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Thursday, Apr. 14, 9 PM (ET), 6 PM (PT)  


Runaway Eating:
The 8-Point Plan To
Conquer Adult Food and
Weight Obsessions

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Join us Thursday, Apr 14th at 9:00 PM (ET) when
Cynthia Buliuk, Ph.D.  , a Clinical Psychologist
discusses her latest book, Runaway Eating: The 8-Point Plan To Conquer Adult Food And Weight Obsessions.

FREE copies of
Runaway Eating
will be given away at the chat.

Dr. Cynthia Bulik, Clinical Psychologist, is the William R. and Jeanne H. Jordan Distinguished Professor of Eating Disorders at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is also a professor of nutrition in the School of Public Health and the director of the UNC Eating Disorders Program. In their new book, Runaway Eating: The 8-Point Plan To Conquer Adult Food And Weight Obsessions, Bulik and co-author, dietitian Nadine Taylor, shed light on the physical and psychological factors that drive runaway eating and show women how to regain a healthy relationship with food. Strategies are provided for dealing with problematic eating behaviors, particularly those that affect women in midlife.

In understanding our eating disorders, the authors examine the underlying causes of runaway eating and address the complex array of factors responsible for its increase in recent years. More and more women, especially those between the ages of 35 and 60, are developing symptoms of runaway eating as they struggle to cope with the stresses of menopause, empty nest syndrome, caring for ailing parents, work overload, and cultural emphasis on youth and beauty.

The authors also explain why some of us are more likely to develop runaway eating, and what keeps this behavior going -- even when there’s a desire to stop. Whether readers occasionally binge, restrict their food intake, exercise excessively, or purge, the authors offer help and hope. Their 8-Point plan for recovery offers simple strategies beginning with identifying the triggers that set off runaway eating, understanding the importance of eating on time, rerouting thinking, transforming moods, alleviating anxiety, defusing depression, finding alternate ways to deal with the factors that perpetuate runaway eating, managing menopausal symptoms and paring down perfectionism.

Thursday, Apr. 14th at 9 PM (ET) in
Power Surge Live! Chat
( you must register for the chat room even if
you're registered on the message boards )

FREE copies of
Runaway Eating
will be given away at the chat.


Read the transcript here

Excerpted from Runaway Eating: The 8-Point Plan to Conquer Adult Food and Weight Obsessions
by Cynthia M. Bulik, Ph.D., and Nadine Taylor, M.S., R.D.

Are All Diets Unhealthy?

Want the short answer? Yes. Now, you may be thinking, "If I don't stay on some kind of diet, I'll just blow up like a balloon. I need to be on a program just to keep control of myself." But consider that any kind of dieting involves a diet mentality, which ensures failure, encourages you to ignore hunger and satiety signals, and promotes a negative relationship with food, because you have to give up "forbidden" foods and, often, eat foods you don't really like. This inevitably results in giving in, which often means bingeing and feeling terrible about yourself. So, though this idea may sound radical, we firmly believe there is no good diet.

By "diet," we mean the conscious restriction of the amounts or kind of foods you're allowed to eat for the express purpose of losing weight. A diet is something that you go on when you want to change your body, and go off once you've reached a certain goal. Though we certainly do endorse consuming a wide variety of healthful foods, paying attention to portion sizes, and thinking twice before eating a lot of foods that are high in calories but low in nutrition, we don't recommend following any kind of plan that tells you what, how much, and how often you should eat, without regard for your body's hunger and satiety signals. And we definitely don't recommend any eating plan that you go on and then go off.

Although it may sound surprising, the negative effects of dieting also hold true even if you aren't following a formal diet but still think like a dieter. If you count grams of fat, opt for high-protein foods while shunning carbs, rely on "safe" foods, beat yourself up for eating "bad" foods, consciously or unconsciously undereat (which can trigger overeating later), use diet soft drinks or coffee to quell your hunger, or decide what you can eat based on what you've already eaten today, you're dieting.

