Feelings vs. thoughts

Feelings vs. thoughtsPain in thoughts

A huge part of recovery is about learning to recognize, accept and deal with our feelings, without using food to soothe us. Even difficult feelings like sadness must be accepted as part of life. It’s important to honor ALL feelings. Fighting or suppressing them never works.

However … it’s also important to learn the difference between thoughts and feelings. Thoughts are based on rules, beliefs, and judgments that we made up ourselves or learned from others. Thoughts are not fact, although we often assume that they are. It’s important to question our thoughts when they are negative, because they are often based on faulty beliefs and judgments.

Feelings, however, are actually accompanied by physical sensations and can be described in one word (such as happy, sad, afraid, angry, lonely, and disappointed). This is the easiest way to tell the difference between feelings and thoughts, actually, because thoughts usually cannot be expressed in just one word. Feelings aren’t good or bad; they just are.

Why is this important? Because negative thoughts do NOT deserve the same treatment as negative feelings. Negative feelings must be fully felt and not avoided, as we said above. But negative thoughts should NOT be honored and accepted – they should be challenged.

Here’s an important example:
THOUGHTS: I feel fat, I hate myself, I look awful, I feel like a failure, I should be making more money
FEELINGS: Sad, disappointed, scared

Those feelings are important, and you should allow yourself to feel them. But those THOUGHTS do not deserve your attention. If we work on changing our negative, judgey thought patterns, our feelings become much less intense and easier to handle. This is key to ending emotional eating and binge eating!

As a person who’s spent most of her life being consumed by negative thoughts and avoiding feelings, I have found this feelings vs. thoughts distinction to be a VERY important part of my recovery journey (especially lately, thanks to my CBT group), so I wanted to share with you all! Learning to challenge my negative beliefs and judgments is helping me so much that I expect to be off my antidepressants soon. 🙂

Have you ever noticed how much your thoughts have the power to determine how you feel – and, often, how your whole day goes?

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The secret to quitting binging: #3

This is the third post in a new series, where I discuss my top tips for quitting binging. These tips – or practices – have worked for me and many others in long-term recovery. In the first two posts, I talked about how important it is to eliminate food-related guilt (click here to read the first tip) and to put weight loss on the backburner (click here to read). In this third tip, I’m going to talk about mindful eating.ALKBit

What is mindful eating? Simply put, it’s the practice of eating with mindfulness. Mindfulness involves being in the present moment and focusing your attention on the current internal and/or external sensations, feelings, thoughts, and observations of the world. Mindful eating is simply applying the idea of mindfulness to the act of eating. When you eat mindfully, it’s impossible to binge. Simple, right?

Well, not so simple actually. Most of us are constantly focused on the future or the past – we’re rarely in the present. Oftentimes this is a major cause of anxiety and even physical health problems. Yet, keeping your head stuck in the past or future is not an easy habit to break. Many people use meditation or yoga to learn how to be mindful, but this can be difficult for someone whose mind is used to going 100 miles per minute!

When we binge, we are never being mindful. Most of the time, we’re watching TV or reading or playing on the computer to distract us from our eating. Or, our brains are a million miles away from the food and our bodies. Or, we’re thinking about our next meal or the next bite … or how guilty we feel or how “bad” we are for eating this or that. Or, sometimes we’re even in a binge-induced trance where we have almost no awareness of anything!

So, how do we eat mindfully? The most important step is to eliminate or reduce distractions. When you eat, don’t do anything else. Just eat. No TV or phone or laptop. Just you and the food (and maybe your partner). Also try to reduce distracting thoughts. As your mind wanders, keep gently returning your focus to the food and the process of eating. Use all your senses in paying attention to the food, and focus on how the food feels in your mouth, in your stomach, etc. Listen to any feedback you get from your body. If your taste buds are telling you something doesn’t taste good, then don’t eat it. If your stomach is starting to gently remind you that you’re full, stop eating.

