Monthly Archives: September 2014

Do it Because You Can

Move because you can.

Do it because you can, even if you don’t want to because someone else can’t.

Some mornings, I’m more likely to hit the snooze button than get out of bed to go work out.  Though I have to say I usually only do that now on days when I know I can get my exercise in later in the day.  If I have a packed day ahead of me and my only opportunity to exercise is first thing, well you can bet I’m getting up.  I’m squeezing myself into a sports bra, pulling my hair into some sort of attempt at a ponytail, grabbing a smoothie out of the fridge and on my way in less than 10 minutes from when I hop out of bed.  Sometimes I just want to go crawl back in bed but I don’t, for a few reasons, but one that stands out to me more and more the older I get is:  Because I can.

I walk because I can.
I run (sometimes!) because I can.
I bust my butt at Booty Barre because I can.
I ride my bike outside in the summer and my indoor spin bike in the winter, because I can.
I lift weights in my living room because I can.
I do yoga at home, outdoors and in a studio because I can.
I do push ups & crunches because I can.
I go swimming because I can.

I do these things even though I don’t always want to. Sometimes I’d much rather just lay on the couch and watch TV. Sometimes it would be way more fun to go out for a cocktail.  And sometimes when I’m in a grumpy mood, even though I know working out will make me feel better, I just straight up want to stay my grumpy self. Most of the time, I do what my body feels capable of each day – even if it is just something small (and yes I do allow for rest when it’s needed). And I push forward because I can.

Why am I repeating myself? What’s the significance of “because I can”?  Well I have 3 people whose experiences I can thank for it.

The College Roomie’s Mother
In college, we walked all over campus, all of the time. Over time, as some of my friends brought their cars on to campus (parking was always a pain), the idea that we wouldn’t have to hoof it from one end of campus to another on foot was pretty appealing! One friend insisted we still walk everywhere even when her car was parked directly outside of our apartment. Me and our other friends would complain and tease her, saying “Ug, you make us walk everywhere!”  One day, as we were walking across T-hall lawn, she turned to us and said “You want to know why I walk everywhere? Well some days my Mom can’t. Some days her legs don’t work, so as long as mine do, I’m going to walk everywhere I can.”

Her mother had MS, which all of us knew, but we didn’t really know enough about the day to day goings of someone dealing with it.  We were young, the general public was less informed about it than they are today and this friend didn’t talk about this stuff with us very often. While it helped me understand my friend better and what her family was going through, I don’t think it had a huge impact on me personally then, but a seed was definitely planted in my mind.

My Mother
Many of you know that my mother passed away just after I graduated college, and her passing has heavily influenced my lifestyle decisions since.  But even before she passed, my mind was often on her health. She was a smoker, had asthma (and more lung issues but we didn’t know it yet) and I remember coming home for a holiday break and hearing her having coughing fits in the middle of the night, so bad, that I got up to check on her.  She was up doing a nebulizer treatment (a common sight in our house – most of our family had asthma) for the second time in an hour – which was not like her.  Coughing fits were the norm, having the nebulizer not help the first time wasn’t. In fact, her cough was so distinct (at least to us kids) that when I was in the Catholic school choir and the school attended a monthly mass together, my sisters and I always knew when our Mom was able to make it, without even seeing her, because we would hear her cough and recognize she was in the building. My mother quit smoking not too long after the two nebulizer night but her lungs only got worse.

Regular breathing was such a struggle, that without her saying anything, I learned to recognize the signs – shoulders up high and lips pursed, it would take up a ton of her energy to just breathe.  But she continued doing things normally as much as she could.  Going to the grocery store, I’d offer to push the carriage but she wouldn’t give it up.  I realized later that it wasn’t because she wanted to be tough, it was because she literally needed it to hold her up, because she was exhausting herself just trying to breathe, something that most of us take for granted.

