Tag Archives: binge eating

8 Steps To Stop Your Nighttime Binges

Do you sometimes sneak a late-night snack, even after you’ve had a big dinner? Or worse, do you find yourself hungry and craving sugar and carbs at night? You may think you’re alone, but nighttime eating is a common problem.

Are you hungry after a big meal? Do you continue eating late into the night?

It is one of the biggest reasons we gain weight. We eat and go to bed and store all that food around our bellies.

Have you ever thought about why, not long after a big meal, you crave more food, more sugar, and more junk, and you want to have chips or sweets or other unhealthy foods?

It’s not a flaw in your personality. It’s not some emotional issue that you have to fix. It’s not some psychological trauma that you have to get over.

It’s simple biology, an imbalance of the hormones that regulate your appetite.

Originally posted on DrHyman.com

#OccupyYouAreBeautiful: Why I’m Camped Out On A Rooftop Yoga Mat

Right now I’m sitting on a yoga mat on the rooftop of 2309 Main Street in Santa Monica, California. Just below me is a giant red wall painted with the words “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL,” and there are two ten-foot tall inflatable dancing man balloons blowing in the wind beside me. There are men and women walking by on the sidewalk below, a beautiful community garden across the street. The ocean is just visible in the distance. This is #OccupyYouAreBeautiful.

Between today and Wednesday, September 18, this yoga mat will be my home. I will stay here all day and all night — I will eat here, sleep here, and I will be joined by yoga teachers, musicians, speakers, and other members of the community.

#OccupyYouAreBeautiful is a public demonstration of solidarity with people who struggle with food and body image issues on all ends of the spectrum. Together, we are taking a stand – for life, for happiness, and for the right for all people to feel beautiful in the bodies they inhabit.

The statistics around eating disorders in this country are discouraging. Nearly 24 million Americans suffer from eating disorders, and millions of others struggle with food and body image issues at a sub-clinical level. This disease kills nearly half a million people every year – daughters, sisters, brothers, friends, and spouses. That’s not okay. 32-year-olds shouldn’t be dying of starvation. 8-year-olds shouldn’t be vomiting to lose weight. This is not the kind of society I want to raise my kids in.

Over the past several years, I’ve built my life and career around helping others recover from this illness. I believe yoga can be a game-changer in the fight against eating disorders, and more importantly, I believe it can help shift the sociocultural dynamics that contribute to eating disorders to begin with. Yoga teaches critical skills for developing a healthy relationship with food and one’s body (which many of us never learn as children), and it can equip those who struggle with these issues with skills that pharmaceuticals, talk therapy, and other traditional forms of treatment simply do not provide.

That’s why I developed Yoga for Eating Disorders — to teach people who struggle with eating disorders practical tools for using yoga in their recovery. Specifically, the program teaches yoga-derived exercises for tuning into hunger and fullness signals, coping with difficult emotions, and learning to relate to the body as an ally rather than an enemy. The average cost of eating disorder treatment is $1,250 per day, and even at that rate over half of patients relapse after discharge. Eating disorders — from anorexia to binge eating — take a huge toll on our healthcare system. Yoga is a cost-effective way to teach those who struggle with these issues skills for long term recovery, potentially shortening treatment, reducing relapse, and ultimately saving lives.

On July 30th (my 24th birthday), I launched a crowd-funding campaign with the ambitious goal of raising $50K to take Yoga for Eating Disorders to treatment centers around the country at no charge, collect data for an evidence based study on its effectiveness in treatment, and offer pro-bono talks about eating disorder prevention at local schools in each city where the program is offered. We’ve raised almost $30K so far, but with only 4 days left in the campaign it’s time for something a little more drastic. It’s time to Occupy.

Inspired by my friend Will Baxter of the Don’t Let Will Die campaign, I am demonstrating my solidarity with eating disorder sufferers around the world by taking a stand. I invite you to take a stand with me – for life, for freedom, and for the belief that all people have the right to feel beautiful in the bodies they inhabit.

