*Originally posted on Jan. 1, 2017. Updated and republished Jan. 1, 2020
This will be a short and simple blog post, and the message is just what is stated in the title. It’s the New Year, and you’ll of course see that people are going on diets; you’ll see weight loss heavily marketed as a goal you “should” have.
I’m here to tell you that it should not be your goal as you welcome 2020.
Having goals of becoming healthier by nourishing yourself well, or goals of becoming stronger or more energetic by incorporating enjoyable activity into your life are fine goals to work toward at any time of year. But please do not fall into the temptation of trying to lose weight fast with restrictive, calorie-deprivation diets.
Whether you are trying to recover from binge eating or you are newly recovered, going on a restrictive diet is a risk not worth taking. The body and brain have survival mechanisms that kick into gear when you deprive yourself of enough food, which will harm your efforts to stopping binge eating for good, and prevent you from developing a healthy relationship with food. A deprivation diet will make it extremely difficult to dismiss urges to binge and prevent those urges from going away.
Even if you haven’t binged in a very long time and you are confident in your recovery, weight loss through restrictive dieting should still not be your focus. Recovery opens up your time and energy, and you can use that time and energy to do so much good. Why use it to focus on your weight and dieting? There is simply no need to turn your attention there when you now have freedom from bingeing and freedom to focus on much more important things.
If you aren’t happy with your body, or you think weight loss would benefit your health, restrictive dieting is still not a solution. I’ve talked in previous blog posts and podcast episodes about healthy ways to think about weight and approach weight regulation. I’ve compiled all of my weight-related discussions into one blog post titled “So, How do I Lose Weight?” , which I hope can be a helpful guide for you if you feel like weight issues are a challenge.
I realize that going on a restrictive diet and trying to get fast results can be tempting at this time of year, but ask yourself: Even if you could somehow manage to get fast results…then what? No one can maintain restrictive diets for long, which is why dieting has such a high failure rate. Attempting to start your New Year with a diet is extremely short-sighted. It’s following the crowd without considering the bigger picture of the rest of the year, or the rest of this decade, or the rest of your life. Even if you could lose weight temporarily, you’d have a slower metabolism and stronger hunger at the end of the process (two factors that make long-term healthy weight maintenance nearly impossible); and if you are a binge eater, a restrictive diet will only fuel your destructive habit.
Dieting is not a solution; it’s a path to more problems. Don’t fall for a “quick fix” that may last for the first three weeks of the year and then cause much more harm than good. Learning to stop binge eating, nourish your body, honor your hunger and fullness, and accept your natural weight is giving yourself a gift that will last a lifetime.
If you want to put binge eating behind you for good in 2020, the Brain over Binge Course offers powerful and practical guidance to help you toward your goal.
*Originally published in May 2018
This is the first part of a 2-part blog series on creating healthy changes for yourself after you end binge eating…that is, if you want healthy changes. There are certainly no requirements, and there’s nothing you have to do. You don’t need to eat healthily to achieve or maintain freedom from binge eating, but I know that so many binge eaters and former binge eaters are health conscious and want to improve their health.
I frequently promote the idea of eating all foods in moderation or allowing all foods (provided there are no allergies/sensitivities). Health-conscious binge eaters can be skeptical about this advice, because they may imagine that allowing all foods involves eating Lucky Charms for breakfast (more on cereal in part 2!), McDonald’s for lunch, take-out pizza for dinner, then maybe some candy for snacks, and being totally okay with eating like that every day. Eating all foods in moderation can involve eating that way sometimes, and I’ve had days since I stopped binge eating when my eating closely resembled what I just wrote; but if any of us ate like that for more than a few days or weeks in a row, we’d feel awful, and set ourselves up for health problems. This is not new information.
Where “everything in moderation” meets recovery…and good health
All of us living in this time of increasing nutrition knowledge need to come to terms with the reality that what we eat is important to our longevity and vitality. Even though you know this, you’ve likely experienced how difficult it is to try to make healthy changes while caught up in the binge eating habit. Binge eating typically sabotages efforts to make healthy changes; and also, trying to make a lot of healthy changes can take the focus off of the most important healthy change you need to make: stopping the binges.
