Posts tagged: disordered eating

Forgive and Forget: Three Steps for Moving On After a Binge

By Katie, 5:45 am

Sometimes it just happens. Maybe I’m exhausted after a long, stressful day at work. Maybe I just received some terribly upsetting news about a close friend or family member. Perhaps I just spent hours fighting off some anxiety about an upcoming social event. But for whatever reason, sometimes it just…happens.

I bolt. I emotionally check out for the evening, using a massive bowl of ice cream or cereal (or both!) to facilitate the zoning out process. I feel better for about 5 whole minutes, after which I am overrun with guilt about the whole thing.

Recently a reader and I were chatting through e-mail about how to handle the whole post-binge-guilt thing. This reader had just come off an overeating episode and was really struggling to just accept what happened and move on. She was getting so caught up in her past stumbles that it was inhibiting her ability to move forward.

She asked if I had any advice, and I told her I thought the old adage “forgive and forget” might be useful here. Except instead of forgiving someone else, in this case we need to forgive ourselves.


Forgive and Forget: Three Steps for Moving On After a Binge

Step 1: Recognize that I overate for a reason.

Each and every time I turn to the ice cream bowl, it is for a legitimate reason. I wouldn’t be doing it if it weren’t providing me with something – most often short-term comfort, a way to check out. No, using food as an emotional relase is not a healthy coping strategy, but it’s still a coping strategy. It’s giving me the break or release I’m looking for.

I find that it’s easier to forgive myself when I recognize that it wasn’t simply a lapse in will-power or resolve; it was a way (albeit an ineffective one) of comforting myself.

Step 2: Explore the reason.

So I recognize that I overate for a reason, but sometimes in the moment I have no idea what that reason is. While I usually don’t try to dissect the situation in the immediate aftermath – when my judgment is obviously still a little cloudy – once the storm has settled I do take some time to reflect. I question what I was feeling in the minutes, hours, or even days before it happened. What exactly was the trigger?

Step 3: Make a plan.

I am totally a Type-A personality, and here’s where it really shows. I find that I am only able to move on once I’ve established a new course of action for the next time a similar situation rolls around. I think through how I can take better care of myself, how I will sit through the difficult emotions instead of running away from them, and who I will reach out to for support.

Granted, I’m not always successful with following through on this plan when the situation arises, but the very act of outlining a strategy gives me the confidence to forget the missteps of the past and press forward on my journey toward well-being.

Because in the end, there’s really no reason not to forgive and forget. The guilt doesn’t get me anywhere except deeper into my own mess. But when I forgive myself for struggling and then refuse to dwell on the episode, I’m able to pull myself back up, dust off my knees, and pick up right where I left off.

Do you ever struggle with post-overeating-guilt? How are you able to forgive and forget?

**This post stemmed directly from a reader’s question. If you have a question you’d like me to address here on HWS, feel free to e-mail me at and I will do my best!

**Stop back tomorrow for a super fun Giveaway! (I am very excited about this one!) :-D

Loving Little Katie

By Katie, 5:22 am

I consider myself to be a pretty nice person. In fact, my senior year of high school I was voted “Friendliest Female.” So it never ceases to amaze me how someone so nice to others can simultaneously be so cruel to herself. :-(

I will be blunt: over the past few weeks I have really been struggling to be my own best friend. I’ve been saying horrible things to myself – about my weight, about my appearance in general, and even about my overall level of worth. I have attacked myself with a level of harshness I cannot even imagine directing toward another human being.

The good news? Deep down I don’t believe a word of that rubbish. The bad news? Deep down I don’t believe a word of that rubbish.

You see, I know that my worth isn’t based on any external part of me. I know that I am loved – by God, by others, and by myself – regardless of any fluctuation in poundage. I know that there is peace and joy in simply being kind to myself. And yet I’m still beating myself up. :-?

So the solution has to go beyond simply telling myself those thoughts aren’t true, since deep down I already know that. If I really want to kick this bout of negative self-talk to the curb, I need a more concrete plan of action. I need to do something.

So I’m pulling out my ultimate weapon: Little Katie.

