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Do you feel like you’re fighting food?

Last week, a patient presented the situation of going to restaurants with her partner who really likes going to restaurants and takes a very long time to eat. She sits there with the basket of popcorn, and her food and his food and feels like she is fighting the food the whole time. As we got to talking, we came up with a plan of multiple lines of defense. It is said that the best offense is a good defense if you are “fighting” something.

Situational defense is when we stay out of the situation entirely.

Environmental defense is when we ask that the bread or popcorn not be brought to the table, for example.

Chemical defense is using medication to bring the pleasure chemicals to the brain so that we aren’t looking toward food for pleasure. 

Mechanical defense is weight loss surgery which has been helpful to many people. 

Mental defense is reminding ourselves why we want to eat certain foods or amounts and avoid others.

Emotional defense, which is to say for most of us, we eat over what’s eating at us, we have to face our stuff so we don’t stuff our face, and peace of mind protects from piece of cake. Or as Dr. Tran Tien says, “When we were up our weight went down and when we were down our weight went up”.

Social defense is to socialize with people whose lifestyle goals are in alignment with our own. This can be challenging when we are in the process of changing our lifestyle and those close to us are not. So having others who are on a similar wellness and/or weight loss path can really help.

Behavioral defense involves choosing one or more “no matter what” habits that we just won’t do, no matter what. This woman chose to set the intention that no matter what, she just won’t eat any popcorn at the restaurants (it’s easier not to start than to stop).

Innermost defense is a place at the center of our very being that no matter what situation, environment, people, medication, surgery, habit, thought, or emotion is or is not present, we can come to rely on. It is the place from which we focus, pay attention, are aware, present, mindful and conscious. Interestingly, these are all words people will describe that they know they need in order to “win the battle” with food.

How do you find this place? It may not be easy, but it is simple:

1. Breathe  2. Be aware of your breath  3. Be aware

To paraphrase Jon Kabat Zinn the great mindfulness teacher: Awareness is always with us and yet it takes a lifetime to build, grow, develop and strengthen this presence within us. But I can assure you that as we do, we have the most reliable self-defense in our “fight” with food. Speaking of awareness, I am aware that this last defense may seem confusing, elusive or intangible. I invite you to bring your questions to me if you desire to explore this part of wellness & weight loss. 

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I Want Freedom!

“I want freedom to eat sugar, but when I eat it I’m not free at all. It takes over and I can’t stop!”

 A patient said this to me once and spoke for so many people. With Thursday being July 4th, freedom is a fitting topic to focus on. When it comes to food and eating, some of us feel anything but free. This is because certain foods and ingredients such as sugar, salt, fat and starch change our brain cells and result in the experience of cravings. The experience of cravings feels the opposite of freedom. Certain eating behaviors can do this too, such as mindless munching or binging. The paradox is that in order to be free FROM these foods, ingredients and eating behaviors, we have to be free OF the foods, ingredients and behaviors. The price we pay to be free FROM them is we need to be free OF them.

Most people find in 5 days they are 80% free, after 21 days about 90% free and after 90 days, 100% free. This is true for the cravings caused by the food. There are also cravings caused by mood. For those, we need to face our stuff so we don’t stuff our face. The price we pay for freedom from stress eating is to either go to counseling, learn mindfulness coping skills, follow the twelve steps, or some path that helps you find peace of mind that protects you from piece of cake.  So as you celebrate freedom this holiday week, I hope that You experience freedom as well. Freedom from the pain of out of control eating that results in freedom from excess weight, freedom from medical problems, freedom from fear of your clothes not fitting, freedom from the regrets of having eaten too much.

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Help Another, Help Yourself

Sometimes we know what to do but we just can’t do it. Then the light bulb goes off and we are able to do the thing we couldn’t get ourselves to do.

The other day, a woman who had been feeling a bit stuck in her ability to change her behavior shared an inspiring story. She had invited a younger woman to her home, a woman for whom she is a bit of a mother figure. The younger woman presently carries much more excess weight than the patient. The patient felt deep empathy and compassion for her young friend. With the friend in her home, she began to see the contents of her kitchen with new eyes, as if for the first time. She saw many processed foods lacking nurturing macronutrients and micronutrients. She heard herself say silently, “you would not feed this to this dear young friend, why would you have it here and feed it to yourself?”

When her young friend left, she was propelled by the love and wise thoughts that had entered her heart and mind. Even though the not so nourishing food may have been there for months or years, it was gone in a matter of minutes. In performing this act, and sharing it with me so that I can share it with you, she demonstrated that when we truly help another, we help ourselves, we cannot find where one ends and the other begins. Also, this story teaches us that when we try so hard to force changes in our behavior without change in our thoughts and feelings, we often end up frustrated and “beating ourselves up”. But when we do change our thoughts and feelings, behavior change can come much, much more easily.

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Can we ever make sense of the scale?

