Tag Archives: changing habits

Visiting Oregon and Being the “New” Version of Myself

Roses in the rose test garden in Portland, OR

Roses in the rose test garden in Portland, OR

I thought I’d do something different this week and share more personal details than I usually do on the blog by telling you a little bit about our vacation in Oregon. In this day and age of technology and social media, it can be confusing to know how much sharing is enough and how much is too much. By nature, I’m not a very private person and consider myself an open book but I definitely have come to be more cautious about how much I put out there about myself online. Less out of a privacy concern and more out of a “Do people really want to hear this? Do people need to know this about me?” concern. There’s a lot of oversharing on the internet and we’re over-saturated with content, who has time/energy to read extra details about random people? But what I’m noticing is that people do want to hear and see more personal stuff today than they have in the past. People are curious . . .and since I’m not ready to take the plunge onto all the video options of sharing personal details, I’m going to put it out there on the blog.

If you read last week’s blog post, you know I had come down with symptoms of strep throat right before we left for our 9 day trip to Oregon. I was starting to freak out about it but decided I was going to enjoy our trip even if I was sick. It did end up being strep and I was on antibiotics for most of the trip but by day 3, I kind of forgot that I was sick, thankfully.

Drinking Kombucha at Deschutes Brewery in Portland. First couple days of being on antibiotics for strep - eating foods that are rare for me but drinking kombucha instead of beer!

Drinking Kombucha at Deschutes Brewery in Portland. First couple days of being on antibiotics for strep – eating foods that are rare for me but drinking kombucha instead of beer!

We stayed for 4 nights at Hotel Vintage, in downtown Portland. We had a small but really cool room with panoramic skylights which was fun. It was nice to have so much natural light in a hotel room (don’t worry it had electronic shades so we didn’t bake in the sun or give neighbors a full view at night) and the extra windows helped make the room feel a lot bigger than it was. It ended up being the perfect location to explore Portland – it was easy walking distance to tons of great restaurants and lots to do within a few blocks. Portland is super walkable – 20 blocks equals a mile so you can cover a ton of ground in a little time.

We visited the International Rose Test and Japanese Gardens which were less than a 2 mile walk away from our hotel. It was 97 degrees out and sunny for the first several days we were there and we walked between 6-8 miles each day – John didn’t complain once! A huge difference from some of our previous trips where I made him walk, bike or hike everywhere. He quit smoking 2 years ago this week and he’s been exercising on his own lately. He’s like a new man.

We kind of joked that this change in him was the “new John”. And then we joked that the Andrea that didn’t “over plan” the trip was the “new Andrea”.

In fact this became a recurring joke and theme of our whole trip.

The Andrea who normally stresses out about every detail of a trip and who normally panics at signs of even the most benign illness, she wasn’t here. We left her at home. This was a “new Andrea”.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this in yourself but it’s easy to keep doing things exactly the way we’ve always done them. As we get a little older, those natural habits and tendencies can start to make us feel stuck, stagnant and that we’re hitting the same walls over and over again. It’s hard to get farther or have new experiences in life if we limit our experiences before they begin – know what I mean? Both John and I have noticed things about ourselves that have started to feel cemented in place and we don’t want that. On this trip, visiting a state we’ve never been before – seeing things we’ve never seen before, we found it easy to loosen up, shed old habits and be a different or “new” version of ourselves.

Just because I’ve always freaked out when getting sick or planned every detail of a trip doesn’t mean I have to keep doing that if it isn’t working for me. John always told himself he hated exercise – but that only made him hate exercise. It wasn’t providing any benefit. Lately he’s been trying to think of it as exploring (we’ve even done a few hikes together this summer!). That helps change how he feels about it and in turn his whole experience is different and he looks forward to going out and moving his body more.

The same goes for our eating habits. If comfort eating after a long day at work isn’t actually bringing you the comfort you originally thought it was, something needs to change. If eating lunch out every day of the work week isn’t making your body feel good, maybe packing your lunch one or two days week is worth trying. If counting calories, trying to burn off every bite you eat with exercise isn’t serving you – you don’t have to just keep doing it.

We don’t have to accept the way we do things as permanent, unchangeable. Sometimes I think one of the purposes of life is just figuring out how to navigate through it and to do that successfully it might mean changing direction or the way we do things sometimes. Being a new version of yourself!