That’s me, circa 1988.

To show myself – in a very concrete, tangible fashion – just how inappropriate my vicious self-talk is, I’m implementing a new rule: any time I’m tempted to call myself ugly or fat or whatever, I have to tell it to this Katie.

That is, if I can even bring myself to do that. Can I really look at this precious girl and tell her she’s worthless?

Probably not. But that girl is still me. And if I wouldn’t say it to Little Katie, then I really shouldn’t be saying it to the Katie of today either, you know?

But apparently right now I need to be reminded of that. So in preparation for my next fight against that negative inner voice, I’m placing these photos of Little Katie in strategic places: my bathroom mirror, in front of the Bathroom City vanity unit, inside my purse, etc. I’m hoping that the simple act of hanging them up and looking at them regularly will help me remember that I deserve the same kindness and compassion that I would show a small child, or any other human being. If I can’t say it to Little Katie, I won’t be saying it to myself.

Have you ever struggled with negative self-talk, even when you KNEW the thoughts weren’t true? How did you deal with that voice?


What do you think of this idea? Do you think that using baby pictures in this way will help me show myself more kindness and compassion?

**This idea is not mine originally. It comes from the book Life Without Ed, by Jenni Schaefer.

Too Much Food for Thought

By Katie, 5:13 am

For a long time I thought that the way I acted around food – counting every calorie, meticulously weighing/measuring every morsel, planning my meals hours, days, or weeks in advance – was totally normal. I didn’t realize I even had an issue until I stumbled across a random list of disordered eating symptoms, one of which was “constantly thinking about food.”

And it dawned on me that I thought about food more than I thought about anything else. :-(

For awhile I brushed it off as merely a hobby, or even a passion; I told myself I enjoyed thinking about food and planning out my meals, so there wasn’t any harm in it. But eventually I came to realize that there is an important difference between having an interest in food and being obsessed with it.

While it’s healthy and normal to think about food when, say, I’m hungry, or when I’m cooking or meal planning, it’s not all that great to think about food a gazillion times in between those events. And I’m not talking about thoughts of excitement over a new recipe I’m trying or happy memories of last night’s dinner out with friends. I’m talking about using an exorbitant amount of mental energy to calculate and recalculate – over and over again – everything I’ve eaten that day, or reviewing my “plan” for the rest of the day four or five (unnecessary) times.

Have you ever found yourself doing that???

Eventually I realized that if I wanted to heal my relationship with food and myself, I needed to stop thinking about food so darn much. Sounds easy, right? Not exactly. It’s a bit like the whole “pink elephant” thing; the minute I told myself to stop thinking about food was the minute I couldn’t get my brain to think about anything else!


So I focused on two strategies:

1. Find a replacement or distraction.

I once heard this described through a baby analogy: if a baby is playing with a choking hazard and you take said hazard away, the baby may start to cry because he wants his comforting toy. But the baby will be much calmer once you’ve replaced that choking hazard with something more suitable, like a stuffed (pink?) elephant. ;-)

Similarly, we can’t simply shut off our minds; instead, we need to replace the obsessive, unproductive thought with a healthier, more positive one. When I found myself thinking about food obsessively or unnecessarily, I immediately focused my mind on the present moment. Was I eating? Was I cooking? Was I meal planning? No, so I didn’t need to be thinking about food. I did need to be thinking about the book I was supposedly reading, or the essay I was writing, or even the conversation I was currently involved in. I stopped my mind from drifting to food by focusing on the present moment.

2. Uncover whatever it is the thoughts are concealing.

I quickly discovered that I wasn’t simply obsessed with food; rather, I used food thoughts to prevent myself from thinking about those things I didn’t want to mentally engage with – anything from the fact that I was procrastinating on my homework to the emotional frustration I was feeling over a struggling relationship. I used thoughts of food to cover up both large mental barriers and small frustrations.

Simply recognizing what was really going on in my noggin made a world of difference.

