dieting

The 5 Secrets to Quit Binging

At times, all of us have eaten a bit, or a lot more than is comfortable in our bodies.  Holidays, celebrations or sometimes mindless eating in front of the TV can leave us feeling overly full.  For some, this way of eating is more common and happens more frequently than we’d like.  The new DSM-V, the Psychiatric Association’s manual on diagnosis, has created a diagnosis under the eating disorder umbrella called Binge Eating Disorder or BED.  Whether you meet the criteria for this disorder, for bulimia, anorexia, or you just find yourself overly stuffed at times, these tools can be helpful:

1.     Notice what types of foods you’re binging on and write them down. 

It helps to look at your behavioral patterns.  Some people find themselves eating excessive sweets, some are more geared towards fats or starches.  Some people with emotional eating tendencies excessively eat any kind of meal including vegetables.  See if you can find a pattern in your binge choices. 

2.     Notice what you DON’T binge on. 

Rosemont, main line, philadelphia, west chester, binge, food, eating disorder, anorexia, bulimia, ptsd

Are there any types of foods that you’d never consider in a binge or never feel the need to over-eat?  In a recent session, a client was relaying the guilt and shame he felt after a binge.  He reported that he doesn’t usually allow pastries in the house, but was feeling strong recently and thought it’d be okay.  He found himself finishing off the pastries he had in one sitting.  Upon further investigation into what foods he was allowing himself to eat regularly, the client determined that he felt very satisfied when he ate waffles and allowed himself to eat waffles multiple times per week.  I asked him if he ever binges on waffles.  He was shocked when he thought about it and said that – no – he never binges on waffles.  Ok, great, so there’s no waffle binging going on, but how does that help?  Follow me here.

3.     Take a look at what you ‘allow’ yourself to eat regularly. 

bryn mawr, villanova, ptsd, eating disorders, rosemont, west chester, binge, anorexia, bulimia

What foods do you consider safe?  In an attempt to be healthy, lose weight, or just get control over your food choices, you may be very rigid or restrictive about what you allow yourself to eat on a regular basis.  Perhaps your choices look benign enough like chicken and veggies multiple times per week.  Write down what you’ve eaten over the past 3 days to 1 week or track your food for a week.  What do you notice?

4.     What is missing from your regular eating habits? 

Take those same meal journals and notice what you don’t have there.  If we consider all the food groups: protein, fat, starch, veggies, fruits and dairy – are there any food groups missing?  Are there lots of repeated meals without much variety?

Now I know this might seem completely insane and a bit scary, but HERE’S THE KEY to quit binging.  Ready?

5.     Allow yourself to eat the foods you binge on.

Try adding a portion or 2 of the foods you don’t allow yourself to eat and some of the most common foods you binge on to your regular meal schedule.  I know this might seem counter-intuitive.  Our society tells us to resist, have discipline, diet harder, avoid sugars and carbs and fats and this may be the only voice you’ve ever heard that encourages these things, but just give it a try for a month or even a week and see what happens.  If you are on the anti-carb kick, but then you find yourself binging on carbs, try adding a normal amount of carbs to each meal and see what your body craves after a while.

eating disorder, binge, rosemont, villanova, bryn mawr, west chester, philadelphia, main line, food, ptsd

Here’s the rub – We are creatures of desire. 

Food is part of life!  It’s nourishing and delicious and sensual.  When we restrict ourselves from eating foods we love, we may lose weight in the short run, but this does not happen without consequence.  Our animalistic nature, our Id, it craves pleasure and passion and vigor.  If we force ourselves to live inside a rigid box of rules around food and body, we will always desire to break free and stepping outside of that box causes immense shame and fear.  I am not telling you to overeat or teaching you how to binge differently, but what I am suggesting is that you try to take the power out of the foods that haunt you

If you regularly binge on entire cartons of ice cream, see what happens when you have a cup every night for a week.  What emotions come up when you eat it?  Can you journal about them and bring them into your therapist?  What do you find yourself craving after that week of glorious freedom with ice cream?

If you live near The Main Line of Philadelphia or West Chester and want to learn more about binging and how to quit, or you’re not sure where to find support for your feelings around food, you’re not alone.  Please feel free to contact me at 610.314.8402 – I’d be happy to help you find support.

