I help women completely stop bingeing, overeating and dieting, lose their extra weight, and find freedom from obsession, shame and self-hatred.
But let's talk start by talking about some things I don't make use of in my work.
I stand against
- Above all, I am against the idea that it takes a long time to break the habit of bingeing and overeating. With the right information, you can do it today. I've worked with plenty of women who STOPPED. BINGEING. the first time we talked.
If it’s taking a long time, it might not be you. It’s probably the method.
- Paying a lot to solve your eating problems: Also not necessary. If you can afford it, it’s fantastic to have help with implementation. If you can’t afford it, you can do it yourself for nothing. (Here are some books you can get at the library. You can sign up for my weekly email. You can peruse the back catalog of my blog posts.)
- Dieting, where dieting means following someone else’s prescription for eating less than your body needs, for the primary purpose of rapid weight loss, however it’s dressed up (a “cleanse,” a “healthy start,”). A diet is by nature rigid, infantilizing and disconnected from the dieter’s body and its needs.
- Diet culture: The group of widely accepted practices of eating what some “authority” tells us to (even though we’re adults), eating less than our bodies need, discussing our weight constantly, counting calories and measuring food portions, talking aloud in public about how fat we are, above all believing we need to be thinner, etc., aka Situation: Normal for billions of women.
- “Obesity” hysteria. Does the West have an obesity epidemic? I’m not even interested in exposing all the bullshit in this narrative. Well, except to point out it’s a huge focus for class anxiety, which is to say, hating the poor. Anyway, you have no obesity epidemic to cure. Let’s just solve your problem.
- Fat-shaming and fat-hating and fat hysteria. It’s so bad I’ll say it twice. My work is vehemently not about hating any part of ourselves. It’s about the easiest, fastest way to change behavior that you have decided doesn’t serve you.
- Excessive medicalization of weight issues. Even physicians are guilty of treating weight and health as the same thing. A moderate weight is to health as health insurance is to health: It’s got benefits, for sure. But it’s not the same thing.
- Health at Any Size (HAES). While low weight doesn’t necessarily map to health, it’s wrong to claim we can be healthy at any size. If you can be too skinny, you can be too fat. If you stop menstruating because of your anorexia, you’re not healthy. If you stop walking because your weight puts too much pressure on your spine and knees, you’re not healthy.
- “Clean” eating: A meaningless term, but always more about what’s not eaten than what is. There’s something wrong with everything! A lot of vegetables are trying to kill us! And we’re all going to die. So could we please just relax about food?
- Intuitive Eating: A practice of eating by tuning into your hunger and satisfaction, which is way more conscious than bingeing or compulsive eating, but is often every bit as chaotic. Most people trying to break a powerful longstanding habit of eating too much of the wrong things need more structure than Intuitive Eating provides.
- Rigid beauty standards. This needs no explanation. Rigid beauty standards are stupid and vicious.
- Elaborate or exotic nutrition plans in lieu of the basics. If you’re not eating enough, sleeping enough, or moving enough, it won’t matter that you’re “eating the rainbow” or “eating right for your blood type” or anything else.
- “Getting to the bottom” of your problem by talking about it and uncovering its origin story. You can spend decades in therapy without getting to the root of a compulsion. The only way to break a habit is to stop doing it, and that doesn’t require any investigation of causes. It requires action.
- Self-neglect. Augh! Self-neglect never dug a woman out of an eating disorder. It doesn’t need to take a lot of time or money to break bad eating habits, but it will take attention and love. A lot of self-love.
- Shame: NO. Just NO. Shame will never solve more problems than it creates. We live in a world where it’s more shameful to be fat than to be a criminal. But 1. weight loss takes time and 2. you don’t even need to be fat to be fat-shamed, or fat-phobic. Self-pride and self-respect, on the other hand, can be restored the instant you get control of your eating << #GOALS
- Waiting until you weigh less to have the life you want. It doesn’t work that way. There is only so much that weight loss can offer a gal. Not gonna lie, it’s easier to buy and wear clothes when your weight is in a certain range. But you don’t have to weigh less to date, travel, get a massage, go to the beach, marry, attend a big event, get onstage, write your book, look for a better job, ask for a raise or leave a bad relationship. Doing those things while you change your habits = fastest life-change plan I know, and it’s not magic. It’s ordinary. You can do it.
I am emphatically in favor of the following, because they do a lot to dissolve bingeing and overeating, and they'll move the needle on the scale, too:
- Personal responsibility. In a "what goes in my mouth is 100% my business" way. Not in a gross Ayn Rand or "The Secret" kind of way. And not in a way that pretends we don't live in a world with broken food culture and a not-great food supply. In a "no one can do this for me" way.
