Why do we prefer to overeat in private?

Why are we so afraid to let other people see how much we truly eat? 

Why do we hide the evidence of our overeating “episodes”?

Why do we prefer to binge in private?

The very bold ones among us might mention our “struggle with food” in conversation with friends, in an abstract sense. But would we sit down at a table with a loved one and say, “I’m bingeing right now”? And then proceed to eat an entire gallon of ice cream while the other person watched?

I was discussing this with some Dessert Club members last night, and the unanimous answer was that we don’t want other people to see us like that. We don’t want them to see us in that wild, out-of-control, scary place. 

This is a food issue, but this isn’t a food issue. 

This isn’t a food issue because it’s really about control, vulnerability, and connection. It’s about being afraid that who we truly are is “too much” for others, and that if our closest loved ones really knew how we ate sometimes, they might be disgusted. They might even leave us. 

It’s really about feeling like the world can’t hold us. Even our closest, most-loved people can’t hold us. We can only be that that wild-and-out-of-control version of ourselves in private.

Then we must clean up the mess, get ourselves together, and reconnect with the world. 

Can you feel what happens when we tell ourselves that this is how we “have” to be in the world? 
That we can only be this limited, corseted, sanitized version of ourselves? 

What would happen if it were okay for us to be out-of-control, unseemly, and messy? What if this part of ourselves could be loved and respected and seen and cared for just as much as we are loved and respected for the parts of us that are “together” and “kind” and “generous” and “smart”?

This is a food issue, but this isn’t a food issue. 

Last night, I asked the Dessert Club members: “What would happen if you tried to only binge in front of others?”

Even writing that sentence, I feel a zing of fear move through me. Bingeing in front of others sounds pretty freaking scary.

Here’s what I think: If we could binge in front of others, if would be pretty freaking scary. It would be terrifying and vulnerable and we’d feel like we were risking everything. We’d worry that they wouldn’t love us or like us or respect us anymore.

But you know what else I think? I think it would be clean. Because we’d be facing all those fears about abandonment and our need to be loved and seen head on. We’d be eliminating the part of bingeing that makes it even worse, which is the story we tell ourselves: No one can see me like this.

And I think that the food part of the binge, that part where you eat too many chips or too much ice cream — I think that would be much less scary. I think you’d probably eat less, because it wouldn’t be so secretive or shameful.

I also think that some relationships couldn’t take it — some people couldn’t support you in your most vulnerable moments. But others would be much, much stronger. I think you’d gain confidence in knowing that it was okay to be yourself and to stand tall in the world, and that it’s okay if every single person doesn’t like or love you. I think you’d be more joyful, more loving, more compassionate, more creative, more generous, and, most importantly, more you.

When we act like food issues are just about food, we can never really solve them. And, even more problematically, we miss out on the opportunity for the incredible personal growth that can come from tackling what they really are about.

And, for the record, bingeing in secret isn’t just about the things I talk about above. It’s also about 100 other things.

Are you willing to peel back the layers?


Lindy West’s advice for how to be confident in your body

I just finished reading Lindy West’s memoir Shrill (if you like hilarious, body-positive, inspiring writing, I can’t recommend it enough), and loved West’s advice for how to start liking your body:

“Honestly, this ‘Where do you get your confidence?’ chapter could be 16 words long. Because there was really only one step to my body acceptance: Look at pictures of fat women on the Internet until they don’t make you uncomfortable anymore. That was the entire process.

“(Optional step two: Wear crop top until you forget you’re wearing a crop top. Suddenly, a crop top is just a top. Repeat.)”

Lindy West at her wedding. Via The Guardian

Lindy West at her wedding. Via The Guardian

I haven’t ordered any crop tops — yet — but looking at pictures of women who we don’t traditionally see in the media was also super useful in my body image journey.

I love how she describes her body-positive transformation:

I discovered a photo blog called ‘Hey, Fat Chick’ (now, crushingly, defunct) run by an effervescent Australian angel names Frances Lockie, and pored over it nightly like a jeweler or a surgeon or a codebreaker. It was pure, unburdened joy, and so simple: Just fat women — some bigger than me, some smaller — wearing outfits and doing things and smiling. Having lives. That’s it. They were like medicine. One by one they loosened my knots. 

First, I stopped reacting with knee-jerk embarrassment at the brazenness of their bodies, the way I’d been trained. I stopped feeling obscene, exposed, like someone had ripped the veil off my worst secrets. 

Next, they became ordinary. Mundane. Neutral. Their thick thighs and sagging bellies were just bodies, like any other. Their lives were just lives, like any other. Like mine.

Then, one day, they were beautiful. I wanted to look and be like them — I wanted to spill out of a crop top; plant a flag in a mountain of lingerie; alienate small, bitter men who dared to presume that women exist for their consumption; lay bare the cowardice in recoiling at something as literally fundamental as a woman’s real body. I wasn’t unnatural after all; the cultural attitude that taught me so was the real abomination. My body, I realized, was an opportunity. It was political. It moved the world just by existing. What a gift.

