Monday, November 30, 2009

Do you feel out of control?

Many of us who struggle with our eating behavior in general and emotional eating in particular may feel out of control in other areas of our lives as well. Perhaps our relationships are not satisfying or someone close to us is ill or in emotional pain. We may have been viewing ourselves as “soothers” or “givers.” Most of us have grown up with clear messages that it is our job to take care of those around us. We may imagine that it is our innate responsibility to keep all those around us free from any form of pain or suffering. We respond to everyone else’s needs and lose sight of our own. We allow others to occupy the spaces in our minds and hearts.

We push ourselves out of the picture instead of keeping ourselves and our needs in the foreground. We think we have to protect everyone. It doesn’t matter that this is impossible. If, for example, we see a loved one experiencing distress, we may feel guilty and upset – as if we are personally responsible for their pain. There are good reasons for this and for the many other distorted perceptions we experience. We will consider more reasons for overeating in future blogs but for now please know that feeling out of control with food generally means we are feeling out of control in other areas of our life as well.

my very best,
Dr. Denise,
Emotional Eating Expert

Monday, November 23, 2009

Why do we overeat?

Overeating is about a lot of things. It is about how we feel about ourselves at the, about self-love and self-loathing. It’s about feeling off balance and disconnected. It’s also about what’s going on in our bodies on a cellular level and about how tired or how stressed we feel. Food abuse has to do with the quality of our relationships and the environment in which we live. It has to do with what our hormones are up to and what season it is of the year. Destructive and/or healthy food behaviors tie in with our attitudes about ourselves and others and the world we live in. It is also about the messages we have carried with us from childhood. What we eat, where, when, how and with whom we eat, are all important pieces of information for us to explore if we are to serve our bodies well and manage our own needs effectively. Selecting what we put into our bodies and the ways that we manage that process are complex phenomena. Urges to eat are amazingly strong and we can feel overpowered by them. We may sometimes feel that we have no say in the matter at all. Urges overwhelm us. We feel helpless to stop or control them.

To be successful at managing eating behavior, it is helpful to understand why reasonable eating is so difficult to accomplish. If we have no idea why we are doing something, our chances of changing that behavior are minimal. Instead, we tend to view our behavior as mysterious and beyond our control. If we examine some of the motives behind our out-of-control, usually emotional eating behavior and gain insights into our own personal reasons for overeating, we can demystify the process and empower ourselves to make different, informed choices.

In the weeks ahead, I will shine a light on some of the reasons we overeat at times. Meanwhile, when you have urges to grab those cookies and chocolate bars, sit still for just a moment, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and see if you can pin point why you are heading towards the treats in your cupboard or in the candy machine. Sometimes just breaking the cycle by doing this can help you ward of your Chew.

Meanwhile, be gentle with yourself and enjoy your day! warmly, Dr. Denise

Monday, November 16, 2009

What is the Chew?

Since this is the Chew Tamer's Blog I thought it would be nice to review what exactly the Chew is. So here goes...

What is the Chew? The Chew is our saboteur. She/he is a devious, powerful, destructive little creature who is always lurking somewhere within us to sabotage our most sincere and ambitious attempts to stop eating compulsively. The Chew is not a stranger to the millions of us who have struggled with food control issues for a lifetime. She/he is a ravenous monster who lures us into donut shops and candy stores and who crams food into our mouths with brute force. She/he is a hurtful, persistent, out of control part of each of us. As you read these weekly blogs you will become well acquainted with your personal Chew and you will learn ways to cope with him or her. As you become intimately familiar with your Chew you will be fully equipped to win your battles against compulsive emotional eating.

Please approach this experience one day at a time in an open way. Suspend any expectations you now hold about your eating behavior. It has taken you years to become a compulsive eater. Your Chew has been in charge for a long time and it will take a bit of time to reverse old, self-destructive behaviors. Be patient and gentle with yourself as you learn ways to manage your personal Chew and you will discover ways to neutralize his/her power. As you become more familiar with yourself you will be able to sense the Chew’s presence before you reach for the cookies. You will be able to maintain control over yourself, your eating behavior and your life.

You can never be free of your Chew entirely. She/he has been with you since your earliest years and is a vital part of your humanness. You can, however, learn to accept this as part of you and ignore your self-destructive urges. You can Tame your Chew. You can live free from insistent urges to binge. With regular reading, this blog will help!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Transitions and emotional eating

A difficult time for many of us to approach our eating behaviors in a thoughtful way is when we find ourselves in any kind of transition. Transition means any time of change – any time when there are important decisions to make or conflicting feelings to experience. We may be moving to a new location, beginning a new job, having a child, graduating from or entering school, for example. It is common to feel fearful and overwhelmed when we face change and emotional eating is one way we take care of ourselves during such times. ( By the way, using the Bach remedy Elm can calm your overwhelmed feelings and the Bach Emotional Eating Support Kit can help you regain control and come back into a centered, positive balance.)

Transition also means any movement, growth, or challenge. A woman may be changing her marital status, entering her menopausal years, coping with illness or caring for aging parents or a sick child. Transition can also be as simple as getting in the car to go from one location to another. (Have you ever wondered why you sometimes feel “driven” to binge while you are driving?) So be aware that whenever you are involved in any process of growth and facing change you may be particularly susceptible to emotional overeating and your Chew may seem particularly powerful at that time. As mentioned in The Taming of the Chew, understanding this and realizing that you are not the only one who feels out of control at times can help you turn your attention away from berating yourself and perpetuating your self-destructive behavior. Then you can be more gentle with yourself and begin taking positive, healthy actions on your own behalf.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Are you a binge-eater?

Following is a clinical description of a “binge eater” which I have excerpted from The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition (DSM IV, 1994) used by the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations to identify and diagnose various disorders. One condition that they have labeled “binge-eating disorder” pertains to persons who eat in an out of control way. Following is a list of criteria that must be met in order for this diagnosis to apply. Please read the following information carefully. If you fit the criteria for binge-eating disorder (or if you struggle with Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa), I urge you to consult professionals who are knowledgeable and skilled in the treatment of food control issues.

Binge Eating Disorder

A. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode is characterized by both of the following:
1. eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances.
2. a sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating)

B. The binge-eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:
1. eating much more rapidly than normal
2. eating until feeling uncomfortably full
3. eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
4. eating alone because of being embarrassed by how much one is eating
5. feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating

C. Marked distress regarding binge eating is present.
D. The binge occurs, on average, at least two days a week for six months.
E. The binge eating is not associated with regular use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors (e.g., purging, fasting, excessive exercise) and does not occur exclusively during the course of Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa. (If you are using these inappropriate, dangerous compensatory behaviors please do seek professional help.)

If you did meet the above criteria, begin by scheduling an appointment with your medical doctor for a complete physical (which includes appropriate blood work). You may also wish to consult someone who is open to holistic health and uses alternative practices in his or her work (such as herbal therapy, homeopathy, naturopathy, etc.) You may also want to consult with a nutritionist who is open to alternative eating styles and possibly to meet with a psychologist or psychotherapist. Having this support and guidance can help. Also, for many of us, it may be useful to view food abuse as a powerful addiction – as a dependency and to locate a professional who can work with us from that perspective. Only you know how problematic food is for you and only you can evaluate the degree to which you are dependent upon food and whether or not you should seek professional help.

You are worth taking care of!