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Monthly Archives: May 2017

May 20

From Binge Eating to Weight Loss

By Maryclaire Brescia | Uncategorised

As nutrition coaches, people come to us when they are stuck and not making progress. One particularly challenging and recurring example of this is people who struggle with binge eating and excess weight, both of which they would like to lose for good.  It's not hard to see that binge eating (consuming objectively large amounts of food in a single sitting while feeling out of control) is counterproductive to weight loss. What's harder to see is why someone in this situation actually shouldn't try to work on both goals at the same time.

Working on losing weight is counterproductive to binge eating recovery, however binge eating recovery is the single best step toward attaining a healthy weight.

Is that a mind-bender or what? Let's explore.

Friends and families of our clients who fit this profile often know them as the Super Healthy Eaters, who never seem to eat any sweets, or maybe they are the strict Paleo dieter in their circle of friends. They may have "always been on a diet." But behind closed doors, all the restriction drops away at some moments, and hundreds or thousands of calories are eaten in numbing desperation.

Sometimes no one knows; Sometimes everyone suspects but no one says anything. And sometimes other people do know and try to help, yet just don't know how.

Binge eating and restriction become a frustrating cycle that batters a person's body and self-esteem. It feels like a prison of shame, where every escape attempt ends up back in the same place.

One typical client, whom we'll call Beth (not her real name), despaired each time she looked in the mirror or tried on an outfit before work. The twenty-five extra pounds she saw in her reflection just didn’t belong on the person she wanted to be. She described how she imagined her friends and colleagues wondering about her. After all, she gets up at 5 am to workout intensely almost every single day, how come she isn’t absolutely ripped? She felt like the extra weight on her body told she must have a secret eating life. They must think she has no willpower, she worried. She was disgusted with herself.

She re-committed to sticking 100% to her very structured diet and vigorous exercise. She made rules for herself to make sure that she would stay in control and on plan. If only she could follow her diet to the letter, then this time she would be successful. Day after day she logged her calories and macronutrients. She skipped the takeout place, and eliminated all junk food. She didn't eat fruit (too much sugar) or nuts (too much fat). She stopped eating dairy and swore off gluten, too, because so many people said they were bad.

Then one day as she walked home after a particularly stressful day at work, she became embroiled in some familiar thoughts. Overwhelm and unhappiness swirled all around her. She just wanted to feel better; desperately needed to escape this moment. There must be a release valve. Why not just get stop by the convenience store....one time doesn’t matter. She could worry about it again tomorrow. Her palms started to sweat when she imagined the cold deliciousness of her favorite ice cream. Her heart raced.

Once the floodgates opened she found herself eating uncontrollably.

She went through the ice cream and cookies she brought home, then ravaged the pantry. Cereal, peanut butter, even crackers she didn't really like. She felt like she was in a daze, unaware of what she was doing, or like it wasn’t real. There was some relief that at least the tension about whether or not to binge was gone. The workday seemed far away, there was just food, food, and more food.

However, waking the next day it was all too clear how real it was. Packages and crumbs littered the counters, evidence was all around. She felt sick, bloated and demoralized as she cleaned.  She wondered how she could do this yet again when she promised herself that this time would be different. It felt like she would never get rid of this problem. It wasn’t even worth trying.

Beth’s story illustrates how strict dieting as a way to control binge eating can backfire, but it’s almost always the route people take when they are overweight and unhappy. After all, isn’t the entire world of magazines and the internet telling us, if we want to lose weight we need to eat less and move more? Then why isn’t working? If we want desperately to lose fat, how can we not try and eat less?

For someone with binge eating disorder or a habitual tendency to binge eat, cutting calories to encourage weight loss just stokes the fire of burning urges to binge. The stress of restraining and limiting food intake makes a person want to binge from a psychological trigger, while the state of drastic calorie deficit amplifies the physiological drive to eat uncontrollably.