Overall, I think the line between having a healthy passion for food and having an unhealthy obsession with it can be a blurry one. As one reader so accurately stated in an e-mail to me last week, “while food can be enjoyable, memorable, etc., life shouldn’t consist of planning your next meal before you’ve even had breakfast.”

Have you ever found yourself thinking about food a little too much? How do you stop yourself from going down an unhealthy thought path?

Challenging My Fear of Hunger

By Katie, 5:56 am

Have you ever read an article, an essay, a blog post, or even a single phrase and felt like a million light bulbs immediately went off in your head? Like someone else’s particular wording or personal story suddenly made it all click for you?


I recently had that kind of “Aha!” moment when I read Ashley‘s post on Voice in Recovery about her fear of hunger. The concept was then reinforced by Christie‘s comment on my post about hunger cues in which she stated, “hunger is not an emergency and we don’t have to respond to it as if it is.”

And suddenly it all made sense. All this time I’ve had a fear of hunger, and I hadn’t even realized it. 8-O

Now that this fear has been brought to my attention, I’ve determined that it consists of two components, one physical and one emotional.

Physical Fear of Hunger

Perhaps this shouldn’t be called a fear, more of an extreme dread. I am the first to admit that I don’t deal well with physical discomfort of any kind. My mom proudly tells the story of how she went through childbirth with no meds whatsoever, while I joke that as soon as contractions begin I will point to my spine and tell the doctor I’m ready for my giant, pain-relieving needle. ;-)

I blame it on growing up with a pharmacist for a father, who could recommend a pill or a gel or a spray to immediately eliminate my every ailment the moment it arose. But whatever the cause, I’m just not good at sitting with physical irritations, however minor they may be…including hunger.

Emotional Fear of Hunger

While the physical component is certainly there, I believe the emotional side of the issue is much more deep-rooted and influential. I believe I have a subconscious, almost visceral fear of hunger that stems from the many times in my past where I intensely felt the need to eat and yet did not. During my dieting days I would respond to hunger in every way except by eating.

I’d gulp a big glass of water or sip hot tea to trick my stomach into thinking it wasn’t empty; I’d throw myself into an engaging activity to distract my mind from the feeling; sometimes I’d simply relish in the fact that I felt hunger but was doing nothing about it – I actually felt pride and a sense of accomplishment because I knew it brought me one step closer to losing weight. Horrible, but true. :oops:

So now, even though much time has passed, I’m discovering that a deep part of me is still very frightened. Trembling at the idea of returning to that misery. Scared that someday I will lose my senses and go back.

Challenging the Fear

One way I’ve been trying to challenge my fear of hunger is by allowing myself to actually feel it. Last week on my vacation, there were many times I simply had to be hungry. Sure, I packed snacks in case of a real emergency, but sometimes when you’re out with a group of people hiking and climbing and examining lizards, it simply isn’t practical to whip out a Larabar at the first twinge of hunger.

So I just felt hungry. And that was it. No drama, no theatrics. Just hunger.

In the process I discovered something that I think that my subconscious didn’t realize was the case: that I can feel hunger and be ok. I can feel hunger and still function. Indeed, I can feel hunger and even thrive.

Let me state very clearly that I am NOT saying we should all just throw caution to the wind and completely ignore our hunger pangs. Hunger has an important purpose; it tells us it’s time to EAT!

But what I am saying is that I’m realizing I don’t have to panic the very moment I feel hunger. I don’t have to plan my whole life around avoiding that feeling. No part of me has to be afraid anymore that I will once again mistreat myself, denying my physical needs. I’ve worked hard to trust my body, but now I’m ready to truly trust the rest of myself.

Have you ever experienced a similar fear of hunger? Or perhaps even a fear of fullness?


How do you generally react to physical pain or discomfort? Do you have a high tolerance, or are you a big, whiny baby like I often am? ;-)

Wearing Disordered Eating On Your Sleeve

By Katie, 7:51 am

It deeply pains me to say this, but I think it needs to be put out there. When I was at my darkest place with emotional overeating, I wished that I were anorexic. I literally remember thinking, “If only I dealt with my stress by shunning food instead of gorging on it.” :-(

Where on earth would I have gotten the idea that starving myself was the better option, that it was more acceptable or legitimate, that it was, dare I say, cool? Oh, that’s right…

I don’t think I’m over-exaggerating when I say that our society glamorizes eating disorders – particularly anorexia – in much the same way it romanticizes drinking and smoking. And yet when I first saw these t-shirts, I was still shocked. 8-O And deeply saddened.