With less than 100 hours left in our campaign, I need your help. I will not let this campaign fail. This yoga mat saved my life once, and I’m not getting off it until other have the same opportunity.

Stand with me by donating today!

You can stand in solidarity with Chelsea and #OccupyYouAreBeautiful by making a donation, sharing this campaign with your friends and family, commenting on this page and visiting her at 2309 Main Street in Santa Monica, California. There is no reason this has to be the only #OccupyYouAreBeautiful. Host one in your own community!

My Life With Binge Eating – And the Path to Recovery

338/365 - 9/11/2011To an outsider it might appear that my day was just like any other college student. I got up, went to my morning class, grabbed lunch with a friend, went to my afternoon class, worked out at the gym, did some home work, ate dinner, chatted with friends, got a late night snack then went to bed.

But that façade was far from reality. In fact, I was struggling all day to keep my composure, and desperately trying to hide the fact that I hated myself. I had fallen into a nasty cycle. I would go to bed with my stomach filled to the brim with over 5,000 calories worth of desserts and fried foods. I would wake up ravished and hating myself for needing to eat after the type of dinner I had. So I would try to go as long as possible without eating, and aim to eat only 500 calories a day. My thought process was – if I ate over 5,000 calories yesterday, I should have enough fuel in my body to last me three days. My starvation definitely slowed my weight gain but I still inevitably gained 15 pounds in as little as three months.

The worst part was, I had absolutely no control. NONE. People would look at me like I was crazy when I told them I couldn’t stop myself from eating. Why can’t you just stop when you’re full? They didn’t understand that stuffing my face wasn’t a choice for me. It was a necessity. My hands were not attached to my mind, and I could only stop when I felt so full I wanted to puke. During a binge attack, half of my mind would try to reason why it was okay to eat a whole box of Oreos. The other half of my mind would hate myself and hate the fact that I had no control. There was not an ounce of compassion in my bones. I found myself devouring a whole large pizza, or three whole entrees, or an entire large bag of potato chips. It’s rather astounding how much food my stomach could fit. And the greasier, cheesier or chocolaty the food was – the better.

I do not remember the exact day but I do remember the period of my life when I started having these binge attacks. I was in my second semester in college, and my first real boyfriend and I broke up. I was heartbroken beyond belief, and the sense of abandonment I felt was equal to when I thought my father had abandoned me so many years ago. In reality, my mom divorced my father and moved us to the United States. But to a 7-year-old, all I knew was that my dad was no longer there.

My binges occurred in waves and was never severe enough that I could be officially diagnosed with a binge eating disorder. But that doesn’t take away from the gravity of my situation. My self-loathing only escalated as time after time I would find myself pigging out in front of the fridge. Friends and family tried to help but I knew how to keep my eating a secret. I constantly felt judged and shame ran deep in my veins. WHY ME?!? So many other people in this world have it worse than me, so why do I punish myself? I worried that people would think I was incapable of handing life, and in fact, I did not feel capable at all! No one understood what I  was going through. I was more alone than ever. And so I ate.

I decided to start counseling a month after my first binge and 5 years later I am just starting to understand the triggers behind my binge. The difficulty with this type of disorder, at least for me, is that there is not one cause. A variety of different factors play into my disorder, and its difficult to understand it myself, let alone describe it to others.

What I can tell you is that my binges come more often when I am insecure. When I am lonely. When I feel scared. I was forced to grow up quickly, and to protect myself I was never attuned to what I was feeling. When my boyfriend and I broke up, my heart was ripped oven and all the emotions I repressed since I was a little girl came out. And I couldn’t handle it. So I searched for something to make me feel okay again, and I found food. The feeling of fullness and heaviness was the grounding I so desperately needed.

Food is a tough drug of choice because unlike alcohol, you need food to survive. I cannot abstain from food. The battle happens everyday I sit down with a plate in front of me.