No matter what your weight is*, if you're afraid of, or embarrassed by, non-thin bodies, you will struggle more with your eating. Why? Because if you’re afraid, on some level, to be anything but thin (or whatever is your ideal), you will have to control your eating so that you don’t somehow have this terrible, undesirable body.

On the other hand, if you appreciate and admire all bodies — yes, even “fat” ones — then you can be kind to yourself, exercise and eat to make yourself feel good, and trust that whatever your body ends up looking like, it will be okay.

So the practice is simple, just like West says: “Look at pictures of fat women on the Internet until they don’t make you uncomfortable anymore.”

This strategy sounds so simple, but please don’t underestimate its potency. If you are wondering where to start, here are some sites I’ve been enjoying lately: 

To find more resources, search on Google, Instagram, Pinterest, or your favorite social platform for terms like “body positive photos” or “plus-size bloggers.” And share what resonates with you in the comments, so we can all appreciate the wealth!

*It’s also worth acknowledging that as a person with what might be called a “medium-sized body,” I haven’t ever experienced the kind of weight-based stigma that someone like West has had to face. Thin privilege is an unfortunate reality, and there are many ways in which we need to question and push back against it — for the benefit of all people. But one of the ways we can push back, quite simply, is deciding that we get to determine for ourselves if we are beautiful. Virgie Tovar wrote a fantastic article on this recently, if you’d like to read.


Important reminder about trains

Reminder: you are not a train.

Trains run on a schedule. They need a set amount of fuel, at set times.

You are not a train. 

You may need unpredictable quantities of food. At unpredictable times.
You may have unpredictable feelings or wants or needs. At unpredictable times.

Which makes sense. Because you are not a train. 
Or a robot. 
Or a computer.

If you’re going to be a human, you might as well act like one.


A rant that I've been saying a lot recently.

Most of us know as much as we need to about nutrition.
Most of us know as much as we need to about portion sizes.

If you're frustrated with your eating or weight, it's probably not because you "didn't realize" that eating an entire pan of brownies wasn't particularly healthy.*

Oh golly, I wish I'd known sooner that 4,000 calories of ice cream wasn't healthy! You don't say!

And yet, isn't that what the entire diet industry (and much of the supposed "wellness" industry) is selling us? Aren't they selling us the idea that we need to be educated about best foods to eat, or quantities of foods to eat... and then all of our frustrations will be solved? 

Oh golly, I wish I'd known sooner that eating two super size bags of chips was unhealthy!

If you're frustrated with your eating and you keep trying to "fix" the problem by addressing nutrition or portion sizes, you're only dealing with the tip of the iceberg. 

There are so, so, SO MANY things that influence your eating. Nutrition and portion sizes are only one tiny piece of a massive puzzle.

If you know absolutely nothing about nutrition, then fine, go ahead and learn something. But if you've been banging your head against the "nutrition and portion sizes" wall for months/years/decades, could it be time to try something different?

Could it be time, finally, to explore all of the other, deeper things that are probably influencing your eating?

My guess is that no one told you about all these other, deeper things that are probably influencing your eating. No one told me.

If you're interested in the exploration, I'd love for you to join a Dessert Club. The Dessert Club is an intensive introduction to a more intuitive and integrated way of eating. You'll learn how to eat without needing to worry so much, and most people find that "overeating episodes" become a lot less scary. 

In the group, we do some serious soul-searching, have some serious fun, and eat dessert together in every session. Click here to learn more.

I also do individual coaching, if that's more your speed.

Did girls in the 1890s worry about frizzy hair?

Historian Joan Jacobs Brumberg has studied teenage girls and their goals over a hundred year period, by analyzing their personal diary entries. Here’s what she’s found**:

In the 1890s, most adolescent girls focused on “striving to be kinder and more concerned for others, working harder in school, and rejecting frivolity.”

In the 1990s, however, girls’ goals focused on appearance only, “and the way to achieve it almost always involved buying things.”

Maybe humans have a continuous drive for self-improvement. But, at least in our current world, an astonishing amount of our drive is directed at “surfaces” and appearance.

What’s driving you today?

** as cited in Traci Mann’s Secrets from the Eating Lab, p. 167.

It's okay to have rules even if you eat "intuitively"

It’s okay to have rules.
I know, I know, I write to you a lot about how you should be wary of “diets” and “rules” around food.
The reason I say this so much is that 99% of the clients I speak with have some kind of Food Rule Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Their heads have been filled with rules for years, and it’s gotten to the point that those rules are doing more harm than good.
But can we be real? It’s totally fine to have rules around food. Or, as I like to call them, “guidelines” or “practices.” 

For me, all rules have to pass two criteria:
1. They have to make me feel good.
2. I have to be allowed to break them.