One day a woman told me that she and her friend went to Boston on a Friday night and ate dessert and the next morning when they went to Weight Watchers, she had lost 4 pounds. She felt she had gotten away with eating the dessert. And like many people, she felt that the scale just doesn’t make any sense and that when she was “good” the scale went up and when she was “bad” the scale went down. The conclusion was, “why even bother?!” 

Over the years this has caused me to think you could win a Nobel Prize or something if you could determine when what you consume today actually, really, truly shows up for real as more or less body fat on the scale. Well, one of you may deserve the Nobel Prize as far as I am concerned! (You know who you are). 

The person I am describing actually gained 30 pounds in the first 3 years of coming to me. She could not make heads or tails of food, eating, appetite, weight or much else. Every time she thought the scale would go down it went up and every time she thought the scale would go up it went down. 

Since then a lot has happened and her body today weighs nearly 140 pounds less than that highest weight. She has learned many things. One of the things she recently learned and taught me was that, at least for her, the scale reflects her eating, drinking and moving as much as 10-14 days after those behaviors take place. She happens to be an extremely detailed oriented person and tracks her consumption and activity in relationship to the old “number on the scale.” 

I personally believe she has sort of “cracked the code”, that there may be at least a one week lag time between what food and drink we consume today in combination with the amount of movement we do, and when all of that really, truly, and yes finally shows up on the scale.

How many of us have made the mistake of throwing in the proverbial towel because we thought we were “good” and the scale went up, or we thought we were “bad” and the scale went down? How much would it change this journey for you if you cultivated a little bit of patience and simply waited another week before changing things, so that you could stop chasing your proverbial tail and finally have a weight that supports your health and happiness?

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Calories, Cravings & Clarity

If you are like many people, you are very confused about what to eat. There are as many opinions out there as moments in the day! One of those opinions is that there are no good foods, no bad foods and we should listen to our body and eat intuitively.

This NY Times article was shared with me by an expert whose approach has been to never restrict any food or food group at all. But this article seems to have opened his mind and hopefully it will shed some light for you as well.

The article reinforces what I teach daily, that calories do matter. The individuals in the study who consumed more calories gained weight. They gained weight in a mathematically predictable way: approximately 1 pound per week per 500 extra daily calories. People ate more calories because they ate less natural/whole foods and more unnatural/processed foods.

Nearly every rule has its exceptions, so I invite you to take away the following generalizations:  First, calories matter. I, personally, have tracked calories with myfitnesspal for the past 8+ years to maintain my weight. Second, choosing more of those calories from whole/natural foods and less from processed/unnatural foods will make you less hungry. Third, there are exceptions. Honestly, I eat those baked Lays chips and also drink some Crystal Light. But, I think I notice an uptick in “cravings” from the Crystal Light, so then I back off of it. Perhaps the best part of this article is all of the photos showing whole vs processed meals and snacks. I invite you to check it out, take away the general information, but most importantly apply to your unique truth. Please don’t not eat something just because it’s processed, try to learn if it actually makes you hungrier. Don’t eat something because it’s supposed to be healthy, surely if we spend calories on food we don’t like we are likely to be left unsatisfied and consume even more! Lastly, in the words of Calorie King: fat matters, carbs count, but calories are king! 

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Judging vs. Judgement

When it comes to food, eating and weight there seems to be a lot of judging going on. Are people judging you for eating or not eating certain foods? Are you judging others? This type of energy just leaves us feeling badly, which can leave us vulnerable to comforting ourselves with food.

So what is the difference between judging and judgment? When we use our judgment, we do what is best for us or for another. If we are allergic to strawberries, we use our judgment not to eat strawberries. If someone we care about is allergic to nuts, we use our judgment to remind them to be cautious because we care.

It is also using our judgment when we choose not to eat a food that seems to cause cravings in us, so-called “trigger” foods. Likewise, we use our judgment to avoid offering those foods to someone who has told us about their own trigger foods. 

Judging ourselves or another for our weight just leaves us all with negative feelings. However, using our judgment, we might want to lose weight because it has created problems for us. We can use judgment to say to someone we care about, I am worried how your weight is affecting your health. 

I invite you to be aware of this difference between judging and judgment. I hope this small mental shift helps you with your wellness and weight goals.  

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Are you too busy driving to get gas?

One day, someone asked me this and I thought it was a great question. Of course, she meant it to be figuratively and not literally. (Although admittedly in the past, when I was more human doing than human being, I often would literally run out of gas. It happened one day on the coldest night of the year and I was chased by what I assume was a rabid opossum!) But I digress…

Figuratively, we can be too busy doing, running, working, helping, etc, that we don’t refuel ourselves.

Flash forward to last week when a new patient, who herself is a helper and healer, declared to me, “I am here for GAS! I am here for Guidance, Accountability and Support!” Like so many of us, she knows what to do for her weight and wellness. She knows how to eat, she knows how to exercise, and she even knows how to reduce stress. Also like so many us, she realizes that although she alone can do it, she can’t do it alone. And therefore she needs Guidance, Accountability, and Support.

