I started reading Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating by Michelle May, MD and Kari Anderson, DBH, LPC weeks ago and decided to review it for the blog.
The subtitle of the book is a mindful eating program for healing your relationship with food and your body.
And program it is. It’s based on the authors Am I Hungry? series of programs for binge eating.
As with anything related to health and fitness, nothing shared in their book or in this review is a substitute for trained medical or behavorial health professionals.
However reading this book is a safe space to begin seeing and accepting that you may need help with your binge eating.
If you’ve never read one of my book reviews, see my philosophy on reviews. If you know what you’re in for, read on.
Yes, there are affiliate links in this review.
In Part 1 of this review, I cover Chapters 1 through 5.
What Eating Cycles Look Like
Chapter 1 actually walks through and has images to represent each of the 5 eating cycles talked about in the book.
I hadn’t realized the difference between mindful & instinctive eating and also that there is a difference between overeating & binge eating.
Mindful eating is being aware of what you’re eating while you’re eating it.
Instinctive eating is the body’s way of letting us know it needs food. It’s what babies and young children have until it gets messed up.
Overeating is enjoying your favorite meal to the point of being stuffed, but there is no guilt or shame with it, just discomfort from eating too much.
Binge eating has the guilt, shame, regret, anger, hiding, etc associated with it. And restrictive eating is just what it sounds like.
In the discussion about the 5 eating cycles, the Why, When, What, How, How Much, Where, are covered for each cycle.
Each chapter has a section called the Grey Area and covers ideas we can implement in day-to-day life.
In Chapter 1 the Grey Area covers 4 ways to begin introducing mindfulness into our life.
This chapter also introduces the ideas of being in control versus being in charge.
Chapter 2 goes in-depth on the parts of the eating cycle and covers the When. Actually the next 4 chapters cover the When portion of the eating cycle.
There is a suggested exercise Dr. May calls the Body-Mind-Heart Scan. And this chapter covers 13 physical signs of hunger, although there are others.
We use the Body part of the scan to begin noticing the physical sensations of hunger we experience.
My first takeaway from this chapter is –
There were plenty of times as an adult and through my own actions, that I didn’t know when or where my next meal was coming from.
During the times food was available, I found myself binging as a way to feel full longer, just in case.
But what I also realize is that I didn’t accept my body, even when I was thin. And that’s covered in the Grey Area of Chapter 2.
“Recovery from binge eating is not just about healing your relationship with food. You must also heal your relationship with your body.” pg 35
The terms weightist and weightism are used too, like sexism or racism. I’ve heard it called sizeism too.
There are so many reasons we may not respect our bodies or feel able to connect with our bodies. Dr. May suggests counseling or therapy and I agree.
I wouldn’t be addressing these issues if I hadn’t worked with a therapist on my body traumas.
The chapter goes on to cover the Hunger and Fullness Scale and how to use it to become aware of and then fine-tune our eating patterns.
Another takeaway is
“…being hungry doesn’t mean you need a lot of food; it means you need to eat soon.” pg 42
Finding and Accepting Your Personal Hunger Rhythms
The chapter then covers personal hunger rhythms, which are not the same as the eating cycle.
True hunger – a need for food as fuel for our body – has it’s own rhythm that may or may not coincide with when we actually eat.
It’s like knowing you’re going to your favorite restaurant for dinner, so you ignore your hunger at lunch just to enjoy all your favorites at the restaurant.
Okay that’s what I related it to, but it’s not the example used in the book.
Based on the Hunger and Fullness Scale, being at a 2/3 actually enhances our pleasure and satisfaction from food.
Then there is the idea that erratic hunger is okay and I’m all wait a minute? What?!?!?
“Because of your activity levels and many other factors, you simply don’t need the same type or amount of food at the same time each day.” pg 43
I had to sit with that for a minute because that idea is very different than erratic eating, where you restrict food intake to compensate for a binge.
Erratic eating as compensation is still about control as opposed to being in charge.
Being In Control Versus Being In Charge
Chapter 3 begins to address the differences between the two ideas of control and in charge.
Control is all about lack of choice. It’s filled with shoulds, ought to’s, gottas, rigid rules that Must. Be. Followed.
While “in charge” offers the opportunity to decide based on multiple options or choices. Who doesn’t want choices?
There are three choices discussed when it comes to binge eating. The advantages and disadvantages of all three are covered.
The Grey Area for Chapter 3 covers the preparation we’ll want in place to practice distraction.
My takeways from this chapter –
When it comes to the choice of eating anyway, I feel like Samantha in Chapter 4 titled Change Your Mind. The all or nothing, restrictive/binge, punishment, you’ve been a bad girl, that’s a good girl voices in my head have way more control than is helpful.
The TFAR acronym is used. It’s something I first heard from T. Harv Ecker and it’s Thoughts lead to Feelings which lead to Actions that give us Results.
Going on a diet is an action. Binging is an action. Restriction is an action.
The part of the equation we don’t address are thoughts or those sometimes hard to shut up voices in our head.
