Author Archives: Leanne

Food rules you can break (Part 1)

*This is the first post in a three-part series on common food rules that, while seemingly harmless or even healthy in theory, are confusing to the body’s biology. Understanding food rules, where they come from, why we have them, and how we can break them is important  in learning how to rediscover your ability to eat intuitively and find freedom in food. 

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One of the most common food rules we have, much to every child’s chagrin, is we must finish everything on our plates.

Why?

Do you have this rule? Can you articulate why you have this rule and why it is necessary to finish everything on your plate?

If the answer is because you don’t want to waste food, that is an absolute valid thought; however, an easy solution is to save for later what you don’t eat now.

Is this a rule you grew up with , so you just follow it because eating everything on your plate is what you’re “supposed to do”? Not everything we were told to do as a kid is the best instruction; it’s okay to change or ditch the childhood rules.

You don’t have to finish everything on your plate! (If this is a rule you have with your children, I am going to respectfully beg you to ditch it.)

The problem with this rule is your brain forces you to ignore your body when it says, “I’m full.” The focus of the meal becomes eating everything in front of you rather than eating to satiate hunger. It’s easy to overeat because you don’t stop when you’re actually full. Instead you wait until all the food has been eaten, which can be long after your body has had enough. You end up feeding your body more than it needs and more than it can metabolize before you sit down to the next meal. When the body becomes overwhelmed with more than it can use, guess what it does? Yep. Stores the excess in added weight.

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HOW TO BREAK THIS RULE

First, practice assessing your hunger level. In Resch and Tribole’s book, Intuitive Eating, they discuss the hunger scale that goes from zero to 10. A level zero means you’re starving–running on empty; you’re so hungry you have the shakes, a headache, feel faint. You might not even feel hungry at this point because your body has “all hands on deck” to keep your brain functioning. Conversely, level 10 means you’re so full you feel sick; one wrong move and it might all come back up. Ugh.

Ideally you want to start reaching for food when your hunger is right around a level three or four. This will feel different for everyone, but for me I feel:

  • my belly grumbling
  • the thought of a particular food sounds good
  • a little dizzy
  • hiccups in my ability to think clearly

Notice what a level three or four hunger level feels like for you and maybe even write down what you are feeling. When you’re at level three/four, try not to wait until you’re starving to eat because by that time your body has moved into deprivation mode, which means you’re likely to overload your plate to begin with, feeling like you won’t be able to get enough food!

Once you know you’re comfortably hungry, the second step is to fill your plate to satiate. When you think about the hunger/fullness scale, think about feeding yourself enough to satisfy your body’s hunger rather than filling yourself to the brim. What amount of food would take you from level three/four to a comfortable six/seven? Hint: You aren’t going to know by looking at the amount of you serve yourself, but rather by tuning into how you feel as you eat. Start with what you think sounds satisfying and give yourself permission to either save what you don’t eat now or to go back for more if you need to.

This takes us to step three which is practice paying attention to yourself as you eat. It’s imperative at the beginning of your new practice to eat without distractions–no phones, computers, projects, friends, television, etc. Create an environment where it’s just you and your food. (This will be harder if you have a family but not impossible!) Eat slowly, focusing on how the food smells, tastes, and feels in your mouth. I know this sounds kind of weirdly meditative, and it is. Not weirdly, of course, but definitely meditative! As you make your way through your meal, focus on your hunger level and notice when you feel the move from hungry to satisfied. When you feel the comfort of satiation, stop. Don’t worry about how much food is left on the plate! Ignore it and stay in tune with your body instead. Doing something that actively makes you stop can be helpful–push the plate away; stand up; place a napkin over the plate.

Within about five or 10 minutes of ending your meal, you’ll notice one of two things as your body settles:

  1. You’re still hungry and need to eat some more (go ahead! Honor your body’s request.)
  2. You are comfortably full–satisfied without feeling like an overstuffed bear.

The more you practice these steps, the less you’ll have to think about them. Tuning in with your body will become intuitive.

There are no rules when it comes to food. Following rules, such as “finish everything on your plate,”  instead of following your body cues will absolutely contribute to weight gain and keep your body from finding its homeostasis, that place of size and good feeling you were designed to embody.

The next rule we’ll tackle: no dessert until after dinner.