Guest Writer: My Journey With Bulimia by Melissa King

Melissa King, Bulimia Story, Eating Disorder, Therapy, Counseling

A brief update from the author:

I wrote the following post just over 6 years ago. I had been fully recovered from bulimic symptoms for about 4 years at the time. It’s now been 10 years of recovery and I still deeply believe in all of the words I speak in this piece. The only thing that’s changed is that I feel even further away from experiencing desires to binge or purge. There was a time when it was hard to imagine feeling completely comfortable around food, easily stopping when full, and not thinking about the ice cream in the freezer constantly. I hope this article helps some of you! Be brave. Recovery is totally possible! - Melissa

Melissa King Eating Disorder Bulimia Story

My Journey With Bulimia

December 6, 2010

About ten years ago I developed a condition known as bulimia. I never would have guessed that a smart girl like me would struggle with something like that. I knew better. I had learned about eating disorders when I was younger and could never make sense of why someone would force themselves to vomit after eating or avoid eating all together.

I think very differently about eating disorders today. You can be intelligent, self-aware, and informed about eating disorders and still struggle with the “disease.” I remember the first time I displayed signs that I was at risk for developing bulimia. I was reading a book about how bad refined sugar was, and I was doing an excellent job of eliminating it from my diet—that is until I was tempted by a birthday cake brought into work one day. I decided to treat myself to a slice, and as I was finishing it, I felt deeply concerned about how the sugar might be harming my body. I don’t know what made me think of it because I had never chosen to throw up food before (nor did I know of anyone who had), but I quickly went to the bathroom and vomited in a stall.

I felt much better after getting rid of the sugar and didn’t think of it again until a year later. I had begun a big transformation in my life. I was starting to question my faith, my choice of career, the reasons for my failed romantic relationships, etc. I decided to go to counseling, and after a few sessions the counselor asked, “Where is Melissa?” I didn’t understand what she meant, but after some back and forth, she finally explained, “You tell me everything you think you SHOULD do and SHOULD want, but you don’t tell me how YOU feel and what YOU want.”

No one has said anything that has impacted me more deeply than that statement. I realized that I had become so good at assessing what I thought other people wanted that I had become disconnected from my own desires, feelings, and opinions. It’s like they were crowded out by the noise of all the other expectations and demands I thought I had to meet.

After that session, I started concentrating on my inner world and made a lot of effort to to connect more deeply with myself. As part of that exploration, I went back to dance class. Dance was an innate joy for me. It was my childhood passion, something I knew that I didn’t do to please anyone else. I hoped that dance would remind me of what it was like to feel.

And it worked. The feelings that dance inspired in me became recognizable in other areas of my life. In an attempt to follow this, I started spending more time alone so that I could learn to hear my own voice. I stopped going to church so that I could figure out what I really believed about God, without pressure from others. I also got a second job and began saving to spend six months in New York studying dance. New York was a place I had always wanted to live and I wanted to gift myself with the opportunity. And lastly, I decided to finally lose the weight I had gained since high school. For the first time, I was choosing to take my dreams seriously and have confidence in my ability to achieve them.

Several months later the pounds were coming off and I felt amazing. I was losing weight in a healthy way and sticking to a diet plan longer than ever before. I felt like I was discovering my real body: lean, healthy, strong, and energetic. I felt beautiful inside and out.

Somewhere close to my goal weight, I gave in and ate something that I knew was higher than the amount of calories I needed. I became afraid. Seeing myself eat food that was not in my plan made me fear that I was stepping back into old behaviors. In the past, I would stick to a diet for a little while but would always end up giving into temptation, promising myself that I would start again the next day. It was a bad cycle that I didn’t want to continue. Not only that, but I was falling in love with the “new” me, the me that was living from her heart, the me that was committing to her goals, and the me who was coming out of her shell and no longer hiding under extra weight. I felt more confident. I was getting attention from boys, and I was interacting more with people. I didn’t want to lose those things. That’s when I remembered my experience with the sugar elimination diet. I realized that I could just get rid of what I ate in the bathroom and my problem would be solved. So I did.