The Grey Area in this chapter is all about watching our thoughts.
“Mindfulness puts you in charge of your mind.” pg 67.
It contains several ways to practice the Mind part of the Body-Mind-Heart Scan first introduced in Chapter 2.
I’m definitely all for creating this “self-perpetuating loop of self-care” mentioned on page 71.
The final part of this chapter covers the internal dialog of 4 common triggers and three ways to deal with these 4 common triggers.
The common triggers discussed are:
1. Sight and smell of food
2. Special occasions and holidays
3. Social events
4. High-Risk times
The three ideas to address these triggers are reduce, rethink and recreate.
My biggest takeaway from these four chapters so far is practicing being aware and to distinguish when I’m being in control versus when I’m being in charge.
I’m still binging. I don’t expect it to end overnight. What I have noticed is that there is cake left three days after I bought it, instead of the usual three hours.
Identifying Emotions and Uncovering Needs
This is by far the most difficult aspect to for me to address.
I know I have some serious resistance to reading this Chapter 5, because I keep falling asleep on it.
I know eating to soothe my nerves, calm my mind, ease my “freak out” moments, avoid and/or elevate my moods is just a coping mechanism. It works. Except that it counteracts my goals of a healthy relationship to my body and to food.
I appreciate Dr. Mays’ comparison of using eating as a coping mechanism to a rose, with guard petals still in place.
The problem is this.
“… those protective petals restrain the healthy petals underneath from revealing their full beauty.” pg. 80
Although I find myself avoiding reading this chapter, I choose to unleash my full beauty.
In addition to the Grey Areas, there are small call out sections called Mindful Moment.The Mindful Moment on page 84 is this.
“When a craving doesn’t come from hunger, eating will never satisfy it.”
Okay let’s dive into this chapter shall we?
We’re given tools to identify our emotions. There are six categories they can fall into. We’re also shown the difference between an emotion or feeling versus a thought.
Pages 82 and 83 provides different words on the continuum to describe the six categories of emotions.
That’s another takeaway from the chapter.
To identify them, we use the Heart portion of the Body-Mind-Heart scan. All the steps are laid out on page 84.
The Grey Area in Chapter 5 offers 14 different ways to experiment with identifying and describing emotions. These are especially helpful if it’s difficult for us to recognize the emotion we’re feeling.
Bullets 8 and 9 sound intriguing and I’ll be using those. I already use bullets 1, 2 and 4. I can definitely see how any of the 14 can help us get in touch with the nuances of the emotions we feel.
What I Found Doing A Body-Mind-Heart Scan
I’ve already mentioned having trouble getting through this chapter. Well as
procrastination a little break from the onslaught of freak out, I watched this video from an email or my Facebook feed. At minute 1:10, I was bawling.
My first reaction was to chastise myself for the tears. I was getting upset with myself for having what felt like an overly emotional response.
What a great time to practice using the Body-Mind-Heart scan.
Body wise – I noticed a gassy, bloated feeling. My throat was tight and I felt light-headed.
Mind wise – I mentioned the criticism already, but there was also cynicism and thoughts of being stupid because I was crying.
Heart wise – Were feelings of vulnerability, disappointment, shame and frustration while I was being critical with myself for crying.
As I noticed the criticism, (that was using bullet 2 from the Grey Area), I noticed some disgust and anger because I wanted it to be different. I wanted to be feeling hopeful and optimistic.
Now I need to keep reading because the chapter continues with five ways we can manage the emotions we’ve found, without eating.
I used the first and fourth ways to manage my emotions from pages 87 and 89-90, respectively. I wanted to eat right before I tested those two ways. I did eat about an hour later.
I did another Body-Mind-Heart scan and found my throat was loose and some of the gassy feeling had subsided. I was using a self-care voice, instead of a judgmental one and while I wasn’t feeling hopeful, I was inspired to find that this chapter was almost done and that I’d done the work in it.
The final part of the chapter has us connect the emotion to a need. A huge takeaway from this chapter is –
“Emotions are normal, healthy and helpful because they are powerful sources of information about your true needs.” pg. 93
It doesn’t say emotions we don’t like to feel, only the emotions that make us feel good, certain emotions for certain situations, or “appropriate” emotions. Emotions, period, are healthy.
Practicing the fill-in-the-blank exercise on page 93, is a great first or next step to finding what we’re really hungry for. I do wish this chapter went more in-depth on identifying needs though.
My final takeaway from Chapter 5 is actually from Cathy’s story about her work through the process. She realized that
“… the smaller the action, the more likely I [am] to take it.” pg 94
There are five more chapters to cover and we’ll be doing that in part two of this review.
Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating is helping me discover the right path to a healthy friendship with food.
If part 1 of this review has intrigued you so far, imagine what reading and implementing the ideas in the book for yourself can do for your struggle with binge eating.
Or get it from your favorite local book seller.
Next time we find out what fearless eating means, how to eat a just right portion of what we love, all about buffer zones and stepping out into the world using this information to Eat What We Love and Love What We Eat.