Thursday, September 8, 2011

Food Fight: Gaining Ultimate Victory

I wish I had a lighter subject on the menu, but my noggin' is full of thinking about a pretty serious subject... so I gotta write!!

Okay I kid.... now to get serious...

 I recently got a message from a beautiful, inspiring, and completely dedicated athlete who's in training for the fitness competitions like I do. Her message was a cry for help, as she was having trouble with following the strict diet plan for her training and from reading my blog (read "Food Fight" post to see where I started) so she knew I'd been there too.

She asked me:
 If you've had an eating prblem, how do you keep your mind from going back to that unhealthy place?"

It was so painful to hear that someone else had gone through (and was going though) the issues I'd struggled with and she couldn't seem to break free. To be honest, I had to take a deep breath after reading just the first sentence. My thoughts were: "Oh no... God, please no." I could have written the rest of the message myself, I knew all too well the problem and the exact feelings she described: the desperation, the decision and reasoning to just eat a little of ___ or one __ then... the raced, blind and numb binging (half the time I didn't even enjoy the taste, I was just putting things in my mouth!), the sick feeling (I'd literally eat till it hurt), the guilt and the defeated feeling the next morning as you recall your sabotage session trying to reason out a plan to fix it. "Just start over today and forget about it" I'd tell myself. But you can't really... your confidence is shattered and although I still looked fine (thanks to my dedication in the gym and racing metabolism), my mind was the farthest thing from "fit". Of course, I never thought I looked great at the time... but I looked back at my progress pictures and I realize that I did.

Much of our "health"is actually dependent on
our thoughts and what's going on inside our heads

It may be hard to believe after reading that, but I never thought of myself as someone who had an eating disorder. The reality is I did have one. This interesting article on supports the opposite viewpoint to what I found to be true; that entering fitness competitions will help you conquer an eating disorder. I do however agree that:

"Although eating disorders seem completely food and body image related, they are actually complex mental disorders resulting from a combination of behavioral, emotional, psychological, interpersonal, and social factors." 

Those factors depend on the person, but as the article continues: 

"Scientists believe that eating disorders develop when people use food as a way to express their emotions and gain some control over their life (at least they can control what they put in their mouth and their body to an extent)."

Yup right again... My disorder was binge eating.

photo courtesy of

I know far too well the place that your mind goes when you binge: rushing to stuff as much buttered frosting and PB into your mouth (yes I did that once) is so hard to escape once you open that door. After the first bite forget having a "mini-cheat," it's all out. I'm not going to tell you what my coach Shannon would say, "Take the emotion out of food" because although I COMPLETELY agree that would be 100% effective, the reason we're binging is because we CAN'T take the emotion out of it sometimes!! Hear me on this: even the people you think are perfect have bad days. They may seem damn fabulous, but they're NOT perfect either! Understanding that perfection is not "what everyone else is doing" is part of the battle of the mind. Step 2 is reaching out for help... That is so HUGE to overcoming this.

****WARNING: Prepare to read a lot :):) *****

So here's my advice that I gave her and I'd give anyone in a similar situation.
Women in all walks of life can fall into this trap of binging after a particularly stressful moment/day, or if they let themselves get too hungry and feel famished. I hope what I have learned through my struggle can help others out there overcome an eating disorder too! As an update on my progress: I am continuing the lesson plans accompanying Lysa TerKeurst's book, "Made to Crave." I still have work to do to truly win this battle once and for all, but I am making the switch from seeing my healthy eating plan as "deprivation" to feeling of "empowerment" by making healthy choices and defeating cravings. I still have bad days (remember, not perfect!!) but it gets easier every day.

Even my fitness inspiration, Jamie Eason eats a
donut every once in a (great) while.

> My Advice to Conquer a Eating Disorder<
#1: EAT. Although it seems counter-intuitive, it's completely necessary to eat ALL  your meals the days after a binge to prevent having another. Do you feel satisfied and fueled on the days you do follow your plan? I started binging when my plan was super restrictive and I actually was eating too few calories during the day. By sure your eating plan is healthy before you attempt to stick to it. If you're starving then of course your body will be screaming for more food and causing yo to binge. A Nutritionist can help analyze your current eating plan and get you on track with a healthy plan.

The cookie monster diet is all fun and games in a
 kid's show on TV, but it's no laughing matter in real life.