My father gave her a hard time about needing to exercise – he (and my sisters & I) thought, that if only she exercised, her lungs would get stronger and her “asthma” wouldn’t be so bad.  Her “asthma” at this point was really end stage COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) but none of us knew this, and if she did, she kept it from us.  Her exercise goal was just to walk to and from the mailbox a few times a day. She said she would be proud of herself if she could do that. Our mailbox was not very far from our house. I have no clue what the length of our driveway was, but if you parked 5 cars back to back from our doorstep to the mailbox you would probably reach the mailbox before the last car was even squeezed in.  Covering that tiny distance took everything she had.  And she’d have to stop and catch her breath when she came back in the house.

Looking back, the biggest sign of how sick my mother was and how limited her physical mobility was, came my junior year in college. I was living at the “Gables”, UNH’s on-campus apartments and my mother was coming to pick me up so I could work for the weekend.  She hadn’t see my apartment yet and I was excited for her to see it and meet my new roommates.  When she arrived, she called me on her “emergency” cell phone.  Back then, no one used cell phones for anything but emergencies but my mother wanted to let me know she was there but didn’t want to come up. I gave her a hard time.  I really wanted her to come see my place! The building we were in had a little cul de sac out directly in front of the doors, you weren’t supposed to park there but we all did if we were just going to be a minute (the parking lot was really far away otherwise), then you walked down a short hallway into an elevator, rode it to the 6th floor and my apartment door was right in front of you.  She would not have had to walk very far at all – probably no farther than the distance to the mailbox.  I was a bratty know it all 20 year old and acted ridiculous about her not wanting to come up.  I couldn’t comprehend how she wasn’t fit enough to come inside. Even though she told me she just didn’t have the energy to come up, I saw it as her being “lazy” but what it really was was her cells being completely starved of oxygen because of the COPD.  She was in tears (and I probably was too) by the time I got down to the car.  She rarely let us see her upset so I knew she had to be hurting.  Still, I didn’t quite get the message until later.

My Aunt
My mother had one sister, Denise.  She was “Aunt Ninny” to my sisters and I.  She never married and had no children.  She chose a life of freedom & adventures with her friend’s John, Rosie and Linda, instead of settling down with a family. She enjoyed wine, cheesecake and her dog when she wasn’t hitting the casino or visiting a new city.  She was one of the most giving and hilarious people I’ve ever known.

She also was a smoker and had asthma.  She spent many years on corticosteroid inhalers to control the asthma and that medication caused osteoporosis. One day, she had a coughing fit and coughed so hard that she fractured her T4 and T5 vertebrae. When brought to the hospital she was still able to walk so no one thought it was that serious, but within a day or two she mentioned being unable to feel her legs and then after that she lost all movement and sensation.  She ended up being paralyzed from the waist down and was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life, which sadly was only a few years. She spent many months in the hospital and in rehab and then many more months in a nursing home while her home was renovated to be wheelchair friendly. Doing basic tasks for herself became impossible. Things we all take for granted – cooking, going to the bathroom, showering, walking the dog, reaching for a cup on a shelf – were all out of reach.  Her vibrant life was whittled down to days spent waiting for others to come visit or assist her with everything, and though she tried to put on a brave face when we came to visit, you could see in her eyes just how painful her new reality was.

My Motivation
The conversation with my college friend happened around 1997 or 1998, my Mother passed in 2001 and Ninny died in 2005.  By the time Ninny became paralyzed I had fully heard the message – do what you can, while you can.

Nothing is guaranteed.  You could say that both my mother and aunt ended up the way they did because of smoking, so if you just don’t smoke, you’ll be ok, but that’s not true.  People who don’t smoke get Emphysema and COPD, get paralyzed and develop MS. And there are countless other conditions or unfortunate situations that arise suddenly and can take away one’s ability to do the things they love or do the things that keep us physically fit.

Exercise keeps me sane.  It gives me an outlet for nervous energy, helps give me focus and clarity.  It helps lower my blood pressure, reduces my chances of getting sick and gives me energy to get through each day.  It keeps me strong enough to pick up my 70lb niece like a sack of potatoes and climb 5 flights of stairs to get to a class.  Being able to move when I want to and because I want to is currently a choice, but if it was suddenly taken away from me, whether through my own fault or not, I would be devastated.  So, I will continue to move when I can and how I can, not just because of the benefits I outlined above, but because I CAN.