Theoretically, it seems so simple, but it’s much harder to put into practice, and it does take a lot of practice. Take baby steps. Try to remind yourself throughout the day to be present in the moment – to be mindful of your surroundings. And on a relatively drama-free day, try eating mindfully for just one meal. Don’t tell yourself “from now on, I’m eating mindfully all the time.” That seems too overwhelming. Just do it for one meal. And maybe another after that. You don’t have to do it for every meal or even every day. In my own experience, it feels a little weird at first (I was really, really attached to my TV and computer distracted eating rituals). But I soon began to enjoy my mindful eating time and even look forward to it. Crazy, right? The need to binge or overeat is never there when I’m truly being mindful, probably because it is MUCH easier to obtain satisfaction from your eating experience when you’re actually paying attention and savoring each bite! Suddenly, having just one or two cookies (instead of the entire box) becomes possible, because when you take the time to eat a cookie slowly and savor and truly appreciate it, there really is no desire to eat a hundred more!

But practicing mindfulness in my life is always a work in progress. I still have a ways to go in learning to direct my mind to the present moment more often, and I’m currently trying to work harder on that. So far, the payoff has been enormous. Just in the last two days since I started putting post-it reminders around my house (with cheesy sayings like “Be present” or “I’m fine RIGHT NOW”), I’m felt so much calmer and more peaceful, and it’s really kind of an amazing feeling. 🙂 I’m going to give myself a few weeks with this renewed effort and see how things progress, and I’ll write another blog post detailing my progress!

What are your experiences with mindful eating … or mindfulness in general? What is one mindfulness goal (even a tiny one) you can make for the next few weeks?
P.S. If you’re interested in joining a “Mindful Eating” online group event for support and tips in the month of May, message me below in the comments! 🙂

Weight loss and recovery: a personal moment

I don’t talk about weight and weight loss on the blog very much, because I firmly believe in putting weight loss on the backburner in the early part of recovery, at least until you have a few months binge-free under your belt. But for those of us facing health or mobility problems related to our weight, it is something we have to address eventually. And it’s really tricky, because by this point, we have figured out that “dieting” leads to binging, but how do you lose weight without dieting? It’s not impossible, but I think it’s a difficult subject – and it probably varies a great deal from person to person, so I’m not going to give specific advice on how to lose weight.

So … after quitting binging last summer, I had finally started to release some of the weight I had gained (I had gone from “normal” to “obese” in less than a year), but it’s happened soooo slowly, almost as if my body and mind seemed reluctant to let it go. Yesterday, I realized that maybe I needed to say “goodbye.”

You see, I’ve already made peace with the weight gain many times in the last year, and I have chosen to accept and love my body as it is … and even to be GRATEFUL for the weight gain, for forcing me to change so many things in myself and in my life, for the better. I’ve definitely become a better person since having BED (and gaining weight in the process). I now view binging and rapid weight gain as a GIFT, because it can help us realize the areas of our lives or inner selves that desperately need help. These steps of acceptance and gratitude helped immensely in quitting binging!

However … despite the body acceptance and gratitude, I felt like there was still some hesitation or fear or something holding me back from returning to a healthier weight. I realized yesterday that I need to say goodbye and be ready to let go. I don’t “let go” of anything easily, good or bad, and that’s always been difficult for me. So I think this is crucial.

Journaling ... where the magic happens!

Journaling … where the magic happens!

So, I talked to my husband about it, and I did some journaling about these thoughts and feelings of letting go and saying goodbye to the extra weight. I’m still not even certain of the reason for this hesitation, but I did my best to explore the possibilities in my journal. And I’m going to do something I never do – I’m going to share a raw, unedited excerpt from my journal. Here it is.

