Thursday, September 25, 2014

Why I Don't Believe In Recovery


Recently, someone came to my support group for the first time and shared  about his problems with binge eating.  And then he said something that I hear a lot - but no matter how often people say this, I'm always stunned:

He said he he knew he'd be dealing with bingeing for the rest of his life and that it would always be with him in some form. 


And did I mention he was in his mid-20s?  Yikes.


I'm sure I looked openly taken aback.  I said, "Oh, really?"


He nodded.  "Recovery means that you're always dealing with the problem.  Like, forever."


I said, skeptically, "Oh, really?"


At that point he asked if I believe in recovery.


I shook my head.  "No, I absolutely do not believe in recovery."


The whole group looked at me in shock.  This was not what they were expecting to hear.  
That's when I clarified:

"I don't believe in recovery.  I do believe in liberation.  

No matter what your eating issues are, you can completely change your relationship to food and to yourself.  I know this from personal and professional experience.

If you're familiar with my work, you probably know my thoughts on the importance of language.  The way you speak to - and about - yourself affects the way you feel, which impacts your behavior.   

Changing your language can change your life.  

So to me, you recover from the flu.   You recover from a bad break-up.   You recover from a financial setback.

You don't say, "I'm in recovery from depression."  You might explain you were depressed and now you feel better.

You're not "in recovery" from anxiety.  You describe that you were anxious and not you're not, or you're less anxious.     


You don't recover from eating problems.  You liberate yourself.

Liberation means freedom.  It means freedom from counting calories.  Freedom from the idea that you're good if you eat healthy foods and bad if you don't.  Freedom from negative self-talk.  

Freedom from thinking about this stuff All The Time.  

When you identify what's going on in your head and your heart, when you express your needs, wants, emotions, and conflicts, when you change your relationship to yourself and others, you don't need food to numb, distract or express difficult or painful emotions, conflicts, and wishes.  

That's how you liberate yourself from the dictatorship of food and win the diet war.  And then lunch becomes lunch, and not a battlefield.


In the last decade, I've helped many, many people liberate themselves from the tyranny of disordered eating.  They are free - and you can be, too.  

You CAN win the diet war.


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Friday, September 19, 2014

5 Mental Blocks To Weight Loss



Note:  this post is geared towards readers seeking to overcome binge eating, compulsive overeating and overeating. 












Recently a friend who’s been on and off every diet from cabbage soup to South Beach to Cookie to Paleo confided that she had gone off her most recent diet.  

Big time. 

These were actually her exact words:  “I went off my diet, big time.”


She ate pizza for dinner and to her, this was practically a crime.  “I can’t lose weight if I eat pizza,” she exclaimed.  “What’s wrong with me?”

The only thing wrong was her mindset.  Her conviction that pizza was bad set her up for feeling bad about herself, one of the five mental blocks to weight loss:

I was “bad” because I didn’t stick to my diet/I was “good” because I stuck to my diet

“Bread is bad.  I was bad because I ate bread.”
“Salad is good.  I was good today because I ate salad.”

What you eat may be good for you or bad for you, but it doesn’t reflect your character.  The trouble with this kind of good-bad thinking is that it ties your character, your likeability, lovability and sense of self to what you are eating. 

Eating salad doesn’t make you a good person.  It makes you a person who eats salad.  Being a healthy eater doesn’t imbue you with some special characteristic that makes you more likeable or lovable.

What determines your goodness is the way you treat others, your intention to do the right thing, to be thoughtful and kind. 

You are not a better person because you abstain from certain foods.  You’re not a bad person if you eat pizza.  This “good food/good me” mentality causes a lot of anguish.  If this resonates with you, then start challenging that good-back dichotomy!

"What if I change when I'm thin?"

Some years ago I treated a 13 year old girl who was over 100 pounds overweight.  I normally only see adults but I made an exception for her (rules are meant to be bent, right?).  I’ll never forget the day she poignantly expressed a fear that if she lost weight, she would somehow not be herself.  She said, “I don’t know who I’ll be if I lose this weight, but I don’t think I’ll be as huggable.” 

For this girl, losing weight meant losing herself and becoming someone else.   Her identity was bound up in her size.  If this sounds familiar, consider what makes you unique.  How can you lose those qualities by losing weight?

Conversely:

"When I lose weight, my life will be absolutely perfect.”

This is a common sentiment.  People often say, “When I lose weight I'll be confident, happy and everyone will love me.”

This is a compelling fantasy but it is indeed a fantasy.  You will not be a different person when you lose weight.  You will be you, only in a smaller, presumably healthier body.  Your essential personality will not change, and you cannot change who you are by changing your physical appearance. 