Peace,
Leanne

 

 

You don’t struggle with your weight

“She’d always struggled with her weight.”  This statement bothers me when I read it in biographical media or watch documentaries on famous ladies. Why is that even mentioned?They might as well just say, “She was always fat, trying hard to get skinny yet never seemed to get her act together.”

We don’t struggle with weight. No one does. We struggle being comfortable and happy inside ourselves.

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When I was in the depths of anorexia, I was scared of becoming fat because I believed if I became that way then people wouldn’t trust me, wouldn’t find me beautiful, wouldn’t take me seriously; I would be sick, unhealthy, and “less than” in the eyes of others. As someone who craved acceptance, needed to be heard, wanted to be “enough,” fat was scary. So I went to extremes to stay thin. I didn’t know what thin enough was, of course, so I just kept getting thinner. With every comment about how good I looked or adulation about my good discipline, focus, and healthy ways in addition to praises in my work, the eating disorder clawed in deeper and I got sicker.

It wasn’t the weight or loss of it that was the struggle, you guys. I was insecure in my body because I was insecure in who I am and wasn’t sure that I would be seen, accepted, and loved. 

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Hear me well if you feel like you struggle with weight: The struggle is so much deeper than body size. You are constantly told, whether directly or indirectly, through media, doctors, health professionals, models, red carpet stars, and diet companies that larger bodies are “bad.” Larger bodies are unhealthy, ugly, lazy, undisciplined, sick, embarrassing, unreliable. The tragedy for for you if you live in a larger body or think you might be in a larger body is you believe the body labels are definitions of who you are: “If my body is larger then that means I’m fat, which means I must be unhealthy, ugly, lazy, undisciplined. I need to be change. Be better.”

So you wrestle with diets to help you be more disciplined, to be healthier. You get into workout routines you don’t really love, but you love the idea that the movement might make you skinnier. Then when the restriction of the diets are too hard (which is not your fault, by the way) and the hard core workouts become a cursed chore, you give up and further feed the belief that you’re lazy and undisciplined. The weight you might have lost comes back plus a few extra pounds. Then the cycle starts over again, with feelings of inadequacy rooted even deeper.

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From the outside, all the world sees is your body size getting bigger then smaller then bigger then smaller, and judges you, as you do yourself, as “struggling with weight.”  No. The constant rise and fall of weight on any person is simply a symptom of a much deeper struggle with negatives feelings and inaccurate beliefs about who she is inside her body. These feelings and beliefs are rooted in past hurt or emotional/mental damage and are simply exacerbated by cultural ideals and expectations.

A diet will never cure low self-esteem; a work out regimen won’t change who you are. And a thin body won’t bring the happiness you’re looking for. Trust me. I almost died trying. Internal struggle isn’t solved by external work (this is part of the reason why diets fail). Internal struggle is healed through deep inner work, and usually cannot be done without the help of a counselor.

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Do you feel like you struggle with weight? Do you know someone you’ve always thought of as struggling with weight? I want you to see yourself or your loved one as someone who is struggling with inward hurt rather than struggling with weight. There’s healing that needs to be done, and with healing comes the body satisfaction, and even body love, as physical health aligns with mental/emotional/spiritual health.

 

 

Why the scale is a dangerous piece of junk

I accidentally saw my weight back in June 2017. It’s the first time I’d seen my weight in two-and-a-half years. It’s the first time I’d even thought about my weight in over a year. In eating disorder recovery, you are blind to your weight in addition to calories and other nutritional information; those numbers trigger the eating disorder voice to scream that you’re fat or getting fat, eating too much, and doing “healthy” wrong. It’s dangerous to see your weight.

When I saw mine back in June, I was a little shocked, but I also had enough (strong) recovery under my belt to know that I felt great, my clothes fit, and I was comfortable inside my body. That number didn’t matter, and it held no value for me. I let it go.

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This week I accidentally saw my weight again. The nurse was new so she didn’t know to keep the weight blind; I didn’t even think to let her know I needed my weight to be blind; and I wasn’t careful about avoiding my eyes. It was a careless accident, and the number has been aggravating my mind like a loose hangnail. My weight was higher than it was in June, which my eating disorder voice was quick to point out: “You’ve gained weight! You knew it. You suspected it and now you know. What are you going to do about it!?”