I’ve worked with many people who are trying their best to eat as healthy as possible. They aren’t eating much sugar or processed foods, for example, as part of their normal daily intake. But privately, and with a lot of guilt, they are bingeing on large amounts of those very same foods. For some of these individuals, the only time they eat unhealthy food is when they are binge eating. They often believe they are powerless to eat unhealthy foods in moderation, or believe that eating those foods in moderation will make them gain weight. However, the cycle of trying to restrict the foods and then bingeing on the “restricted” foods is actually leading them to eat much more of those “restricted” foods than a moderation approach would.
This is why learning to allow foods is important.
If you can learn that you aren’t powerless against any food, you will build confidence that you can eat anything and not binge. If you instead continue to think one bite of sugar or wheat or fast food will cause you to be out of control, then you will never be totally free of the binge eating habit. This is the reasoning and purpose behind the everything in moderation approach in recovery…to empower you to realize that no food can make you binge. The purpose is not to convince you to be unhealthy.
So, when you hear me or anyone else recommend eating everything in moderation or allowing all foods, it doesn’t mean I don’t understand nutrition; it doesn’t I haven’t read the latest research on the keto diet, or whatever the popular “healthy” eating approach of the day happens to be. It means I want you to stop thinking you are powerless; it means I want you to have freedom from food rules; it means I want you to be realistic about the world we live in and the foods you will encounter, and the fact that no one follows a healthy eating plan 100 percent of the time. But, primarily, it means that – first and foremost – I want to you to be free of binge eating.
Becoming binge-free is a massively healthy change, and other healthy changes often naturally and effortlessly flow from there. Furthermore, allowing all foods, over time, usually leads to you eating less of those foods, because it breaks the diet mentality that gives those foods such a strong appeal. Of course, ending binge eating itself also vastly reduces the amount of unhealthy foods you consume.
What if you want more health improvements than stopping the binges provides?
You need to know that, although it’s life-changing and amazing, becoming binge-free does not automatically equal becoming healthy. It does not automatically equal you eating in way that makes you feel nourished day after day. It does not automatically equal sharp mental clarity and high energy. It certainly helps in a big way, but after binge eating recovery, you may indeed want to make more healthy changes.
The rest of this 2-part blog series is for those of you who are now binge-free, but feel a pull toward improving your health. It’s possible that you feel confused about how to improve your health if you are supposed to be allowing all foods, and eating everything in moderation, and of course – not dieting. In this post and the next, I’m going to discuss some issues related to this challenge. I hope you’ll come away from reading this series with some ideas and insights to help lead you into a healthier lifestyle (if that’s what you want), without feeling restricted.
You never have to stop eating everything in moderation…but make sure to”allow” a lot of nourishing foods
There is not a point after recovery where you say, “ok, I’m done with binge eating, so now it’s time to stop allowing all foods.” Eating everything in moderation isn’t only a strategy for recovery, it’s a lifelong strategy. You always have the freedom to eat what you want to eat, without fear of being out of control. But, again, that doesn’t mean you’ll be eating junk food at every meal. That, in fact, would not be “allowing” all foods, because you would not be allowing the truly nourishing foods that are natural and simple and good for your body.
The more you can allow foods that nourish you, the more satisfied you’ll feel, the more nutritionally balanced you’ll be, and the less you’ll tend to want the foods that aren’t serving you. You never have to put unhealthy food “off limits,” but adding and allowing and welcoming nourishment – without a restrictive mindset – can naturally help you move away from unhealthy foods. And, that choice won’t feel like it’s coming from a place of deprivation.