"I'll never be able to eat pizza/pasta/ice cream/etc."

Fear of deprivation – either actual deprivation or imagining future deprivation – inevitably leads to bingeing.   If you think you cannot eat a certain food for some unspecified or prolonged period of time, then you’re probably going to have as much of that food as possible.   It’s the anticipation of future deprivation that leads to overeating in the present.

if you allow yourself to have it, you can decide if you actually want it.  Or how much you want.  

“This is how it is always going to be.”

Catastrophic thinking, projecting the present into the future, creates a dismal feeling of hopelessness.   In turn, hopelessness registers as a painful, dark, and depressed feeling, which makes you vulnerable to using food to escape.

None of us has a crystal ball to predict the future.  All we have is the past and the present.  Practice being in the here and now, and you may feel better and more hopeful.  When you feel better, you’re less likely to use food to cope.

Which of these five mental blocks resonates with you?   When you challenge your thinking, you create new thoughts, which lead to feeling better.  When you feel better, you're less likely to use food to numb, distract or express painful and/or upsetting states.  

And that's how you win the diet war!



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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How your relationships affect your weight

Originally published on Walden Behavioral Health:

Starving For Love


CoupleLPeople who struggle with compulsive eating or bingeing often ask why they eat when they’re upset.  One woman lamented, “Why can’t I just work out or do crossword puzzles when I’m upset?  Why is it always doughnuts that I turn to for comfort?”
An excellent question.  Why food?
Our first experience of love is being fed as a newborn. If you watch a parent feeding a baby, you usually see a safe, warm connection between them. For babies, being held in loving arms, feeling loved, feeling safe, is bound up with the experience of feeding.  For babies, food is love, food is connection, food is comfort and ultimately, food and relationship are felt as one.
Babies grow up to be adults who naturally hope to love and be loved.  If that love is not readily available, or isn’t consistent, it can be humiliating.  It’s painful to want something you can’t have, or something that is not immediately available.
If you’re lonely, you may not have someone immediately available to keep you company. When you lack a fulfilling relationship, you may eat to symbolically fill the internal emptiness and the loneliness.
Even if someone is there, they may not respond the way you want, or may disappoint you, hurt you, or just not be there for you consistently or in the way you’d wish.
The reality is that people can sometimes be unpredictable, unavailable or unreliable.  When relationships become unsafe, it is common to turn to food, which on a deep level represents not just comfort, but the experience of being comforted by another person.
Even if you’re in a relationship, and have a partner, spouse or family, you might find food easier than people.  Lots of people have meals with their husbands, wives, partners or families, and then wait for everyone to go to bed so that they can sneak into the kitchen and eat in secret.
This behavior with food is connected to the ideas, thoughts, fears and perceptions about relationships.   Recognizing your relationship style, or attachment style, can help you better understand what’s going on with food.  And when you understand something, it’s easier to challenge and change your behavior.
There are four basic relationship/attachment styles in adults:
1) Secure attachment: “Relationships feel safe and secure. I know I am loved and lovable.”
2) Anxious-preoccupied attachment: “Stay close, because if I let you go, you’ll leave me” view of connection.
3) Dismissive-avoidant attachment: “I don’t need to be close, I don’t want to be close, so I’ll keep my distance.”
4) Fearful-avoidant attachment, “I desperately want connection, but if I get it, I will lose interest.”
Securely attached people are comfortable with intimacy.  They tend to have positive views of themselves and others, and trust that closeness with another person can be a warm, positive, and mutually satisfying experience.  They are less likely to develop problems with food.