The Physical and Psychological Effects of Dieting

Have you ever noticed that as soon as you go on a diet, all you want to do is eat? Even if you weren't particularly concerned about food prior to dieting, all of a sudden you become obsessed with it. You find yourself preoccupied with what you'll have for your next meal, whether you can have a snack, what others are eating, or even what you'll allow yourself to eat tomorrow. What's going on?

The mind and the body are inextricably linked, and never is this more apparent than when you go on a diet. Geared to survive during feast or famine, both body and mind switch into survival mode when the food supply is radically diminished. While the body turns down the metabolism and becomes a "slow burner" in an attempt to hang on to every single calorie, the mind gears itself to one overriding purpose: getting food. The result? Suddenly, you may find yourself clipping recipes, planning menus, cooking elaborate meals or dishes for others (neither of which you'll eat yourself), or even dreaming about food at night. The message is clear: Your body wants food, and your mind does, too.

After a few days of extremely restricting your food, you'll probably become more depressed and anxious. Although this may be due to changes in neurotransmitters like serotonin, it may also occur because you are depriving yourself of things that are very pleasurable that aren't replaced by anything else -- leaving a pleasure void. You may suddenly prefer to spend more time alone -- it takes too much energy to deal with others -- and your self-esteem may start to drop. Unfortunately, the more depressed, anxious, and isolated you become, the more you'll obsess about food.

Some people can hold out longer than others, but the result is eventually the same: a binge. You eat something you "shouldn't," which makes you feel as if you've blown it. So you let go and eat. During the binge you feel relief -- at last you can relax and do what you've wanted to do all along. But you may also feel as if you're in a trance and can't stop yourself. It's almost as if your body has developed a will of its own; it's going to feed itself whether you like it or not. As a result, you can end up eating more food in one sitting than you ever did when you weren't dieting.

Are you crazy? Absolutely not. This is a normal, even healthy reaction to a period of semi-starvation, a reaction that made good sense during primitive times. After a period of famine, it was natural and necessary for our ancient ancestors to overeat. They needed to be able to take advantage of a feast when they had the chance, because the food supply was uncertain. To make this possible, their appetites increased after a period of famine. So the same amount of food that would have satisfied them during times of plenty left them feeling hungry after a period of semi-starvation. The same thing happens to you when you restrict food. Suddenly, you develop the urge and the capacity to binge, and you no longer feel satisfied after eating what you used to consider a normal meal. In short, restrictive dieting can trigger binges and leave you hungry even after you've eaten normal amounts of food. This is true for most Runaway Eaters, and even for those dieters who do not develop Runaway Eating problems.

The psychological consequences of dieting were clearly illustrated in a classic study of the effects of semi-starvation done in 1950 by Ancel Keys, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota. In the study, 36 healthy, young, psychologically sound males were observed over a period of 1 year. During the first 3 months, the men ate normal amounts of food; during the next 6 months, they were given half as much food; and during the last 3 months, their food allotment was gradually increased. During the semi-starvation period, the men became preoccupied with food and constantly talked about it, read cookbooks, clipped recipes, and daydreamed about eating. When a meal was served, many took an inordinately long time to eat it, trying to make it last. Over time, the men became extremely depressed, anxious, and irritable.

Once they made it through the period of semi-starvation, the men ate nearly continuously, with some indulging in 8,000- to 10,000-calorie binges. The men reported that their hunger actually increased right after meals, and some of them continued to eat to the point of being sick without feeling satisfied. Although most of the men finally reverted to normal eating patterns within 5 months of the study's end, some continued with their new patterns of "extreme over consumption."

We see these same patterns in dieters: the preoccupation with food; the anxiety, depression, and irritability; the tendency to go off the diet and eat more than one would have in the pre-diet days; and a propensity toward bingeing even after the diet has ended.

Midlife eating disorders, whether full-blown or in their milder form, are most often triggered by diets. So step one in freeing yourself of food and weight obsessions is to throw out the diet.

by Nadine Taylor, M.S., R.D.

