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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Still wanting comfort food

I'm still recovering from a medical procedure I had in November, and my urge is still to have the foods that comfort me. My energy is low, pain and sleep are a problem, and it's easy to begin to feel sorry for myself.
In such times, it becomes clear to me what an intimate relationship I have with food. Of course, we all do, but I think about food a lot. No feelings that I'm out of control with food, just need to feel very satisfied when I eat.
Recent favorite foods are toast and jam, pasta with cheese, veggies and olive oil, baked chicken and veggies, rice pudding, baked apples, baked fish and boiled potatoes. Tonight I'm making a sheperd's pie with ground turkey, onions, celery, garlic, peas, corn and sweet potatoes. Yum. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Eating Disorders vs. Disordered Eating

In the world of medical professionals who treat eating disorders, there are specific criteria for diagnosing someone with one of these disorders. There are 3 main categories of eating disorders, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. There's also something called "eating disorder not otherwise specified", which means you've got an eating disorder but it doesn't fit neatly into one of these categories.

These categories are defined in a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, a listing of psychological disorders. For each, there is a set of criteria that a patient must meet to receive the diagnosis. This is so that we are all clear what disorder you've got, and for insurance reimbursement.

As someone who treats eating disorders, I see a lot of people who don't meet the criteria for one of these disorders, but are never-the-less in a lot of emotional pain about their relationship with food. We all have a relationship with food, even though food is a set of inanimate objects. If food is making the decisions about when, what and how much you eat, rather than you making these decisions, I think you have a disordered relationship with food.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Using food to fill your spiritual "emptiness"

Do you ever use food to "fill yourself up", when you're not physically hungry? I sure do!
Recently I've had a difficult period of waiting to have a medical procedure. The waiting is a lot harder than the procedure itself will be, I'm sure. I find myself eating when I'm not at all hungry, and at other times not eating when I AM hungry. I've been asked how this works for me; do I overeat when I'm upset or not eat? Well, I guess the answer is it varies a lot.
I am aware, though, that I'm using food to "fill" that space that holds my anxiety.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What do you want to eat when you need comfort?

This is such an interesting question to me. People are so different, and it's great to hear the answer to this question.
I almost always want smooth, creamy foods, like ice cream or frozen yogurt, pudding, cottage cheese and sour cream (a childhood favorite), banana, cream of wheat or oatmeal (creamy).
Sometimes I want crunchy breakfast cereal, with raisins.
While I love salad and fresh fruit, these are not the foods I want when I need comfort.
What are your comfort foods?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Spirituality of Eating: Eat what you love, and love what you eat.

Have you ever thought of food and eating as a spiritual experience? The experience of tasting something simply marvelous and yummy can be so intense that it’s startling. Feeling hungry feels empty, eating food we love tastes wonderful, and eating just till you are full and satisfied rounds out the spiritual experience of eating.

When you are thinking about eating, consider 3 questions:
• Am I hungry, physically hungry?
• What do I really want to eat?
• How much of this food do I really need to be satisfied?

Food tastes better when you are hungry, physically hungry and that’s a physiologic fact. Consider that when we begin eating, the food tastes good, and as we fill up, the food might still be good, but it’s not as fabulous as that first bite. The food hasn’t changed, but our experience of eating it has changed. We have changed, physically changed, when we are no longer hungry. So, waiting to eat until you are hungry is the best strategy you can have to a comfortable relationship with food.

Being physically hungry is really good news; it means the food will taste very good. If you are eating what you really, really want, that’s a plus in terms of having a spiritual experience with food. Stopping when you are physically, mentally and spiritually full is a very important aspect of eating to satisfaction.

If you are “tuned in”, the movement from hunger to satisfied fullness is truly a spiritual experience.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Are evenings hard for you in terms of snacking?

Many of my patients and friends tell me that after dinner is their hardest time of day in terms of wanting to eat even when they are not hungry. I know this is my most difficult challenge in eating consciously. If I've had a satisfying dinner, and am NOT hungry, I shouldn't want any more food, right? Many evenings that's just not the case. I really enjoy a (small) bowl of frozen yogurt and often that's enough. But some evenings I just want to keep eating! This is very frustrating. I feel best when I eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Wondering how others do it?

What do you do when your typical meal times have to change?

If I know that my mealtime will be different than usual on a particular day, I try to adjust my other eating times to fit. For example, this evening begins the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, and I'll be at services from 6-9. My usual evening meal is at 7 or so; what to do?? I always want to eat only when I'm hungry, since food tastes so much better.

I've had a light lunch at 1, and will plan to eat at about 5, a light supper (ravioli, scallops, butternut squash, yum). I don't like going out after a big meal. Hope this works.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

What do I want to eat right now?

Sometimes knowing what I want to eat is very clear, and other times it seems mysterious.

Yesterday at Northeastern University where I teach, I was a little hungry and just wanted "something", perhaps something sweet, but not too filling. I hate the way I feel when I have too much high fat food, and this happens often with pastry, cookies, etc.

I went to the Starbucks on campus and was perusing the sweets in the case. One of my students came up behind me and said "oh, go ahead, it's ok to splurge!". I had just been talking in class about eating when you're hungry and eating exactly what you want. I answered, "Nope, this isn't what I really want." and left to buy a fruited yogurt at the convenience store.