People who feel safe and secure are not “starving for love” because they trust that connections to other people can be loving, positive, and fulfilling.  Because they feel satisfied in this area of their lives, they don’t use food as a substitute for love. In contrast:
Anxious-Preoccupied people find it difficult to trust that those they love or care about will be consistently available.   They don’t like separation and are afraid that “out of sight” leads to “out of mind.”   They often seek reassurance that their partner is still there for them.
If this sounds familiar, you may be “hungry” for love but turn to food instead, because you may be afraid you’ll never get enough, never be satisfied in your relationships, or that if you allow yourself to connect, you’ll eventually lose that love.
Even if you are in a relationship, you might feel as if you can never get enough of your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife or significant other.
You may sometimes worry that you’re “too much” for the other person or worry that they’ll pull away or leave you.  If that’s the case, you might live in a state of constant anxiety about your relationship and use food for comfort.
Dismissive-Avoidant people keep their distance and are uncomfortable with closeness.  They prize independence, telling themselves and others that they don’t need anyone else to be happy.
Underlying this outward disinterest in relationships is the fear that intimacy will lead to rejection, pain or loss of self.  On some level, the belief is that “if you don’t get too close, you won’t get hurt.”
If you turn away from people, you may be left feeling too disconnected or lonely, which leaves you vulnerable to using food to fill the void.
Fearful-avoidant adults are in a bind; they simultaneously wish for closeness, yet fear intimacy.  They often yearn for someone who is unavailable, and pursue that person, think about the person all the time.  If the object of their affection returns their feelings, they often lose interest, finding distance safer – until the pattern repeats.
Do you find yourself falling for someone who’s already in a relationship with someone else?  Someone who lives too far away to see on a regular basis?  Or maybe the person you’re with is a workaholic or has hobbies that take up a lot of time so they don’t have time for you.
If this is familiar, you may be comfortable with the idea of love but terrified of what will happen if you allow yourself to truly bond and connect with another person.  You might be afraid you’ll lose yourself in a relationship.  You might be afraid you’ll be powerless in a relationship.
Bingeing is a symbolic way to fill up on food as a replacement for love, an unconscious substitute for the love and fulfillment that comes from loving and being loved by someone else.
Here are some things to consider:
Are you more comfortable with distance, or closeness?
What are your hopes and fears about intimacy?
Where did you learn to mistrust relationships?
How did your parents and others respond to your needs?
How do you respond to your own needs, wishes, and emotions?
It is important to identify and process the ideas that negatively impact your relationships and leave you hungry for love and connection.
When you can meet your underlying need for love, for attention, for connection, you won’t need food to express those needs and wants, or to distract from them.    You will be less likely to fill up on food when you’re in fulfilling relationships with other people.
About the author:
dnphotoNina Savelle-Rocklin, Psy.D. is a Los Angeles-based psychoanalyst who specializes in emotional eating.  Her personal experience gives her a unique understanding of what it’s like to struggle and she knows that change is possible.  She brings insight and hope to men and women who struggle with weight, food & body image issues.
Dr. Nina is a recognized expert on binge eating, interviewed for her expertise by the Los Angeles Times, Prevention, Real Simple, and other publications.
She is passionate about sharing a fresh perspective to the understanding and treatment of disordered eating, educating people about “why” they turn to food instead of focusing on the behavior itself.
Her award-winning blog, Make Peace With Food, has been named a “Best Eating Disorder Blog” by Healthline for three years in a row.  Dr. Nina’s podcast, Win The Diet War with Dr. Nina, was named “New & Noteworthy” by iTunes and she recently launched The Dr. Nina Show, a video series on YouTube.  She is currently writing a book about how to stop bingeing for good.
For more information, please visit www.winthedietwar.com.