I never imagined that I would do it again. I thought it was a one-time thing. But it did happen again. Not often, at first. But every time I felt unsure about the calories I had consumed in a meal or I knew that I had too many, I ultimately found myself in the bathroom.

At one point, I became concerned that I might have an eating disorder. I remember going online and looking up the symptoms for bulimia. The criteria noted that an individual must have a certain number of symptoms to be diagnosed. Although I thought I might need help, my symptoms didn’t match enough of the criteria. I wasn’t bingeing at all and I wasn’t vomiting enough over the course of a week. As a result, I worried that I would not be taken seriously, so I was too embarrassed to seek help.

Eventually the symptoms did grow. It became harder to vomit if I didn’t eat enough, so I started to binge. My bulimia began to look very “textbook.”

In May of 2001, I moved to NYC. I accomplished some amazing things and had some wonderful experiences. During that time, I had periods when I went for months without symptoms and others when I vomited every day. I eventually went to counseling again, and during those sessions, my counselor offered me one important insight about bulimia. She simply said, “Maybe you’re not ready to give it up.” For the first time I considered the notion that I could give myself permission to continue. What a scary idea, but she was right to suggest it. 

From the time my symptoms began, I was resistant to them. After every purge, I promised myself it would be the last time. My mind was filled with figuring out ways to keep it from happening again. By accepting bulimia’s place in my life, I was able to learn from it and understand why it was there. Since my mind was free from thoughts of guilt, criticism, and resistance, I had space to feel the emotions that bulimia was trying to bring to the surface. I started recognizing the feelings I felt when I would binge and purge and realized how they were connected to other challenges in my life. When I saw the connections, I could start resolving the problems in other ways.

It took awhile, but I eventually let bulimia go. I would stop for several months, have a bout, then stop for many more months, have another bout, then stop for a longer period of time, etc. It’s been over three years now, maybe almost four, since the last period of symptoms.

I believe my bulimia represented a step toward healing. It often felt that people around me viewed bulimia as a problem, as a step backward, as something I was doing wrong. At first, I joined them in this conclusion. But bulimia came into my life when I was beginning a fight to be true to myself and resist the external pressures around me to please others, to follow another’s lead, to do what other people thought was good rather than what I felt was good. I didn’t know how to say “no.” I didn’t know how to negotiate. For years I had been taking in, absorbing and adjusting to what others wanted so that I could gain their approval and respect, ultimately depending on them for assurance and confidence. Simultaneously, I ate all the time. That’s how I gained weight in the first place. I just consumed. I dealt with my problems by eating. I couldn’t say no to food either. 

I was finally coming to a point in my life where I wanted to trust myself, but I was scared. It was a battle. I was taking food in (symbolically, others’ opinions, desires, and expectations) but realized that I didn’t want it. So I would push it back out. I was starting to say no and bulimia represented a violent fight inside me. 

It’s hard to be yourself in this world. There are a lot of demands, many that are indirect, and it was hard for me to resist the impulse to meet all those demands. Food was my vice, so it makes sense that my relationship with food symbolically paralleled my relationship with myself and with the world.

I think my bulimic episodes ended when I started trusting myself more and worrying less about others’ opinions, worrying less about someone being upset if I told them “no.” I knew that I didn’t want to continue bingeing and purging because the health risks weren’t worth it to me. So, eventually I chose to stop, probably when I had the internal strength to make that choice for myself (rather than just to appease others). Much of it was learning how to have boundaries. Just like I had to learn how to have boundaries with people, I had to learn how to have boundaries with food.

Does this mean that I have perfect boundaries with people now, that I never overeat, that I trust myself completely all the time? No. I still struggle with these things, just like everyone does. But the experiences I had while dealing with bulimia transpired into major changes in my life, changes I certainly benefit from now. My boundaries are much stronger and clearer, and I have more awareness of when I am compromising who I am. In fact, if I ever have the urge overeat or vomit, and I do sometimes, it’s a great clue to me that I’m not dealing with something in my life the way that I need to. I know that now, so I can take a step back, look at the problem, and figure out a more productive solution. It’s funny, because that solution often means asking for help or making myself more vulnerable with someone (letting someone in), or saying what I feel and risking possible rejection - again, all connected to boundaries. 