What am I going to do about it?? Should I do anything about it? Why did I gain that weight? Am I not paying attention to my body? What am I doing wrong? Am I going to keep gaining? Am I eating too much? Too much sugar? Too much fat? Am I not moving enough? What the hell?

The sudden anxiety questioned all the body advocacy and intuitive eating truths I believe; all the messaging on this blog about not worrying about weight and body size became burdened with doubt.

Why?

Because of a stupid number.

This is why the scale is a dangerous piece of junk!

The number coming from an inanimate object made of plastic and metal doesn’t have the power to change anything about me, so why let it have a say?

Who cares if I put on a few pounds? Only my eating disorder cares.
Did the core of who I am change? Nope.
Am I still a good mom? Yes!
Do I still have an active heart and belief in the people for whom I advocate? Yes!
Does my husband still wrap his arms around me telling me how much he loves me, loves my humor, and honors all the things I do for my family? Yep!
Do I still believe that God is in charge of my body and my body knows what it’s doing? Yes!

Then what’s the problem?

Dumb scale.

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No one needs a scale. All it does is connect us with a number and distances us from our bodies and God. The scale induces anxiety, food rules, self-doubt, and shame–the barriers to body love and the joy to live freely inside our bodies as God intended.  Or if you like what the scale says because you value the number or drop in number, then your sense of worth and accomplishment are being validated by something that has no life and no vested interest in who you are.

The only people who need to know your weight are your doctors, and they can get that themselves–blindly! Turn your back; avoid your eyes; tell the nurse you don’t need to know. Look, if you own a scale. Smash it. I mean that literally. Smash it to pieces and then make art out of the debris. I did this with a friend of mine a couple years ago, and wrote about it here. It is so  liberating! Also, it wasn’t my idea. Check this out: https://www.southernsmash.org/

If you decide to smash your scale, I want to know about it and see pictures of it! You can tell me here in the comments or post on my Facebook wall  or Twitter!

Peace and love,
Leanne

Let the weight loss bandwagon pass

Twenty seventeen has been one of the most challenging years I’ve ever experienced. It started with my young daughter suffering through major depressive episodes that came with suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and inexplicable anxious behaviors. In early spring one of our elderly cats of 17 years passed away. Late spring brought the murder of one of my dearest cousins in a tragic domestic violence murder-suicide event. By summer my daughter’s mental health was so unstable and scary that we began her on medication (which was unnerving because she’s so young). Fall melted into the holidays which included two surgeries (one for my husband and one for my daughter), my own knee injury that many times renders me to the couch, and a school change for my daughter.

Was the year all bad? No. In April my daughter and I both earned our Taekwondo black belts; in the summer we adopted an amputee cat who was slated to be euthanized; in late summer my husband and I celebrated 13 years of marriage; and in November we adopted a therapy puppy named Jade who’s been an unexpected gift to our lives.

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With all the changes and the extreme emotions my body, mind and heart have endured, it’s no wonder that my eating disorder has begun to chatter again. It tells me that I’m gaining weight; that I look fat; that I’m eating too many carbs; that it matters how I look. A few weeks ago it told me to skip lunch, eat a tiny breakfast, skip the cookie. With New Year’s Day approaching and the resolutions to lose weight and “get healthier,” the ED says that’s a bandwagon I should join. My eating disorder is a liar. And a bitch. (Pardon my language.)

I brace myself for the weight loss resolutions that splash across all the media platforms because they are always triggering for me. Plus I have a bad attitude about New Year’s resolutions because we often make them with no realistic strategy for how to accomplish them and fail before the end of February leaving us face-down in a pool of guilt and shame. It’s depressing.

However, as I reflect deeper on the cusp of a new year, I realize that my body, mind, and heart never failed me this year. God never failed me this year. Though my daily connection with God grew distant and the sound of his voice became a mere whisper, I know He was close because my body, my mind, and my heart never gave up. When I listened to my body I was listening to the Spirit. When my body told me to lie down, I did. When my heart told me to let the tears flow, I did. When my mind gave me a new strategy to try, I did. When I was hungry, I ate. When I needed to move, I walked. When my brain needed help, I went on an anti-depressant. When I needed a friend, I reached out. And all of it was HARD. The eating disorder was so loud and convincing at the same time.