#2: SLEEP at least 8 hours. If this means going to bed at 9pm DO IT. You're investing in your future, your goals and your HAPPINESS. You're not being lazy. Your body needs this time to set your hormones and keep your ghrelin and leptin at normal levels. I'd take a 1hr nap at lunch or as soon as I got home. This is MORE important than working out on a day that you're really stressed. The days I "pushed through" I'd do my workout fine, but then when I got home I'd eat and because my hormones were way outa whack I would binge.

If you're DEAD tired after the gym, then the key to
 reaching your health potential may be a
 need to log more hours in BED not the GYM.

#3: READ, research, and inform yourself. Remind yourself of all the negative effects of trans fats, HFCS, additives, sugars, out of whack hormones, sleep deprivation, stress, binging, and ect. Google the crap out of it. Start here: All About Ghrelin.
Getting informed is a scare tactic, but it's effective! Did you know you if you overeat when you should be sleeping research shows "an average 48 percent increase in body weight. But on a regular schedule, there's an average increase of 20 percent of body weight." Yikes!! Also remind youself of the benefits of the things on a healthy eating plan; such as: flax, asparagus, smalll meals throughout the day, cardio in the morning, weight training, adequate sleep, correct ratios of protein, carbs and fats, ect. You'll be proud of yourself and excited about how effective a healthy plan is!!

#4: Talk to God. Read you BIBLE. Yup, this definitely a spiritual battle. Your mind is what needs to change here; it needs to be set to a different "default setting" when stress, tension and hunger creep in after a tough day. I start each morning with a verse of the day or a section of a reading plan. You'll get the GOOD flowing and it'll take up the space that'd get filled with desperate thoughts later. Talk to God before you eat; say out loud before your meals:

"Thank you Lord for this food and the blessing of providing my 'daily bread' again; I know some children have not even eaten today and I am grateful for my abundance."

You may need some outside resources to figure out how to ask God to help you in this area, I sure did. To really get serious about changing your mindset from feeling deprived and desperate to empowered and satisfied read "Made to Crave," By using this book, God is really reshaping my mind to see food completely differently. If he can do it with ME He can do it with anyone - I was so far gone I'd eat an entire pizza, plus some ice-cream and as many chocolate flavored calcium chews as I could find for good measure, and then go puke it up. Gross I know... but thats where I WAS not where I am, or where I'm going!

#5: Get an accountability partner. I found a girl at my local gym who was basically my twin- God brought us to each other I swear. We were both really skinny  visible abs, pointy shoulders, fat -ess butts, blah blah), but we both binged routinely!! So we took on this fight as a team: We texted each other every night and every morning to report either a triumphant victory or admit falling into the trap.Having someone to rejoice with you on your victories, and pick you up when you fall is so helpful. It's like they care half the burden. We'd also text each other Bible verses and prayers, such as:

"Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for the Lord and not merely for men (like overcoming food cravings!)."
~ Colossians 3:23

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."
~ Phillipians 4:12

*Note on this one though: Don't think about food too much; it actually makes it worse!! Don't spend your energy focusing NOT binging or eating right. Just go about your day per usual, eat meals on a regular schedule, do fun things!, and live like you don't 'have a problem.'

We made sure to do things completely unrelated to food, like
hiking or shopping or just chatting about our friends and family

#6: Talk positive to yourself ALL DAY. This is where the other book I'd reading, "Power Thoughts" by Joyce comes in. The book covers "12 Strategies to WIN the BATTLE of the MIND" which is exactly what an eating disorder is. Think to yourself: "Today is good because ___.; I am looking forward to ___.; I'm doing what I love, this is exciting being a ___!!; I love ___ (healthy food choice)!; ____ is such an effective lifting exercise!; God loves me just the way I am! I am a cherished, precious, and valued child of God. I am talented at ___.; My friends are so loving and special." and so on.

The goal of conquering this eating disorder is to take back your joy and happiness from the struggles that have stolen them; definitely don't feel guilty about enjoying you food! It's 100% okay to like food; food only becomes a problem when you want it more than God and you're being ruled by it.


Whew, just reading that you must be tired!! (Be sure you nap instead of heading to the fridge ;p) Just a few final thoughts before you go though, just because you're in battle doesn't mean your struggle with food defines you or your thoughts... You were made for more than this. 

"Remember who you are" as Lysa TerKeurst in "Made to Crave" says. God IS going to win this, you don't have to just do better... you WILL get completely free.

God bless,

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