In my sessions, I learned that the most important first step was to find compassion for myself. For the little girl inside me who was terrified of the world. In my seemingly endless binge cycle, it was hard to do. But I started to read books about other people with this problem, and it brought comfort to know I was not alone. Slowly but surely compassion came, and a few times I was even grateful for my disorder. My binges were my body’s way of telling me that I was feeling lonely, overwhelmed, powerless and abandoned. How lucky I am to have such an aware body! Now I just have to get my mind there BEFORE my body finds the need to be comforted through food.

It has been quite some time now since I’ve had a huge binge. In the five years since I first started binging, I have learned to be a little less judgmental. A little nicer to myself. And being nicer to myself includes working on the inner critic as well as letting go of what my diet “should” look like. Allowing myself to eat whatever I want has given me the freedom to eat healthier foods as well as enjoy chocolate here and there. The key is to let go of the guilt.

It’s been a long journey of self-hatred, self-love, suffering and compassion. And I know the journey is far from over. I am still learning how to have a normal relationship with food. I am still learning to treat my disorder as a gift from God. I am still learning that no one is perfect, no one is put together, and all we can do is the best we can at every moment. And I am still learning that self-forgiveness is the most powerful key you can hold in life.

But I also know that because of this disorder, I am stronger than ever. I have faith in life. And if the binge comes again, then so be it. I cannot be scared about the future. Life is a roller coaster and that’s what makes it exciting and livable. And as long as I open myself up to my feelings, and do not allow fear to consume me, then I know I have grown.

We are all imperfect beings trying to live a perfect life. Let me be the first to say – I do not wish to live the perfect life. I just wish to accept my life exactly as it is. That is the true gift of God.

Did You Overeat This Weekend?

Do you suffer from the barbeque binge? Holiday weekends can sometimes be a trigger for our worst eating habits. Obsessing over food like many other addictive behaviors is just another way of numbing out and avoiding un-felt pain, blocked emotions, or a true experience of life.

Everyone faces their relationship to food in unique ways. Some people obsess over every calorie, whereas others have no boundaries whatsoever. Whether you overeat out of boredom or you don’t eat out of fear, there is a spiritual condition that needs to be addressed.

Admittedly, I still struggle with my relationship to food and in this vlog I share some of my tips for recovery. Feel free to share your experiences with me in the comments below. Outing your ego is the first step in the healing process.

If you’re interested in this topic and want to deepen the conversation then join me next week for the start of my new course, Finally Full: A Workshop on Spirituality and Food.

photo by: Keoni Cabral

Weekly Health Tip: At Holiday Time, Take a Moderate Approach


Brought to you by Deepak Chopra, MD, Alexander Tsiaras,and TheVisualMD.com

Which of the two stomachs shown above will yours resemble after Thanksgiving dinner? When we overdo it at the table, the stomach expands beyond its normal capacity, sometimes to the point of severe discomfort. Digestion slows, especially if the foods are high in fat. Even so, we manage to “find room” for that last slice of pie. This kind of eating has nothing to do with nourishment or sustaining life. Eating to the point of pain and pants-loosening is the result of our brain saying: “This food is good; better get it while we can!” Our brains evolved when food was scarce. Because we need food to survive, our brains tell us that eating is pleasurable. Eating triggers the release of the feel-good brain chemical dopamine in the same area of the brain that is activated by addictive drugs. However, we do have a system that tells our brain when we have had enough. The bright lines in the images above are the vagus nerves, which connect the brain to the digestive system. They control foods’ movement through the digestive system, among many other jobs. When the stomach is full, the vagus nerve sends a “full” signal to the brain. The figure on the right is a binge eater, someone who gorges on food well after the brain receives the "full" signal. Not only does overeating strain the heart and gall bladder, it can stretch the stomach up to twice its usual capacity.