You can read more about the first shirt here and the second shirt here. I believe they have both been pulled from the shelves at this point, due to the (justified) outcries they stirred. And yet why on earth were they even designed in the first place???

I am outraged when I see things like this. :-x  But my anger is not directed at any particular company or designer because I believe that the issue is much more complex than that. I am angry at our entire culture, which too often idolizes thinness above all else. I am angry at the entire media industry, which continues to prioritize images of waif-like women. I am angry at every consumer who supports these images and ideas by continuing to buy the magazines and the clothes, which means that I am angry at myself. I am angry that I am not doing more to fight this system, even though the very notion of doing so sounds so huge and impossible that I am immediately discouraged. :-?

But I will continue to do my important, albeit small, part. I will continue to speak out – in conversations and on this blog. I will encourage others to express their outrage as well, in useful and productive ways. And hopefully someday I will enlist my children to continue the work through the next generation.

What’s your reaction to the above t-shirts? What do you think can be done to challenge these kinds of messages?

Dear Katie

By Katie, 4:09 pm

Have you ever written a letter to yourself? If not, I really encourage you to try it.

In working through some of my struggles with food and weight, I learned how incredibly therapeutic writing letters to myself could be. I would basically write the letters on days I was feeling strong and confident and in control, addressing them to myself on days when I felt anything but those things.

Some of the letters were very long and in-depth, while others were just quick reminders of my goals and dreams, of my inner strength. But whether they were long or short, they were all extremely powerful.

Why? Because for some of us, it doesn’t matter how many times our spouses, partners, parents, and friends tell us we’re beautiful just the way we are, we don’t believe it. They can tell us not to fret over five pounds or a skipped workout, and it goes in one ear and out of the other. But when you hear the same message coming from yourself – straight from your own mouth (or pen, or keyboard, or whatever) – it somehow takes on a greater meaning.


You start to realize it’s true because you know that on some prior day, you yourself believed it enough to write it down. Letters addressed to ourselves are reminders that inside each of us is an assured, confident person; the days we feel our lowest are just veils hiding that true inner strength.

About a month before I started this blog, my computer’s hard drive died and I lost many important documents on my computer. Of everything I lost, I think I miss those letters to myself most of all. But I’ve started writing new ones, from the position I’m in now, to help me gain confidence and inspiration on those days when I forget just how strong I am.

Have you ever written a letter to yourself? If so, how does it help you? If not, do you think you’ll try it?

Embracing Life TODAY (or, “I Should Have Gone To That Pool Party”)

By Katie, 11:48 am

An old friend of mine from school had a nice, big pool from in her backyard, and occasionally she’d throw these amazing pool parties. Well, at least I think they were amazing…I never actually went to one of them. :-?

You see, every time my friend would invite me, I’d make up some excuse for why I couldn’t make it. I’d then make a deal with myself: once I lost the obligatory ten pounds, I could go and enjoy myself at a pool party.

Sad, isn’t it? :-( But how many of us are still putting off our lives until we reach a certain weight?

I was really touched by Heather’s recent post in which – upon realizing she’s been subconsciously waiting to live her life until fitting into a certain size – she vowed to begin living her life to the fullest…TODAY.

It reminded me of a book that I highly recommend: Life Doesn’t Begin 5 Pounds From Now, by Jessica Weiner.

When I first decided to ditch the dieting mentality, I knew I needed to stop letting my obsessions with food and weight hold me back from living the life I wanted, the life I was meant to live. But when you’ve spent so much of your life thus far neck-deep in bad body-image thoughts, it’s a little difficult to snap your fingers and banish them from your brain.