As I mentioned earlier, we went on this trip with me letting go of the reins of planning and just winging a lot of it. This brought up a lot of anxiety for me. I like to seek out the best restaurants wherever I go. They don’t have to be expensive or fancy but they have to be good – creative and with fresh ingredients. I turn into a monster brat when I go out to eat and have a rotten meal. It’s partially because I’m a snobasaurus, but also it’s a leftover imprint from food issues where I didn’t allow myself to enjoy food except under rigid circumstances. Now that I can enjoy food more easily . . .I have an expectation that it has to be amazing (yeah, I know, my work isn’t over yet!) so picking restaurants with me is often a dramatic hassle (at least for John). I let go of that in Portland.

I also let go of something else. While I don’t have rules anymore about what I can and can’t eat as far as whether it’s good for me or too high calorie or anything like that, I do try to avoid certain foods or food preparations that I know make me feel awful. Most dairy, wheat and fried food or baked goods are off my menu when I have the option and I like how eating that way makes me feel (less constipation, less skin issues, less asthma symptoms and digestive pain). But sometimes that can feel restrictive or annoying to follow too – even though I feel best when I don’t eat that stuff. Because we were on vacation and I was already relaxing about where we ate, I found myself also relaxing more than usual about what I ate or ordered.

At a brewery we ordered parmesan garlic french fries and a charcuterie plate with brown bread.  I ordered latte’s (when in Rome). I ate some of John’s pizza, twice. I ordered soup with cheese in it. I drank a few beers and I ate some of John’s soft pretzel. Also mixed into all this stuff I normally don’t eat were lots of foods that made me feel good too – kombucha, raw and cooked vegetables, beans, seafood etc. I didn’t set out to eat anything just to see if I could do it. I wanted to relax about the menu and where we ate. John and I shared plates at a lot of meals. It felt great. I know I can’t eat certain foods on a daily basis (to do this with dairy would mean bad asthma all over again) but continuing to trust myself to eat and order various foods, whatever I want at the moment, even if it’s something that may make me feel “off” once in awhile is a part of normal eating. Sometimes we’re going to eat too much, too little or food that doesn’t feel or taste so great and that’s ok.

In Oregon, the "new Andrea" ate foods she normally would have avoided (like wheat and dairy). John did too - he ordered grilled Octopus and loved it. Sometimes you have to be someone else for a bit!

In Oregon, the “new Andrea” ate foods she normally would have avoided (like wheat and dairy). John did too – he ordered grilled Octopus and loved it. Sometimes you have to be someone else for a bit!

The interesting thing about being the “new Andrea” for 9 days was that I felt less crappy eating those foods than I think I expected to. Not stressing over where we were going or what to order meant my body overall was less stressed and I think this led to feeling less crappy than normal. We had an amazing meal at almost every meal we ate out. I can only think of one that was just “so so” and that was probably because we were tired and had been traveling all day (either way, I didn’t make a big deal about it – it was just a meal).

It certainly helped that Oregon, and Portland in particular has amazing food and amazing restaurants and that the people who work in them really seem to love the art of preparing and serving food! And also contributing to this overall feeling of letting go of rigid habits is the fact that everyone in Oregon seems really laid back. On the highway, heading out of Portland and to Astoria to have lunch before visiting Cannon Beach, I noticed that the speed limit was 70, yet everyone was driving at 55 mph. No one was riding my ass. No one was working to get around the slow cars in the passing lane. Everyone was just cruising along. For a minute the New England girl in me came out and I was like “What the fuck, can’t anyone go the speed limit?? These people would never survive in Boston!”. But then I realized they were on to something. What’s the rush? Why not be where you are right now, instead of rushing towards where you are going to be?

Me and John at Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, OR. We had hot temps and did a ton of walking early in our trip and my heat/exercise disliking husband didn't complain even once. Trying on a new version of ourselves!

Me and John at Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, OR. We had hot temps and did a ton of walking early in our trip and my heat/exercise disliking husband didn’t complain even once. Trying on a new version of ourselves!