I keep my friend’s mom, my mom, and my aunt in the back of my mind when I’m thinking about skipping my workouts.  I know not everyone feels the same love & need for exercise that I do and I understand that.  But if you enjoy your physical ability to do anything you want, I hope you honor it by indulging your body and moving it the way it was meant to be moved, even if “movement” for you means going apple picking with the kids, visiting a new city on foot with friends or just getting your feet wet at the pool.

What’s your motivation for exercise or for pushing forward when you don’t want to? How do you honor your body?

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Simple Ways to Stay Healthy This Fall

Marketing Photos-007Here in New England, the leaves are starting to change color and we’ve already had some nights with frost (bye bye tomato plants!).  Brrr! While I’m always hesitant to say goodbye to summer, there is something so satisfying about putting on a big fleece blanket, curling up with a cup of tea and having the scent of apple and pumpkin fill the house.

Unfortunately, along with the cooler weather, fall often brings with it more opportunities for getting sick! This is because we’re spending more time indoors in artificial air, the kids are back to school sharing germs with each other and the air is drier, which leaves our nasal membrane less able to fend off viral visitors!

But the change of seasons doesn’t mean that you have to just sit back and wait for the cough, chills and stuffy nose to hit you! There are things you can do to reduce your chances of getting sick and if you do get sick, reduce the severity of it!

I’m an asthmatic so when I get a cold it can easily turn into a huge respiratory infection that lasts weeks and requires antibiotics. By making a few healthy goals a priority, I’ve managed to stay out of the doctors office the last several winters, which to be honest is amazing! I’m sharing my favorite ways to stay healthy in cold season so that you can spend less time coughing and more time living.

Andrea’s Simple Ways to Stay Healthy This Fall

1. Take a vitamin D supplement if you live in the Northern Hemisphere.  Between October and March in this part of the world, we just don’t get enough sunlight to make vitamin D in the amount we require (and getting it through food sources alone is difficult), leading to many people having deficiencies.  Studies show that people who are vitamin D deficient have a higher risk of viral infections, including the flu. A simple blood test from your doctor can tell you if you should supplement and your doctor can tell you how much you need.  When choosing a vitamin D supplement, look for D3 (instead of D2) as it is usually more effective.  Vitamin D can also help keep seasonal depression at bay – a common complaint as we move into the darker months.

2. Drink homemade bone broth regularly. 70% of our immune system lives in our gut.  Unfortunately, due to the overuse of antibiotics and our poor diets, most of us don’t have healthy digestive systems. It’s more normal than abnormal today to have more bad gut flora than good, leading to problems like candida, acne, eczema and IBS. Even more serious is when someone develops leaky gut syndrome, a condition where food, toxins and microbes pass through the weakened gut wall, leading to a whole host of conditions but also increasing the chance for coming down with the common cold or flu (because your gut is compromised, it can’t defend invaders properly).  We all know that chicken soup and broth makes you feel good when you are sick (mostly due to reducing inflammation) but did you know that drinking homemade broth from chicken bones (or other animal bones) can actually help rebuild and repair the gut wall?  It’s full of important minerals, amino acids and gelatin that heal and soothe. If your gut is healthy, you will be healthy!

There’s nothing like homemade broth, even when you’re not sick! Here’s one of my recipes for homemade chicken bone broth.   It freezes well (put it in individual sized portions for quick defrosting) so you can make it last until you get some more bones in your hands.

3. Cut back on sugar. Researchers aren’t sure exactly why yet, but sugar has been shown to reduce the response of our white blood cells when confronted with bacteria. If you have a lot of sugar in your diet and you spend time around others who are sick, your immune system won’t be as equipped to fight off infection.  We already have a big list of reasons to avoid sugar (insulin resistance, weight gain, chronic inflammation etc.) and this is one more.

If sugar is a tough one for you, cut back slowly and opt for fruit to satisfy a sweet craving. Try using medjool dates or dried figs to sweeten foods naturally.  It’s still sugar of course but you can use them as a stepping stone in reducing your dependence on the refined stuff.