Dieting is a one way street for someone who binge eats. Actually it’s more like a traffic circle, leading round and round, but never getting anywhere. Not to weight loss. Not to binge freedom, just endless circles of demoralization and shame.

If you do have initial success with reducing calories, even lose a few pounds, you feel excited! But often that confidence causes trouble. Perhaps you try to let yourself celebrate with a little treat… and it leads to a wipeout that erases any progress you made in weight loss and leaves you feeling hopeless (yet viciously motivated to get back on that diet and do it right this time.) Overeating followed by strong feelings of remorse as well as undereating can set you up for a vicious cycle. You might hear other people talk about hungry and satisfied feelings, but feel like yous must be busted. You never feel like that, you just want unending quantities of food, so how would you ever lose weight unless you stay controlled?

As glum as this scenario is, there is a different, more effective way to approach the problem. Instead of trying to accomplish two things at once: stopping bingeing and losing weight, we get great results because we separate the journey. The first step is to stop binge eating without attempting weight loss. Aiming for calorie balance gives someone the best possible set up to combat binge eating and win for a change. Life is hard enough, isn’t it, without adding a calorie deficit to the mix? We all have pressures and stresses, emotional sore spots and people who grate on us. Family issues, work concerns, identity, sex, finances…. There are plenty of emotional challenges which pose binge eating triggers, we believe you can cross intense hunger off the list for the first chapter. There’s plenty of other tough stuff to learn to work through in the initial phase.

First, the goal is to stop bingeing.​

For this portion we follow the recommendations of the most widely studied and most successful treatment available based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. We also include elements of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to provide a framework for resilience in the face of difficult emotions. Equipped with tools and strategies to use for emotional management, the binge becomes an outdated coping mechanism. One that gets less and less use, and eventually gathers dust.

The key components are to establish a pattern of regular eating and to practice detaching from urges to binge. Many people who binge eat are erratic eaters. They may skip breakfast or skip meals post binge. Or perhaps they are trying to accomplish a low calorie diet. This feast or famine eating can add to the physiological pressure to binge. To counteract this we recommend a regular eating schedule of 5-6 meals per day. These meals act like stepping stones to get you through the day binge-free. In this way you are only a couple of hours at most from your next meal. This gives our bodies time to grow accustomed to an even, predictable feeding pattern, and to allow our natural hunger and satiety cues time to normalize.

Then, a period of time needs to pass for things to settle. Since they’re new, the cognitive tools and self-regulation strategies need to be practiced, so they become easier to remember and grab at the right moment. After several weeks, of regularly spaced, normally-sized meals, the digestive tract and central nervous system have changed in a positive way. Frequent binge eating leads to distorted reward signaling in the brain, abnormal motility in the digestive tract (causing digestive symptoms such as pain, bloating, constipation), and a dulled or absent perception of hunger, satisfaction or fullness. Thankfully each of these will improve during the recovery process, it just takes some time of normal, regular eating.

Once the frequency of binge episodes have markedly subsided and stabilized, and the hunger and satisfaction signals have begun to emerge, it’s finally time when weight loss is possible. It’s difficult to be patient enough to get to this point, but the investment in mental and physical wellness allows a person to finally, FINALLY, escape that prison. If someone still wants to lose weight, in the third phase we gradually introduce weight loss habits using the successful Lean Habits system.

As for the best weight loss approaches, we recommend that anyone make changes that are sustainable and not exceedingly uncomfortable, we not fans of the rapid or drastic for anyone. But for someone with a history of binge eating, sustainability and reasonableness is even more crucial, because the old coping mechanism of the binge might be gathering dust, but it’s still there. Overwhelm, extreme physical discomfort or emotional pain can increase the urge to relapse. So it important to protect yourself from unnecessary strain (like a 7 day juice fast) and treat yourself lovingly. You have time to lose any excess weight, there is no urgency, and managing your environment to eliminate avoidable triggers is wise. Your health and happiness are worth it, and by reaching this point you will have accomplished something extraordinary. It’s well justified to treat yourself like a pretty amazing person, who has come through a hard road but stood strong and changed their life for the better.