Learn more about the benefits of moderation:

TheVisualMD.com: Take a Moderate Approach

The Yoga of Eating: Holding the Edge

I have a yoga mat made by a company called "holding." It’s short for "holding the edge," a phrase that describes a key concept in yoga. When we arrive at a difficult posture, one that causes discomfort, we stop carefully and notice it. We don’t react by flinching or jerking back, but we don’t shove forward either. We bring awareness to the physical (and mental, and emotional) sensations we’re experiencing in that posture. If there is physical pain, we carefully back out of the posture. Otherwise, we relax into it, breathe deeply and hold the edge of discomfort.

It’s also called “riding the edge” or, my favorite, “dancing on the edge,” which accurately portrays the movement of moving forward and back along an edge of discomfort. And there is great wisdom at the edge. It teaches us not only what we’re capable of physically, but what our patterns of reactions are, mentally and emotionally.

In the face of discomfort, what arises? Fear, anger, judgment? And what’s our natural tendency–to ignore the sensations and shove blindly forward, thus risking pain and injury? Or do we run away from the difficulty, missing an opportunity to grow and advance?

This concept of holding the edge–neither forcing nor holding back–applies to most other areas of our lives. Relationships are best served if we show up fully and completely, not holding back but not forcing what can’t be forced. Successful careers are built on the concept of giving it your all, but not shoving forward into uncontrollable circumstances. And it applies to our food lives.

If you struggle with mindless, emotional or stress-based eating, the concept of holding the edge will serve you well. Let’s imagine a scenario, one that happened to one of my clients who wrestled mightily with mindless eating. She worked as a house sitter for a battery of wealthy clients who regularly traveled to exotic locales; she lived alone in a modest little house in a development. Her regular dietary habits were stellar: she ate three to five well-planned meals a day, rarely if ever snacked, and ate her meals sitting at a table, not driving in the car or working on her computer. She was a poster child for mindful eating.

But when she was staying at a client’s house, the gloves came off. She would eat her usual meals during the day. Around sundown, she would start to get uncomfortable–bored, lonely, out of sorts; sometimes, she found herself inexplicably stricken with grief. By 9 p.m., she would find herself alone in an unfamiliar house, standing at her client’s kitchen counter, elbow-deep in a bag of chips. And she couldn’t stop, until she had devoured most of the chips, cookies, cartons of ice cream in the pantry and freezer.

Afterward, she felt shame, disgust, powerlessness. It was exactly the same pattern as an addiction.  Was it because she felt lonely and vulnerable in an unfamiliar home? Was she grieving as she compared her modest home and life to these majestic digs? Was it just the novelty of a pantry filled with forbidden foods? Doesn’t matter. What’s important is that somewhere along the line, she checked out. Discomfort arose in the form of a craving, and she succumbed to the edge. She yanked back from the discomfort and ignored the information at the edge.

What does holding the edge look like in this instance? The urge to eat arises, and she stops. She notices the sensation. Ouch. It’s awful. Eating some chips, cookies or ice cream will create a pleasing cascade of happy brain chemicals that will relieve the sensation for a bit. But she doesn’t yank back; she holds the edge of her emotions. They get stronger, worse. Maybe she goes outside and sits on the ground, feeling the earth beneath her body, looking at the stars over her head.

Maybe she gets mad. Maybe she sobs. Again, doesn’t matter. The point is, she meets the sensations of discomfort. Something is there at her edge, some deep emotion that holds great wisdom and the potential for mental, emotional and spiritual growth. And she observes it, attentively, listening to the answers as she would a trusted friend.

As it turns out, she did all of the above. One night, alone at the home of a family who was taking some fabulously pricey vacation, she held her edge. She grieved for being alone, unmarried and childless, living in a modest home, for being heavier than she wanted to be, for feeling helpless and vulnerable, for the sheer passing of time. She went into the expansive yard, lay facedown under the stars, and pounded on the manicured lawn with both fists. She sobbed for the better part of an hour.

At the end of it, she felt renewed, purged, clean. And while it would be a tidy end of the story to say "She never ate emotionally again," it would not be true. What was true: she felt empowered. She rarely ate emotionally again, and when she did, it was never to the same degree, nor was it mindless. She consciously chose to eat in the face of a painful emotion, and she did it mindfully–one or two cookies, a handful of chips, all the while knowing that she was choosing to reward her body with a little surge of happy brain chemicals.

