Sunday, March 8, 2009

Binge Eating Vs Mindfulness -- SMACKDOWN

Awareness of the moment is when change can begin

My new weapon in the war against regaining the weight - Mindfulness. Interestingly enough, the concept of mindfulness is a huge part of the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy I'm learning in order to help deal with my psychiatric illness. In one of those rare moments of synchronicity, it turns out that my impulsive behaviour (binge eating) is connected to my illness (BPD), as well as being one of the causes of my weight problem. The good news there is that one weapon can do double duty and (hopefully) kick both these issues in the ass. Mindfulness is one of those simple concepts which could fix most of my problems... basically I just need to slow down and examine each moment, thought, feeling, urge, impulse, emotion. Rather than eat, emote or act as soon as the urge strikes me, I need to take time to decide on the truth and validity of the desires. Am I really hungry? Is this the "best" food choice for me? Dr Phil's Weight Loss Challenge states it similarly by putting thoughts through the Four Questions: Is my internal dialogue true? Does it serve my best interests? Does it advance and protect my health? Is it helping me achieve my weight management goals?

It seems simple and trite, but I know it works. It's just a matter of adding that extra step or two to my thought patterns, an extra step I think most people are born with or learn as children. I consider my Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to be training myself to audit or interpret things and installing a new filter/interpreter. After all these years of living in the moment (or even a step AHEAD of the moment, crazily enough) it's tricky to slow down and think about things analytically before acting/eating. With eating, so much of it is habit -- I always prefer eating in front of the TV or while reading, which is definitely NOT being mindful. Eating at the table with my family has just become an agony...which I try and get over as soon as possible, again NOT the way to be mindful of how and what I am eating. I'm going to eat in my room at my desk, or outside on the patio, in an effort to retrain myself. I just CANNOT learn to eat slowly and mindfully with the loons I call my family staring at me!!

I've found a couple of great Mindful Eating websites which will help me learn better habits. Understandably, my shrinks are more focused on other areas of CBT at the moment, but there's no reason I can't apply basic mindfulness techniques to my everyday eating. I am trying not to become extreme in my views about what I can/can't/shouldn't eat... for obvious reasons. I have also decided to not worry about my actual numerical weight for a while, as long as I stay under 125kg. There is a long road ahead, and being well and stable is a more important goal than being "X" kg. I'm going to the gym 3 or 4 times a week, and doing my best to avoid junk food. The rest of it will come later.


Jena said...

WOW! Are you really going to the gym 3 or 4 times a week right now???

Wandering Coyote said...

Interestingly enough, my shrink told me to use my distress tolerance skills to help with caving in to cravings - treat a craving like distress. Hm. Bit of a lightbulb moment for me, though it hasn't quite worked as well for me as mindfulness has for you. But it does show that these DBT skills are so transferable to other parts of our lives.

Borderline Lil said...

J - yeah, 2 wks ago I went 5 out of 7 days cause my shrink gave me the task as "homework"! Otherwise I might have slacked off LOL. Last week I managed 3 (we had a public holiday so the gym was closed 2 days instead of just Sunday). This week I am planning on Mon, Wed, Fri and Sat. Hasn't helped the weight loss though, am almost 10 pounds heavier than I was in Jan. SUCK.

WC - I *love* the idea of using distress tolerance skills for cravings. This CBT/DBT thing is rockin my world, I gotta say. Even though it's bloody hard. I just wish I could have more than one session a week.

Roger Thomson, Ph.D. said...

Best of luck in your mindful eating! You might be interested in my posts on the topic at
Also, a copy of the paper I coauthored with other TCME folks on mindful eating and the bariatric surgery population is here:

Best wishes,
Roger Thomson

Jena said...

Okay you are my official total inspiration to get to the gym!!! Yay!

Elizabeth B. Alexander said...

Holy Crap. It's like reading everything I've been trying to sort out in my head about weight loss and impulsive eating.