Mindful Eating #11: Why I Binged on Food for 10 Years

Not unlike many people, I decided I wanted to lose weight when I was in college.  I had gained the average 15 pounds (maybe more, OK, it was 30) and felt defeated that none of my clothes were fitting anymore.  I purchased a fitness magazine and starting tracking my calories online.

I followed a calorie-restricted diet and lost alot of weight.  I lost too much, but that is a topic for another post. While losing weight, I had extreme urges to binge on food, and I would binge.

During a binge I felt uncontrollable, not like myself, and powerless to resist my intense desires for huge amounts of food.  This was frustrating, to say the least.

I didn’t realize that I was not eating enough for my body to feel satiated.  I was starving.  Refusing to live (an extreme way to interpret it but true nonetheless).  Consequently, I would experience urges to eat uncontrollably at random times.  I always gave in, felt relief to finally eat and then, of course regretted it.  But I always obeyed the urge and repeated the cycle.

I did this for ten years.

My bingeing was followed by fasting.  I have never purged in the form of self-induced vomiting and I’m too lazy to work out for hours on end to burn off the extra calories.  I would rather just skip a meal (or two, or three).

I thought that once I started eating normal portions of food again and weighed a healthy amount,  the binge urges would go away and no longer disrupt my sanity. But they didn’t. The urges continued after I resumed eating more food.  This was confusing.

It made no sense that I would desire to binge eat when I was already eating enough.

So I read alot on the topic.  I became obsessed at learning everything about this weird and embarrassing way to eat.  The best books I have read explaining binge urges are Brain Over Binge by Kathryn Hansen, and Taming the Feast Beast by Jack and Lois Trimpey.  If you binge eat, read these books.  If you have any habit you feel you cannot kick, read these books.  There are many other wonderful books about binge eating, and how to end the diet-binge cycle, and many of them are very helpful, but these two explain binge urges in particular.

It turns out that bingeing is habitual.  It starts out as a survival mechanism the body uses to get enough food but then it seems to just be a learned behavior.  A habit.  A normal way to eat.

People often think bingeing is associated with a traumatic past or feeling insecure, or an inability to cope with stress.  I thought these things, too, and there is plenty of merit in the ideas. But I examined my past and I could not find trauma that required harming my body with absurd amounts of food (and cannot think of any trauma that demands eating too much food).  I took a look at my confidence level and didn’t find it low enough to demand binge eating (nor found that binge eating improved my confidence, it only weakened it), and I could think of alot of other coping mechanisms for my stress that did not involve eating food.

It perplexed me that I was bingeing. I would binge in many different emotional states.  It was not limited to stress.  It could be when I was happy or tired or apathetic or excited or afraid.  There was really no dominant pattern.

It became obvious to me that I was not bingeing to improve my life, I was doing it because I was doing it.  I did not like that I did it, but it was easy to do and became my normal.

And it was the normal that I chose.  I could have chosen drinking, taking other substances, shopping, playing video games, spending time on social media, or any activity that provided immediate pleasure and relief from an urge, but I note I chose eating because I typically find a lot of pleasure in food the way that someone who finds a lot pleasure in alcohol would choose excessive drinking.

And it did not matter that I was at a healthy weight and that I ate enough to support my body.  I had learned to binge and my brain would signal to do it and I would.  Every time this happened, I strengthened the habit making it more likely that I would do it again.

After I learned that my bingeing was a result of habit, I was able to separate my morality and sense of self from the urges I continued to feel.  This took time because I linked binge eating with my self worth for years, but it was a huge relief when I stopped this association.  The urges, while they did not immediately disappear, did become less threatening and I learned that they were tolerable, resistible and even meaningless.

I did not resist my binge urges right away.  It took experimenting with resisting a binge urge, actually resisting it, and giving in to them for me to really grasp how they were influencing me.  I started to change my beliefs about binge urges.  I decided I no longer had to obey them and that I would be physically fine, and better off, if I didn’t.

Other people have had different experiences with this.  This is just my own.