Because let’s be real, I have all kinds of  “rules” (or “guidelines” or “practices”) I follow, in almost every area of my life.
I try to go to bed before midnight.
I try to move my body each day.
I try to take a shower every day.
I try to call my mom and dad and grandma a few times a month.
I try to eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full.
All of these, in one way or another, are “rules” I try to live by.
But I also do these things because they make me feel good.
And if I don’t do them, I don’t flip out. Because, well, see #2. If I broke my “move my body each day” guideline, it was probably because I needed to rest. If I broke my “go to bed before midnight” guideline, I was probably doing something fun, or maybe I just felt like being “bad.”

If I broke my "eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full" guideline...it was probably because I felt like it.
And that’s allowed. 

So if you want to give up sugar?
Or stop eating carbs?
Or not eat after 7 p.m.?
Have at it. Seriously.
But if you want to make sure that you stay sane, you have to be honest, and I mean really, really, really honest with yourself about (1) why you’re doing it, and (2) if these rules are making you crazy.
Most of us have great difficulty being that honest.
Most of us create über-restrictive rules when we are in the middle of grandiose daydreams of self-improvement.  (I just read a random article online about the problem with sugar! That’s it! I’m only going to eat vegetables for the next week!)
These rules may sound nice in the moment, but they are completely disconnected from what we truly want in our long-term, day-to-day lives. Truly, we don’t want to give up sugar. We like sugar.
Then, as a result, when we begin to live with these guidelines, we start feeling cray-cray. Our inner voice starts whispering, then yelling, I don’t like this! Why won’t you listen to me?
But we ignore it.
And, well, I think you know what happens next. An express train to binge-ville.

So that’s my test for you. You can make any kind of “rule” or “practice” or “guideline” that you want, but it has to truly make all of you feel good.  And if you are feeling crazy and rebellious and bingeing-left-and-right, that rule isn’t helping you.
So instead of doubling down on that crazy drill sergeant that is inside of all of us, why don’t you just ask the insanely simple question:
Oh, I seem to be rebelling against these rules. I must want something different than I thought I did. What do I truly want?

Now it's your turn: What rules or guidelines do you already have your life?  Do they make you crazy? Let me know in the comments!

If I let myself eat whatever I want, won’t I eat cookie dough until I explode?

But Katie, if I let myself eat whatever I want, I am going to want NOTHING but flourless chocolate cake.

I hear this a lot from people who’ve spent years or decades “managing” their eating in one way or another — through mainstream diets or personal guidelines like “don’t eat more than three bites of dessert.” They’re pretty terrified of giving up all of those rules in favor of a non-dieting or intuitive way of eating.

And I don’t blame them. Most of us have had pretty scary “overindulgent” eating experiences when we’ve boomeranged OFF of those restrictions — eating a whole pint of ice cream and a family sized bag of chips in one sitting.

So we’re pretty afraid that we’ll do the same thing again.
And then never stop.

The short-term answer to that question of “will I want to eat tons and tons of junk?” is yes. Yes, you probably will want to eat tons and tons of junk.

But the long answer is no, you won’t want to eat only junk forever.

When you first take away all of the rules, in any area of life, you’re going to do the opposite of what you were “forcing” yourself to do. Think about a time when you’d worked hard at school or your job for days or weeks or months, and you finally had some free time. Did you want to be super productive? Did you crave checking a million things off of your virtuous to-do list?

Probably not. You probably wanted to be a Totally Useless Ball of Mush, who mostly watched TV, noodled around on the Internet, and ate pancakes.

But eventually, if you gave yourself enough time and space, at a certain point being a Totally Useless Ball of Mush would stop feeling good.

You might want to do some errands,
or clean your house,
or exercise,
or see friends,
or go to the dentist.

It wouldn’t be that you’d stop wanting to lie on the couch and watch “The Bachelor.” It’s just that your reality TV needs would eventually be in balance with your needs to live in a nice home, have a body that feels good, have clean teeth, etc. — so you’d do what you needed to do to take care of all of those things.

It’s exactly the same thing with food. When we know that we’re allowed to do what we need to do to “take care of ourselves,” in the most holistic sense, the prioritization becomes clear.

Yes, for the first day or week or four months or whatever, we may choose bacon cheeseburgers and double-chocolate brownies (or whatever happens to be your favorite).

But when we truly relax into the fact that we can have these things anytime we want, we realize that having these extremely indulgent foods for every meal just isn’t the best self-care.

We realize that excellent self-care means having these foods, but balancing them out with foods that help us feel good in our bodies and have the energy to get through our day, and more.

There’s one really important thing about this whole “let yourself have what you like” business. Did you catch it?

You have to give yourself time and space to figure this stuff out.

If you are constantly thinking, in the back of your head: I’m going to do this “non-dieting” thing for a week, and if it doesn’t work, I’m going back to Atkins, it won’t work. You’ll eat everything in sight even if you’re not hungry, because in the back of your mind you’ll be thinking, I only have one week! Gotta eat it all now!

