• I recovered from my eating disorder and all I got was…

    What if - as a client recently asked - you did a ton of work to recover from an eating disorder, and all you got was no more bingeing and overeating?

    Lookit, it won’t be like that. It isn't possible! If you change one destructive, longstanding habit, a lot of other things are going to change on their own. They come along for fre e. But, just as a thought experiment:

    What if you didn’t get

    • A totally new, much thinner body

    • A new boyfriend

    • A better job and a pay raise

    • Your parents’ approval

    • Your kids’ respect

    • Your husband’s admiration

    • Your neighbor’s envy

    • And, say, a trip to Madagascar. Also Paris.

    What if you didn’t even get the things that women so often tell me is “all they really want,” like

    • To be “healthy” (can mean a lot of things, obviously)

    • To feel like your “real self” again

    What if all you got was

    • No more bingeing

    • No more overeating

    • No more obsession

    • No more compulsion

    • No more shame

    • Your dignity and self-respect back

    • To feel comfortable in your own skin, no "less than" so-called "normal" eaters

    • A comprehensively different identity as a person who completely trusts herself with food

    Would it be worth it?

    To answer that, answer this: What do you think you’re going to give up and suffer through in order to get control of your eating? How bad do you think it’s going to be?

    Because it’s not gonna be like that. It’s not gonna be bad! Only an addict who’s been beaten up by her habit thinks life will be gloomy and awful on the other side, when she's free of her addiction.

    It is totally going to be worth it.

  • Literally all my secrets contained within

    I meannnnn. I don’t actually HAVE any secrets. Because there aren't any.

    You knew that!

    Anyway, there are a lot of new people around here, so 1. Welcome! and 2. This primer is for you.

    It's also for people who just don’t have the funds right now for personal coaching - which can be a very helpful thing to do for yourself, but isn’t required to turn your eating problems around.

    And I’m putting together a group program that will closely mirror my 1:1 coaching program, just with more people, for less money. (It’s not ready yet.)

    In the meantime, here is my work in a nutshell. There really are no secrets:

    The first thing I teach people is what I call the Riley method, based on Gillian Riley's Eating Less technique. Briefly, it consists of this foundational understanding: You are an adult, in charge of your eating, and you’re free to eat or not eat anything. You’re free to make changes, and free to keep doing exactly what you’ve always done.

    With that in mind, here is Riley’s method for replacing all your undesirable, unhealthy or uncomfortable eating habits with a simple pair of tools that becomes your new macrohabit for eating:

    1. At the beginning of each meal, decide WHAT you’re going to eat, and don’t eat more than that.

    2. At the end of each meal, decide WHEN you’re going to eat next, and don’t eat sooner than that.

    That's it. WHEN and WHAT.

    (I’ve talked before about some of the many reasons why this method sidesteps all the pitfalls associated with other frameworks for eating in recovery. But let me know if you have questions like: What’s so great about that?)

    However, as you may be thinking, having a serious, tough-to-break habit like bingeing or overeating - maybe an addiction, even - doesn’t feel much like freedom. It feels like being in chains. Really solid, binding chains.

    So the other major thing we do is skill-building. We go straight at how to break a bad habit, fast, and snap that chain at its weak point. Basically, we put a directive in place not to strengthen the habit. Instead, we weaken the habit. By NOT DOING IT.

    And that's uncomfortable. We brace ourselves for the unavoidable discomfort. It gets easier, and a basic understanding of the neurobiology is helpful here. (I’ve gotten my best material on this topic from the work of Kathryn Hansen and Jeffrey Schwartz.)

    That’s a very brief encapsulation of the work we do together, me and my clients. Yes, the devil is in the details. Yes, there are subtleties and tricks and some tailoring that takes place. Yes, support and accountability and getting your specific questions answered goes a long way and can speed things up a ton.

    But the above is actually enough.

    If your budget (or your library’s budget) permits, I suggest these books as well:

    1. Secrets From the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the  Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet Again, Traci Mann. It’s impossible to stop bingeing and overeating before you stop dieting. Mann shows, once and for all, why dieting only makes us fatter. And will just a little bit never ever work. And she does it with science.

    2. You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life, Jeffrey Schwartz and Rebecca Gladding. A clear and useful explanation of the neuroanatomy of habits and how we can break the ones we don’t want to keep.