As you work to improve health, you get to make your own food choices on your own timeline
There are so many options when it comes to how to improve your eating and your health. You are the expert on your own body and it’s important to empower yourself to make choices that are in your best interest. If your friend is vegan and swears that makes her feel amazing, but you try eating that way and it doesn’t feel good, then trust that it’s not for you. If your co-workers are all trying to eat low-carb, but you feel unbalanced when you eat that way, then listen to your own body. Last year, I studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and a big concept was what they called “bioindividuality.” The term means that everyone’s biology and physiology are different, and what’s healthy for one person may not be healthy for another, based on countless factors. Some people do better with more carbs, or more protein, or less protein, or more fat, or less carbs…or with or without dairy, or soy, or wheat…or with more or less fruit or starch…and the list could go on and on. These are your decisions to make.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek advice from nutritionists or health experts, or do research on what may be healthy for you; but you have to sort through it and see what makes sense to you personally, and fits with the lifestyle you want to create for yourself. You also get to decide the timeline for implementing any healthy changes you want to make. There is no rush, there are no rules, and there is no pressure. You are crafting a way of eating and a lifestyle that works for you, and there is no end point. You will be on this ever-changing journey for the rest of your life.
In the next post (Part 2), I’m going to share a personal story of making a healthy change after recovery. I’ll talk about my relationship to sugary cereal – the food I most craved when I was dieting, and the food that made up my first binge and countless more after that. I’ll explain how I no longer eat it much at all, and how that change came about.
Before I end today, I want to also direct you to a podcast episode and a resource that fits with this topic. In Episode 31: Making Healthy Changes After Binge Eating Recovery, I interviewed Daniel Thomas Hind (*listen to this important message prior to the episode), who helps people improve their health through a process of learning new skills and habits around food. Although Daniel does work on helping people with weight loss, he always comes from a place of making sure his clients are well nourished and not feeling deprived. If you’ve stopped binge eating, and you want to make improvements to your health, it’s important to have options that don’t send you down the path of dieting. This is why I’m bringing Daniel’s ideas to you – as one possible resource you can use on your journey to better health.
I am not an expert in helping people make healthy changes to the way they eat (my main focus is on helping people end the binge eating habit), but Daniel provides a free call to help propel you into creating whatever healthy changes you want to make, and also to determine if his coaching program may be a fit for you. This is especially useful if you don’t actually struggle with binge eating, but instead tend to overeat frequently or have other eating habits you feel are problematic (like emotional eating, constant grazing, or food “addictions”). If you are someone who is still binge eating, keep your focus on ending that habit – by learning to dismiss binge urges, learning to eat enough, and practicing eating all foods in moderation, in whatever way works for you.
One final thing I want to mention about Daniel’s work relates to what I said in this post about choosing how you want to eat, based on your own unique body and lifestyle. It’s important for you to know that, although Daniel personally subscribes to a paleo-type lifestyle and does teach about that, he wants clients to choose and craft their own way of eating. Here is an excerpt from Daniel:
“It’s important to note that my stance on diet and nutrition is philosophically-rooted in an ethic of what’s natural and simple. As far as your actual diet goes, I do not claim to be a guru, and you are a unique human being. My teachings are a guideline, and are meant to serve as a foundational template, an example that’s worked for many. I provide all of these tools, foundations, teachings, and my approach in order for you to feel empowered to choose the diet that best expresses who you are in the world and the life you’d love to live.”
You can learn more about Daniel’s work and program by filling out this questionnaire.
Go to part 2 of this blog series.
If you’ve read my blog posts or listened to my podcast, you’ve likely heard about my Course. The course will be starting soon (at the time I’m publishing this post), but instead of just listing the features and benefits, I want to talk from the heart a little about this course.
I wrote Brain over Binge thinking that if I could just help one person, it would be worth all the time and effort I put in. I feel humbled every day that the book has helped thousands, and I continue to get frequent emails saying that the book has changed a person’s life and they are done with binge eating.
I also get emails with questions and requests for more personalized help, beyond what’s in my two books; and over the years, my desire to help just one person has grown into a desire to free as many people as possible from this habit. As an extremely busy mom of 4, I’ve discovered that one-on-one coaching isn’t the right fit for my life at this time, and I am able to help more people in a one-to-many format. The course and the podcast have been ways for me to do that. (I realize many people still want that one-on-one help, which is why I’m now referring people to HealEd if they decide private coaching is the best way forward).
The Course has changed format this year, but I want to talk about how the current course has taken shape and how it offers an affordable alternative to private coaching. Although it does not provide one-on-one help or group coaching, the course has shown to be a powerful form of guidance.