So if you haven’t let yourself have grilled cheese sandwiches for years, when you actually let yourself have what you like, you’re going to probably want a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches.

But if you stay with it, over time your food consumption will come to reflect your multifaceted needs. Your needs for delicious foods and for convenience. Your needs to connect with others and to not spend too much money and to feel good in your body.

Or whatever your needs happen to be.

How long will it take? I have no idea — everyone is so different, and it depends on your dieting history, your level of honesty with yourself, and many other factors.

For me, the mostly-eating-cupcakes-and-milk phase lasted a couple of months. Then my eating started to look a bit more “normal” — though I still ate a lot of peanut butter cups for dinner. It was probably nearly a year before the idea of “vegetables as snacks” appealed, but it genuinely did appeal (and does to this day).

And you know what? When it wasn’t completely terrifying, the mostly-eating-cupcakes-and-pie-and-milk phase was incredibly fun and liberating.

You might like it :)

Still terrified about this journey? I can’t recommend getting support enough. If you’d like to work with me, I do individual coaching, and run super fun small group mentorship programs (as you've probably heard :) called Dessert Clubs.

It's important that I tell you this.

There’s something I want to say, in case it wasn’t 100% clear:

The Dessert Club will NOT fix all of your eating or life issues.

What the Dessert Club will do is jumpstart the process of learning to eat without worry, obsession, or compulsion. You’ll likely have “ah-ha” moments, and experience some things that will surprise and delight you (I only ate half a cookie because I only wanted that much! I’ve literally never done that before!).

You’ll walk away with a toolbox of strategies, exercises, and readings that you can continue to explore on your journey. Participants often revisit each of our weekly exercises after the group ends, to keep practicing the things we discussed.

At the end of eight weeks, you’ll probably feel more relieved, excited, and confident that you now have a path forward to stop feeling crazy about food.

But will you be a 100% perfect intuitive eater in only eight weeks? No. You won’t.

And frankly, anyone who tells you that “all your problems will be fixed” in a month or eight weeks or even six months is being dishonest. Any major shift is going to take ongoing work over an extended time period of time.

That being said, I still recommend the Dessert Club with all of my heart. I recommend it because I’ve heard over and over from past participants that it was a powerful eight weeks, even if it didn’t fix all of their problems.

Here’s what one recent participant said:

If you are considering it because having issues with food resonates with you, just do it. It's not going to solve all of your problems with food or make it go away, but it gives you guidance on how to start to address these issues. It gives you tools and experiences to help you change yourself. It gives you peace of mind knowing you aren't alone, and it gives you confidence that change is possible.” — Megan, Texas
(Thank you, Megan! Very honestly said.)

So I’d love to have you join the Dessert Club. It’s a truly unique experience, and the winter groups are open for enrollment now.

p.s. I wrote an article for Ravishly this week about the big changes in my non-food life that came about because I changed by relationship with food. It's called "The Completely Unexpected Side Affects of Intuitive Eating," and you can view it here, if you'd like

The absolute first thing you should do after eating too much

What do you tend to do after a binge or overeating “episode”?

Do you plunge into the next thing on your to-do list with extra gusto?
Do you beat yourself up?
Do you go on Instagram? :)

Eating too much can spur a lot of feelings and thoughts, and if we’re not really thoughtful about what we do next, we can spiral out of control (either to self-hatred, or to another diet). I wanted to give you some real talk on the one single thing that is most important to do after eating too much. And I wanted you to hear it from me, so I recorded a video.

I’d love to hear: have you ever actually tried this strategy after a binge? What feels scary or hard about it? What feels easy? Let me know in the comments below!

A radical suggestion about exercise

Here's an idea: What if you stopped using willpower to motivate yourself to exercise?

A lot of us use only exercise because we force ourselves to exercise. We say things like, I’ve just gotta get myself to take that run, and, Oh man, it took a lot of willpower to get to the gym today.

And this can work, when our lives are relatively calm. We might even feel virtuously satisfied when we’re exhausted afterwards. Because, did I mention? Most of the exercise we are forcing ourselves to do is pretty intense.

At some point, though, it stops working. Maybe it’s because we get busy or maybe it’s because, uh, it wasn’t that fun and it was really hard and maybe even painful, and we just don’t have enough willpower to force ourselves. And then we start feeling guilty and not-so-good in our bodies.

Then maybe we eat more because we feel not-so-good in our bodies.
And then we feel really guilty and swear that we need to run four miles every day next week.

I think you can see where this is going. There are a lot of similarities between the binge-and-restrict cycle with food and with exercise.

So that’s where my radical suggestion comes in: Stop doing that.

Stop doing exercise that doesn’t feel good.
Stop doing exercise that requires willpower.
Stop doing exercise that you don’t genuinely enjoy.

