Saturday, December 15, 2012

Overeat, Restrict, Over-exercise—Just for now?

It may make you happy for now but...
Dana used to tell me she'd allow herself to eat "whatever", just until the holiday season was over, and then she'd buckle down and resume her restrictive approach to food management again. 

Rob cancelled his November appointments, preferring to wait until after January 1st to begin to improve his eating and his cholesterol level. And Stacy continued to restrict—in part because she knew that after her next doctor visit in a few weeks, she was going to be held accountable for her actions. Yes, she was going to need to turn her eating around or she'd be finding herself in a rather unhealthy predicament.

If you're like my patients and thinking you'll get by just for now, whether you'll continue to drop a few more pounds before you start normalizing your eating or you continue on your path of overeating, it's time to face the facts—you're not really planning to change. At least, not for long term.

I know, I know, you really do want to change. You may, like Dana, hate how challenging it is to do the simplest tasks, and how incompetent it makes you feel being foggy headed and spacey. Like Rob, you may be savoring what feels like your last supper, your last chance to get it all in before you take your diet seriously and have to give it all up. Or like Stacy, you may fear the consequences of eating enough—even if you know it's the right thing to do, for both your physical and mental well-being.

The truth is, this approach of just for now will do nothing to improve your relationship with food. If you continue to feel like it's your last chance to indulge, then plan to refrain from your favorite foods, you'll find yourself deprived. Sure, you'll do fine for a while—even a few weeks—until you're exposed again, or have a weak moment, a triggering situation. And then once your guard is down you'll overeat, again determined that it will never happen again.

And if you starve yourself or restrict your intake, fully intending to get your self back on track—once you drop the weight, that is—the behaviors that result will be anything but normal.

Putting off change-now that's a big mistake!
If you're serious about change, it can't wait until Monday—or for January 1st. And when you have a slip, you need to wrestle with it now and learn from it.  Ask yourself  "What happened here and what can I do next time to prevent this from happening again?"  But then you've gotta move on. (I say when not if you slip, because the truth is, slips do happen—so brace yourself.) You can't make it a slide until the first of the year, thinking you've already ruined it.

Please don’t wait until 2013 to resolve to change. Because if you're really serious, the change can and should start now.

I know it's hard, and I know you're struggling. But its not going to get any easier with the passage of time. So use your resources and start moving forward, won't you?

Thanks for reading.


  1. I stayed trapped in this for years. Life would get stressful and restricting seemed like the answer. I would tell myself just this snack, meal or day and before long it became an endless cycle of restriction and I was completely scared of food. Although you may hate what you are doing, its easy to get sucked right back in. You may not be ready today, but chances are you will never be fully ready to commit to recovery, so its better to just bite the bullet and start now. it isn't easy, infact for
    me recovery has been the hardest thing I've ever had to do, but I can tell your from my perspective, its completely worth it. My hardest day in recovery(and there have been many) is better than my best day with anorexia.

    Thank you Lori for this post!

  2. I needed to read that tonight. I'll need to read it again when I can focus more on it. Right now my head and heart are weighed down with sadness following this horrific massacre in my home state of CT.

    I feel like I'm in that place right now...I hear myself saying "I don't really need to eat." My T will be gone for two weeks, I won't be getting weighed for two weeks, I feel fat and out of shape therefore I want to work out more and skimp on food more, it's Christmas and I will be surrounded by food, feeling uncomfortable, like I've eaten too much. I can see myself started to get sucked back in (not that I was ever out). Truth is, I don't know what's going to happen over the next two weeks with my eating and right now, I kind of don't feel like it's important because my thoughts are consumed by the shooting. I feel like I need to use my energy thinking and being sad for these people, not worrying about having to eat something.

  3. So in agreement/relating to the two previous readers' comments...It's so tempting to give in to restriction before everyone arrives home for the holidays...but in what state do they find us when they DO arrive?...A person on "slo-mo" status..brain-fog riddled, incapable of doing the smallest tasks in a normal manner or framework of time... THIS the gift we want to offer our loved ones in this holiday season?..Where terror around food leads us to "shut down", rendering ourselves incapable of reveling in family reunion and family love?...As for empathy...whether it is for family members or the world at large...this too seems to.unbelievably take a back seat obsessions/fears/having-to-prepare-the-holiday meals/bake-the-cookies..etc)...Concern with our small, intimate family worlds..and the world at large...LIFE...seems to fade into the background...

    My daughter came to me in tears about the horrific events in Connecticut..and...despite being rationally shocked at the news..did not shed a single tear...This is not the feeling, normal "healthy" empathetic person I once defined myself to be...This was pure detachment..and I am ashamed of my (lack of)emotion. Where were my thoughts? Embarrassingly, on concocting a "safe" menu for the evening meal...and I am not proud.

    I think that allowing nourishment allows one to truly give during the holidays...for it allows us to feel love and feeds altruism...wouldn't these things be more "gifting" for the holidays than any wrapped package we could offer?

  4. I'm glad this is striking a chord with readers--thanks for the comments!

  5. Oh man, you called it! I used to do this all the time! one thing that helped me to stop delaying recoery was the following: I imagined myself as an elderly woman. In my vision, was I going to be an elderly woman with an eating disorder? No, I wasn't. I just couldn't imagine that this could still be with me in my 80s - like it is for my gramma (how she is still alive when she starves her body so is beyond me!). So, I was set on not being an elderly person with an eating disorder. So, that would mean that i'd have to stop my ED behaviors sometime between now and when I was an elderly woman... so... i was going to have to do it at some point, so I figured I might as well just get on with it and do it now... The work was going to have to be put in at some point (I was sure about that - there's no other way I'd end up 80 and without an ED), so I figured I should just put the work in now.

  6. This is such a great comment! You've captured the detachment and insular (almost selfish) nature of EDs so well...and you're exactly right about allowing ourselves nourishment being the most generous and loving thing we can do for our families/friends. Thanks for sharing and making me think :)

    (Also thanks for another great post Lori!)