We spent the second half of our trip staying in McMinnville, which is in the Willamette Valley. We picked McMinnville as a base location for visiting a few of the 300 wineries in the area. When we visited Napa five years ago, I hand selected the wineries we were going to visit weeks before – doing diligent research on location, type and quality of wines, atmosphere, cost – you name it. We had a great time in Napa but again, I let go of my need for planning in Willamette. The urge to see as many as possible over a few days left me and we found ourselves just spending a huge chunk of one afternoon at one winery in particular because it was beautiful, the weather was gorgeous, the wine tasty and it was peaceful and happy. We opted for being in the present and listening to our needs and desires instead of checking off my tourism to do list. We felt relaxed and refreshed and even though we didn’t get to see as much of the valley as normally I would have hoped for, this felt perfect. We can always go back.

Beautiful views from Penner Ash winery. Spent more time being present instead of worrying about where we wanted to be next. I highly recommend it!

Beautiful views from Penner Ash winery. Spent more time being present instead of worrying about where we wanted to be next. I highly recommend it!

This was a great trip in so many ways. Not only did we get to explore a new state that we are excited to see more of but we both tried on new behaviors and relaxed old habits. I think this helped both of us relax and get the most out of our time away – we even found ourselves in several spontaneous conversations with fellow travelers and locals, which if you know John and I is not our usual mode of operation. We also sat at a bar more than once – for dinner and in a tasting room, which normally John won’t do. . .but he was open to because this was the “new John” and he actually liked it this time. I think the fact that I came down with strep right before we left and I had mentally made the decision to not let it ruin the trip actually became an awesome launching pad for being more open to other changes on the trip. So, thank you strep throat!

I spent 9 days in Oregon with the new Andrea and John and I liked them. Maybe I’ll invite them over more often.

There are certain things about myself that I find embarrassing or annoying (like my need to have perfect restaurant experiences or my over planning) and it felt good to play with changing those things in a safe way. I don’t want to get stuck being someone I don’t like. I don’t want to just accept that there are things I do that I don’t like. You are never too old to improve yourself or see and do things a bit differently (in your relationship with food or otherwise).

Next time you go to a new place, a new restaurant or are about to have any new experience, try doing things a little differently. What habits, quirks, needs of yours are holding you back? If there is something you don’t like about yourself, the way you do things or where your life is headed, what is stopping you from changing that? Could you allow yourself to be a “new” version of yourself, even if just for a week or two? What might happen?

Keep your eyes open for a special offer coming soon! I promised in September I would be making a special (limited quantity) offer to those of you who are new to coaching, that will make trying it more affordable! It’s coming soon! Make sure you are on my email list so that you don’t miss this offer when it’s ready! Joining this list automatically means you receive my free eBook Healthy Eating Shouldnt Be aWorkout:  Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!).

Realization: I Still Try to Make Others Laugh at My Body

I've always made my body the joke to protect myself.

I’ve always made my body the joke to protect myself.

Earlier this summer I arrived at a family cookout and one of my relatives said to me “Oh, look at your nice figure”. I was wearing a long fitted henley sun dress. Instead of just saying “Thank you.” I said “oh, it’s because I’m wearing too tight clothes! haha.” I cringed the second it came out of my mouth. The dress isn’t even too tight. It fits me perfectly and I love wearing that dress.

I have a tough time accepting a compliment without making a joke about my body or me. It’s what I do, what I’ve always done.

But it’s kind of a problem since I, you know, work with women who have emotional eating struggles and because I’ve come so far with my own. I’ve changed a ton but from time to time behaviors come to my attention that make me go “whoa! what is this?”

I’ve learned so much about myself the last couple of years. I finally feel like I’ve figured out how I can eat normally, how to not overeat, which foods work for me (and which ones don’t), how to move my body with exercise that I enjoy (instead of just whatever will burn the most calories).

I’ve become hyper aware of all the routines and habits I had created that kept me stuck in the same cycle of overeating and dieting. I no longer try to go as long as I can on as few calories as I can so I can eat a ton at night. I can sit comfortably with uncomfortable feelings without needing to eat to comfort myself. The negative self talk about my body that used to be a never-ending commentary in the background hardly ever shows up at all anymore. It’s quiet now.