In this course, I answer nearly every question I’ve been asked since publishing Brain over Binge in 2011. I’ve always kept notes of common questions that I received through email, and concerns that came up frequently in one-on-one coaching, and issues that people tended to struggle with when the 8-week course was in a group format. I’ve seen so many common themes and common areas where most people need some advice; and since I’m only one person, I decided it would be more helpful to consolidate all of my answers, insights, suggestions, and experiences, and record these responses. This went from an idea to a mission that I poured my heart and soul into and that took up much of my life for months. The result was over 80 Q&A recordings that are now part of the course. The course itself includes over 13 hours of audio, and the Q&As make up the majority of that time.
Just like with my books, what’s made it worthwhile is to hear from people who have benefited from the Q&A’s. Here is just one quote from a member of the June 2019 course:
“The Q and A’s were unbelievably helpful. Thank you, thank you. I feel completely confident that I’ll remain binge free for the rest of my life because, for the first time, I have the tools for ongoing recovery.”
Now, I also want to share the other side of this, in order to help you make a decision that’s right for you. The one negative response I got about the Q&As through a survey was that it felt impersonal to have audios to listen to instead of a person to talk to. That’s a completely valid concern, and if you are someone who does better talking to someone directly and getting feedback, then private coaching might absolutely be the right fit.
I’m sure you already know that private coaching (and even group coaching) can be very expensive. It is definitely valuable to have a coach to talk to, and I’m not trying to discourage anyone from doing that. But if private coaching isn’t feasible for you, or simply doesn’t feel like the right fit right now, I hope my course can be the next best thing…and, for people who are more introverted (like me:-)) and hesitant to talk about their problems with others, it may even be the best thing.
I want everyone to get the help they need regardless of cost, and that especially applies when medical and nutritional interventions are necessary. However, for those who are stable physically and who are not suffering from severe and complicating mental health conditions, I hope my course can provide guidance in a refreshing and effective way.
I think back on my own recovery, and despite the thousands of dollars my parents and I spent on therapists, what ultimately led me toward recovery was a $12 book in 2005 (Rational Recovery). But, many people feel like they need more than a book (whether it’s mine or someone else’s), and that’s perfectly okay because everyone is different.
The Course can be a next step that is still affordable but provides so much extra guidance. When this course was in a group format, it was $399, but since I replaced the group calls and the Facebook forum with the 80 Q&A audios, the course is less than half of that price ($179).
You can learn more about the other features of the course. I hope you will consider if this is the right opportunity for you, and if you sign up, I hope the course leads you to a binge-free life.
To end this post, I want to share one more testimonial from a former course member:
“This course hit the mark on so many fronts. It was well organized and easy to use. I loved all of the audio recordings, including the informational Q&As. Most importantly, it spoke to me and helped me to solidify my decision to stop bingeing. Every week I learned something new that deepened my resolve to quit bingeing and enhanced my understanding of this terrible habit. Thank you Kathryn! This course was a wonderful addition to your two books.”
*Originally posted on May 1 , 2011. Updated and re-published on July 23, 2019 (My little boy I wrote about here is almost 13!)
My four-year-old son gave up sucking his “binky” (pacifier) a couple weeks ago. We had already reduced his use of it during the day, but he was still very attached to it at naptime and bedtime. We decided to offer him a reward to quit. We let him pick out a toy in exchange for his pacifiers, and he’s been thoroughly enjoying the airplane set he chose, and he’s seemingly forgotten about his pacifiers.
This is a kid who I could have never pictured without his pacifiers. When I think back to his baby years, the main image in my mind is him looking at me with big blue eyes and sucking away on his pacifier. When he was very young, we couldn’t leave the house without a binky, and when I kissed him goodnight, I had to always make sure he had one for his mouth, and a couple extra in his bed so he’d be sure to find one if he woke up in the middle of the night. He loved his binkies, they were his favorite way to self-soothe.