And so I ask you, are you too busy driving to stop for gas? Are you too busy working, running, and helping that you aren’t getting GAS (Guidance, Accountability, and Support)? Even yours truly gets GAS from friends, family and paid support people on a weekly, nearly daily basis. And not coincidentally, has never since been chased by an opossum on the coldest night of the year.

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Fill, Drain, Empty

Sometimes we fill up on food we don’t need.

It seems we do this most often when our “battery” is drained. Is this why most of us can “do well all day and then eat too much at night”? Some of the answers to the problem of overeating come down to “battery care.”

The solution is to take charge (haha) of your battery. What fills it up vs. drains it for you? Think of sleep, rest, food, exercise, sunshine, fresh air/breathing, nature, water, relationships, spiritual connection, alone time, reading, journaling, time with pets, quantity and quality of work, service/giving, creativity, thoughts, emotions, space/environment, medical problems/medical care, money (spending, shopping, saving).

I invite you to take some time and write whatever comes to your mind about each of these factors. Write about what fills your battery and what drains your battery, and even where it may leak.

What small changes can you make to care for your battery so that you don’t fill it with food when what it really needs is something else?

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Healing Happens

This weekend I served as an invited speaker at an Integrative Mental Health Conference. I spoke on a holistic approach to eating and weight. I am sharing this with you because, I struggled for 25 years with food, eating, weight, body image, diet & exercise. Those were just signs I was out of balance mentally, emotionally, socially, behaviorally, medically and financially.

I found a solution in a program for recovery from compulsive overeating. The essence of the program is one step beyond behavioral, physical, social, mental, emotional or even medical solutions. After another 15 years, what is coming into focus is that there are many paths to recovery from compulsive overeating, obesity, dieting, exercising etc. The essence for lasting recovery must be truly integrative, inclusive and unifying. This means combining medical interventions (“pills & surgery”) with holistic ones (physical, mental, emotional, social, behavioral). The details are less important. (Don’t lose the forest for the trees!).

As humans we all have the same needs. How we meet them is unique to us. Also as humans if our needs aren’t met, we start to show signs of imbalance due to trying to meet those needs in other ways. Again, those signs of imbalance are different.

So, I am sharing this message with you because in giving we receive. In giving service at this Integrative Mental Health Conference, I received this increase in clarity about what the problem really is and what the solution really is.

I invite you to embrace the Integrative approach (biomedical & holistic). If you have already embraced it, I invite you to expand your embrace. You can continue to meet with me, Patrice, and/or Nancy Sceery, our Dietitian. Perhaps Ideal Protein will get you some distance from your food. You may also consider a visit with Elaine Grant, an experienced healer, who we are thrilled, is renting space in our office!

To your happiness & health! Dr. Beth

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The Best Diet for YOU!

It seems folks are frequently looking for and trying a new diet. From Atkins to Zone, there are an infinite number of diets. What occurred to me in the past couple weeks in talking with people was that of the infinite diets we can learn, hear, or read about; they are ultimately the view of the person who wrote them.

So for fun I figured I would create a list of diets from A to Z. That didn’t take very long! Atkins, Beverly Hills, Cabbage Soup, DASH, Egg & Grapefruit, Fit For Life, Gluten-free, Hacker’s, Intermittent Fast, Jenny Craig, Keto, Low-fat, Mediterranean, Nutrisystem, Organic, Paleo, Q, Rotation, South Beach, Tongue Patch, Undiet, Vegetarian/vegan, Whole 30, X-Factor, You On A Diet, Zone.

These are all helpful in losing weight in the short term. But in the long term, following a diet that comes from outside yourself is like following a wardrobe someone else creates for you without meeting you. Or someone telling you what home to buy or how to decorate it. Or someone telling you what should be on your playlist. Or which spouse to marry, friends to have, or career/job to pursue.

When it comes to diets, it’s really like we each need to write our own book. No two people can ultimately have the same “diet book”, not in the long term. How would we write our own book? It would consider these questions:

  • What foods work for me and which ones don’t?
  • Which foods make me feel healthier, more energetic, full and satisfied?
  • Which foods make me feel tired, depressed, hungrier?
  • What places are best for me to eat? Does it work for me to eat at the kitchen table? Dining room table? Standing up? On the couch? At my desk? In my bed?
  • How much food leaves me feeling well as opposed to too full or still hungry?
  • Does calorie counting work for me?
  • Does weighing my food on a food scale work for me?
  • What times of day work for me to eat?
  • Does it work for me to eat for reasons other than hunger, like boredom, stress, social pressure?
  • Would learning to eat more mindfully be helpful to me?

The questions are universal but the answers are unique. It can be hard to find your answers. And it can be hard to follow even when you know what your answers are. By reviewing your past, especially your recent past when it comes to what, when, where, how much, how, with whom and why you eat, and what works and doesn’t work *for you* (not for anyone else) you can begin to form a rough draft of your own diet book.

Patrice and I can help you edit it, and then help you follow it.