As we come out of the holidays and start the New Year, many people resolve to change their eating habits. Because of this popular trend, I see many pop-up ads on my computer with optimistic promises like, ”Lose Your Belly Fat”, “Celebrity Secrets To Hot Bodies”, “Why Wheat (or fill in the blank with any food) is Not Your Friend”. While I have no opinion on your friendship with wheat (and PLEASE do not use this forum to discuss why wheat should or should not be removed from one’s diet), I agree there are many things that are “not friends” to those who want to alter their eating habits. If you are one of the many who are looking to make permanent changes in your diet, here are some nasty enemies to watch for while trying to navigate this difficult road.
How many of the following have you heard or even thought: “Doesn’t she have any self-respect? How does he live that way? Why doesn’t she do something about her weight? He needs to just put down the donuts, get off the couch and exercise!” I’ve heard them all and, regardless of your pants size, I’m fairly certain you have too. It perplexes and saddens me that in a country known for its diversity and freedom, people can be so harshly judgmental of another human for no other reason than the size of their body. Perhaps because of the extreme shame the above comments evoke, obesity in general and Binge Eating Disorder specifically are subjects that are often swept under the carpet. This silence creates conditions ripe for misinformation and erroneous assumptions that are not conducive to change. So let’s start with some facts:
Sometimes patients tell me, “I can’t be a perfectionist, because nothing in my life is perfect.” But being a perfectionist isn’t about things being perfect; it's about thinking things need to be perfect and vigilantly pursuing it. Emotionally, this means that instead of living your life in a place of self-acceptance, perfectionists are on a continual treadmill chasing the elusive feeling of having everything in their lives be “right”. But even when the brief satisfaction of “right” is achieved, it’s temporary. Then it’s on the to next level, achievement, or day of needing to make everything “right”. Most perfectionists smile beautifully on the outside, but feel frustrated, exhausted and unappreciated on the inside.
We’ve all been in that horrible place when a relationship comes to an end. It can be painful and difficult as you struggle not only with your feelings of loss, but also with the pragmatic void the end of this relationship leaves in your life. During this painful time, you struggle to make some sense of the loss and attempt to reassemble your day-to-day routines into a life that no longer includes that lost person. It can be a time of intense emotional vulnerability. There’s no roadmap that can take you from where you are to the place you want to be. But below are 5 detours or dead ends that, with awareness, hopefully you’ll be able to avoid. Keeping these myths in mind will help you remain compassionate with yourself as you go through this difficult process. (For simplicity I used the pronoun “he,” though please substitute whichever pronoun feels most appropriate to your situation.)
When you see a loved one’s weight headed in a physically dangerous direction, you naturally want to help. But, it’s hard to know how to help because weight, for most people, is such a touchy subject. Enmeshed with weight is the idea of self-worth so telling a loved one he or she is too fat or too thin is tricky. Not to mention the fact that frank conversations about weight can have opposite the desired effect – people may push toward weight extremes in part as a way to escape feelings of self-disgust, but haphazardly approaching the issue of weight can fuel feelings of self-disgust, causing your loved one to continue the cycle. So where do you begin? Here are some do's and don’ts that I have found helpful when talking with patients and friends about weight.
Most of us think it’s a good thing to avoid failure. It’s as if failure is some sort of emotional plague that forever brands you a loser or mediocre. But in her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are,” Brene Brown addresses the other side of failure, namely the fears, misery and exhaustion associated with a life lived trying for perfection. She writes about her own journey of cultivating wholehearted love and vulnerability in the face of being painfully imperfect. In my personal and professional journey, I identify with the gifts of failure Ms. Brown describes in her book. Here is my own list of gifts that I believe failure and vulnerability offer, if only we are brave enough to allow for it.
Most people think emotional eating is due to lack of self-control. However, in my extensive work with eating disorders and disordered eating, I would say that is rarely the case. If emotional eating were a simple issue of discipline, we could easily find this discipline without torturing ourselves over meal plans, paying money for special diets, and constantly obsessing about who is eating what and when. And, of course, no eating disorders What I have to say on this subject matter is not original, however sometimes a reiteration of the information can serve as a helpful reminder. Over and over again I see the following 5 things that contribute to emotional eating.
Letting go of a bad relationship can be complicated. That’s because the end of a relationship is like experiencing a death, of sorts. Even if you are the one that initiated the breakup and believe that the breakup is the best thing for all involved, letting go of a relationship follows the same process as mourning a death. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, MD, in her groundbreaking book On Death and Dying (1969), outlined the phases of grieving experienced when one learns that they are dying. Her stages have since been aptly used to describe the process of grieving the death of a loved one. Similar is true when grieving the end of a relationship. Following are Dr. Kubler-Ross’ stages of grieving applied to a breakup. (The pronouns he and she can be used interchangeably.)
One of the first comments on one of my first blog posts was, "Life is not a contest." Ironically the comment came from a beautiful girl (now a beautiful woman) I knew in high school – she was someone who was around when I started to become conscious of who was wearing what, who got higher grades, and who scored higher on the SAT. Somehow back then, all of that information seemed to mean something to me and my classmates about how “successful” we would be in the future. It wasn't just that clothes and grades meant someone might do well – it meant these people would do better than others. It was competition for “success”.
What do you want to change? Your eating habits, hair color, productivity? We all have things we want to change. But change is hard! That’s because these things you want to change serve an important purpose – consciously, you may despise the behavior, but on a deeper level the behavior you want to change is a protection or a pattern that helped or helps you meet your needs.