Bulimia is complicated and very layered. I haven’t addressed all of those layers here. Furthermore, I can only speak from my own experience; I don’t mean to represent others’ experiences. Over time, I’ve learned that people’s stories and the reasons behind their personal challenges are varied and don’t all fit into a neat little defined box. But I do believe that for many people, symptoms of bulimia actually symbolize an attempt toward health, the body reacting in order to make something right. I believe the symptoms are symbolic of the internal fight of an individual trying to find their voice, to find confidence, to look for a way to move out of whatever problem they have been dealing with, a problem that existed before symptoms of bulimia showed up. It’s never just about bulimia, it’s always about something much deeper. I think that many individuals with bulimia are trying to figure out how to finally have boundaries—with themselves and with the world. If they can find support to understand and transition through it, support to trust themselves, then the stage after bulimia can be fuller health, greater self-esteem and confidence, and healthier boundaries.

ABOUT MELISSA

Melissa King, LMHC is now a psychotherapist in New York City who works with women, gay/bi men, and couples in the first 10 years of a relationship. Find out more about Melissa here. https://www.myheartdances.com

If you have any questions or need support, please feel free to call me at 610.314.8402 for a free 15 minute phone consultation.

Please comment below and tell us your story !

Dining Out ... With an Eating Disorder

Happiness is a piece of cake therapy for eating disorders and body positive in West Chester, pa and on The Philadelphia Main Line, Bryn Mawr and Rosemont, PA

I know, I know, it sounds TERRIFYING!  Yes, I'm serious - you will not die from eating food in a restaurant ... I PROMISE!  It might FEEL like you'll die, it might seem like you'll gain a hundred pounds just from eating the food that is cooked for you back in that kitchen you can't see.  

Therapy for restaurants and eating disorders in West Chester, Pa and on The Main Line, Bryn Mawr, Rosemont, Philadelphia  Counseling

As my friend and colleague, Natalie says, "there aren't calorie ninja's back in the kitchen adding calories to your food"!  I understand the fear - I get that allowing somebody else to prepare your food is giving up control in a way that might not feel safe for you just yet.  Here's the rub, though - even though it might be hard to admit, I KNOW you want to be able to participate in experiences that involve food.  You WANT to be social.  You want to hang with your friends while they get frozen yogurt or try the food at the new cafe.  You want to live your life again... it's just that ED forbids it.  Here are some helpful tips for you to get more comfortable with dining out:

Practice

When you find yourself feeling fear about eating in a restaurant, it's sort of like a phobia - a very heightened anxiety around something specific.  The way to deal with and cure this type of phobia is through exposure - WITHOUT - re-traumatizing yourself.  So you don't want to push yourself to take it all on without practicing and getting comfortable with various aspects of it first.  

Use affirmations - they are wonderfully helpful ways to rewire your brain!

You might want to enlist the help of your therapist, friend or family member.  Tell them some food options that you consider safe.  Start small.  

It's better to have success with something less challenging than to get overwhelmed with something scarier.  

Dining out with an eating disorder therapy and counseling in West Chester, pa  on The Main Line, Bryn Mawr, Rosemont, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for eating disorders

Your support team member could either get you food from a restaurant or give you food that they made without you present.  Or if you need to start even smaller, you could watch them make your meal so you know it's safe.  Eat with them.  Notice your feelings.  Use anxiety reduction and grounding techniques.  Keep breathing and do your best.  Keep practicing this step until your anxiety stays below a 7 on a 0-10 scale with 10 being the worst anxiety you've felt and 0 being no anxiety at all. 

Increase the challenge slowly

Once you get comfortable with eating meals made by others, up the ante.  If you're still not ready for restaurant dining, try getting take-out or try eating foods you didn't see being prepared.  Use an affirmation like "This food is safe and nourishing; I am safe and I can eat this food".  Make sure you start off each experience with some breathing and relaxing techniques so that you don't associate fear with the experience.

Dining Out

If noise bothers you, choose a restaurant that's quieter or a time of day that's less intense like lunch.  See if you can get a table that's against a wall, in a corner or in a quieter area of the restaurant.  This reduces over-stimulation and feelings of vulnerability.  