    3. The Brain over Binge Recovery Guide: A Simple and Personalized Plan for Ending Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder, Kathryn Hansen. A follow-on on to Hansen’s memoir of overcoming bulimia, this book is loaded with effective worksheets, plus the solid-gold advice to read and use only as much of the book as you need.

    4. Eating Less: Say Goodbye to Overeating, Gillian Riley. The simplest, fastest and most lightweight framework for ending overeating I have ever found. Plenty of practical implementation advice.

    5. Be Less Crazy About Your Body, Megan Dietz. Full of sanity, as advertised. This book is less about how to eat than how to Just Say No to damaging beauty norms and diet culture. In other words, Be Less Crazy will transform your eating indirectly and painlessly. And it’s fre e:

    (You can also download this list as a pdf, if you haven't already.)

    Let me know how you go. And if you do want more support, and are wondering about 1:1 coaching with me, the details are here.

  • Got your wedding season remedies here

    As I write, it’s just after Memorial Day in the States, I’m staring down a to-do list that would take Mary Poppins a year to sort, and trying to get back in the groove of a week with a day missing out of it.  Always in recombobulation. Never actually bobulating. Fully bobulated is my fantasy and how I wish to be remembered, perhaps on my headstone: "Max Daniels. A life of Total Bobulation!" Maybe an emoji:


    (Just kidding. My real fantasies involve earrings, cocktails and textiles, and as for my headstone, and I would totally take anything above 67.)

    Anyway. Let's talk about June.

    You may know June as the arrival of good weather - though not us in New England where we’re having Juneuary, again - or as the end of the academic year. Some of the people I’ve talked to over the past couple weeks know it as the season of weddings, graduations, reunions and beach holidays, aka Time to Freak Out and Apply Extreme Measures.

    By which I mean go on a diet, of course. Which is a bad idea, because in the short term: hunger, boredom, and that relentless Help-me-I’m-being-held-captive feeling.

    And in the long run, as my learned colleagues Traci Mann and Janet Tomiyama amply showed, dieting results in weight gain. (Not always. Just 97% of the time.)

    So, some suggestions that I think work better for the long run, if you agree the odds of avoiding weight gain following a diet are stacked against you:

    1. First, and the easiest place to break this cycle: DON’T go on a diet. Learn a more sustainable way of getting control of your weight and eating. (I know you know I have one.)

    2. Plump for a really nice outfit / bikini / ball gown / killer set of accessories so you can feel like the most fabulous woman at the party. You know you will do this FIRST THING when you lose “enough” weight. How about considering that you’re enough as is? And if you can’t do that, how about faking it, just because it’s an assignment from your coach <- that’s me, for the purposes of this permission slip. Clothes may not maketh the entire woman, but they are a posture miracle and the pictures will be worth it and the knock-on effects of treating yourself with respect are like a freight train of unstoppable wellbeing that will touch every aspect of your life, and your kids’ lives as well. And then you can get that outfit taken in whenever you need to.

    3. Speaking of pictures, guess what? A lot of those Instagram envybombs ARE POSED, and it is becoming more common to see women showing themselves “posing skinny” contrasted with “posing normal,” minutes apart and looking like two different people, just because they’re body-positive and feeling sisterly and want to spread the Let’s All Relax Shall We! message. You too can train an Instagram husband to get your best angle. (Need not be your actual husband.)

    4. And if you’re really fed up and ready to stop hating yourself over a number for the rest of your life, start looking for the real source of the suffering. It’s not on your hips. It’s in your mind. Round up those critical thoughts, shine a bright light in their eyes, and ask them Where did you get that idea? Who says I can’t get married at this weight? Who says I don’t deserve to lie on the beach and enjoy the wonders of the natural world? Where is this information coming from? Because you will find that it comes from culture, not from you. And there are already many things that you and culture do not agree about. Your worthiness at any weight can become just one more. 

    Easier said than done, I know, but it's worth doing and can go 1,000x faster with help. If you have been thinking about getting help with any of this, now is a very good time to do that, before summer is under way and life starts moving to a different rhythm. 

    We can have a no-obligation conversation about it - just let me know you’d like a quick chat.

    Either way, let's meet on the beach.