I feel more confident in my body.  Enough so that I find myself doing things like taking off a sweat drenched tank top in the middle of a busy NH state park parking lot after a hike, and switching it out for a clean one, without worrying who might see me in my bra or might see my belly. That probably doesn’t sound like a big deal but when you’ve spent most of your life changing in shower stalls or bathrooms so you didn’t have to have your body seen naked in public view it’s a big deal. A really huge accomplishment. I can go to the beach now and wear a bathing suit and not worry about my pale thighs or belly rolls. I’m there to have fun, not to look like a model. I’m sure some of that comfortableness comes with getting older and just not giving a fuck but I know a lot of it comes from the work I’ve done in coaching.

All of this isn’t to say, wow, look at me, I’m doing so well. This is so easy! Everyone can repair their relationship with food on their own! No. All of this stuff is awesome and I feel great but, what I’ve noticed, is that as far as I have come, and as more “real” as this feels as any of my previous attempts at a normal life with food and my body, is that sometimes shit I thought was behind me still comes up from time to time.

Occasionally eating more food than I needed? Not a big deal, especially when it’s an incredible meal at a restaurant that I’ve been dying to check out. Occasionally choosing to eat foods that don’t have any nutritional value? Really not a big deal, especially when I’m choosing to eat it because I really want it (and not because I need to hide from some feelings).

Something I thought I was over, that keeps popping up is saying negative stuff about my own body to other people!

If I see someone I haven’t seen in awhile and they tell me I look great, I tend to wave it off by saying “oh, thanks, but I’ve actually gained a couple of pounds.” If someone tells me I look like I’ve lost more weight, “thanks, but I’ve really been slacking lately!”. I’ll whine about clothing stores having weird sizing and billowy styles and how at Lucky Jeans I have to buy a size Small shirt, even though there’s no way I’m a Small! If someone tells me I’m getting skinny, I say things like “Nah, I weigh about 157 lbs!” (as if it would be impossible for someone at that weight to be slender or fit looking).

In my head, I feel good about my body. I wear clothes that I feel comfortable in. I think I look pretty fit.  And I’m at a sustainable and healthy weight. But outwardly, I find myself projecting the thoughts that I may no longer consciously be having, but were a part of my repertoire for decades. Like tree ring patterns, the ways I navigated through my world have left a record of my history that can’t be washed away so easily.

I’ve always had a self-deprecating humor and made fat or ugly jokes about myself. When I was a kid, people would make jokes about my size in my presence and it stung, a lot. I remember playing the game “Taboo” once with my sisters and some of my cousins. Taboo was a game where you had to use words to get the other players to name a word on the card without using the 4 or 5 other synonym or related words on the card. Sort of like a riff on charades or pictionary but with without acting or drawing.

One of my cousins was trying to get us to say “fat” or “chubby” or something like that. I don’t remember what the actual word was. He was struggling to come up with words to give us hints because things like “obesity”, “overweight”, “large” were off limits. So, what he finally said was “Andrea”. My sister’s and cousin’s looked confused and shouted out things like “blonde?”, “girl?” and then finally someone said “fat!” and my cousin said “ding ding! That’s it!”. I was totally mortified (and pissed! This cousin had a bit of a weight issue at the time himself.). It certainly wasn’t the first time someone in my family had referred to me as fat but it was the first time it became clear to me that that was how most people would see me. That was how they would describe me. It was what I was leading with, even if that’s not who I saw myself as.

I think I started to make the jokes myself with the idea being that if I made sure everyone around me knew that I knew that I was fat, anything they may say or think about my weight couldn’t hurt me. That rational didn’t work out so well, it still hurt, but I adopted the practice as a form of armor. If they’re going to laugh at me, I’m going to be in on the joke dammit! They’re not going to laugh behind my back – they’re going to laugh with me!

Making these jokes about my body, in response to anything and everything was just how I operated. It became a part of my personality in a way. So much so that most of the time I don’t even know I’m doing it. It’s just “me” now.