Have a plan

In earlier recovery, it's helpful to have a plan.  If you know which restaurant you'll be going to, look up their menu online.  Work with your therapist or dietician to determine which menu item you'll be selecting.  Most restaurants have portions that are significantly larger than the exchanges on your meal plan.  If this is the case, you could anticipate eating half the meal.  One tip is to ask for a to-go box at the beginning of the meal so that you can put half away for later and just focus on what's on your plate.  

Therapy eating disorder support in West Chester, pa and on The Main Line, Bryn Mawr, Rosemont, Philadelphia Pennsylvania Counseling

Go with someone supportive

This experience is hard enough, don't add to it by going with someone who doesn't "get it" or tries to sabotage your recovery.  Some therapists or dietitians will conduct sessions at the restaurant with you so that you can talk through it as it's happening.  If that's not an option, or you're ready for the next step, choose a member of your support group who understands your recovery.  Let them know the plan beforehand and maybe come up with a code word in case you need to abandon the mission.

Remember to breathe

Keep taking those deep belly breaths and know that this is just one meal.  One meal won't make you fat.  If you notice yourself starting to get overwhelmed or anxious, just come back to your breath.  While you're eating, try to focus the conversation on something else like the weather, the new movie just out or anything fun.  Take a sip of water, feel your feet.  You got this!!

Do's and Don'ts:

Do:

  • Keep the conversation light
  • Have some topics in mind to talk about while you're eating
  • Get the food down
  • Chew thoroughly
  • Focus on the conversation, the beautiful setting or anything but the food and body
  • Wear comfortable clothes
  • Stay at the table for the entirety of the meal
  • Set your pace to about 30 minutes to complete your meal

Don't:

  • Count the calories
  • Compare your dish to anyone else's
  • Body check while you're at the table
  • Talk about food, weight, exercise or anything triggering while you're at the table

Keep your eye on the prize!

This experience is not just about today or next week.  You are engaging in this exercise so that you can enjoy your life - so that you can HAVE a life!  Spending all your time in isolation, feeling lonely, not participating in social events is no way to live.  Remember that you are doing this so that you can be happy and free of your eating disorder.  

One day at a time therapy for eating disorders in West Chester, pa on The Main Line in Bryn Mawr, Rosemont, Pennsylvania
One day at a time
One meal at a time
One bite at a time

You CAN recover!!  Recovery from an eating disorder is not a linear process.  It goes all over the place, it's messy at times and sometimes you need to take 5 steps backward so that you can get good 2 steps forwards.  Even one success is worth celebrating, so give yourself credit for EVERYTHING you do right.  

If you're still feeling anxious about dining out and you'd like some support, I'd be happy to schedule a time to help you reach your goals.  Contact me now at 610.314.8402 to learn more about how to dine out with an eating disorder.  Please feel free to share this post with anyone who is looking for help with eating and body issues.

Good luck and enjoy!!

If you have any questions or need support, please feel free to call me at 610.314.8402 for a free 15 minute phone consultation.

Please comment below and tell us your story!

The 3 Biggest Myths About Eating Disorder Therapy in West Chester, Pa

Body Positive West Chester, PA Therapy Counseling for Eating Disorders

West Chester, Pennsylvania is just south of The Main Line – an area rich with resources, beautiful settings, history and academic prestige.  With all this knowledge about … well, everything - in our town, why is it so difficult to fully grasp what eating disorder therapy actually is?  What does it do?  How does it work? 

And the most important question of all – WILL – IT – MAKE – ME – FAT? 

Body Image Therapy in West Chester, PA for Eating Disorders including Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder

You may have found counselors in West Chester that were kind enough and surely helpful.  Understandably, you’ve got lots of questions.

It is so normal to be scared. 

It is completely understandable if you’re wanting help – wanting support, but you can’t quite get yourself to take the plunge – and for MANY reasons (including the fear of getting fat).  There are other reasons you’re probably scared:

you know there’s a bunch of things in your past, or perhaps your family, that may have contributed to your anorexia, but you don’t want to blame them. 

You know you’ve got some difficult memories stored away, but that’s just the point – they’re STORED neatly away and the thought of walking into a counseling office and TALKING about them seems like the worst idea ever!  Also, the commitment! 