It was exciting to resist urges to binge.  I didn’t die.  I didn’t feel very much discomfort, to my surprise.  I actually felt happy that I could decide to take better care of my body.  It was rewarding. I noticed that my binge urges were the strongest if I had not eaten enough throughout any given week.  They were stronger if I had overeaten at any one meal and they were strong when I would have foods high in sugar.  They were less when I ate more protein and fat.

Today I use my experiences with resisting urges to binge to my advantage.  I aim to eat protein, fat, and vegetables.  I avoid sugar (mostly) and processed foods.  I know these things help minimize and even remove binge urges so it’s worth it to me to be mindful of what I eat.

I realize that if I don’t eat foods that minimize binge urges, and I indeed experience the desire to binge, that I do not have to.  I never have to.  No one has to.

Knowing this, and because I believe it, my life has changed.  My thoughts have changed, too.  Bingeing no longer gets the best of me and I’m able to see it for what it is–a habit that can be changed.  My binge urges have lessoned tremendously and I’m able to enjoy life so much more.

When I do have an urge to binge, I notice it and allow it to pass.  It always passes.

What do you think about binge eating being a habit?  Have you had an experience with binge urges?  Do you tend to obey them or resist them?  Do you think binge eating is more complicated than being a habit?

Share your experiences by leaving a comment!

You can also email me at sarahsteffenspersonalchef@gmail.com.

Image from Under the Root.

AIP, Paleo, Whole30 Recipe: Ginger Brussels Sprouts Bites

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When in doubt on an appetizer to prepare that is super easy and sure to be enjoyed by everyone, keep things really simple.

I mean, really simple.

Like, just put a toothpick in it.

These roasted brussels sprouts with fresh ginger are no more complicated (and honestly, not complicated at all!) than roasting a tray of fresh veggies, because that is all they are!

But…since they have a toothpick in them, they are party food.  And everyone likes a party…or at least, food with toothpicks in them.

GINGER BRUSSELS SPROUTS BITES

Serves many people as an appetizer (leave the toothpicks out to serve 4-6 as a side dish)

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb. of brussels sprouts, rinsed and tough ends removed

2 Tbs. of avocado oil

1 tsp. of sea salt

Dash of white pepper (optional)

1 tsp. of garlic powder

2 tsp. of fresh ginger, minced

2 Tbs. of coconut aminos (sub apple cider vinegar if preferred)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Line a baking tray with parchmont paper and set aside.

Rinse brussels sprouts and remove tough ends, then cut in half.

Arrange on a baking tray and pour avocado oil over them and gently toss with a spatula.

Sprinkle sea salt, (white pepper, if using) garlic powder and coconut aminos over sprouts and toss one more time.

Roast in your oven for 10 minutes, toss, and finish roasting for 10 more minutes.

Remove from your oven and gently toss with fresh ginger.

Stick toothpicks in each sprout and serve on a platter as a quick party bite and watch these little green snacks get gobbled up by all of your guests!

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AIP, Paleo, Whole30 Recipe: Thanksgiving Dinner Cabbage Cups

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THANKSGIVING DINNER CABBAGE CUPS

Serves 6-12

Think of this appetizer as all of Thanksgiving in one single bite. Ok, perhaps not all of Thanksgiving (insert family and friends and non-food traditions here), but they do come close! These cabbage cups can be made up to 2 days in advance and set out as an appetizer to stave off guests from picking at the main bird. Serve with fresh cranberry sauce (see above recipe), and feel free to walk about your holiday party with a tray of these because people love food on trays.

INGREDIENTS:

Cabbage Cups

1 lb. of ground turkey (I used dark meat but you can use either dark or light)

2 Tbs. of ghee

1 tsp. of sea salt

Dash of white pepper

12 cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped

2 Tbs. each of fresh parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, minced

Cranberry Sauce

Click here for an AIP, Paleo & Whole 30 recipe.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Remove several leaves from a head of Napa cabbage and set aside.

Heat ghee in a skillet to medium low.