And start exercising in a way that you enjoy. Start exercising because you want to, not because you have to.

The magical thing about doing exercise that feels good and that you enjoy doing is that it creates a positive feedback loop. You enjoy doing it, so then you do it. Then you feel good and happy, and want to do it again.

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking Well, Katie, if I only did the exercise I felt like doing, I wouldn’t exercise at all. I’d just sit on my couch and watch Millionaire Matchmaker reruns.

To which I’d say: If you want to rest and watch reality TV, please rest and watch reality TV.

Our bodies have a natural appetite for movement. Movement feels good. But it’s possible that you’ve spent so long with a f***ed up attitude toward movement or exercise, that you don’t even feel hungry for it anymore.

So rest for a while. Rest for as long as you need — and yes, it might be longer than you are intellectually “comfortable” with. When your body wants to move, it will let you know.

One more thing: the movement your body wants might be different than the “exercise” you’ve been forcing it to do for the past month/year/decade. You might want to, say, spend 15 minutes stretching to the Hamilton soundtrack. Or walk around the neighborhood for a half hour while talking to your mom on the phone.

Letting yourself do the movement you like and that feels good requires tuning in to your true desires, which may be different than you expect, and may also vary by the day.

Which is all to say: Listen to yourself. Listen for the nuanced, unconventional, surprising whispers. You know best.

Q&A Sunday: How to eat intuitively when you have health issues

How do I go about changing my relationship with food in light of the whole "health thing"? How do I swear off dieting when I NEED to lose weight (and I mean doctor-recommended, at risk of suffering from problems like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, etc.)?  

Is there a way to make healthier choices, cut out sugar, eat less, without making it into a diet? Because as soon as I implement any kind of guidelines, they become rigid rules and my black-and-white brain goes right back into diet-restriction-binge mode. :-(

- Carolyn

Carolyn, the short answer is: YES.

Yes, it is possible to make healthier choices to reduce your risk of disease — which might mean eating less sugar or just choosing healthier things in general — without turning it into a diet.

Here’s the trick, though:

You have to make healthier choices with the sole goal of being healthier. And you have to stop trying to lose weight.

Why? Because it’s possible to improve your health — and, as a result, lower your risk of diabetes or heart disease or almost any other problematic health issue — without ever losing a pound.

Yep, you read that right.

You can be significantly healthier — by eating healthier foods, exercising more, or taking on many other lifestyle changes — without losing any weight at all.

This point is really, really, important. When we are dieting, we often lose touch with what we truly want because we have to reach that very specific goal. So we take on habits that make us miserable and aren’t sustainable and ultimately lead to binge mode, as it sounds like you’ve experienced. (And, frankly, we’ve all experienced).

If you take “I want to lose weight” out of the equation, and you focus on health as an end in and of itself, then it is more likely that you will choose sustainable practices and incorporate reasonable flexibility.

If you are really hungry one day, you’ll eat more.
If you find yourself at an incredibly delicious French patisserie, you’ll have some crème puffs.
If you feel exhausted from life and being a bad-ass lady, you’ll rest and not exercise.

This advice comes from a really practical place. It would be fine to try to have weight loss as your primary goal if it would actually work for you…but based on what you’ve written, it sounds like all diets do is send you into a tailspin of deprivation, frustration, and overeating. (And, frankly, an overwhelming amount of research is beginning to suggest that most people have this reaction to dieting)

So why not just focus on your health, as a goal in and of itself?

You might lose weight from all this healthy living. But if the worst case scenario is that you are healthier from eating more fruits and vegetables or exercising more or whatever it is that you do — would that really be so bad?

One last thing:

I’m not a doctor, so it’s possible that your doctor might disagree. He or she might say, “No, focusing on health isn’t good enough! You must focus on weight loss!”

But I also wonder what your doctor would say if you brought him or her the full picture of your past experiences with dieting, restriction, and bingeing, and suggested that at least for now, you just focus on your health instead so that you don’t end up in a tailspin that makes things worse in the end. Maybe you could even read Health at Every Size and bring him or her some of the data from Dr. Bacon’s very well researched book (she even has an example cover letter for doctors at the end!).

It’s also worth noting that doctors at times have a bias toward “weight loss” as the only possible health improvement lever — when this isn’t necessarily true. You have a right to a doctor who sees you as a whole, complex person. If you don’t feel treated this way by your doctor, I hope you can find the courage to find a doctor who does treat you this way. Asking, for example, if they know the Health at Every Size methodology is a great way to see if you can find a doctor who will work with you on your specific goals.

Carolyn, I’m so glad you asked this question. I know it’s something that’s probably on the mind of many other people — you are not alone.

And I hope you know that I’m sending tons of love your way. Whatever you decide, I fully support you.

And if you’d like your question answered in my Q&A feature, shoot me an email at katie@dessertclub.com!

A holiday reminder

Just wanted to send a holiday reminder: You are enough.