The summer after my junior year in college I worked for the University’s department of housing. It was a physically demanding job – we worked long hours in sweltering heat painting dorm rooms and carrying heavy furniture up and down many flights of stairs. I remember a few of the other kids always wanting to be my partner in carrying furniture. I was strong and I made carrying steel bedframes feel easy for the other person, because as a “fat” person, I thought it was my duty to take on more of the weight, more of the work. I could handle it. Even the guys would rush to carry with me. And it felt good to be wanted. It felt good to be seen as useful and valuable. For once my fatness was a positive, not a negative. I made jokes about being built like a “brick shithouse” or I’d hold flex my biceps and say “Have you seen these guns?” and everyone would laugh. They thought I was so funny and down to earth and “real” (something that seemed rare on a college campus). I said what everyone else was already thinking. My roommates and I became regular hosts of parties at our apartment that summer for our coworkers. My fatness was valuable at work and the humor I used to detract from myself also made me a riot and people loved to party with me. I could drink almost everyone under the table. It was a joke but also a sense of pride that I took at the time being able to pound 12 beers with the guys on my work crew. I may be fat, but I can party! The fat strong funny girl was a party animal too. The more attention I got, the more the jokes came. I couldn’t stop.

I’m not that girl anymore. My life is really different from my college partying days. I can’t drink anyone under the table anymore (and nor do I want to). I’m still strong but you can bet I’ll let others do their share of the hard work (but I’ll still ask that you admire my biceps). I still make jokes, about my body, but also about really morbid stuff. I have a really dark sense of humor. I’m step over the line a lot. But I don’t want to be that person who makes negative remarks about their body all the time.

She’s still there.

And it’s really annoying because the negative self-talk about my body isn’t there so much anymore. I can walk by the bathroom mirror naked and look at myself and not think much of anything, other than “that’s me”. I don’t recoil in disgust.

In general, I don’t necessarily want to change things that are part of my core personality. I know that a lot of that stuff is what makes me “me”. It’s even part of how some people know me. Who am I without this stuff? Who am I if I don’t make these kind of jokes? Could I be someone who just says “thank you” to a compliment?

I’m not even sure what I’m trying to say with this post.

I guess just that even as far as I’ve come, there are still things that come out sometimes that surprise me. I thought this was behind me. I thought I was healthy enough to not crap on my appearance publicly and regularly. I have clients who get upset sometimes at old behaviors that they still find themselves doing sometimes and to them I say “I know how you feel”. I feel like a failure when this stuff pops up. How can I preach “self-love” and body acceptance when the moment you complement me I have to make a joke about the size or shape of my body? Ug. That’s horrifying.

I have come really far and I don’t see myself ever going back to the unhealthy place I was in in the past but there are still some things I’ll need to keep my eye on.

I have to work at doing this differently. Knowing that I have this behavior isn’t enough to change it. Awareness is a start but I have to keep going and do more. This was something I actually forgot that I did. And now that it’s on my radar, it’s my job to actively work to do better.

If this hits home for you, here are a few questions to explore for yourself. I’d love to hear some of your answers if you want to share them with me:

  • Is there something that you’ve discovered about your personality or behavior that you believe is a result of your history with your weight or eating struggles? How does it impact your life? How does it impact how you view yourself?
  • Why do you think you developed this trait or habit?
  • Would you like to respond differently? If so, what would that look like?

Like this? For more, download your free copy of Healthy Eating Shouldnt Be a Workout:  Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!).

How long will it take to heal your disordered eating and body image Issues?

photo credit: lost in the mirror via photopin (license)

There isn’t a neatly marked timeline to follow. Be patient and keep moving forward.                                                 photo credit: lost in the mirror via photopin (license)

“I thought I’d have made more progress by now.”

“I’m so tired of thinking about this.”

“Why is my friend doing better than me?”

“When will it be easy?”

Sometimes clients express these thoughts about their journey and I’ve certainly thought these things myself at different points along the way. I wish there was a simple answer. Losing weight often is easy – eat less, get more activity etc., but working through the reasons you gained weight in the first place can be time consuming, painful and sometimes feel like you’re just trying to keep your head above the water. You may not feel like you’re making any progress day to day or week to week. It can be frustrating, angering even!

You believe you are “working” so hard at this – you’ve thought about your weight in some way forever! So why do you feel like you are in the same place you were 6 months ago? A year ago?! Ug!! It’s maddening sometimes.

There’s no clear, fixed schedule or timeline for healing from disordered eating or body image issues. Everyone is on a different journey, has different triggers, unique habits and support systems in place, all of which contribute to how well they’ll do in the long run.

I can’t give you a schedule of when you’ll be “fixed”. But one thing I know for sure is that we’re all in a rush to get “better”, to not have this hanging over our heads anymore and for most, to do as little as possible to get there. I know I did – I literally tried to pray the fat away!