4. Make sleep a priority.  Not getting enough sleep increases cortisol production (the fight or flight hormone) in the body.   When levels of it are increased too often (by chronic stress!), our immune system becomes less sensitive to it’s effects and has a difficult time regulating the inflammatory response, making us more susceptible to sickness.  Yuck.  Just what we need on top of being tired! Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep every night to help your body keep this stress hormone in check.

5. Get a little exercise! Moderate exercise gives immune systems a boost! Studies show that women who exercise 30 – 45 minutes several days a week get less colds than women who don’t exercise.  And it will help make #4 an easier goal to attain!  A good workout always helps me sleep better!

6. Keep your vegetable consumption high. I know I sound like a broken record with how I talk about eating your veggies but they really are the cornerstone of good health!  For most of us, getting a good amount of vegetables in our diet in the summer months is easy – produce is abundant and we want crisp, fresh foods!  In the fall and winter, as natural availability dwindles, our cravings turn to more dense comfort foods and the quantity of produce we eat tends to fall.  If you want to keep sickness away, it’s important to keep eating lots of vegetables! Why?  They’re chock full of vitamins C, A, E, flavonoids, magnesium and so many other nutrients that help keep your immune system running smoothly. No supplement can match real food and you just can’t get the same vitamin and mineral load from other foods that you get from vegetables and fruit. Eat up!

Roasted winter vegetables like parsnips, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots, celery root, brussels sprouts and cauliflower can satisfy the craving for heartier foods while still being vegetables with lots of amazing nutrition.  Try adding greens like kale, swiss chard and collards to soups (use your homemade bone broth as a base!) even if you don’t like them – they’ll blend in easily! And don’t be shy about using frozen vegetables – they’re often cheaper and just as nutritious, and of course they cook up quickly!

I hope you consider incorporating some of these into your lifestyle this fall and winter! You will feel a difference if you are consistent!

Do you have any tricks or tips that have helped you stay healthy in cold and flu season? I’d love to hear yours!

This post originally was posted as an email. If you’d like to be on this list, sign up in the green box below!

Do you need help but don’t want to inconvenience anyone?

photo credit: Mandajuice via photopin cc

photo credit: Mandajuice via photopin cc

If you are like most of my clients, you are a woman who does it all and asks little in return.

You’re the first to call and ask if there is anything you can do when a friend is going through a divorce.

You’ve volunteered for every bake sale, fundraiser and middle school dance that your kids have been involved in.

You’ve made lunches, made beds, cooked dinners, wiped away tears, held hands, played hide and go seek and read to your kids nightly at bedtime.

You’ve boosted your partner during their moments of self-doubt and listened to them after many a long day at work.

You’ve babysat every kid in the neighborhood and you’ve brought meals to families that are experiencing great loss or a new birth.

And somehow, in between all of this giving of love & yourself, you’ve also probably managed to have a demanding career outside of the home too – because that is just what women do today.  We do it all, whether or not we want to, because it has to be done, and we do it with love.

Like Hercules with the heavens on his shoulders, you lift up those around you.

But who is lifting you?  Who do you lean on when you need help?

If you look around you, you’ll probably find that you have many people who adore you and would LOVE to support you if you would let them.  Letting others pitch in is difficult for you, isn’t it?  Could you let someone else support you?  Can you let go of the need to be the giver?  The need to do for someone else?  Can you ask for help when you need it?

I hate to generalize, but as a woman who grew up in a family of women (6 out of 7 in our household were female) and who works primarily with women, I keep hearing and seeing the same story played out over and over.  (I know that men struggle with this too but most of my personal experience happens to be with the ladies.)  Women who lovingly give and support but are unable to ask for the same when they desperately need it.

There is nothing wrong with giving.  In fact, it’s a wonderful thing and a really important part of being human! But there is nothing wrong with admitting that sometimes you need support too!