No matter what anyone at your holiday gatherings says, thinks, or implies with a side glance…you are enough.

Regardless of how much you weigh, how insecure or awkward you feel, how successful you are at your job, whether you have a romantic partner or not…you are enough.

You. Are. Enough.

p.s. This has been a quick, gentle way for me to feel more relaxed and like myself, this holiday season.

p.p.s. If you're feeling overwhelmed with the food + weight stuff, and would like some support, it might be helpful to join a Dessert Club in the new year. Here's what one past participant said:

"Before joining the Dessert Club, I felt like they would never be a time when I didn't have an issue with food. I was in a hopeless cycle of restriction and bingeing. And I felt anxious about any attempts to solve the issue as I was nervous I would put on weight.

“[To other women who are struggling], I'd say relax. It's okay to get help. Stop carrying the burden alone. For me the Dessert Club will be the best decision I've made to help me grow as a person and enjoy life to the fullest. "

—Anita, UK (thank you Anita!) :)

On loveliness.

Imagine a future version of yourself — 30, 40, or even 50 years from now.

Your skin may be sagging and worn by the sun.
Your eyes may be crinkled from decades of smiles and tears.
You move more slowly.
Your joints and muscles tend to ache.
You’ve lived a long, full life.
Now please imagine that older, wiser, future you is looking at current you right now.

In whatever you happen to be wearing. Whatever your hair happens to look like. Whatever is going on with your skin or clothes or mood or body or self-confidence.

How do you think that future version of yourself feels about your belly, thighs, hips, arms? Whether they are round or slender? Whether you are at your “goal” weight or twenty pounds over?

When I started writing this for you, I wasn’t feeling very gorgeous. I have cramps and pimples and I’m wearing pink pajama pants covered in Christmas cats. I may or may not have eaten a large quantity of apple pie this afternoon.

And yet, when I consider myself from the perspective of this much older version of myself, I had this flash of insight: I am radiant and lovely and full of life.

I am radiant and lovely and full of life. I certainly don’t find myself thinking that about myself all the time. It’s something I’m more likely to think about babies – with their fat, soft, perfect skin – than myself.

And yet. And yet, when I am no longer trapped in my current narrative about myself — when I can think of myself as a bit older, a bit wiser, less anxious about the present — it’s so much easier to see.

Nothing has physically changed, of course. I am still wearing these pink Christmas cat pajamas. And yet, when I imagine myself closer to the end of my life, it feels so clear to me: I am truly lovely.

It is a kind of loveliness that comes from deep inside me, from my aliveness. And even without knowing you, I feel sure that you are lovely, too.

Your challenge for this week is to imagine your future self. What would he or she think about your current body? Write a message from Future You on a Post-it note, and leave it where Current You can see it.  

And for an extra-special bonus: tell us in the comments what you wrote or would write! I'm sure we'd all love to trade notes :)

Something I tell myself all the time...

You know those moments when you’re not even hungry but you’re face-to-face with something delicious — say, the thickest, most dense brownie in the world?

And even though you know in your soul that you don’t truly want this food…you really, really want this food?

I have those moments all the time.

And while there’s nothing wrong with choosing to eat even though you’re not hungry, sometimes you’d just prefer not to eat but it’s really, really hard to resist.

So I wanted to share something that I say to myself at least a couple of times a week — because, yes, I find myself in those moments at least that often.

Here it is: You can eat it the next time you are hungry.

­That’s it. It’s that simple.

Of course, I usually give myself a bit of a pep talk: Oh, Katie, I know that you really want to finish this bag of lime-infused tortilla chips. And, of course, you can have it now. But I think we both know that you won’t feel good if you have it right now, so why don’t you just save it for later? I promise you can have it the absolute next time you are hungry. I promise, promise, promise.

And I keep that promise. The very next time I’m hungry, whether it’s for a snack or breakfast or lunch or dinner, I’ll ask myself what I want and eat it. Sometimes I want what I saved for myself, and sometimes I don’t — but I always give myself the option.

Knowing that I can have it later, and that I’ll make good on my promise to myself, makes it possible for me to put down the brownie when I otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

So I wanted to share it with you, this little phrase that’s always in my back pocket: “You can have it the very next time you’re hungry.”

­Your challenge for this week is to write “You can have it the very next time you’re hungry” on a Post-it note, and keep it somewhere where you often find yourself over-eating — maybe next to your cookie cabinet, or freezer, or just near your table. Try to say it to yourself once this week, and notice how it feels.

And I’d love to hear how it goes in the comments!

A post-thanksgiving (or anytime) reminder

Thanksgiving happened in America this week, and I was thinking about you. And as the days kept passing, I had something that I really wanted you to know, just in case you felt scared or overwhelmed or frustrated with your eating this week:

No matter what you ate yesterday (or last week, or last month), you deserve to eat today.