This might sound a little morbid, but honestly, here is how I rationalized it to myself:

If my life ended tomorrow, would I have wanted to spend my final day…

  • agonizing over a slice of chocolate cake? (with peanut butter icing, thank you very much!) NO!
  • feeling physically uncomfortable from emotionally stuffing my stomach with baked goods? NO!
  • feeling drained and fatigued because I’m lacking vital vitamins and nutrients from fruits and veggies? NO!
  • exhausted from spending way too long at the gym, trying to purge my body of the candy I feel guilty for eating? NO!
  • feeling sluggish and lethargic from a lack of exercise, from denying my body the movement it craves? NO!

I guess my point is this: From a healthy living standpoint, living life to the fullest essentially means taking a balanced, moderate approach to food and exercise.

And it means that life has a whole lot to offer us…right now. Not a month from now or a year from now. Not ten pounds from now or two sizes from now. RIGHT NOW. Regardless of what your body looks like today or what you did or did not eat yesterday, there is a world of possibility out there, just waiting for you to reach out and grab it! :-D

Have you ever put off doing something until you reached a certain weight or size? Are you ready to embrace all that life has in store for you…right now?

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

By Katie, 2:33 pm

1 in 5 women struggle with an eating disorder or disordered eating.

90% of those who have an eating disorder are women between the ages of 12 and 25.

51% of 9 and 10-year-old girls say they feel better about themselves if they are on a diet.

42% of 1st-3rd grade girls say they want to be thinner.

(Source: The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness)

Those are some frightening statistics.

February 21-27 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

The theme for the week is “It’s Time to Talk About It,” and I couldn’t agree more. While most people are familiar with the terms “anorexia” and “bulimia,” many are unaware of the complexities of these illnesses. And there is still a major stigma associated with eating disorders that prevents many from getting the help that they need.

The issue is one that is close to my heart. Although I was never officially diagnosed with an eating disorder, I have suffered greatly from disordered eating thoughts and behaviors.


In May 2008, Self magazine reported that more than 6 in 10 women are disordered eaters. While these women may not starve themselves to an unnaturally low weight, or purge food on a regular basis, they do have an unhealthy relationship with food and their bodies, one that disrupts their ability to live their lives to the fullest.

Some symptoms of disordered eating:

  • feeling terrified of gaining weight
  • obsessively thinking about food and weight
  • seeing foods as either “good” or “bad,” and feeling extremely guilty for eating anything on the “bad” side
  • eating indulgent foods in secret
  • constantly “feeling fat” and/or engaging in “fat talk”
  • constant yo-yo dieting, or living in cycles of dieting/binge eating
  • eating to soothe stress or other difficult emotions
  • exercising obsessively for the sole purpose of weight loss, feeling devastated when a workout is missed
  • stepping on the scale daily, and feeling good or bad about oneself based on that number

Full disclosure: At one time or another, I have experienced every one of those symptoms. The scariest thing is that no one ever thought such behaviors were abnormal or unhealthy; our society tells us that being obsessed with food and weight is completely natural and normal for women.

I’m hoping that by sharing this information – and by openly discussing my own struggles – that others out there who are struggling either with an eating disorder or with disordered eating thoughts and behaviors will know that you don’t have to live your life obsessing over food and weight.

Here are some RESOURCES you can use if you want more information.

- Think you might have an eating disorder? Take this Eating Disorder Assessment.

- Think you might be at risk for disordered eating? Take this Disordered Eating Quiz.

- Want general information on anorexia, bulimia, compulsive overeating, and/or disordered eating? Check out the National Eating Disorders Association and the Something Fishy Website on Eating Disorders.

- Check out this helpful Tip Sheet on disordered eating.

As I’ve said before, I am not an expert on eating disorders or disordered eating; I am just someone who has struggled through these issues, emerging stronger and healthier (although I do still struggle on occasion – I’m not perfect by any means!). While I cannot provide medical advice or expertise, feel free to contact me if you’re looking to get help but are unsure where to begin.

Did the statistics on eating disorders/disordered eating shock you? Or are you not surprised? Do you feel that our society treats women’s obsessions with food and weight as “natural” or “normal”?

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