I realized there’s still a part of me that’s hesitant (or scared? not sure) to lose the weight. I’m not 100% sure what that’s about, but I think I need to formally say goodbye to the extra weight. Am I ready to give it up, truly? It has served me well in some ways, despite how difficult it’s been to see myself become obese … it’s taught me so much about myself and made me change for the better, in so many ways, and I would never have done that without the weight gain. So, in a way, I owe it a lot. Maybe it’s even been protecting me from something. Maybe I’m hesitant to let go of it because I think I want to be loved at any size, and being heavy showed me that I can be. Maybe I feel like I’m betraying the BED/ED/HAES communities. Maybe I’m just scared of what comes next – after losing the weight, it’s time to get serious about starting a family! In any case, I think I’m done with it – the extra weight has served a purpose, but I no longer need it. I need to be ready to say goodbye, despite any lingering reluctance or hesitation. It’s time. I’m ready to move forward and be healthier and use this body to bear a healthy child and serve me better physically, in running and in everything else. The body that I have is wonderful, but I’m ready to release the extra weight that is no longer serving me. I have learned so much because of becoming obese. Soooo, so much. And I’m grateful. But there’s always a time to let go. And that time is now!

After journaling, an amazing thing happened. I was going about my day, folding laundry, and I suddenly noticed that I felt this powerful sense of calm and serenity that I rarely feel!

I think this means I’m ready. Ready to return to a healthier weight – and ready to say goodbye to any lingering parts of ED. I don’t expect everything to be perfect from now on, but I feel like this is a really significant step in my recovery journey.

What is holding you back in your recovery journey?

The secret to quitting binging: #2

This is the second post in a new series, where I discuss my top tips for quitting binging. These are things that have worked for me and for many others in long-term recovery. In the first post, I talked about how CRUCIAL ALKBitit is to eliminate food-related guilt (click here to read the first tip). This second tip is also very important:

Put weight loss on the backburner.

“Huh? You can’t be serious. I can’t forget about weight loss … I NEED to lose weight. I’m unhealthy, my clothes don’t fit, and I hate my body. I HAVE TO lose weight as soon as possible.”

This is the typical reaction to this tip. And this was MY reaction many, many times … until I finally realized that desperate desire to lose weight was only KEEPING me binging and making me gain more weight. At some point, I realized things simply weren’t getting better with my constant quest to lose weight. If I was going to keep gaining anyway, I might as well try something different. So I stopped trying to lose weight for a while. I focused on listening to my body, rather than to the scale, my jeans size, or calorie trackers. Surprisingly, I stopped gaining weight. And after a while, it became a lot easier to stop binging without the pressure and dire need to lose weight.

So, this is my advice to anyone who is struggling with binging: forget about weight loss goals for now. I know this is hard … believe me, I know. But it will be so worth it. You can always revisit your weight goals after you have been binge-free for a few months, when both your body and mind are in a better place.

What are your experiences with dealing with weight issues and recovery? Did you also find that the goals of quitting binging and losing weight had to be tackled separately?

How can I love myself?

Self-love: it’s about loving and accepting yourself as a whole person. It does NOT mean you have to like every single aspect of yourself. It’s OK for me to say that I don’t like my tummy that much, but I still love MYSELF as a whole!

Think about how you feel about your family and friends … of course, you don’t like every little thing about them, because they are humans with flaws. Just like you. Yet, you still love them despite their flaws. It’s the same with loving yourself.

Lots of us think there’s no way we can love ourselves because of our flaws or imperfections. I know I used to think that; I couldn’t imagine loving myself just as I am. But who says we have to be perfect to be loved? ED says that. ED is a liar!ALKBit

Steps to self-love:

  1. Focus on what your body can DO (rather than how it looks) – and thank your body for everything it does for you, every single day.
  2. Tell yourself you love your body, even when you don’t. Just keep saying it, even if it feels fake. Fake it ‘til you make it! It really works!
  3. Focus on what you do like about yourself and your body.
  4. Challenge your narrow beliefs about what is beautiful and what fat means.
  5. Realize that “fat” isn’t a feeling – it’s a signal that something else is going on inside you … probably a general feeling of unworthiness or self-doubt.
  6. Remember that your body CAN have flaws but still be lovable. You don’t have to be perfect. Or, you can think of it like this: you can be perfect in your imperfection.