Now that was a satisfying snack!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Health At Every Size

I've been following the listserv for Association for Size Diversity and Health ( This is a very interesting group of lay people and professionals, who are interested in promoting the idea that "thin" is not the only way to be healthy. It is quite possible, and often the best choice, to be "overweight" or even "over fat" and still be very healthy and happy. The drum beat of voices telling us to lose weight or get sick and die may actually be wrong!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Family Holidays

Tonight is the start of a holiday in my family, and I'm off to dinner at my mother's. This meal is always the same, except that over the years my mother and my aunt have "simplified" the recipes, to use more canned and pre-prepared foods. I'm in favor of whole, fresh, unprocessed food, and so I find many of these dishes unpalatable, and certainly less healthy. I suggested that a salad be served and was told it's "not traditional". What that really means is THEY have never served salad with this meal. There is no one tradition for these foods, just what we make up.
Guess what? I'm bringing a salad!

Emotions and Eating

Do you find yourself wanting to eat more or less food when you're emotions feel difficult or out of control? This is interesting to me. Sometimes I want more food and feel like I'm never really "full" or satisfied. Other times I feel that I can't really eat, and feel that empty uncomfortable hungry feeling. I think that FEAR is the emotion that makes me feel like I can't eat. That emotion keeps me from really taking care of myself in a way that provides comfort.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Feeling more satisfied

Yesterday I felt a lot more satisfied with what I ate, a big relief. I was on Cape Cod with friends, and had lunch they prepared for me, excellent. Dinner was a lobster roll and french fries that were excellent and VERY satisfying.
It's interesting that the next day (today) I feel better, and more relaxed. What I eat and how I feel about it really has an impact on how I feel.
Do you feel that way too?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Feeling Satisfied with Food

This week I had a medical issue hanging over my head, and it has left me feeling uneasy and at times anxious. I've been aware that I'm trying to "fill myself up" with food, and that whatever I'm eating is not satisfying. I've certainly been physically full at times, but rarely have I felt satisfied.
There is really a difference between being physically full and satisfied. It's very clear that what I'm experiencing is not about a need for food, but a need for some emotional comfort. I'm working on learning to live with unresolved problems in my life, and not use food or other substances to soothe me. This is a hard job, and I'm hoping for progress and not perfection.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Why We Overeat

• Have you wondered why, despite your best efforts, your still overeat your favorite foods?
• As more people in our country are overweight and so many people are “on a diet”, why aren’t we looking at why people overeat?

Perhaps you’re one of the people who simply blame themselves for not being able to stick to a weight loss diet. There is an entire multibillion dollar industry devoted to helping us lose weight, and it’s a terrific business to be in right now. Since most people regain the weight they lose, this industry has a built-in customer base.

Scientists are only now beginning to investigate why people overeat. Dr. David Kessler, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has a new book titled “Why We Overeat”. The book describes current research looking at the causes of overeating. And no, it’s not just that you are lazy or undisciplined.

Research demonstrates that when we eat sugar, fat, or salt, the brain is stimulated to produce dopamine, a chemical that conveys messages from one nerve cell to another. When we consume just sugar, there is a small spike in this chemical, but when the food contains sugar and fat, the spike is larger and lasts longer than with sugar alone. Combine these 3, and the spike in production of this chemical lasts longer still. When you add a variety of temperatures, textures, and aromas, the lure of this food becomes even stronger and harder to resist. These chemicals “activate” the brain and turn on reward circuits, causing the desire for more and more of the food. For example, ice cream contains sugar and fat and is cold. When you add hot fudge (sugar, fat, hot, creamy, chocolate), crumbled cookies (sugar, crispy), and peanut butter candy (sugar, fat, chocolate), the food is more multisensory, and even harder to resist.

The food and restaurant industries know that to make a food more irresistible, they should layer the fat, salt and sugar with the other sensory qualities such as texture, temperature, and color. These industries are smart enough to put these foods on every street corner, grocery store, and drug store. Add the gloss of advertising that says “eat this with your friends and family, have fun”, conditions us to want to eat these foods beyond fullness.

Dr. Kessler points out that not everyone is equally vulnerable to the irresistibility of these foods. We don’t know for sure, but we think that in some people not as much of these brain chemicals are produced in response to foods, or they just don’t have the same effect as in others. Dr. Kessler refers to people whose brains are activated and remain activated by food conditioned hypereaters. When people who are not hypereaters begin to eat very appealing food, they do so until the “reward circuits” in the brain shut off, at a point of satiety. Conditioned hypreaters just don’t seem to have that shut off mechanism.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day?

I'm a dietitian. You would think I'd subscribe to the breakfast idea. Well, it may be true for some, but I'm just not hungry in the morning. I have coffee, always, then need about 2 hours till I'm hungry. I believe, strongly, that we should eat when we are hungry, physically hungry. At about 2 hours after waking, I want cereal and milk, almost always.
Of course, if I'm anxious or upset, I find it hard to eat. Still, I know that I'll need food and try to have something. Smooth creamy foods are easiest for me when I'm upset.
So, my "breakfast" is really a "snack".

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I'm writing this blog to chronicle my thoughts and experiences in helping others, as well as myself, with a "non-diet" approach to one's relationship to food and to good health through eating and exercise.