Asking for help is difficult because we don’t want to appear weak or vulnerable.  I know it’s hard. I struggle with it myself. I fear putting someone out or causing an inconvenience to others. It was a few years into our relationship before I was able to ask my husband for help when I needed it (which is funny to me now because he is the first person I turn to now). Does that sound like you?

Depending on others can be scary but it takes far more strength to allow yourself to be vulnerable than it does to carry everything yourself.  Being vulnerable and voicing your needs is courageous, and frankly it’s the only way to live fully.

Do you have resistance around asking for help?
Where do you think it comes from?
If asking for help is hard for you, what is something small that you could start with?
Who in your life would have your back if you asked them to?

The strongest women know that they are stronger when they have friends and family they can count on when they are in need. Most people are more than willing to pitch in when asked, they’re just waiting for the opportunity and they will be flattered, that you, the amazing woman who does it ALL, trusted them with her needs.

This is a subject I love coaching women on. If this subject hits home for you, I’d love to help you work through it.  Your first session is free (and there’s no obligation if you don’t think coaching is for you)!  We can chat and see what type of support would be most beneficial to you and go from there.

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How to Put the Brakes on an Emotional Eating Spiral

Do social events that happen around food stress you out?

Do social events that happen around food stress you out?

Today I’d like to talk about something that I think doesn’t get talked about enough:  emotional eating.  I don’t know if it doesn’t get talked about much because people are unaware of how common it is or if it’s because there’s just so much shame around our eating habits on the whole. Maybe you are someone who has never turned to food for an emotional reason, if that’s the case, good for you! But there’s a whole lot of people who struggle with it regularly.

I think a huge part of the obesity epidemic our nation is facing is caused in part by how poorly we deal with our emotions. Instead of turning to a friend to talk to or going for a walk, we stuff those uncomfortable feelings down with food (ice cream? chips? what’s your poison?).  But like a suitcase that’s been overstuffed on each successive trip, eventually the seams are going to give and your dirty laundry is going to be all over the conveyor belt.  Good luck getting your belongings back in a suitcase that has fallen apart.  In other words, you can only ignore feelings for so long before they will demand that they be dealt with.  Shit doesn’t fix itself as much as we hope and pray it will.  It’s much wiser to deal with things before they get out of control.

If this is you, let me start off by telling you that you are not alone.  Look around at the women in your life – I guarantee you that at least one of the women you love also struggles with their relationship with food.  It might be someone who is overweight or it might be someone who is not. It might be someone you don’t even suspect. For years, I convinced myself (and others) that I was overweight because “of my stocky Irish genes” or because “I just eat too much healthy food”.  I don’t doubt that family history has something to do with my size but pretty early on I learned to reach for food when something didn’t feel right to the point where I remember laying in bed as a kid and saying my nightly prayers and praying to the virgin Mary (I figured as a woman she’d understand my plight more than God or Jesus) to help me lose weight. I specifically remember praying that for every calorie I ate, I would lose two.  So grateful she didn’t answer that prayer, I didn’t think that one through mathematically!  But how sad that a little kid, who, looking back wasn’t even that overweight (yet) already knew about calories and that being heavy was a bad thing.

Food was always the fastest way for me to feel joy.

Food was always the fastest way for me to feel joy. Strangely enough, I look back at these pictures of me as a kid and don’t even see myself as overweight or fat.

Praying for weight loss was just the start of it. Bad day at school? Hand in the cookie jar, repeatedly. Lonely night at home? Let’s eat a whole sleeve of crackers and a block of cheddar cheese. I developed a self-deprecating sense of humor where I knocked myself for my size before anyone else could.  I had to make sure everyone around me knew that I knew I was fat, lest they think I was in the dark about it. It hurt less to make fun of myself than it would for others to make fun of me. My issues with food and uncomfortableness with my size got so bad at times that I remember joking about how I wished I was bulimic when I was in college.  Sure, I had the bingeing thing down pat, I just didn’t purge, at least not successfully.  I know there were a few occasions when I tried. Thankfully I failed and it didn’t continue.  No matter what phase my eating issues were in (and there have been many many over the years), two things were consistent: I loved to give the idea that I didn’t eat that much, by ordering a salad when going out to eat with other people or claiming that I ate already so that other people didn’t see how much I really ate.  And the other thing was that I constantly was distraught about my size and my confidence was shot. I may have acted confident on the outside (I was often the life of the party!) but inside I was screaming.  I hated myself for being fat.  I felt like that was all I was and that was all anyone could see of me and so to deal with the shame I felt around it, for many years I just ate more.  At the time, that seemed the only option.

