Thursday, December 1, 2016

Getting Over Overeating For Teens

I'm so pleased to welcome back psychotherapist Andrea Wachter, who is sharing excerpts from her latest book.  Although this book is geared towards teenagers, it can benefit people of any age!

The following excerpts are from Getting Over Overeating for Teens by Andrea Wachter, LMFT. They are reprinted with permission from New Harbinger Publications, Inc. copyright © 2016 For more details, click here:

If you’ve been struggling with overeating, you’re not alone. And the most important thing to know is that it is not your fault! We live in a culture that gives us some pretty crazy messages about food, fitness, and feelings. On top of that, most teens have lots of stress dealing with friends, family, and finals. (Well, homework too, but I was on such a roll with words that start with F I figured I’d go with finals!)
Most of us, including our parents, haven’t been taught how to deal with food, fitness, and feelings in really healthy ways. We all get taught the same mixed messages—but the good news is that we can actually delete our unhealthy habits and upgrade to healthier ones.
Let’s start out with a quick definition of overeating, and how it’s different from bingeing. Overeating is when you eat more than your body needs. Even people who have a totally healthy relationship with food will overeat occasionally. It becomes a problem only if they do it too often or if it has negative consequences.
Binge eating is when someone eats a large amount of food in a short amount of time. They usually eat fast and until they are stuffed and ashamed. And they usually eat over painful emotions and thoughts, rather than out of true physical hunger.
I started overeating (and dieting, sneak eating, bingeing, and struggling with my weight) when I was a teenager. It took me a lot of years and tears to find the right kind of help, but I finally did. And now I have the privilege of teaching others (including you) all the things that helped me get over overeating.
Even though overeating can feel pretty comforting while we’re doing it, it can definitely leave us feeling pretty lousy after we’re done. And no matter how good food tastes while it’s going down, if we’re eating more than our body needs and for reasons that have nothing to do with physical hunger, it’s going to have negative effects— physically, emotionally, mentally, and socially.
Overeating is definitely one way to stuff down painful feelings. The only problem is that when we stuff down our pain, we also stuff down our passion, happiness, and excitement. It’s like damming a river; you hold back all the water, not just some of it.
Getting over overeating means getting back some of the joy, excitement, and peace that might be missing in your life. It means finding healthier ways to get sweetness and comfort. It means learning to eat foods you really love, in amounts that satisfy your body’s needs, and finding new ways to satisfy the rest of your needs.
Don’t Believe Everything You Think!

Have you ever had the experience where one minute you’re going about your day feeling fine and the next minute you have a horrible thought? It’s probably not because something horrible happened. Well, maybe something happened, but usually it’s because a horrible thought popped into your mind.
We all have automatic thoughts that pop up in our minds, just like we have pop-up ads on our computer screens. It’s so easy to believe our thoughts. After all, they are our thoughts! They seem and feel so real, but the truth is, our thoughts aren’t always real, and they sure aren’t always helpful, kind, or true. The good news is that, just like we can close those unwanted pop-up ads on our computers with a simple click, we can learn to close the pop-ups in our minds.
Filling Up Without Feeling Down

It’s pretty easy in our fast-paced world to focus on feeding our bodies and feeding our minds. But if we want to get over overeating, we also have to feed the deeper parts of ourselves that can’t be seen, the parts of us that have nothing to do with the material world—our hearts and our souls. These are places that food won’t fill. If we overfeed our bodies, we might be full, but not truly fulfilled. If we feed only our minds, we might think and learn a lot, but we won’t be really satisfied. We all need to fill our spirits too, on a regular basis. When you truly feed your spirit, you feel better afterward. You feel truly filled up, and there are no negative or harmful consequences.

Andrea Wachter is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and author of Getting Over Overeating for Teens. She is also co-author of Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Breaking the “I Feel Fat” Spell and The Don’t Diet, Live-It Workbook. An inspirational counselor, author and speaker, Andrea uses professional expertise, humor and personal recovery to help others. For more information on her books, blogs and other services, please visit:

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Your Holiday Survival Guide

It's that time of year again.  The holidays are upon us.   Does that bring you joy?

Or dread?

Maybe you feel a combination of both happiness and anxiety.  If you feel conflicted about the holidays, you're not alone. 

Why are the holidays so difficult for so many people?

TV commercials and magazine ads start showing happy, loving, close families gathered over a table loaded with food.  Everyone is beaming and grateful for their wonderful lives. 

If that’s your reality, consider yourself lucky.  But for many people, if not most, that’s a fantasy world that’s not even close to reality.

If it seems as if everyone in the world is living a perfect Hallmark holiday life, full of peace, love and happiness - and then there’s YOUR family, that can be painful.

The contrast can be really difficult especially if you think the picture perfect image is how it’s supposed to be, and it’s just not.  

That’s upsetting, which leads to overeating or bingeing (or other forms of disordered eating) as a way to numb or distract from the pain. 

Or, because these families are often shown having meals together, eating, overeating or bingeing can be a means of “feeling” like you’re part of the picture perfect holiday family.  If you can't have the family, at least you've got the food.

And what about the food?

The holidays start with Thanksgiving (at least they do in the United States) and Thanksgiving is often referred to as “National Binge Day” – the whole day is a tribute to excess. 

You’re expected to overeat.  It’s even considered bad manners not to try everything on the table.  If you struggle with food, this can be extremely challenging.

Another problem with the holidays is everyone talks about food.  A lot.

Some relatives get offended if you don’t try everything.  Someone will say, “I know you’re watching your weight but you’re just GOT to try my pecan pie.  One bite won’t hurt you.  Go on, have some.”

And then there are the people who watch every bite they eat – and every bite YOU eat.

They say, “Oh, I shouldn’t have this.”  Or worse, “Do you think you should eat that?  Do you really need that?”

All this focus on food can lead to a lot of stress – you’re anxious, upset, and sad – and if you don’t have other strategies to deal with those stressful emotion, that makes you more vulnerable to using food to cope. 

So it can be a vicious cycle.  The key is to learn to express feelings in words, instead of behavior.

How do you stop the cycle?

People often think they are triggered by food but they’re not.  They’re usually triggered by situations and experiences that are painful or upsetting, and make them want to turn to food to cope – to numb, or distract from what’s upsetting them.

Start by asking yourself some questions:

What is the most difficult part of the holidays?  Food?  Family?  Lack of family?
Are you emotionally hungry, lonely, upset, or maybe even jealous?  

What is eating "at" you the most?

When you deal with and process those situations and feelings directly, you won’t use food as a coping strategy.  

What is my top survival tip for the holidays?

Be a social anthropologist.    

When you're watching and observing, you're not a participant.  Observing means creating some distance and that distance can be very illuminating.
Hearing your grandparents criticize your sister or brother or cousin, helps you see you learned to criticize yourself. 

When you realize that your mother apologizes for every bite she eats, you’ll recognize how you learned to feel guilty for every bite you take.

It doesn’t matter whether you celebrate Christmas or Hannukah or Kwanza, or nothing, pay attention to what’s going on around you.

What do you like about them?    What do you dislike?
What do you appreciate?   What do you wish was different?

Give yourself permission to hold the positive and negatives about others – it’ll make it easier to hold both about yourself.

When you’re observing others, you don’t feel as much under observation.  That makes you feel less self-conscious, and you feel better.  When you feel better, you’re less likely to use food to cope.

Add some gratitude!

It’s the holidays, and ultimately the holidays are about gratitude, so be grateful.  Think of one thing you appreciate; whether it’s a person or a situation, because hanging onto one good thing can keep you going when things are challenging.