Friday, July 18, 2014

How to help someone struggling with weight, food & body image issues

Originally published by Walden Behavioral Health:



What Not to Say: How to Help Someone Struggling with Weight, Food, and/or Body Image Issues.

Mother soothes crying daughterThere are no quick or easy solutions to help anyone who’s struggling with weight, food and/or body image issues.  Whatever is going on with food is only a symptom of the problem; the real problem usually is not about food.
People who binge are often trying to cope with uncomfortable or painful emotions.  They eat as a way of comforting or distracting themselves from these difficult emotions and conflicts, and can get so accustomed to using food that they never recognize the emotional trigger.
Therefore, it’s important thing to recognize that whatever is going on with food, it’s not about willpower.
In order to change their behavior with food, people have to identify and process painful, upsetting ideas, thoughts and emotions, and then change the way they respond when triggered.  You cannot make those changes for them.  All you can do is support them.
Allow yourself not to know all the answers about how to help the person you care about.  This does not make you any less of a friend, partner, parent, or sibling.  Admitting your lack of understanding of the problem demonstrates that you are human.  There are resources for help.  You do not have to be the expert.
Here are some guidelines for how to help.
DO NOT BECOME THE FOOD POLICE
Do NOT say, “Do you think you should eat that?”
Do NOT say, “Maybe you should make a healthier choice.”
Do NOT say, “Do you really need a second portion?”
Such a comment has never made anyone put down a fork, and declare, “I never thought of that.  I shouldn’t eat this.  Thank you for enlightening me.”
Avoid getting in discussions or arguments over weight and food. Do not give sermons about eating or get into battles about losing/gaining weight (you will lose that battle!).
DO NOT USE LOGIC
Do NOT say, “If you want to lose weight, just eat a little less.”
Here’s why logic doesn’t help.  What seems like a weight problem or a food problem is usually not about food at all.  Whatever is going on with food is a “symptom” of the problem.
In gardening, if you chop off a weed it grows back.  To eliminate a weed permanently, you have to dig out the root. Overeating is the equivalent of a weed.  To stop overeating, people have to identify and work through the conflicts and emotions that lead to overeating.
Talking about food or being logical isn’t going to help, because the focus is on the wrong thing.
DO NOT OFFER REASSURANCE
If your friend, spouse or loved one complains of looking fat or feeling fat, do NOT reassure them by saying, “ What do you mean? You look great.”
Think about it.  If you say, “You look amazing” to someone, has that person ever said, “Really? Thanks, I don’t feel fat anymore.”
Fat is a substance, not a feeling.  If someone feels “fat” she (or he) may be using the term “fat” as a default description for feeling unsatisfied, or wishing for more of something they’re not getting. They may feel fat because it’s preferable to feeling emotional.
Telling someone they look great doesn’t reassure them if on some level they’re using “fat” to express a fear that they’re not good enough, or because it’s easier to feel fat than to feel anxious, scared, vulnerable or upset.
DO NOT TALK ABOUT APPEARANCE
Although, overeating is about deeper issues than weight and food, commenting on anyone’s appearance can actually trigger abehavior. When people feel bad about themselves (comparing themselves to a celebrity who lost all her baby weight in three weeks can create bad feelings) they might turn to food for comfort or distraction.  Or they might feel as if they are under scrutiny.
All of this leads to feeling bad, which makes people more vulnerable to turning to food for comfort, distraction or just to numb out.
Thus far I have addressed what not to say.  If you want to find the right words to help, keep the following in mind:
DO ASK (CERTAIN) QUESTIONS
Ask what someone is thinking and feeling (not about what he or she is doing). Keep the focus on the inside person, not the outside appearance.
An effective way to communicate is to ask open-ended questions, which are questions that that can’t be answered with a yes or a no and which delve into the person’s thoughts, feelings and experiences.
A classic open-ended question is the classic question from therapists, “How do you feel?”   In contrast, closed questions are, “Are you upset?  Are you happy?”
Here are some examples of open-ended questions:
  • What do you want more of right now?
  • What would make you happier?
  • What are your hopes and fears about closeness?
  • What aspects of your life are satisfying? Unsatisfying?
  • What are you feeling right now?
  • What worries you?
  • What can I do to help?
Notice that all these questions are about the needs, wants, wishes, hopes and fears of the other person, not about their behavior with food.
DO TALK ABOUT FEELINGS:
The person you care about must feel safe to express disappointment, sadness, frustration, anger, fear and other emotions.  Do not protect her (or him) by avoiding uncomfortable topics.
Feelings are reactions to situations, not evidence of wrongdoing.  If someone you love or care about has an unhealthy relationship to food, you might feel worried, helpless, frustrated, angry, and bewildered.
Instead of judging and criminalizing your emotions, give yourself the right to feel what you feel.  Go ahead, get annoyed, frustrated, or enraged, but with this caveat:  allow yourself to be angry at the person’s behavior, not at the person.
Express your love and affection, as well as your concern and frustration. You will sometimes feel angry, frustrated, helpless, afraid, powerless, enraged and more.Expressing those feelings is good, as long as it’s done in a caring, gentle and non-judgmental manner.
By showing your feelings, you are providing the most direct permission for others to feel and express their feelings.   By communicating effectively, you can better understand the other person, and develop more a trust and a deeper connection.
Eventually, that may help your loved one turn to you for comfort and connection instead of to food.

About the author:
dnphotoNina Savelle-Rocklin, Psy.D. is a Los Angeles-based psychoanalyst who specializes in emotional eating.  Her personal experience gives her a unique understanding of what it’s like to struggle and she knows that change is possible.  She brings insight and hope to men and women who struggle with weight, food & body image issues.
Dr. Nina is a recognized expert on binge eating, interviewed for her expertise by the Los Angeles Times, Prevention, Real Simple, and other publications.
She is passionate about sharing a fresh perspective to the understanding and treatment of disordered eating, educating people about “why” they turn to food instead of focusing on the behavior itself.
Her award-winning blog, Make Peace With Food, has been named a “Best Eating Disorder Blog” by Healthline for three years in a row.  Dr. Nina’s podcast, Win The Diet War with Dr. Nina, was named “New & Noteworthy” by iTunes and she recently launched The Dr. Nina Show, a video series on YouTube.  She is currently writing a book about how to stop bingeing for good.
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