Diet Culture

I recently did some research on eating disorders. I didn’t consider myself to have an eating disorder but I occasionally binged. I wanted to understand what these binges were all about. I picked up a book called Brain over Binge by Kathryn Hansen. She suffered for 7 year with a binge eating disorder as well as bulimia.  She spent as many years in therapy and trying various medications.

Two very important pieces of information jumped out at me. First, binge eating starts with dieting. Second, traditional therapy is only 30-50% effective in curing eating disorders of any kind.  That is a very low success rate. So, preventions is crucial.

More on the fist point that binge eating starts with dieting and the diet mentality: Kathryn Hansen believes that eating disorders are not a disease but instead a problem with the lower brain (animal brain) connecting dieting and eating restriction with its survival instincts.  Example: you are restricting my calories.  I’m going to die. I must eat more. This is a very simplistic example.

I have found myself struggling with that urge to binge as well. It never happened until I decided I needed to lose my baby weight. The first time I ever went on a diet was in my 40’s. Almost immediate, I noticed my urges to binge.

The benefit of understanding this information is this: You can control your lower brain decisions by using your higher, rational brain. With practice, I was able to notice the urge, allow it to be there and not act on it by using my rational brain. This is completely different from resisting the urge which requires superman willpower.

Here is one little trick I use. I have a glass jar that sits on my counter. I have a bowl of glass beads in my cupboard. When I feel the urge to binge, I take a moment to breathe and allow the urge to be there. I notice it and don’t argue with it. This part is so important. Have you notice that when you try to argue with your kids you end up getting sucked into a battle of wills? Next thing you know, you are going around and around in a conversation that no one will win. Imagine if you just said: ‘That’s an interesting opinion.’ and walked away?

You can handle your urge the same way. My favorite phrase is ‘that’s interesting’.

For every urge I allow and don’t give into I put a glass bead in the jar on my counter. As it fills up it’s a reminder that I used my higher rational brain to handle the situation. The theory is, once the jar is full you have used that brain muscle enough that the urge is no longer relevant.

But there is a deeper point here. The diet mentality is dangerous. Don’t even start. Never, ever, ever, ever go on a diet. Instead choose a lifestyle. Choose a lifestyle that includes nutrient dense foods, moving in a way that keeps you strong. And here is a new concept I am working on with food: First, do no harm. If a food causes inflammation, upset stomach, self-loathing, insomnia, or other negative consequences it is doing harm. So, first do no harm.

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