Add ground turkey, breaking it up into small pieces and tossing with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Season with sea salt and white pepper and continue cooking for 5 minutes.

Add chopped mushrooms to the skillet and continue cooking until turkey is completely cooked and mushrooms are soft.

Turn off the stove and gently toss in your fresh herbs (you can sing to Simon and Garfunkel at this time).

Remove turkey from your skillet and place in a bowl to cool in the refrigerator.

Once cool, scoop generous portions of turkey into Napa cabbage cups and arrange on a serving platter with fresh cranberry sauce in the center.

Guests can grab a cabbage cup with a dollop with cranberry sauce and experience all of the wonderful flavors of Thanksgiving in each bite.

Hope you enjoy!

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*Want to make it even easier to enjoy these tasty appetizers? Serve them with cranberry sauce already added. All your guests need to do is grab one…or two!

AIP, Paleo, Whole30 Recipe: Ginger Spiced Cranberry Sauce

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GINGER SPICED CRANBERRY SAUCE

Serves 8-10

It always surprises me how easy it is to make your own cranberry sauce, but how rarely people serve it homemade with their holiday feasts. Cranberry sauce takes just minutes to prepare and truly completes a traditional holiday meal. This cranberry sauce uses fresh cranberries, apple and orange, and has a complex flavor from autumn spices we have grown to cherish during the holidays. It has no added sugars and actually supports digestion (thanks to ginger) and healthy blood sugar levels (thanks to cinnamon), so be sure to add a spoonful to your turkey or side dishes this year.

INGREDIENTS:

12 ounces of fresh cranberries

1 apple, cored and diced

2 Tbs. of fresh orange juice

Zest from one orange

1” of fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1 Tbs. of ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp. of ground cloves

Pinch of ground nutmeg

¼ tsp. of sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

Rinse cranberries and add them to a small saucepan with ½ cup of purified water.

Heat stove to medium high, stirring occasionally. The cranberries will begin to pop; this is normal, simply keep stirring and reduce to a low simmer.

Add the rest of the ingredients (apple, orange juice/zest, ginger, spices and sea salt) and simmer until everything is soft, about 15 minutes.

Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator up to a week before ready to serve.

Serve with your holiday feast and impress your guests (and yourself!) with this delicious and Whole30 cranberry sauce!

 Enjoy!

 

Mindful Eating #10: Choose to ENJOY Taking Care of Yourself

Remember that it is always your choice to take care of yourself.  There might be people in your life that suggest or hope you make healthy choices such as eating real and whole foods and getting enough sleep, but they can only suggest and hope these things.  They cannot make you do anything that you don’t already want to do (on a separate but related note, it is interesting to observe that when we desire to take good care of ourselves, pro-healthy suggestions from others feel like encouragement and kindness and when we do not desire to take good care of ourselves it feels threatening and forceful.  Even when we have asked others to remind us of our goals!  In either perception, the suggestions remain the same but our beliefs about them determine how we receive their advice–merited or unmerited).

Along with the choice to treat your body any which way you desire, it is also your choice to have whatever attitude about maintaining your health goals that you desire.

If you choose to believe that it is relatively easy to pass up servings of food that are much too big for you and that it is pretty simple to shop for nutritious foods at the market each week, your experience doing these things will follow suit and eating less and shopping for healthy foods will be just that–relatively easy and pretty simple.

On the other hand, if you choose to believe that every time you have to say “no” to a second helping of food that it is terribly saddening and that going to the market has become a battle between your new healthy self and former careless self, your experience doing these things will also be just that–terribly saddening (likely unbearable!) and an annoying battle.

The things you chose to do in the above example did not change but your perception of them had, causing your healthy eating and living experience to be either attainable and enjoyable or difficult and disappointing.

It is good to remember that you have the choice to make decisions that contribute to a healthier life.  You are in control of each decision and not only each decision, but of the perception you have while making them.  The next time you find yourself frustrated about any of the goals you have decided to pursue, remember the frustration felt is purely optional and that you can choose to feel enjoyment over your experience as soon as you’re ready.  You might even begin to truly like and prefer all of those things that seemed like such a big, difficult deal.