Why is self-love so important? It’s because you need it to heal. You can’t recover without it. We are far more likely to take care of something we LOVE rather than something we hate. So, spread the love to the person who deserves it most … YOU!

Where are you in your journey to self-love? Do you have any tips to share with others?

To change your outside, change your inside: eating humble pie

In my own experience, going from daily binging to no binging, basically what I did was throw out everything I thought I knew about food, eating, weight, and health … and totally rebuild and reexamine everything. This is extremely difficult – but necessary for true recovery! It took a long time for me to realize I couldn’t think my way out of this problem, because my THINKING was impaired by BED, depression, and anxiety. I finally realized that if I wanted to stop doing the same things, I needed to stop thinking the same way. I had to fundamentally change ALL of my thinking about food and my body.

The hardest part about this was the humility – realizing that I had been wrong – so, so, so wrong – realizing that everything I was doing was only making it worse and worse and that I didn’t have a clue. I’d always prided myself on being smart – that was the ONLY thing I ever liked about myself  … So when I realized that my brain was actually part of the problem, it was shocking and heartbreaking, and it made me feel like I had nothing left. I was sad. There really wasn’t anything good about me. Nothing to love. 😦 Or, that’s what I thought.

Looking back on this now, I think that was my rock-bottom moment. It happened over a year ago. I didn’t immediately get better … I binged for many more months after that, knowing only one thing – that I didn’t know anymore! I eventually found intuitive eating, and it saved me. It made me realize that, YES, I actually CAN trust myself – there IS wisdom in my body – but it’s not all in my brain. I’m not just a brain (or a walking head, as Geneen Roth calls it).

I am sharing this story – my story about eating “humble pie” – to show that I KNOW what it’s like to feel stuck and to feel like there is no hope. I have been there. But there is hope. The thing is, you have to be willing to reexamine and relearn everything … and maybe even take a bite of humble pie … or eat the whole thing, as I did :).

I challenge you to identify a few beliefs about food and weight that are not serving you well. How would your life change for the better, if these negative ideas weren’t weighing you down?

The secret to quitting binging

BlogRecipePic

What is the single worst ingredient in your food – that you should avoid at all costs? Hint: It’s actually calorie-free, but it can be a lot worse for your health than the most decadent cheesecake. This deadly ingredient is guilt. Guilt makes us feel bad about ourselves and makes us 10 times more likely to binge again and again and again! Guilt’s cousin, shame, is even worse – and for most binge eaters, even a mild feeling of guilt can play into the deep shame that is nearly always lurking within us.

How to get rid of the guilt? You can start by getting rid of your diet rules, especially the good/bad labels you use to describe food and yourself – just get rid of the harsh judgment words. We create our reality in our minds, and if we think that cookies are “bad,” then it’s easy to start thinking WE are “bad” if we eat them (or “good” if we eat broccoli). It’s simply not true that you’re “bad” if you eat one cookie or 100 cookies. Don’t give food the power to make you feel good or bad.

The fact is, your self-worth shouldn’t have anything to do with what you eat. Our eating disorder has convinced us that it does, but this is a lie. Most of the negative stuff you believe about yourself is simply NOT true. But ED is convincing; ED has made you believe these lies for years – making you feel guilty not only for eating, but for existing! The good news is, you don’t have to believe ED anymore. It will take a while for ED to stop influencing your thoughts, but you will get there if you keep challenging these ED beliefs every chance you get!

Note: This is the first post in a new series of blog posts. I’m going to tell you the most important things that helped me stop binging, but I’m going to explain them in small, easily digestible chunks. I wanted to start with the topic of guilt and shame because I think it might be the single most important part of recovering from binge eating. It has been SO crucial to my own recovery. In fact, we’ll probably revisit the topic of shame in a future post, because I find it so important!

What role does guilt play in your eating disorder? Why do you let your eating or your weight determine your worth as a person?