It is important not only to eat healthy foods but to eat them in the proper proportion. As a unique individual, you have an amount of calories needed each day and a weight range that is healthy and right for you. I wholeheartedly encourage you to visit with your primary care physician or gynecologist, if you have not done so already, and determine what a healthy weight looks like for you.
Different women have different body types and frames, so two women of the same height arrive at different healthy weights. Many women are as cyclical with their weight as they are with their periods. They lose and gain the same ten to fifteen to twenty pounds over and over again. When the weight is off, they’re happy. When the weight is on, they’re miserable.
Because of the nature of yo-yo dieting, the tendency over time is for the weight to come back on, stay on, and increase. As you work with your doctor to find your healthy weight, come up with a plan to not only achieve that weight but also maintain it over time.
Additionally, how you feel and the health of your body depends not only on what you eat but also what else you put into your body. If you are a smoker, I urge you to quit. Pumping nicotine into your system and smoke into your lungs is not good for you. The evidence of the damage done, apart from the dangers of lung cancer, is compelling. Smoking is an age accelerant, as its toxicity contributes to a more rapid decline of the body and overall health. If you smoke, you need to stop. This is also a conversation for you to have with your physician.
Be aware of the preservatives, additives, and hormones used in the foods you eat and drinks you consume. Many women have sensitivities and allergic reactions to these substances. Whenever possible, choose organic-type produce and foods. There are medical tests you can take that can help identify if your body is experiencing an ongoing allergic reaction to foods and other substances. If you suspect you are allergic to a certain food, eliminate it from your diet for a period of time and track your symptoms. When your body is under constant assault because of a sensitivity or allergic response, it will affect how you feel.
Be aware of the amount of alcohol you consume. As a chemical dependency professional, as well as a licensed counselor, I’ve seen the hard alcohol causes. If you have a problem with alcohol, don’t drink at all. If you don’t have a problem with alcohol, make sure to drink moderately. Not only do you need to be aware of the alcohol you are consuming, you need to also be aware of the extra calories in that alcohol. The more you drink, the more you impact the amount of calories consumed each day.
Lastly, be aware of the type and quantity of drugs you take. These include, of course, over-the-counter, prescription, and illicit drugs. If you are concerned about what you’re taking and how much, consider having a chemical dependency assessment done. These assessments factor in both legal and illegal substances and evaluate your level of dependency and abuse. If you’re worried or if family and friends have expressed their concern, if your use has interfered with your job or with social and family functions, I urge you to seek professional advice and assessment.
Please be aware that use and misuse of drugs is one strategy women use to self-medicate their feelings of anger. Because the anger is suppressed and not dealt with, it doesn’t go away. Because the anger doesn’t go away, the need for self-medicating doesn’t go away, and use can change to abuse.
If you or a loved one is struggling with body image or other dependency issues, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help. Call 1-888-771-5166 or fill out our contact form and someone will be in touch with you soon.
Few things bring as much comfort as homemade bread, especially when it’s hot out of the oven and slathered with sweet cream butter. It’s warm; it’s soft; it’s delicious. I attended a charity event, and one of the items up for bid in the silent auction part was called Delivered Comfort—homemade bread delivered to your house every week for two months. It was a very popular item. People would walk along the tables, reading all of the cards and descriptions of items to bid on, and when they’d come to this one, there was almost a universal sigh. “Oh, fresh hot bread every week!” You could hear the longing in their voices.
I kept track of this silent auction item because it intrigued me. Watching this particular bid sheet, I kept seeing the same bidder number. As other bidders outbid her, this bidder kept upping the ante. Finally, the bidder signed up for the “guaranteed bid”, which meant she would pay any higher price, thus guaranteeing herself the winning bid. It was her way of saying, “The bread is mine!”
Aren’t you like that about your comfort food? You tend to get grouchy if anyone tries to interfere with it. You need that food. It’s your reward. It helps you feel good. You use it to cope. It brings you back to your happy place. It’s your comfort.
In an increasingly uncomfortable world, comfort food takes on new importance. You’ve dealt with the ignorant and mindless eating, but comfort food isn’t ignorant or mindless. You know precisely what you’re after when you eat it and give it your complete and undivided attention. You don’t just eat it; you revel in it.
