The real tragedy of your unhappy relationship with food.

The real tragedy with food isn’t that you spend hours worried about what you’ll eat at the restaurant tonight.
Or that you’ve lost and gained the same 10-20 pounds countless times over the past decade or two.
Or that you hide your pizza box in the bottom of the trash, so that your roommate won't see how much you actually ate. 
 
(Of course all of those things are sad and unfortunate and even heartbreaking.)
 
The real tragedy of your unhappy relationship with food is that it has tricked you into thinking that your unhappiness is about food. 

Yes, your eating is probably making you unhappy.
But, even more problematically, your eating is likely distracting you from much deeper issues.
 
Issues such as:

  • How do I feel about my days? Why do I spend my entire day numb in my body? 
  • How do I feel about my relationships? Why do I always find myself eating way too much with this person? 
  • Why do I always feel like I can never have "enough" of time/money/love/chocolate?
  • Who gets to say whether I am worthy of love or respect? 
  • Who gets to say whether my physical body is worthy of love or respect?
  • Will other people respect or love me if they see all the parts of my personality (even the messy, dark, or out-of-control parts)? 


 
You can spend your entire life gaining and losing the same 10 or 20 or 40 pounds. 
You can spend your entire life carefully measuring out portions, and then beating yourself up when you eat too much.
You can spend your entire life living the daily soap opera of “omg I ate too much today!”
 
And in a certain sense (stay with me here, I know this is a bit radical): That will be easier than the alternative.

I'm serious.
 
Worrying about your eating and your weight means that you stay safe in the sandbox of “food issues.” You’ve felt these feelings before; you’ve thought these thoughts before. You know how the drama plays out: the herculean efforts of dieting, the sweetness of overindulgence and the guilty remorse that follows. The drama! The action! Even if you never quite “get it right,” it’s all familiar, in a way.
 
The alternative, of course, is to step out of the sandbox where you’ve always been, and actually go on a deep journey of personal exploration. What is really, truly, motivating your “eating issues”? Hint: it’s probably not that you don’t know the appropriate portion size of ice cream. 

Every single time I run a Dessert Club group, the participants tell me that they have way more “feelings” than they ever realized. And it can be scary. Overwhelming. 

It's worth pointing out that these same Dessert Club participants are thoughtful, self-aware ladies...but they just didn't realize how deep this stuff goes. Food stuff goes really, really deep. 
 
If you choose the "deep journey of personal exploration" route...it may be intense, but it also allows you to eat cupcakes without guilt and experience truer joy and connection and self-worth than you may have felt before. 
 
What do you choose? 



p.s. If you want some support for this journey, I just posted dates for the two summer Dessert Clubs (Including one that is Europe-friendly!). I know it can be scary to think about talking about this stuff in a group, but I suspect that it will be way more fun + encouraging + helpful than you imagine. 

p.p.s. To be honest, I still feel kinda awkward on social media (I'm pretty private!), but I'm trying to dip my toe into the Instagram pool because it seems so fun. Want to say hi? Here's my personal-ish account, and here's one for the Dessert Club. I'd love to meet some more of you :)
 

It’s not cocaine, folks.

Just a quick reminder for your weekend: It’s okay to overeat or eat emotionally sometimes.

Yes, it’s fantastic to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.
Yes, it’s great to try to be aware of the underlying feelings that are driving your eating.
Yes, we probably don’t want food to be our only coping mechanism.

But most of us will still occasionally eat a dark fudge cupcake when we feel exhausted or sad or frustrated or awkward.

And you know what? It’s not that big of a deal.
Actually, in the big scheme of things, it’s not that bad of a coping mechanism occasionally.

It’s possible to get obsessed with being a “perfect intuitive eater,” the same way you might have been obsessed with being a “perfect dieter” or a “perfect clean eater.”

Please don’t do that. Food isn’t cocaine. It’s not heroin.* If you use it occasionally to numb out or celebrate or appease your grandma who just made you a pie and is looking at you expectantly, it’s not a big deal.

You feel me?

*On a more serious note, I want to acknowledge that food addiction can be a real thing. And even if you don’t identify with the label of “addict,” many of us still use food compulsively or to numb out…like any kind of “addict” (e.g., someone addicted to shopping or gambling or drugs or alcohol) might.

There are some schools of thought, like Overeaters Anonymous (OA), which believe in complete “abstinence” from overeating — and I completely support that, if it feels right and necessary to you.

But my experience tells me that almost everyone will overeat, at times. Even people who are totally sane and happy around food.  So while some people may need a complete abstinence-only approach, most of us will benefit from being kind and cutting ourselves some slack.  Overeating an extra piece of cake isn’t the end of the world — and if we interpret it as the end of the world, we’re more likely to keep bingeing from the panic. So why not just accept that everyone eats emotionally sometimes?