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Here’s what I am going to do, and what I encourage you to do too: let the weight loss band wagon pass right on by. Don’t jump on. Resolve to stay in tune with your body each day as it is. Don’t think about what it should be, what you want it to be, what it needs to be. Think about and maybe even write down (as I did here today) all the challenges and joy it’s brought you through in its current shape. It doesn’t matter if we’re round or flat; curvy or straight; heavy or light. Life is deeper that shape and weight. What matters is that our body, mind, and heart don’t give up. Resolve to pay attention to yourself, grow appreciation for what your body does right now, and enjoy the freedom of being detached from food rules and body regulations.

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Given how hard 2017 was for me, it’d be easy to say “Sayonara! Don’t let the door hit you in the hiney on the way out.” However, not only did I survive the year fully in tact–well, except for the bum knee–I am ready to take on whatever 2018 brings. The lies of the eating disorder are just lies and I’m not listening. Thanks to God, my body, heart, and mind are strong and ready for 2018.

Sugar is NOT like cocaine

Sugar is not like cocaine. To say that it is, is a dangerous, distorted, and misleading view of the actual truth.

Ready?

Here’s a little biology 101: The human brain has a “pleasure center” wherein dopamine is released into what is called the nucleus accumbens. Ever hear of a dopamine high? The faster dopamine releases into this little party of nerve cells, the greater the pleasure or high one feels. Guess what? “The brain registers all pleasures in the same way, whether they originate with a psychoactive drug, a monetary reward, a sexual encounter, or a satisfying meal.” (See this article in Harvard Health Publishing from Harvard Medical School.)

Whether you eat a piece of chocolate, laugh at a hilarious joke, jump out of an airplane, inject a recreational drug, melt into a sultry kiss, smell freshly baked bread, or whatever your pleasure may be, your brain responds the same way by releasing dopamine and titillating the nerves that make you smile and feel giddy.

There are two intensely significant differences between sugar and cocaine:

  1. Sugar is a nutrient. Cocaine has no nutritional value.
  2. Sugar is an energy source. Cocaine is a drug.

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I know many people (including myself) who’ve gone on strict sugar-free diets and cleanses because they think they have a sugar addiction. Addiction is a serious mental illness that is rooted in deep emotional disconnect from one’s feelings, healthy relationships, and healthy coping mechanisms. If you think you have an actual addiction with sugar or food as your drug of choice, you don’t need a diet;  you need help from a mental health professional–specifically an eating disorder therapist–to address the feelings underlying your addiction and to create new neuro-pathways in your brain for healthy coping.

However, if you crave sugar (even if all the time), remember that sugar is the body’s number one source of fuel–energy. Your body is simply asking for the energy it needs to do whatever you are asking it to do (run around with your kids, get through that afternoon meeting, run five miles, etc.) Your  body is always burning energy, not just in your physical movements, but also when you are thinking, feeling, and sleeping.

It’s also important to note that if you have gone on a sugar cleanse or sugar-free diet or even  a low-carb/no-carb diet and felt like total crap, blaming your irritability, lightheaded-ness, shakes, and headaches on sugar withdrawal, these symptoms are not evidence of a sugar addiction. These are the symptoms of hypoglycemia, which is low blood sugar. Your body is trying to tell you it needs an energy source and it needs one quick. (See previous paragraph.)

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Can you have too much sugar? Yes. And your body will tell you when it’s had enough or too much; it will also cleanse on it’s own what it doesn’t need. Do different bodies need different levels of sugar? Yes. Do you need to control and limit how much you take in? No. (Unless you have diabetes! Then please, please take care of yourself!) You have to listen to your body. If you’re crashing all the time or often feel sluggish, then you probably need to look the variety in your diet. Make sure you’re getting plenty of protein, fats, and fiber with your sweet stuff, and make sure you are getting plenty of quality sleep. Check in with your mental health too. Stress, anxiety, and depression are big culprits of fatigue and general not feeling well.

You guys, it’s okay to love sugar and eat it. We were created to enjoy all of our food, including sugar. Two of my sweetest pleasures is soft, freshly baked chocolate cake with gooey chocolate frosting; the other is the sweet, fizzy crispness of ice cold Coca Cola. If sugar is like cocaine, then so is hearing the sound of your baby giggling, or the cozy pleasure you feel on a cold winter evening in front of the fire, or the warmth you feel snuggling under the covers with your sweetie. All these things light up the pleasure center, an amazing little gift God put into our brains when he created us, and are meant to be enjoyed.  So enjoy!