I got tired of falling back into the same self-destructive patterns every time life wasn’t working out the way I wanted it to so I’ve worked really hard at incorporating the strategies below into my life. I’m in a much better place these days (the stories above are decades old) and I’ve tried every possible route for having a healthy relationship with food.  I finally feel like I’m in a place where I can enjoy food without it taking over my life. Sure, occasionally I still struggle with periods of using food to deal with an emotion (because I’m human and have faults) but it’s infrequent and when it does happen, it’s on a minor scale.  I’ll take a minor trip up over what I was doing before, any day!

Below are some seriously powerful tips for halting an emotional eating spiral.  Many of these won’t be a surprise – I’m sure you’ve heard some of them before but these are the things that have helped me break my decades old habits that were impacting my health, my mood and my life and they’ve become invaluable to me. I hope a few of them can help you do the same.

How to Put the Brakes on Emotional Eating:

1. Figure out what your trigger foods are and stop eating them (at least for a little while).  Don’t buy them for yourself and don’t buy them for someone else in your household.

This is not a popular thing to suggest. One one hand, emotional eaters and chronic dieters need less rules about eating – not more – but if you really lose all control when you eat certain foods . . .and can’t enjoy the food without feeling both physically and emotionally awful, why do we want to tell people they can keep it in their lives? I recommend at least taking trigger foods out of your diet for a little while (you may be able to return to them in some form down the road!). Sometimes we are surprised by how much we enjoy not eating these foods once we’re not clouded by them anymore.

I know this is probably the hardest thing to do (and that is why I’m starting with it). If you are willing to walk away from your triggers, you will be well supported by the other tips below. If you’re not, well, you might not be ready to change your ways.  If you have fears around not eating your trigger foods, how do you think they are serving you?  What are you getting from that particular food that you can’t get elsewhere?

We think that we can keep the food in the house but just not eat it.  It doesn’t work that way for most of us.  If it’s truly a trigger food for you, you will eventually eat it and start the cycle over again.  If your trigger is soda or ice cream and you feel like you can’t not have it in the house because it’s not fair to your kids – that’s total BS.  Your kids don’t need ice cream and they don’t need soda. There are plenty of other foods to enjoy that don’t need to set you up for self-sabotage.  I don’t care what the food is – there is another option.  If it’s milk and you’re worried about calcium? Load up on beans and greens.  You’ll be fine.  They’ll be fine.

My triggers are primarily cheese and wheat! Whenever I binged in the past, it was usually on something like cheese and crackers, doritos, or white cheddar cheez-its.  But over time, I also realized that anytime I had a lot of bread, cheese or pasta, I usually found myself over eating the next day (or sometimes for several days) so now I’m about 90% dairy free and completely wheat free except for the odd occasion.  The times I give in and have a piece of bread or some cheese? I notice it in my mood and my cravings the next few days and have to work really hard to keep myself from sabotaging all the hard work I’ve done.  It’s a lot less work for me to just not eat them in the first place and I know it’s hard to believe but I sincerely don’t miss them and I don’t feel deprived.  At all! I’ll tell you how and why in another post but it has a lot to do with #4 on this list. (I should also mention that I’ve since noticed certain health issues have been reduced since removing these foods from my life – my asthma, rosacea and constipation have been lessened!)

Some people can take a break from their triggering foods and return to them at a later date -these foods will have less of a hold on them over time. Others can’t and will need to not eat them going forward. Only you know if that is right for you!

2. Take a few deep breaths before eating to center yourself.  Take a minute to relax and slow down your mind and body before eating.