- Real talk, aka Telling the Truth to ourselves. For example:
- Facing facts about where the extra weight is coming from. (It’s what we’re EATING.)
- Not pretending that we can eat whatever we want and stay skinny, like that unicorn next door. If we're prone to weight gain, our choices about "addictive" kinds of foods are 1. little or 2. none. (Very different choices. For very different people.)
- Not kidding ourselves about how uncomfortable it is to break a habit. Being braced for uncomfortable.
- Going straight at it. I work with a lot of women who want to lose weight so they can …
- wear what they love, not just what’s big enough
- "show Them" at a reunion or wedding
- feel good sitting on the beach (on Maui, why not?)
- feel good getting naked
- find a lover - or a better lover
- be rich, travel to Paris, wear expensive lingerie, and go to the opera
- or just ride around town in cute jeans on a cute bike with a baguette in the basket
Nothing wrong with any of that - except it might not happen magically, as a result of weight loss. What happens as a result of weight loss is that our bodies and our clothes get smaller. Which is, not gonna lie, often a good result. But it’s not the same as a ticket to Paris. Which you can start working on right now, while you lose some weight.
- Working your body, because exercise makes your body happy. Consider: weight ≠ physique ≠ body composition ≠ performance or capability. We often think that when we lose weight, we’ll be fit and toned and have cute knees and perky breasts and a high-and-mighty booty. Mmmmm … maybe! But probably there will still be work to do. Because weight loss is a result of not doing something - not eating too much of the wrong things. Physique is a result of actively doing something, which is working your body.
NB: Exercise doesn't do much to move the needle on the scale. But it works miracles for mood, and that can make all the difference for getting control of your eating.
- Doing it now. Tomorrow is the most popular time to start something. But the only potent time is now.
- No set amount of time to break a habit. It can happen instantly. I work with plenty of people who meet with me once, get started right away, and never binge again, The End.
- Addition over subtraction. It is just so much easier to focus on what you want than what you don't want. So much easier to bring good things into your diet, your day and your life than it is to 86 the bad things. Examples: Try adding more protein or fat instead of eliminating carbs. Try adding more walks instead of swearing off Netflix. Try dressing to please yourself today instead of eliminating 80% of your closet this weekend. This is a very simple reorientation with huge payoffs. And a lot of us get it backwards.
- Taking control of your personal food supply. A lot of our food is engineered for profit, not for health or even pleasure. A lot of our food isn't even food, really. Yes, there's something wrong with everything, and there aren't any true miracle foods, and we're all going to die. But some foods really are more healthy. Single-ingredient foods are always going to be better for your body than foods with 40 ingredients.
- Sovereignty. I’ve been doing this a while and have some pretty good guesses about what will happen if you do [X]. My job is to recommend what I think is your best course of action. You get to take my suggestions - or not! People vary, and you have to test things out for yourself.
- Dignity, self-respect, ease, flexibility, adaptability, invisibility, sustainability and a very light touch: All the reasons why I love the Riley method for overcoming overeating, as I wrote to you recently.
- Fat. Fat is not a disease process, or a bunch of useless waste matter we haven’t been able to flush yet. Fat is an active, vital part of us. We need it in our diets, on our bodies, and for our brains. A lack of fat is incompatible with the Good Life.
- Feminism. My feminism might not be everyone's feminism. But it's pretty solid, and it's very compatible with taking care of our bodies and our health.
Women’s bodies. They don’t matter much in our culture; not in the ways I would like to see. But they really matter to me.
Also: Pleasure, beauty, love, friendship, family life, surprises, food, wine, dressing up, lingerie, lazy Sundays, beach walks, married life, PARIS OF COURSE, London too, early church music, knitting, cheese plates, coffee in bed, Buffy and Veronica, reading every book titled How the Frenchwoman Does [Thing], using the good china, The Magicians, critical thinking, young adult fiction, Spoon, village life, bow blouses, AHF's Stop Girl Trafficking program, my alma mater, and those shrimp crackers that look like little pink pillows.
I have a BA in English from Wellesley College. I've worked as a life coach and consultant since 2010, and was trained and certified by Martha Beck, PhD.
My work is informed by that of
- Gillian Riley
- Susie Orbach
- Kathryn Hansen
- Traci Mann
- Cheri Huber
- Jeffrey Schwartz
- Byron Katie
- Paul Campos
- Gary Taubes
I'm from Boulder, Colorado and live in Marblehead, Massachusetts, a Colonial-era village on the coast, where my husband and I just moved into a 300-year-old house that belonged to a pirate. My favorite comfort food is Charlies Angels: Full Throttle.