I get it. If you think your eating has been “bad” for some reason in the past, it can be so tempting to restrict your eating today. 

But please don’t do that. Restricting perpetuates the binge-restrict cycle and sets you up for more bingeing, restriction, and guilt.

Restricting will make things worse.

The only way to break the cycle is to stop listening to our fears (I don’t deserve to eat that or I’m too heavy already), and start listening to actual, real signals:

Even if you ate too much yesterday, eat today.
Wait till you feel hungry, then eat something.
Eat something you’ll enjoy, and something that will make you feel good.

And please, do something to feel beautiful, something to connect yourself with the loveliness of the world. Because if you’re going down the “restriction” path, you’ve probably lost touch with loveliness.

And we all need loveliness.


Sending much post-Thanksgiving caring,

On beauty, worthiness, and presidential elections

I keep thinking about “beauty” and “worthiness,” this week. 

I’m thinking about those words because the man who we just elected President of the United States insults women by calling them “fat," tells women that they need to lose weight in order to be “good enough”, and rewards “beautiful” slender women by talking about how he’d like to sexually assault them. And of course, that is not nearly all he has said — he has said hurtful things about many people of a variety of races, body types, sexual orientations, abilities, and more.

Though I have objections, politically, to Donald Trump, that's not why my heart is broken this week.

My heart is broken because I'd always hoped that someone who spoke like that — who was racist and sexist and unkind, who told women that their bodies were the most important thing about them — would eventually be tossed out. Ignored. Punished.

Instead, we’ve elected a person who talks like that to the highest office in the United States. We’ve rewarded him. 

So I kept being angry this week. How the f*** can we have a president who thinks and talks about women and their bodies like that? 

But then I remembered: it’s not just our president-elect. It’s TV shows with only slender white women who have perfectly clear skin. It’s news programs where the woman looks like an ex-model (in glasses to make her look “serious”) and the guy is average at best. It’s every deodorant or yogurt or freaking Swiffer advertisement that suggests that if we just solved our unsightly smell/calcium/dust problem, we would suddenly have smooth hair and a flat belly. 

If you look for it, you can find reasons to feel that you are unattractive or unworthy anywhere. 

So in the end, I am reminded of a lesson I have learned before and keep learning again and again and again: we must define things for ourselves.

We have to define “beauty” for ourselves.
And “worthiness."
And “success.”
And “contentment.”
And “friendship” and “being a good person” and “having enough.”

Some of these are easier than others. “Success” is a long-standing trigger with me, but so too are “beauty” and “worthiness."

Hopefully, we will eventually change the world to make it kinder to people of all races, sexual orientations, abilities, genders, and body types. There is important work, political work, that we all must do in that direction. But in the mean time, we have to do our own work so that we know we are good enough.


So, in case after all of this self-defining you still aren’t sure…I just wanna make things clear:  I know for certain that you are beautiful and that you are enough. No matter who you are and how much you weigh and what you look like.

No matter your politics, please know that I am sending you much strength + support for the week ahead. 

You are allowed to Veg.

You are allowed to veg.

You are allowed to moodle. Putter. Loaf.

You are allowed to lie on your bed and do nothing but wiggle your toes.

Or put on all of your fancy running gear and get outside only to decide that it sounds nicer to sit on the bench and stare at the trees than to run three miles.

You are allowed to watch too many tv episodes. Or webisodes.

Or while away the hours checking out beautifully photographed pictures of food on a blog of a woman from Minnesota you’ve never met.

Or wear old stained sweatpants and sit on your couch reading romance novels.
You are allowed to do nothing that is at all productive.

You are allowed to “waste” a day.
Or two.
Or two hundred.


For a long time, I didn’t know this.

I mean, I kind of knew that “vegging” could be a thing. A thing that had to be crammed in between other types of things.

Things like reading assignments and test prep and writing essays and doing lab reports. And then things like being excellent at work and having friendships worthy of Instagram and networking.

I eventually discovered “deeper things”—journaling, meditation, asking myself “Who I Really Was” and “What I Really Wanted”—but it wasn’t until I learned how to veg that it actually took root.

Which was odd, because I always thought of vegging as decidedly un-deep. I mean, how is spending too long on celebrity gossip sites a meaningful endeavor?

But I eventually realized that the thing separating me from my truer self (as hippy dippy as that sounds) was that I didn’t know what my truer self actually wanted. I had spent so long forcing her to do things, and the only thing it had led me to was a bad relationship with food and a job that I didn’t actually want.

So I let myself do whatever “I” wanted.

And it turned out that I wanted to veg.

And once I let myself veg, let myself do nothing of any import at all for months (beyond showing for my job), that’s when the magic started happening.

That’s when my eating started to right itself. That’s when I started to get a kernel of an idea.

Out of the messy hair, old sweatpants, wasting a really incredible amount of time came a life more interesting or meaningful than all of that striving and pro-con lists and strategizing.