Be present when you eat. I know we’re all so busy and life is rushed today but if we eat at the same pace that we live our lives, we don’t get to “enjoy” our food and food is meant to be enjoyed! If you take a moment to check in with your body and your mind before you eat, you are more likely to enjoy the meal. And when you truly enjoy your food, you won’t feel deprived and that makes a massive difference in whether or not you’ll find yourself going overboard later.

3. Make eating the sole activity you do whenever you do it.  Do not read while eating.  Don’t watch TV.  Don’t go on your phone or laptop.  Don’t write your to do list. Don’t talk on the phone or drive. Focus on the meal in front of you.

Take it in with all of your senses. Does it look appetizing? How does it smell? Notice the textures in your mouth. Is the food crunchy or soft? Pretend you are studying it for an exam you will have later.  Notice the details.

Eating this way helps your brain receive signals that let it know when you’ve had enough to eat.  It also helps you produce adequate saliva which is an important part of digestion. If you are consumed by other activities while eating your body and brain don’t communicate as well leading your body to forget that it’s eaten and it will be begging for food all day (like my cat). I’m not kidding!

Have you ever been driving only to reach your destination and have no recollection of part of your drive because you were thinking deeply about something?  It’s very similar.  Your brain won’t have a memory of the meal if you distract it with other tasks.

This is also a tough rule to implement and follow.  You will have a lot of urges to just give in and go back to whatever old habits you had while eating.  I realize that sometimes we can’t help but eat on the go, but those times should be a last resort. You can make an effort the rest of the time.  You may find you have a lot of resistance towards changing these habits.  I totally get it! I used to zone out on my laptop while plowing my way through a box of white cheddar cheez-its.  Why?  Because I didn’t want to feel whatever I was feeling and being on the computer distracted me.  It also distracted me from tasting or noticing the food I was eating, which meant that despite feeling incredibly full and gross, my urges to eat would continue.  I never got full enjoyment of the food I was eating.  If you feel a lot of resistance to making meal time only about eating, then ask yourself why?  Why do you feel you need to do something else while eating?  Why is eating not enough?

4. Eat. Stop starving yourself.  Stop restricting.  Stop “dieting”.

I know it sounds counterintuitive if you are struggling with a bingeing or emotional eating issue to just allow yourself to eat but many people who find themselves bingeing out of control are restricting calories or strictly controlling how much they eat each day.  Our bodies like balance and they’re keeping track.  Geneen Roth has said “For every diet there is an equal or greater binge” and I’ve found that she’s completely right.  If you’re terrified of eating too much fat and spend your days eating fat free or low fat foods, when you do go over the rails, you can bet it will be on a substance that contains fat.  If you restrict the amount of calories you eat for a long time, the urge to eat everything in sight will eventually take over you and willpower will only take you so far.  You’ll end up eating far more than you would have if you just allowed yourself to eat food to begin with.

People who are naturally slender eat when they are hungry and they stop when they’ve had enough.  Some days they may eat a lot and other days not so much.  It all balances out. The fear of losing control and gaining weight goes away as you realize that your body is not out to betray you.  It’s on your side.  If you feed it appropriately and without judgement, it will reward you with energy, a stable mood and a waistband that doesn’t fluctuate massively.

All this being said, I think it’s important to focus on whole foods when trying to stop destructive eating patterns like this.  It would be irresponsible to just suggest that bingers eat more to reduce binges – there’s more to that. What you eat matters.  If you’re eating a lot of processed food, it’s time to try to reduce your dependence on them. Support your body by giving it high quality sources of fat, protein and carbohydrates so that you will feel satisfied, energized and sated.  Avoid foods that spike blood sugar (sugar, refined flour, most baked goods etc) and if you do eat them, pair with protein to reduce the effect.  I love pairing nourishing whole foods together, like sweet potatoes with coconut oil and hemp seeds, homemade chicken salad lettuce wraps or an avocado stuffed with black japonica rice, tomatoes and pumpkin seeds etc.

When you feed yourself fully, you feed your body and soul and you will feel and see the difference.

5. Figure out what you are feeling. What don’t you want to feel? What is too uncomfortable to acknowledge? What do you believe to be true about yourself?