I remember being a child, laying in my bed and praying to Mary (I was raised Catholic) to help me not be “fat” anymore. I thought she’d understand more than Jesus or God, you know, being a woman and all. I asked Mary if she could make it so that every calorie I ate would actually burn 2 calories.  I don’t know how old I was exactly but I was still young enough to believe in “magic” but yet old enough to know about calories and their effect on weight and I knew that if I could burn 2 calories for each 1 I ate, then I’d lose weight in no time!

She wasn’t able to answer that prayer (maybe she was busy that day) but it was the first of many occasions where I daydreamed about what it would be like to not be heavy anymore. Ironically, I don’t  look at my elementary school pictures today and see a “fat” kid. I was mildly larger than the other kids – which certainly got worse as I got older – but I was not overweight enough to have to pray it away!

The result of thinking about my weight and food from such a young age, and gaining and losing so much over the years, is that by the time I reached adulthood and was ready to deal with my problem with food, I already felt like I had been “dealing” with it and “working” on it for years!

Thinking like this made me only give partial effort to whatever I did try – because I was, in a way, super resentful that I even had to work at it – since I had been “working” at it, at least by beating myself up and thinking about it for so so long! I expected any diet, workout or self-help book I got myself involved in to solve my issue in 2 months, 3 tops! But, I had been eating and thinking about my body in a disordered way for a long as I could remember. How the hell long will it take to get over this?

I have a rough mathematical answer for you. I give credit to Charlotte York for the formula.

In the Sex and the City episode Take Me Out to the Ballgame (Season 2, Ep 1)  Carrie and Big have broken up and Carrie is pretty depressed about it. Miranda, of course, is totally annoyed that Carrie isn’t back in the dating scene already but Charlotte tells Carrie that it takes “half the total time you went out with someone to get over them”. Only a month has passed since they broke up and Carrie and Big dated for a year so Charlotte suggests that Carrie will be over him in 5 more months.

I think Charlotte’s breakup timeline is probably similar to our food and body image stuff. If you’ve been struggling with food, dieting, overeating, restricting, criticizing your body etc for decades, you can’t expect to heal from it fully in 6 months or a year. It may take YEARS and years.

Later in the episode, Charlotte says “You can’t just push yourself into feeling good. The only way to get over someone is to feel really bad, cry to your girlfriends and replay what you hated about him over and over in your head all day.”  Those specific items aren’t what you need to do to make progress in your relationships with food and your body BUT Charlotte’s sentiment is in the right place – she’s telling Carrie that she has to focus her mental energy and take actions that will help loosen the hold Mr. Big has on her. He’s a habit that she has to break with new habits. In the same way, we have to use our mental energy and physical actions to take steps and create thoughts that will heal us, that will create new patterns and new habits. You have to be conscious with your thoughts and you have to make room in your life for the things that you know support the habits you want to acquire. (I could use that whole episode or any episode of SATC as a metaphor / analogy for this stuff – but really that would be a whole other blog! haha!)

Huh? My eating or body image issues are a habit?

That’s really all most of our shit is – habits we’ve picked up along the way. Things we’ve gotten really good at because we do them repeatedly. Now it’s time to get good at something else – not doing those things that are causing you pain and doing something else constructive instead.

Let me give you some examples!

If you’ve gotten into the habit of getting up off the couch during commercial breaks to look for snacks in the kitchen – you’re going to feel compelled to do it on every commercial break. You may almost feel physically pulled to the kitchen or almost like you’re on autopilot if you’ve been doing it for awhile. How long you’ve been doing it for will determine how difficult it is for you to break this habit. To break this habit, you’re going to have to associate something else with those commercial breaks – this might mean turning off the TV and finding a different activity entirely. Or it might mean doing jumping jacks during commercials or maybe folding laundry. And when you first try these new things, you may be successful 3 days in a row and then resort back to your old ways. Next time you may go 5 days in a row and then go back.  The point isn’t that you went back to your previous habit (that’s bound to happen) – the important thing is that you keep getting up and trying to change it for the better.