Of course, this is only a suggestion and a hope.  You always have the final say.

Image from The Nifty Fifties Tumblr.

AIP, Paleo, Whole30 Recipe: Grounding Autumn Ginger Turmeric Latte

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GROUNDING AUTUMN GINGER TURMERIC LATTE

Serves 4

Attention! You do not have to consume alcohol to have a good time this holiday season! In fact, once you try this Grounding Autumn Ginger Turmeric Latte, you may want to always include a latte like it in your holiday traditions. Drinks such as wine and spirits are often served before the main meal, which is a perfect time to sip on this latte. It contains slow burning fats, gentle gut-healing spices, is anti-inflammatory and if you add collagen, even offers protein. It’s win-win if you want to feel balanced and in control of your food choices for the rest of the day, so be sure to include this recipe in your holiday spread, and certainly carve out time to make it for yourself the next time you cuddle up with a good book!

INGREDIENTS

4 cups of herbal ginger or turmeric tea (I used 4 Trader Joe’s Organic Ginger Turmeric Herbal Tea bags)

2 Tbs. of coconut butter

2 tsp. of ghee

½ tsp. of sea salt

1 tsp. of ground cinnamon

1 tsp. of ground turmeric

¼ tsp. of ground ginger

Optional: 4 Tbs. of collagen powder (I used Great Lakes Hydrolysate Gelatin)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat 4 cups of purified water as you would to brew tea.

Steep 4 tea bags in the 4 cups of water for 5-7 minutes.

While your tea is steeping, add remaining ingredients (coconut butter, ghee, sea salt, spices and collagen powder) to a high-speed blender.

Remove tea bags and pour brewed tea into your blender. Blend on high for about 15 seconds

Pour into 4 mugs and be sure to make a toast with whomever you are sharing this warm and nourishing holiday beverage!

Mindful Eating #9: Do You Accept Yourself?

I have been interested in eating healthy for most of my life, but it wasn’t to treat my body well or to feel good.  It was to lose weight.

I can remember being in elementary school, portioning out crackers to pack in my school lunch, wanting to know how many calories I was eating, hoping that I would become a slimmer version of myself by restricting my food.

Just one size smaller, just a few pounds thinner.  Then I would be comfortable and my life would be better.

Then I could focus on others things like hobbies and a career.

Then I would accept myself.

As I got older, I educated myself on nutrition, and was convicted to eat the purest and healthiest foods possible.  I counted calories for a few years, was a vegetarian for a few, got rid of all processed foods, and later adapted a diet of real foods.

I wish I could say that my goal was for health, but it wasn’t.  It was always to lose weight.

I finally did lose weight after college through very restricting dieting (too much which had very negative effects on my body and mind), and when I couldn’t afford to lose any more and I still wasn’t happy or accepting of myself, I became confused about why I tried to eat healthy at all.

It is not surprising that I cycled through periods of binge eating during my years of very restrictive dieting,  It was very difficult to maintain a weight that was too low for me, and very uncomfortable to starve my body of the nutrients it needed.

It often bewildered me that I would cycle through periods of very healthy eating, then periods of self-sabotaging eating that left me feeling sick and gross.  This opposing pattern proved to me that I wasn’t interested in health for actual health.  I was interested in it to get thin.  When getting thin was too hard, I wasn’t interested in it at all.

During this season, I had done quite a bit of reading on accepting myself, and eating to treat my body well, and quitting the diet/binge habit.  It sounded really nice–accepting myself, but I couldn’t.  I didn’t believe I was acceptable unless I was losing weight.

It was only a few years ago that I really gave some serious thought to accepting myself no matter what I weighed or looked like, and eating healthy to be kind to my body.

What if I only ate healthy because I cared about how nutritious foods made me feel?  What if I chose to be happy and comfortable with myself no matter what I looked like or what I weighed?

I attempted to take this approach, but it did not come very easily.  I did not decide to accept myself, and then became a natural at it overnight.