It is no accident that comfort food tends to be high in carbohydrates from grains and sugars. You’re after a certain outcome where this food is concerned, and without really knowing the science of it, you stumbled upon starchy, sugary food to achieve that feeling. Your unscientific trial and error with the pantry produces a very scientific result. Foods high in carbohydrates cause your body to have an increased supply of substance called serotonin.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, which is a fancy way of saying it provides a pathway for nerves to talk to each other. When your nerves are communicating with each other through serotonin, you feel relaxed and calm. If you have a lot of serotonin, you can feel drowsy. After that really big pasta meal on Sunday afternoon, what do you want to do? Why, take a nap! That’s serotonin at work.
One of the precursors of serotonin is tryptophan. If your body has tryptophan, it can make serotonin. Turkey has a large amount of tryptophan. After a big Thanksgiving meal, you sign, stretch, feel extremely content, then curl up on the sofa and snooze. This is your body on tryptophan.
Comfort food is physical, and it is emotional. It is snuggly, cuddly, feel-good food. The world can be harsh, stark, and edgy, so it’s no surprise you like your feel-good food. Even if you’re increasing your fruits and vegetables each day, this type of food can be difficult to give up, because if you give it up, you think you’re giving up comfort itself.
It’s not enough to add fruits and vegetables to your diet. It’s not enough to give up snacking. You need to come clean about your comfort food.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder and are ready to get the help you need to regain your health and to reach the end of the tunnel, call us at 1-888-771-5166 today.
The holiday party was still going full swing in the living room, so Bob felt safe ducking into the kitchen. His wife, JoAnn, was busy getting the holiday DVD setup for the kids in the family room, so he doubted anyone would be coming in. Half eaten meals littered the dishes spread along the countertops, many still with forks and spoons sticking out. If anyone did come in and catch him, Bob could say he was just clearing up for JoAnn.
Quickly going from dish to dish, Bob gulped down several spoonfuls or forkfuls of each plate. He really liked the fried stuffing Judy had prepared and stood hunched over the bowl, carefully picking off the crispy sides. Glancing around to see if he was still undetected, he sliced off a large wedge of cake and ate it with his fingers over the sink. When it was gone, Bob washed his hands and his mouth, removing any evidence. He sliced another large piece of cake onto a clean plate and walked back into the living room—with the “second plate” he’d announced he was getting when he first headed into the kitchen.
He’d worry about the consequences later. Either he’d work out a little harder or he’d just not eat for the next day or so. Tomorrow, he was determined to get serious about his eating habits, or at least after the holidays came to a close.
Binge eating consists of eating larger than normal amounts of food at least twice a week for a period of six months. Binge eaters show a lack of control during a binge episode, just like bulimics, but without the purging afterwards. There is no vomiting or excessive exercise or laxative use. Binge eating is also known as compulsive overeating and produces feelings of disgust, depression, or guilt over the amount consumed.
Binge eating has no relation to feelings of hunger. Not only will binge eaters eat when not physically hungry, they will also eat past normal signals of being full. Binge eating is marked by rapid and isolated food consumption. Embarrassed by the amount being eaten, binge eaters will choose stealth and speed to accomplish their goals.
Binge eaters like Bob especially struggle during the holiday season. Between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the excessive amounts of holiday treats and baked goods, there seems to be an endless supply of food within arms reach. Coupled with any stress caused by the holiday frenzy or family confrontations, binge eaters are likely at a greater risk for overeating during the holiday season.
It is important to be aware of this risk if you or a loved one may be struggling with an eating disorder. Pay close attention to eating habits during the holidays, especially to “private binges” that may happen when no one is nearby. If you believe you or a loved one is struggling with binge eating disorder, you may benefit from consulting an eating disorder specialist. Our team of eating disorder professionals at The Center • A Place of HOPE focus on whole-person recovery, and take special care to understand the many aspects in a person’s life that may be contributing to their eating disorder, including the possibility of emotional abuse. Fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to get more information or to speak with an eating disorder specialist today.
Guest blog post contributed by Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Director @ Eating Disorder Hope, and Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC, President @ Eating Disorder Hope
If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be struggling with an eating disorder, it may be difficult or confusing to understand the many signs and symptoms that may be present. Though there are many stigmas surrounding eating disorders, these diseases should not be taken lightly. Eating disorders are severe mental health illnesses that are caused by complex factors, such as biological, psychological, and environmental reasons.
Many of the misconceptions about eating disorders concern the reasons why eating disorders develop. Unlike a diet fad or the latest dieting trend, eating disorders are mental illnesses characterized by abnormal eating patterns and disturbed eating behaviors. These disorders are not simply an attempt to “lose weight”, or a “disease of vanity”. Whether it is Anorexia, Bulimia, or Binge Eating Disorder, these psychiatric diseases develop and progress over time. To heal from an eating disorder, a professional treatment team is needed to address the many factors involved.