We know that often people overeat / binge because they are trying to numb themselves from feeling something that they don’t want to feel (unhappiness in their marriage, confusion in their career, worries about the future etc). Sure there is often some deeper psychological stuff going on but the simplest explanation for what it actually is is that it’s a habit that was created (regardless of the circumstances that created it).  Ultimately it is an action they took a few times, subconsciously or consciously noticed the effect it had on how they felt (it mitigated the pain they were feeling), and so they did it again, and again. It becomes a learned response. X happens and Y is the action taken. Stopping it starts with allowing those negative feelings to just be there – but it doesn’t end there.

Stopping someone from bingeing doesn’t happen with one single habit change – you have to go at it with multiple things, repeatedly and for a long time. Those things will be different (to a degree) with each person.

One of my clients has been successful in preventing binges by making sure she gets plenty of sleep, speaking her mind at work and at home (instead of keeping things bottled inside), writing in a journal daily and by eating more fat and protein in place of refined carbohydrates. She doesn’t just HOPE that these things happen – she creates space for them in her life by setting a bedtime and sticking to it, scheduling journal writing time etc. She essentially creates a plan to fit these new habits in daily.

Some of the ways I avoid bingeing is by eating a diet that is 90% whole foods (the sugar / crunchy / salty junk sets me off), caring for my body with frequent exercise and by doing lots of thought work that affects my daily outcome (Check out Self Coaching 101 by Brooke Castillo – great tool for changing your results!). How do I make space for this stuff? I plan for it. I make grocery shopping, meal prep, exercise and thought work priorities in my life.  Bingeing used to be treated like a priority. I couldn’t wait to get home from work to zone out and eat (or in the car if I could get to a store first). I made space for it and it became a firmly ingrained habit. I didn’t get where I am today in a few weeks or months. It has taken YEARs of trial and error,  repeated attempts and conscious, focused actions!

Do these new habits that we’ve made space for mean we NEVER go back to our old ways? No. Pretty much everyone slips into their old behaviors at some point, sometimes many many times. Even me. I’ve slipped back into my old habits more times than I can count but you know what? Each time it has happened I have learned something from it – a new thing to watch out for, a new tool to keep me taking good care of myself possibly and certainly more experiences to share with all of you. I should also mention that each time I’ve “fucked up” it’s been less serious than previous times. What I consider a binge for me now, I would not have considered a binge 3 years ago. What I consider crappy eating today doesn’t look like my crappy eating from 5 years ago. I am always making progress and always working to do better.

It’s not easy but it’s also not hard all of the time either, I promise! Sometimes things will just click and you feel like “I’m going to make it!”, other times you will feel like you’re not making any progress at all. My advice to you is to:

  • Keep going no matter what. Creating new habits/responses requires time. You are actually creating new neural pathways in your brain when you repeat a task over and over and it will get stronger the more often you do it.
  • Get conscious – get to know yourself. Learn all of your habits, thoughts and how you may try to lie to yourself (it’s only 1 bite!).
  • Keep track of all that you’re trying – what’s working? what’s not?
  • Note where you are getting support – friends, family, coaches, therapists? Who knows about your struggle and cares about your success? Where else can you get support?
  • What resources you have read, watched and listened to? What kind of resources speak to you the most?
  • What tools help you to connect to your body in a positive way? Mindful or intuitive eating? Throwing out the scale? Keeping a food journal? Gentle exercise? Figure those things out and do them often.
  • What things trip you up? What situations trigger you to choose old habits? Make a plan to prepare for these situations so that when they pop up you know what to do.
  • Keep track of your accomplishments no matter how small. Where have you made progress? What good habits have become almost 2nd nature to you? Keep this list handy to look at on those days when you feel like you are at square one and it will make you feel proud.
  • Have patience. Settle in. There’s no rush. Giving up keeps you in the pain that only seems easier because it’s familiar!

As I said earlier in this post, there is no concrete timeline for healing your relationship with food and your body. It may take far longer for you than it does a woman in your yoga class or less time for you than your roommate from college. Your timeline is unique because the circumstances, relationships, thoughts and experiences that created the eating and body image problems (habits) you have today are yours. Try not to compare where you are with where someone else is.

You may have an issue with food or with how you think you look but you are also smart, resourceful, persistent and deserving of a peaceful food and body life. You are also capable of taking new actions towards the life that you DO want. Even if you’ve been struggling with dieting, bingeing or criticizing your body for 50 years, there is the possibility for change if you settle in for however long it will take and keep taking dedicated action daily. Don’t give up.