Do you sometimes feel out of control around food? Does stress or depression make you head straight for the chocolate cake? Are you constantly thinking about food, diets or weight loss? Do you fast or force yourself to sweat through long sessions at the gym after a bout of overeating? Do you feel bad about your body, your weight, or your relationship with food?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you, like millions of other women, are probably suffering from Runaway Eating – a mild version of a clinically-defined eating disorder. Runaway Eating is a newly-defined condition that covers the vast gray area between healthy eating and outright anorexia, bulimia or Binge Eating disorder. For example, you may be a Runaway Eater if:

You have an out-of-control food binge once or twice a month – but that’s not often enough to be considered Binge Eating Disorder. You fast a lot, or eat very, very little, but your weight isn't low enough for a diagnosis of anorexia. You binge and purge (induce vomiting, abuse laxatives or diuretics, or exercise excessively), but not often enough to be diagnosed with bulimia.

While problem eating behaviors have long been the province of teenage girls, in recent years more and more women have developed midlife eating disorders. But millions more have developed eating problems that aren’t severe enough to be considered "eating disorders," and may suffer from mildly disordered eating or occasional symptoms. These women (perhaps 25% of the female population) typically have to go it alone. Often, they blame themselves for being undisciplined, weak or just plain lazy. But we’ve learned that in many cases out of control eating behaviors are not character flaws. These problems are actually driven by anxiety, depression, perfectionism, menopausal symptoms, certain types of thinking and, especially, dieting.

The solution to Runaway Eating, then, is not to go on another diet, but to ease anxiety and depression, control menopausal symptoms, change the way you think about yourself, diets and food, and re-establish a healthy relationship with food. Only then can you leave Runaway Eating behind for good.

Sound like a tall order? It can be, but it’s worth every ounce of effort. A good place to start is by lowering your stress levels. If you’re like most midlife women, you hold down a full-time job, raise children, care for aging parents, deal with the hormonal swings of menopause, and bear much of the brunt of big financial burdens like paying for college or weddings. You may also be dealing with marital troubles, divorce, or re-entry into the dating world. Is it any wonder that midlife women are society’s most stressed, anxious and depressed group? Or that they turn to eating or eating-related behaviors for relief?

Yet too much stress is only part of the problem. The Runaway Eater also suffers from low self-esteem, and tries to increase her "worth" by getting slimmer. She may also be a perfectionist who sets the bar too high, ensuring that she will fail. She puts herself on a very rigid diet, aims to achieve an impractical weight, and gives herself no leeway. In her mind, either she’s perfect or she’s a failure; either she follows the diet to the letter or she goes off of it with a vengeance. There is no middle ground.

With so much at stake, the Runaway Eater’s anxiety levels soar, and she’s plagued by depression and self-doubt. Thoughts of food, diets and weight consume her, and, inevitably, she ends up eating something that isn’t on her diet. Then, all bets are off. She throws up her hands and says, "Well, now that I’ve blown it, I might as well just eat." And once she starts eating, she just can’t stop herself. She eats and eats until she feels absolutely disgusted with herself. Some Runaway Eaters then compensate for the binge by purging, fasting, or exercising for hours, but all of them resolve to go on an even more stringent diet the next day. The cycle is doomed to repeat itself, while weight loss becomes even more elusive as the metabolism decreases and hunger increases in response to "famine" conditions.

Why do Runaway Eaters do it? The obvious answer is that they want to get thin. But Runaway Eating is also a convenient way to avoid dealing with difficult life problems. Food, weight and diet obsessions take up a lot of time, concentration and energy – so much that it can be easy to ignore other troubles. There are also some more immediate benefits from Runaway Eating behaviors: restricting can bring a sense of structure and control to an otherwise out-of-control life; bingeing can be comforting or soothing; and purging can be a way to relieve anxiety after bingeing, or a way to express anger for those who keep their angry feelings to themselves.

Fortunately, you can conquer Runaway Eating. The secret is to figure out what’s setting you off. Then eat regularly, replace unhealthy thoughts with healthier ones, and attack the anxiety, depression and perfectionism that fuel your behaviors. There is hope for the millions of women who suffer from out-of-control eating behaviors, but understanding must come first.

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