The binging and purging takes up ALL OF YOUR TIME –

every last ounce of energy you have to get to the grocery store, buy your binge foods, bring them home, make sure no one’s around and then the binge.  Eating and purging and eating and counting and cleaning and being COMPLETELY EXHAUSTED!  Who has time for therapy, let alone has the ability to commit to a specific time every week to show up? 

But you’re so tired! 

Therapy for Purging in West Chester, PA

Tired of this dance you are doing with a gorilla – he won’t let go and you just keep spinning and you’re out of control and you want help, but it all just seems too overwhelming. 

I hear you – it’s a dark way to live

You don’t have to feel like this anymore

Here are some debunked myths about eating disorder therapy:

1.  Will my therapist try to make me fat?

No.  We are not here to make you fat, contrary to popular belief.  Geneen Roth says that recovery is about finding balance in food, weight and life; it's not about gaining weight.  Recovery from anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder is NOT about making you fat.  My focus, when I work with clients struggling with ED, is to help them break free from the obsession with food and body.  To help them learn to love their bodies and live inside of them.  To find peace around food and this is NOT done through binging!  This is done by UNdoing the diet mentality.  Diets make people with eating disorders either fat or nutty or both. 

The goal for someone trying to find recovery from anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder is to eat when you are hungry, to eat enough food, that you enjoy, to SATISFY you and to stop eating when you are SATISFIED. 

If you practice this way of normal or intuitive eating, your body will follow suit.  If you are not restricting all day, every day and then binging and purging up your food, your body will do what it was born to do naturally – it will process the food and use the calories to give you energy and help your hair shine and your skin retain moisture.  It will also alleviate the depression and anxiety you are experiencing from malnutrition.

2.  If I go to therapy, will I spend all my time digging up the past and talking about my mother?

No.  As a therapist, I believe your history is one important component of what makes you - YOU.  I usually spend some time exploring things that happened in the past, but only as I find it helpful for the present – or if my client wants to explore or use EMDR to process an upsetting memory, then, of course we go there.  But this is not the focus.  As a therapist, my job is to help you identify YOUR GOALS and I am the guide that helps you reach them. 

Another thing to consider is coaching.  One of the differences between a therapy and a coaching is that coaching is usually much more directive and there’s virtually no history that comes into play.  Coaching can be very useful especially for help with navigating things like grocery stores, restaurants or meal times.  I incorporate coaching techniques when my clients are in need of this sort of direction.  Whatever it takes to reach your goals and so you don’t need to be in therapy for the rest of your life. 

3.  Won’t I just be put on another diet?

Eating Disorder Therapy for Dieting in West Chester, PA

No.  Not when working with this type of eating disorder recovery, anyway.  Some clinicians believe the way to heal an eating disorder is through rigid meal plans and restriction of certain food groups.  Perhaps this works for some people, but don’t you want freedom?  REAL freedom?  As Jenni Schaeffer said, “How free do you want to be?”  YOU CAN FULLY HEAL FROM YOUR EATING DISORDER.  You CAN find freedom from all sorts of restriction.  The beginning stages of recovery may involve a meal plan from a registered dietitian who specializes in eating disorders.  We usually work on the exchange system.  Rather than counting calories or measuring amounts of foods, we use exchanges to help you get away from the diet mentality. 

And we meet you where you are at. 

If you are not ready to eat 3 meals a day, that is okay.  It is our job to help you mediate your anxiety around food; not to overwhelm you.  Middle and late stages of recovery often move away from meal plans and move more towards intuitive and normal eating.  (whatever that is right?)  But honestly, the goal is to help you find freedom to enjoy meals with friends and family – to put food in its place in your life instead of allowing it to dominate and terrorize you.  Dieting is not part of eating disorder recovery.

I hope this helps debunk some of the myths about eating disorder therapy, and hopefully, it will help you in your search for the right eating disorder therapist in West Chester Pennsylvania.  If you are still feeling stuck, please don’t hesitate to call me at 610.314.8402 for a free 15-minute phone consultation.  I’m happy to hear about what is happening and help direct you to the right person.  If you are looking for help with eating disorders, you can read more about how I can help here.