eating thoughts wants to focus on the things that don’t go perfectly: no meals are eaten well enough, no clothes look good enough, no progress is fast enough. Good enough is good enough. Many people believe the lies about appearance, self-worth, eating, and diets. If you were raised by parents who themselves have (or had) unhealthy relationships with their bodies and/or food, they may have passed on those beliefs and behaviors to you. Not necessarily because they were trying to hurt you, but because it was all they knew. This is true also of friends, coaches, teachers, and others. In order to please those important people in your life, you may have tried to perfectly conform to the standards they set for you, even though those standards were not healthy ones. Because you are a human, and humans make mistakes (from which they often learn the most), you will likely experience a setback or two as you journey toward health. That is normal, acceptable, and just fine. The important thing is not the setback, but that you pick yourself up and get back on track. Right away. What happened happened. Now, in this moment and the next, you can choose to do the right thing, the loving thing, the healing thing. Take a deep breath, and do it. Remember, life is full of setbacks. Expect them, accept them, learn from them, and move on. A trigger can be a food that for some reason makes it hard for you to be mindful as you eat it. It may activate urges to restrict or binge. Emotional upsets can also trigger the desire to use food or disordered eating behaviors to somehow deal with the difficult feelings, or to numb them. Food and emotions are things you have to face and deal with every single day. Staying in recovery is a matter of how you react when triggered, not whether you are triggered. Also, triggers actually play an important role in your recovery because they provide a chance for you to practice healthy coping skills. You have to be willing to begin, one bite at a time, your healing process. You are the only one that can accept and live out the cure. You can read books, go to therapy, visit a dietician, meet with a mentor, keep doctor appointments, but if you don’t change your thoughts and actions, you will not recover. You will have to honestly face yourself with an attitude of tough love in order to move forward. You will have to face your fears, as well as the consequences of your disordered eating thoughts and behaviors. Stop hiding from the truth, and enjoy the freedom of honesty.