  • On unfairness

    Like the unrequited love between me and pastry

    Martha Beck (longtime O Magazine columnist, Harvard-trained sociologist, and the person who taught me to be a life coach), has a useful concept she calls “Everybody.” It’s like the “Everyman” idea - just more disapproving and judgemental. You know Everybody quite well, although everybody’s Everybody is different.

    Who thinks we ought to stop being late for school pick-up? Everybody is who. Everybody also thinks we should quit wearing ratty sweats for the school run, and put on some cute (read: expensive) yoga pants like Everybody wears. Everybody has a lot of opinions, and they’re always pretty mean.

    (As Martha will tell you, “Everybody” usually turns out to be two or three people. Who we don’t even like, but whose good opinion we’re desperate for. Who - obviously - live only in our head.)

    Here’s something about my Everybody. "Everybody" gets to eat and drink as much as they want. And stay skinny. Yep! They just don’t seem to be paying the price I would be paying.

    I used to think that was very unfair, until I grew up and stopped beating my big little baby fists on my own poor thighs about it. That’s when I saw that - in fact - it really is unfair.

    Which was such a relief, because I didn’t have to try any longer to win at Eating All the Pastries and Being the Skinniest Anyway, because the game was rigged. Actually, there are people who can eat more and drink more and weigh less and live long and healthy lives. Maybe just two. Maybe more. I'm not one of them, though! I was never gonna win, no matter what.

    And that’s a bit sad, because All the Pastries is not bad winnings, is it? But as I say, it’s also a relief, because fighting the truth is just exhausting. It’s easier when I can say “I love croissants, they don’t love me, it’s so unfair, I give them a pass. (Mostly.)”

    So my invitation today, if it intrigues you, is to look and see if there’s anywhere you might be denying instead of acknowledging some truly unfair reality.

    This doesn’t mean forgiving the unforgiveable or tolerating the intolerable - I’m just talking about accommodating the truth of unfairness, like the reality of unrequited love, as in me and pastries, to spare yourself the aggro and struggle.

    And as always, I would love to hear from you about what you see.

  • If we solve the wrong problem, results will be disappointing

    Reclining Venus, Lambert Sustris (attributed to), c. 1540 — c. 1560, Rijksmuseum

    Let’s spare ourselves what disappointment we can

    The other week we said:

    • Athleticism isn’t the same as health.
    • You can be fit for your sport, and not for much else; ie, unhealthy
    • You can be athletic and fat <- not a contradiction
    • And other counter-intuitive combos...


    • Weight ≠ physique ≠ body composition ≠ performance or capability.

    These are just reminders that it’s always good to know what problem we’re trying to solve - if indeed there is a problem.

    The world has already gotten to us with its message that our problem is we’re fat. That we weigh too much. That we need to lose some damn weight already.

    And this message is so insistent, so pervasive, so often coming at us from trusted sources even, like our mom and Oprah, that part of us - maybe most of us - really believes it. That’s the ticket! If we could just lose some weight, we’d look really great, and life would be grand.

    Often this idea has some unexamined details, like if we lose a few pounds, we’ll look exactly the way our culture tells us we should. This is one of diet culture’s biggest, fattest, baldest lies: Lose weight, look great, you’re done! You can just cruise now. Everything you ever wanted will be arriving shortly by courier.

    Or, as my friend Veronica* said recently, I seem to think if I could just lose this stomach, I’d regain the legs I had at 25.

    But actually, what happens is that you suffer through a diet, you may or may not lose some weight, you’re probably weak and wobbly at the end of it, yeah your jeans are looser but you don’t look like Kate Moss, you’re left hungry and vaguely dissatisfied and if you’re like 97% of dieters, you’ll gain that weight back and then some.

    So if you want to look a certain way, changing the way you eat probably isn’t the whole answer. If we want to look like Beyoncé, we’re gonna need to spend a lot of time in the stude. If we want to look like Kate Moss, perhaps surgery (which: BANANAS, I hope we all agree). Either way: No instant gratification.

    But if we consider doing things the other way around, our chances of satisfaction are pretty good. If we want to change the way we eat - if we want to quit bingeing or overeating - because we’d feel better in our bodies and about ourselves, well we can do that today. It brings instant self-respect and dignity.

    And that is a very good look on a woman.

    *a pseudonym of her own choosing. You should know that if ever I want to write about a conversation I have with you, you’ll get to choose your own alias, too. It’s pretty fun.

Stop bingeing and overeating. Immediately.

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