It required daily determination to stop letting my weight determine my value.  When a thought entered my mind that tied my personal success with my weight, it had to be replaced with truth immediately.  When disappointment surfaced after looking in the mirror, I had to remind myself that the self-hatred I was cultivating had gotten me nowhere, it felt unfortunate, was distracting me from more important issues, and was not helping me in any way.

It dawned on me one day that I might look the way I look today for the rest of my life.  Sure, I will look older, get wrinkles, and age spots, and gray hair, but I might weigh what I do now until the day I die.

Would this be OK?

Would I choose to stress about something that may never change for the rest of my life?  Would I let this obsession determine my happiness, comfortability, and confidence until I die?  Would I fret about this more than important issues that are happening all around me?  More than caring about other people?  More than connecting with family and friends?  More than making a positive contribution in the world?

We all have one life.  We get to choose what we value and how we spend our time, and what we believe.  We get to think what we want to think.  We get to feel what we want to feel.

I chose self acceptance because the path of self-hatred was exhausting.  It robbed me of happiness.  It kept me from being present.  It made my life small, and it didn’t even allow me to do what I wanted it to in the very beginning–eat healthy to lose weight.

Self acceptance is about so much more than being OK with what you weigh or what you look like, but for those who can’t even claim these things, it’s certainly a start in a positive direction.

What about you?

Do you consider yourself someone who accepts yourself?  Who accepts your body how it is right now?  If not, when will your body be good enough for you to accept it?  When will you choose to be happy, comfortable, and confident?  Do you really believe that a number on the scale or a size of clothing can provide you with the feeling you are looking for?

Image from Johanna Ost.

Mindful Eating #8: Should You Weigh Yourself?

With Mindful Eating comes a variety of other areas relating to our lives, that are to be explored.  Many times I write about the simple act of eating, but I often ponder the countless links between our beliefs of food, our bodies and spirituality.

Today I bring up a question we all are confronted with, often, or rarely, but surely.

Should you weigh yourself?

There are a few popular approaches when it comes to stepping onto the scale to check how much you weigh.

Some people say it is a good source of accountability for maintaining their weight.  These people likely weigh themselves daily, or every week, or so.  They tend to know their weight at most, if not all, times.

Others say that the scale is meaningless and to throw it out.  They say they rely on how their clothing fits instead of their weight.  These people might know roughly how much they weigh, but they don’t make a habit out of reminding themselves based on a conviction that their weight really doesn’t really.

And, there are others, who haven’t decided one way or the other what to do with their scale (or if they should get a scale). They get anxious just thinking about stepping on it, and they get anxious just thinking about throwing it out.  Mostly, these people are just anxious.

It’s interesting to note how people approach their scale and how much power they give it.

A generalization is that those people who weigh themselves daily care alot, or more likely, too much, about how much they weigh.  They are known to be happy when they see lower numbers on the scale and upset when they see higher numbers (assuming they are maintaining or trying to lose weight).  Their whole day might very well be a reflection of the number they saw on the scale earlier that morning.  They might eat more or less based on their weight.  They might think they are a better or worse person depending on the number they see.

But this is only a generalization.  There exists many people who are in the habit of weighing themselves regularly who are not in the bit least tempted to base their success, happiness, or morality on what the scale reads.  They may make adjustments in what they eat based on how much they weigh, but it only goes as far as that.  They don’t view themselves differently or expect others to view them differently if their weight goes up or down.

In the same way, it would be a generalization to say that the people who rely on their clothing as the indicator of their weight, were of a balanced approach and to be used as worthy role models (as popularly taught).  They may not routinely weigh themselves, but they may be caught up in habitual self acceptance or self hatred based on their body size (how their clothing fits on it) on any given day.  They have the same mindset as the person who relies on a magic number on the scale only it is directed at a number on their wardrobe tag.

The truth is, no matter what you do with your scale, or if you have one at all, it really doesn’t matter.