Most emotional eating episodes are tied to the avoidance or suppression of a feeling or a form of punishment (due to a feeling). When you get the urge to go crazy on whatever food has your attention right now, ask yourself:  What am I feeling in this moment?  Are you sad, angry, frustrated, bored, lonely, ashamed?  Just ask, label it (I’m not a fan of labels generally but here it’s helpful) and sit with the feeling for 10 minutes, taking deep breaths. You don’t need to do anything with the feeling yet but just let it be.  After 10 minutes, is the urge to eat still there? It might be, but it also may be reduced.

This takes practice.  Often bingers say they don’t feel anything when they want to eat or are eating but that is usually because they’ve used the activity to teach themselves to feel numb. You can’t push feelings away for months or years and then expect they’ll make themselves known to you the first time you try to pay attention to them. Keep asking questions of yourself. It will take work, many conversations with yourself, maybe some journaling and talking with others. The more you acknowledge and encourage those feelings to be felt, the more you will be able to feel them and ultimately the less you’ll need to eat what you don’t want to feel.  Those feelings are coming from somewhere and they deserve to be felt, to be acknowledged.

Once you know what you are feeling and can let it join you for a bit, you take some of its power away because now you have an opportunity to deal with it. Is what you are feeling that is the issue? Or is it that you don’t know how to fix something, want to avoid something etc? Is there something you are avoiding (unhappiness in a job, a large project, a difficult conversation?) that is causing you stress? Is there a story you’ve been telling yourself about who you are that is holding you down? What can you do about it?  Can you call a friend who will listen to you? Put it all down on paper in a journal?  Go for a walk and think it over? Create a strategy to change the things that are stifling you from living the life you deserve? You know the answers already, you just need to ask the questions.

6. Forgive your slip ups, love yourself & let go of the need to be perfect. No one is perfect and you shouldn’t feel like you need to be either! 

Many women I talk to who have an issue with emotional eating, talk about how much worse they feel after a binge or emotional eating episode.  They beat themselves up.  They do and say hurtful things about themselves.  They believe they are bad people for not being able to control their eating. They feel disgusted with themselves.  They feel like everyone else around them must have it easier because they aren’t consumed with thinking about food.  They also talk about how feeling so badly about themselves makes it easier for a bad eating episode to happen.  If you are disgusted with yourself, eating a bunch of stuff that makes you feel even worse doesn’t seem like that big of a deal because the feelings (disgust, shame, anger) that come with it are familiar.

Somewhere along the way, we’ve convinced ourselves that eating and loving ourselves & our bodies is hard and has to be a constant struggle.  We think we need to be perfect or we’re a failure. It doesn’t have to be like that.  When you eat to nourish yourself instead of punish, reward or control, you will eat enough but not too much and feel satisfied.  When we set up these parameters for ourselves – only this many calories, only low-fat, eat less than those around us etc, we’re planning out a trip that takes us straight to emotional eating.

When these negative thoughts pop up, think “cancel that”.  Practice saying and thinking good things about yourself.  What did you do well today? What are you grateful for? Acknowledging the good things about yourself and about your day/life are far more important to your overall well-being than knocking yourself down.  No one ever got where they wanted to be by being brutal to themselves and even people who have succeeded at the greatest things in life had setbacks along the way.  We’re no different!

There’s a huge amount of growth in just letting yourself be human, accepting occasional overindulgence as just that and still feeling love for yourself despite choices you don’t feel great about.  You have to believe that you deserve to feel satisfied when you eat, you deserve to not feel hunger constantly and you deserve to enjoy food.

I have so much more to say on this issue (it’s one of my favorite to work with clients on) but I feel like there’s a lot of info here and I don’t want to overwhelm anyone dealing with this issue.  If you struggle with emotional eating I hope you find some of the tips here helpful!  Ultimately, know that you are not alone. What you are going through is not uncommon and it is possible to have a more relaxed relationship with food with a little work (and in some cases, professional counseling).  The first step in having a healthier relationship with food is by working on the relationship you have with yourself.