May 07

How To Stop Wrecking Your Diet Every Evening

By Georgie Fear | Uncategorised

For a lot of people, from the instant the alarm sounds in the morning, we’re on a schedule.

We have to be in the shower by a certain time, out the door at a certain time, get to our desk at a certain time, and that’s just the beginning.

Opening our calendars we peer at the day ahead and it looks like…. more things on a schedule. Meetings, phone calls, picking up kids and even stuff we might want to do like get to a hairstylist all happen in their respective time slots.

Into the evening hours, tasks continue. You might be picking up or dropping off kids, figuring out the grocery situation, or seeing if we can get a workout in. ​The dog needs a walk, and that stack of mail that came today needs to be looked through.

While this organization of our day can go along way to helping us be productive, many people look forward to the end of their day when there is nothing on the agenda. Usually, dinner is the last “event”, and after that it’s just, free time. It’s no coincidence that dinner (and the time between dinner and bedtime) is the meal where many people find they tend to eat the most.

Unlike breakfast and lunch, which can seem like relatively straightforward pauses in the day for nourishment, dinner has this whole aura of concluding our workday, and we don’t just gather ‘round the table for food, but also for relaxation, ceremony, family, and a feeling of comfort. We let our guards down at dinner. It’s the meal we tend to linger around after, rather than darting off. And it’s often the meal where taking second helpings or grazing on leftovers during cleanup transitions our calorie intake from a goal-focused day to a weight-gain day.

A simple tip I am going to share with you can help you save the relaxing, enjoyable aspects of dinner and continue it into your evening, while helping you avoid excess food in the process. I mentioned earlier how we tend to be scheduled during the day, up until dinner time, and thereafter it’s just “free time”. And the last thing you might expect is that I’m going to suggest you actually put something in that time spot. But, that IS what I’m going to suggest.

It's called Planning The Next Thing, and it can help you stop a nightly pattern of oops-I-undid-it-again. ​You know, after you successfully create a calorie deficit 21 hours out of the day but reverse it in the last 3.

Before you freak out that I’m taking away the only precious downtime in your day - rest assured that I’m not going to try to twist your arm into doing some more work, folding laundry or filing receipts when you really want to be playing a game on your phone or relaxing on the couch.

I’m not talking about scheduling anything productive, I’m talking about simply planning one thing to do immediately after dinner, and hopefully, you’ll select something you will really look forward to.

The idea is that you aren’t going to be “done relaxing” after the meal, so you don’t have to eat extra just to prolong the enjoyment. You’re going to transition from the enjoyable eating chapter to the other enjoyable thing you have planned. No loss! Having a dinner+activity plan also helps prevent lingering or grazing from not really knowing what to do (so I’ll have some of these crackers while I think about it…” Don’t be intimidated, because the activity planning part might be the easiest thing you ever did. It can be the same every night. It might be “Go upstairs and read”. Or “Sit on the couch, turn on tv”, or “See who is on “Facebook Messenger”. It doesn’t have to be active, intellectually stimulating or productive. Really. That’s not the point.

Even if this is something you already do each night, it can actually change your outlook to start thinking of it as your after dinner enjoyment activity. If the thought comes in “hm, maybe I want seconds”... you can respond with, “I’ll go start that movie, and if I REALLY want more food, I can always come back.” Or, if you’re thinking how yummy the food is, and that you don’t want the meal to end, you can remind yourself that you have more enjoyment coming after the meal, you don’t need to “Get it all in now” (because chili is not the last form of pleasure in your day.)

It’s all part of creating an abundance mindset, where food is one of life’s richest joys, but just one of many.

We aren’t going to run short of any of them. In this space, we are calm, we are at our most giving and least reactive, and we can best sense how much we truly need to eat. So go ahead, plan on relaxing after dinner, look forward to it as a purposeful activity, and use it to step away from the table.