An Lesson in Simply Letting Go
I didn’t think it would be as simple as it was for him to give up the pacifiers. He had a few nights where he slept less and fussed more, but now, he acts like he never had them in the first place. My husband and I were prepared to give him lots of extra comfort during the initial “withdrawal” phase; but it turned out that he was fine without them. He stopped performing the habit, and in turn, the desire for the habit seems to have gone away already. I can’t be absolutely sure because I haven’t talked about the pacifiers in over a week, as I don’t want him turning attention to them unnecessarily. I told myself I’d only talk about them if he started the conversation; but he hasn’t, and because he’s a very talkative kid, I think this is good evidence that he’s not thinking about the pacifiers.
Observing my son simply let go of this habit that he was so attached to just weeks ago has me thinking about how people – young and old – have the ability to give up bad habits without much drama. I’ve been drawing parallels between a child giving up a pacifier and adults giving up their harmful behaviors and addictions. I believe that if adults who struggle with destructive habits could model the example of young children, then giving up those habits would be much less complicated.
Adult Habits are Treated with More Complexity
Why are adults told they are diseased or psychologically unwell because they have a bad habit or because they repeatedly overuse a substance? Why are they often excused from simply quitting, and told they are powerless? We do not tell our children they are powerless over their habits (otherwise, there would be widespread adult pacifier use).
Was my son “addicted” to his pacifier? I realize that the word “addiction” can be charged and has different meanings to different people, but I think I could argue that yes, he was addicted to his pacifier, even though there was not a chemically-addicting substance involved. But, did being “addicted” mean he was flawed or broken or had underlying emotional issues he needed to resolve? Absolutely not. Did being “addicted” mean he was not capable of simply stopping the behavior moving on with his life? No. And, I want to encourage binge eaters to believe that they are also capable of simply letting go.
The way I quit binge eating was indeed very similar to the way my son quit using his pacifiers. I stopped letting a binge be an option. I decided that I didn’t do it anymore, no matter what, and the urges to binge faded when I no longer acted on them. It did take longer for my urges to binge to go away than it seemed to take for my son to lose his desire to suck his pacifiers; and this is possibly because a child’s brain is more plastic and more easily changed than an adult’s. Nevertheless, my brain moved on and developed new neural pathways; and I developed new interests and things to think about; and the feeling of wanting to binge became merely a memory.
Your Lower Brain May Act Like a Child, but Your Higher Brain Can Guide You to Freedom
A difference between my son and me was that my son wouldn’t have chosen to stop sucking his pacifiers on his own, at least not anytime in the near future. He needed my husband and I to tell him when it was time to stop, and take the pacifiers away. Likewise, the more primitive part of a binge eater’s brain (which I call the lower brain) is “addicted” to binge eating and wants to continue the habit indefinitely, receiving whatever temporary pleasure and comfort it brings. The lower brain needs a higher authority to say “it’s time to stop,” and in adults, that voice of reason is the prefrontal cortex (which I call the higher brain). The higher brain is the part of you that knows binge eating is not what you truly want, and it is the part of you that is capable of dismissing the urges to binge. *For help learning how to dismiss the urges to binge, you can get my free eBook.
Ending Binge Eating Can be as Straightforward as Quitting Your Childhood Habits
If, right now, you believe your binge eating brings you comfort and pleasure that you can’t live without, just think of all the children who bravely hand over their binkies, or stop sucking their thumb, or stop carrying their favorite blanket everywhere they go. I know that not all children give up their habits as easily as my son did, but even if there is a difficult phase in the beginning, the child eventually stops and it just isn’t that big of a deal.
I am not trying to minimize the problem of adult addictions by comparing them to childhood habits, but I am trying to help you see that quitting a harmful behavior does not have to be so complicated. It also does not have to involve a major personal transformation or solving your life’s problems. Deciding to give up a harmful habit does take courage, but it’s well worth it, and it may not be as difficult as you think. After a couple of weeks binge-free, you may be surprised to feel your desire to binge fading quickly. You’ll feel confident when you realize you didn’t truly need the habit after all, and you’ll feel free when you realize you are so much better off without binge eating in your life.
The Brain over Binge Course will help you let go of ideas that are making habit change more complicated than it needs to be, and help you tap into your own power to end binge eating without drama.