There is alot of advice about the scale, these days.  People get very passionate about the topic. They may say to step on it daily to keep yourself motivated (to either maintain, lose or gain weight) or get it out of your house immediately because your weight is only your gravitational force to planet Earth (interesting point).

The important thing to remember about scales and using or not using them, is that it is your choice.

If you want to weigh yourself, you can.  If you don’t, you don’t have to.  If you want to remain anxious about the whole idea, so be it.

Know that no matter what the scale reads, it is your choice with how you will respond.  No matter how your clothes fit, you get to decide how you will feel about yourself and your day. And if you decide to remain undecided, you get to choose how you will deal with not knowing.

So, do what works for you.  Use your scale, or not, or never decide.  It is my opinion that your weight has nothing to do with anything noteworthy about today, but again, that is up for you to decide.

What do you think about this?  Do you think it matters how much you weigh?  How much others weigh?  Do you have a better day when you weigh a specific number or does it not mean very much to you?

Leave a comment to share your opinion!

Image from Smart Alex.

Mindful Eating #7: Does Eating Differently Than Others Bother You?

If you have modified your diet (for improved health or religion or self-discipline) for any length of time, you might feel like the woman in this illustration–sad and lonely, and left out of the lunch time fun that the other ladies seem to be sharing.

The above illustration exaggerates this idea, but it does bring up the interesting subject of feeling like your life will not be any fun if you eat differently than (or in the woman’s case, less than) other people.

If you have ever felt anxiety, or sadness, or tension prior to or while you are changing what you eat, it is worth exploring what you believe about the foods you are excluding.

It’s possible that you believe specific foods bring you happiness, comfort, joy, or peace, and that by not eating them, you risk being miserable.  It’s possible that you believe they provide you friendship and community, and without them you will be lonely.

It might sound silly, but it is a common approach if you are in the habit of relying on food to provide you happiness and a sense of belonging.

I would like to explore this idea further.

What causes us to rely on food for happiness or social connection?  Why might we feel the odd one out if we choose to eat differently than other people?  Is eating like other people necessary to genuinely connect with others?  Does any of this even matter?

I suspect that most people do not actually believe that a food makes them happy or one of the gang.  That is rather silly to suggest, as food is simply calories the body uses for immediate energy and long-term survival.

So what about not eating a food would cause a sense of lack?

Typically, changing what you eat (excluding specific foods) for health reasons is positive (as is for religious or self-disciplinary reasons).  If for health reasons, removing foods that leave you feeling blah, sick, or depressed will help you feel better physically and mentally.

So, what if you still have a sense of dread about not having them?

It is a good idea to ask yourself what you believe about a specific food that you exclude and how removing it impacts your sense of happiness and social connection.  Once you know what you believe about this, you can then decide if it’s a worthwhile pursuit to keep at your dietary changes.

This brings up another issue, which is when you decide to eat less of a specific food.  If you believe that you need to eat alot of something to enjoy it or to have a good time, you will likely experience negative feelings when you come to the moment of being done with your portion of it.  You might feel sadness to stop eating before others or before you are used to.

I’ve had to ask myself about these issues when it comes to foods high in sugar.  While they are tasty and fun to eat, they generally leave me feeling rather blah and down in the dumps.  When I am with people I enjoy and dessert is being passed out or ordered, I nearly always want to partake to share the experience with who I am with, but I also do not want to risk feeling blah after such a lovely time, so I usually pass (but not always).  I’ve had to get honest about what I think dessert will add to my overall experience and then decide if I will have it or not.

I have also had to get honest about thinking I need alot of dessert to have a good time.  This belief is not based on truth so when I start to feel sad that dessert time is over (and I have), I remind myself that I feel better with less (or none at all) and that I enjoy life, myself and other people  far greater when I don’t have more than a few bites of very sugary treats.

What do you think?  Does eating differently than other people have any impact on your experiences with them?  Do you feel more or less included in a group based on what you eat together?

What about eating less of a certain food?  Does the idea bother you or encourage you to keep at your goals?

Share your experiences by leaving a comment!

 

Image from Tumblr.