That’s the power and wisdom any of us can find at the edge. The process may look something like this:

1. When discomfort arises, and your first impulse is to head to the kitchen, stop. Do nothing. Close your eyes and breathe, deeply in, deeply out, 50 times. Feel the cells of your body softening and relaxing.

2. What’s the level of your discomfort? If 1 is barely noticeable and 10 is unbearable, is it a 2 or an 8? Having a somewhat objective measure puts your feelings into perspective. If your discomfort meter reads “3,” you might be able to just let it be there; it may subside after a few minutes.

3. If your discomfort is substantial, find a quiet place and space to let the feelings come up. If you’re in a work situation—a meeting, a cubicle—change your surroundings. Go for a walk, find an empty conference room, take a bathroom break and go sit in your car.

4. Sit there with your feelings. Imagine having them in for a visit and a cup of tea. Let them talk, and listen attentively, as you would to a trusted friend.

5. Allow some space for whatever arises. It’s not necessary to label or judge it. Just accept it. Envision being in a difficult yoga posture, or catching a tricky wave in surfing. And see what happens when you find your edge and take it for a ride.

  PHOTO (cc): Flickr / ehiuomo

Controlling Binge Eating


 I’ve been struggling with a negative body image/unhealthy relationship with food for about 5 years. Recently it has spiraled out of control and I feel like I’ve hit my lowest point. I tried going to therapy but didn’t find what I was looking for, so about 9 months ago I turned to yoga, meditation, and your book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga for guidance. Reading your book and others really opened me up to my spiritual being and being conscious in the present moment. I realize that my body and food does not define who I am really am. However, even though I understand and embrace the concepts in your book, I’m still struggling with out of control binge eating. Each morning I review the spiritual law of the day, perform the sun salutations, and try and meditate for at least 5 minutes (meditation is a struggle for me) but when the afternoon rolls around all I can think about is food. I start eating and don’t stop until I’m extremely full. It’s as if I become unconscious and don’t know what has hit me until I feel so sick and disgusted with myself.

Is there hope for freedom from this suffering?

Yes there is hope to control your binge eating, but it will take some time and persistence to retrain how your  body and mind relates to food. Your afternoon cravings are likely based on “emotional hunger” more than real physical hunger. A key element in your gaining control over your eating habits will be learning to listen to the actual physical signals from your body and being able to distinguish those signals from your emotional discomfort. For instance when you are really hungry, your body will send you physical signals that you can feel in your abdomen. When you have eaten enough and are no longer hungry and not yet full, your body will also send you a signal  that you can notice if you are paying attention. Your body will provide the intelligence to guide you on when and how much to eat if you learn to listen to it.  These two signals are what you need to learn to recognize in order to shift from emotional  false-hunger eating to body-intelligence eating.
This is why Ayurveda places such importance to having full attention on eating during your meal. If you are watching TV, checking your email or driving while you eat, then you are not listening to your body and your mind is not fully cooperating with the digestion process.
For many of us, eating has accrued many emotional associations that can confuse and distort our body intelligence signals. We may think we are hungry when we are anxious or depressed and  eat as a way to  try to cope with those uncomfortable feelings. With binge eating you will need to identify what emotional discomfort is triggering your response and then find healthy, non-eating ways of dealing with it. It is important to learn to distinguish these two responses—hunger and emotional distress—and learn to address them separately.
Dr. John Duillard has just posted a brilliant blog outlining an  Ayurvedic weight balancing diet.  I realize that binge eating is not necessarily a weight issue, but the principles of Ayurvedic eating he outlined apply directly to the points I was making above. My books Perfect Health  and Perfect Weight might be of help for you in learning to listen to your body. The book Freedom From Addiction which I wrote with Dr. Simon, can be of assistance in dealing with the emotional cravings.


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