With over 20 million women and 10 million men suffering from eating disorders in the United States, it is important to understand the signs that someone might be at risk for developing an eating disorder. Identifying these diseases as early as possible improves the chances for interventions and treatment outcomes. Thankfully, treatment methods are improving as eating disorders are better understood by researchers and health care professionals. While it may feel daunting to face the fact that you or someone you love has an eating disorder, recognizing what you are struggling with will only help the recovery process.
Given the complexity of eating disorders, it is critical to be aware of the different ways symptoms may appear. Eating disorders impact a person’s physical health, emotional well-being, relationships, finances, and more. If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be struggling with an eating disorder, look for these signs and symptoms:
- Abnormal food behaviors, rituals, or eating patterns, such as eating unusual portion sizes, cutting food into tiny pieces, hiding food, or purposely eating alone.
- Fixation with food, weight loss, and/or body image
- Obsession with counting calories, fat grams, nutrient content of foods, etc
- Heighted depression, lethargy, and/or anxiety
- Withdrawal from relationships, social functions, family, and friends
- Severely restricting caloric intake, resulting in unstable weight loss
- Intense fear of eating and/or weight gain
- Episodes of bingeing on a very large amount of food, followed by purging
- Feelings of guilt or shame in regards to eating or body image
- Feeling out of control while eating
While these symptoms may indicate that an eating disorder is developing, it is necessary to see a qualified health professional for a full assessment and diagnosis. If you are struggling with any of the above symptoms, it is important that you seek the help and guidance of a medical professional. Your life is valuable, and recovery from an eating disorder is possible, no matter what has brought you to this point in your journey. Though it may be scary to reach out and ask for the help you need, you are taking the most vital step in reclaiming your life and finding freedom from an eating disorder.
With a sigh of relief, Debbie stepped inside the house, locking the front door behind her. The first thing off was her shoes. The second was her pantyhose. She could feel herself spreading out, top to bottom, in relaxation. It was so good to be home. Heading into the kitchen, she kissed her husband dutifully and eagerly headed to the pantry. She loved the pantry even more than she did the refrigerator because the pantry held all of her reward foods. Debbie told herself she deserved a reward for being good all week on her diet. Debbie knew all about diets and rewards as she’d been on a diet for most of her adult life. She tried out every one of the latest, greatest diet fads.
They kept changing over the years while two very important things did not; Debbie’s weight did not change nor did her reward foods. That really didn’t concern her much. As long as she was on a diet, she could have her rewards. If she did well, she had them. If she didn’t do so well, she still had them because there was always Monday to look forward to.
Debbie considers herself to be on a perpetual diet. She dabbles in whatever new diet comes down the pike, convincing herself she’s on it while all the while only integrating the parts of that diet she likes or finds least onerous. She doesn’t actually lose any weight and has managed to gain a pound or two or three each year for the past several years. Being on a diet helps Debbie feel special. It also helps her justify any food behavior. If she doesn’t want to eat something, she can say it’s not on her diet. If she does want to eat something she knows she shouldn’t, Debbie figures since she’s on a diet, she’s entitled to “cheat” once in a while. She’s not that upset about not losing weight because that just means she’ll need to stay on a diet a little longer than she thought. And, for Debbie, it’s all about what she thinks instead of what she does. As long as she’s on a diet, she has the expectation that some day she’ll actually lose weight, even if she never quite seems to.
Does Debbie’s story sound familiar to you? Are you perpetually consumed by the thought of food, obsessed with the newest fad diet, and more concerned with how your food makes you feel instead of the nutrients it’s providing your body? Disordered dieting can come in many forms and habits. Freeing yourself from the constant preoccupation of your next diet or “cheat” can alleviate time and energy to become your highest preforming self.
Often, people are unable to conquer unhealthy dieting obsessions on their own, and seeking professional help is the best solution. If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, The Center • A Place Of Hope can help.
Call 1-888-771-5166 or fill out our contact form and someone from The Center • A Place of HOPE will be in touch with you soon.
Excerpts of this blog were taken from Dr. Gregory Jantz’s book Hope Help & Healing for Eating Disorders: A Whole-Person Approach to Treatment of Anorexia, Bulimia, and Disordered Eating.