The vegging wasn’t the destination. But the vegging let me relax enough that I could connect with what I truly wanted.

What would you want if you stopped trying so hard and let yourself veg? 

Why I don't like the phrase "Emotional Eating"

Do you ever think, Oh, I’m not an emotional eater. I’ll be honest, I sometimes do, too. I often hate the phrase “emotional eating.”

For me, “emotional eating” conjures up women in rom-coms, crying over their mixed signals with Tom Hanks while they eat pints of ice cream. I’m not someone who just bawls over men and eats ice cream, so I must not be an emotional eater.

I think the reality of “emotional eating” is far more complex and subtle. And I think this distinction matters. Because if we can’t see ourselves in a label, we can’t get the support we need.

I wanted you to hear it from my mouth, so I made you a video :)

After watching it, I’d love to hear in the comments: do you think of yourself as an “emotional eater”? Why or why not?

Science Sunday: Long-term results of dieting

Let’s play a game: imagine that you were going to join a research study, and were allowed to join one of two groups:

  • Group #1 was going to go on a conventional diet.
  • Group #2 was going to learn how to trust themselves around food and like their bodies.

Which one would you choose? And what would you expect your outcome to be, two years from now?

Lucky for us, this peer-reviewed academic study was actually conducted, and its results were published in the Journal of the American Dietary Association.

Seventy-eight women, who were at least a size 16, were assigned randomly to either the conventional dieting or the non-dieting group.

The dieting group received education about nutrition and learned “how to count fat grams, understand food labels, and shop for food.” They were encouraged to moderately restrict their intake, keep a food diary, and lose weight slowly. They were also encouraged to exercise.

The non-dieting group learned what was called the Health At Every Size (HAES) curriculum, which is very similar to many of the things I write about here. They were encouraged to befriend their bodies, to move their bodies because it feels good, and to eat for health and for pleasure, without worrying about weight loss. Dr. Linda Bacon writes more about the HAES in her wonderful book, which is definitely worth the read.

And what happened?

Weight Loss. At the end of the study, the women in the dieting group lost weight, while the women in the non-dieting group did not—or at least not enough to be statistically significant. However, two years after the study had ended, the women in the dieting group had gained all of the weight back, while the women in the non-dieting group had maintained their weight.

Health. The non-dieters showed significant declines in “so-called ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and blood pressure. They also significantly increased their activity level. At the end of year two, these same metrics stayed the same or worsened in the dieting group.

Happiness. Women in the non-dieting group had significant decreases in depression and increases in self-esteem, while the opposite was true in the dieting group.

Showing Up. It’s also worth noting that almost half of the dieters dropped out of the study, compared to only 8% of the non-dieting group. Which makes sense—I mean, how long do you want to stay on a diet?

Let’s just summarize here:

  • The non-dieters had better health (as measured by cholesterol and blood pressure). The dieters didn’t.
  • The non-dieters felt happier and better about their bodies and their lives. The dieters didn’t.
  • The non-dieters kept going. More than half of the dieters just stopped showing up –and based on my own life experience, I’d guess that they were at home having some ice cream and wanting to scream at themselves because they “messed up” some part of the diet and couldn’t do it anymore.
  • The non-dieters got to eat what they liked and didn’t need to obsess. The dieters got to keep “food diaries” to count their calories and fat grams.
  • Oh, and no one really lost weight in the long term. (which is consistent with other research suggesting that no diet really works in the long term).


One more thing:

I know that it can be frustrating to read this kind of research—messages from “research studies” can be confusing and seem to support everything. So I wanted to share a bit more about the researchers on this study.

Linda Bacon, Ph.D., one of the researchers who conducted the study and the author of Health at Every Size, is definitely a diet skeptic, but it’s worth noting that not all of the researchers on the study shared her opinion.

In fact, Bacon teamed up with Dr. Judith Stern, a distinguished professor in the departments of nutrition and internal medicine at UC Davis, who has an impressive resume and, as Bacon writes in her book, “I knew she believed strongly in dieting and weight loss and would supervise the study carefully to ensure fair testing of the conventional model.”

In fact, Dr. Stern believed so strongly in the dieting and weight loss model that she was afraid that even conducting this study might be unethical: Dr. Stern was concerned that “if we didn’t encourage the women in our study to lose weight, we might be harming them.”

Dr. Stern was so skeptical of the non-dieting program that she required that the researcher’s test the women’s progress after three months, including surveys, blood samples, and weight. If they saw that in any way the women’s information was getting worse, they had to stop the study immediately.

So you can certainly say that the study was balanced.


Obviously, everyone needs to choose her own path. Though I have found setting aside dieting “rules” to be useful, I don’t think that it is a requirement for a happy life.

Here’s the question I have for you, no matter what path you are considering going down in terms of eating, weight, and happiness: Where do you want to be, two years from now? And what is going to help you get there?

I’d love to hear the answers from you, in the comments below :)