 

p.s. The next round of Dessert Clubs will be opening for enrollment next week! Enter your email here if you'd like to be updated when they're open!

Why it doesn’t feel good to eat an entire box of Oreos

I keep making myself feel sick from sugar. I need to stop eating sugar entirely.

I hear this a lot from people. The “I’ve made myself feel terrible, so I need to stop it entirely” way of thinking. I’ve heard it about other things, too: social media usage, shopping, travel, and more.

It’s possible that giving up sugar entirely might make you feel better than, say, eating an entire box of Oreos in one sitting. But if you’re looking to maximize your happiness, there are likely some other choices that would make you even happier than either bingeing or going cold turkey on sugar.

To explain why, take a look at the curve below**:

I don’t usually use math to describe eating principles, but this curve has extraordinary explanatory power and may help you make yourself a lot happier, so stick with me.

To understand the curve, let’s use chocolate consumption as an example.

At point A, your chocolate consumption is zero. However, even with zero chocolate, you have some level of happiness, which is indicated by point A on the graph.

(Of course, point A — or the y-intercept of this graph — will vary by person. Some people might be at a “0” or neutral level of happiness when they’re not eating any chocolate at all, for example. Others, like “super-duper chocolate lovers,” might be below 0, at a more “negative” level of happiness, if they aren’t consuming any chocolate.)

As you consume more chocolate, your happiness increases. I think this makes intuitive sense to those of us who’ve ever tasted chocolate.

At some point (point B on this graph), your pleasure from eating chocolate reaches its maximum level. This would be what is happening to me in this picture.

Past this point, your pleasure starts to decline. It’s worth noting, though, that as long as your pleasure is above point A, you’ll still be happier than you were if you weren’t eating any chocolate.

At a certain point, though, if you keep eating chocolate, you become just as happy as if you hadn’t had any chocolate at all — probably because you start feeling a little less good in your body. This is represented by point C on the curve. And if you keep eating, you’ll be less happy than if you didn’t eat any chocolate at all…and might even become genuinely unhappy (point D).

There are two reasons why this chart matters:

1. If consuming sugar or any other food is making you unhappy, you may not need to give it up entirely. You just need to find you sweet spot.

There’s a strong current of black-and-white thinking in today’s diet and nutrition culture. “Stop eating sugar” or “give up gluten” are ideas that are very in-vogue right now.

In a certain sense, it might make you happier to stop eating sugar if you are currently eating a HUGE quantity of sugar. This makes visual sense by looking at the graph — you’d be happier at point A, for example, than you would be at point D.

But you know where you’d be happiest? Eating some Oreos, but not too many. That’s the wonderful sweet spot at point B.

 

2. You’re going to have to figure out what your own chart looks like. 

People often assume that there is a single “right answer” when it comes to how to eat to make themselves feel good, and that this “right answer” will be in a book or online article.

Here’s the thing: You are not a robot. You are not a car. You are not an airplane. There’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation here, and everyone’s chart is going to look different. Your point B will be at a different number of Oreos than your mom/friend/worst enemy or even some random nutritionist who wrote an article on the Internet about how much sugar is “okay” to eat.

And, even more importantly, your graph will vary by the day/hour/second.

There is no substitute for you doing your own experiments. Period.

 

Other applications:

 It may be obvious, but this chart applies to an astonishing number of other experiences in life:

  • Email: Cal Newport writes about this powerfully here and was the writer who introduced me to this curve to begin with. In general, most of us are more productive with some email usage — otherwise we’d have to call or write letters to get anything done. But too much email usage can radically decrease our focus, ability to get things done, and happiness. This also applies to social media and general Internet browsing.
  • Travel: Some travel is lovely. Too much travel is exhausting. Again, everyone is going to have a different amount of travel that produces different results — some people crave three months of travel, while for others, a couple of days at the beach is perfect.
  • Socializing
  • Shopping
  • TV watching

The bottom line: most thing in life are pleasurable, up to a point. But at another point, it would have been better if we hadn’t done them at all.

So why not spend a bit of time and attention in search of your personal sweet spot?

 

 

**I was introduced to this concept by Cal Newport, who applies it to email productivity . 

 

 

Sunday PSA: The Pajama Technique

Here’s a suggestion: when life gets hard, put on your pajamas.

As in: don’t even take the time to think/process your feelings/talk to others. Put on the pajamas right away.

I got this idea from my older brother, who is an ex-college athlete/successful businessman/all-around-intense-and-impressive dude. I’ve always been a big fan of pajamas, but on a recent visit, I watched him take the Pajama Technique to a whole new level of self-care mastery.

As soon as I walked in the door and started to tell him about how exhausted I was, he interrupted me: “Katie, before we discuss this, why don’t you go put on your pajamas?”

Just like that. As if it was the most normal thing in the world.

I wanted to share this radical idea: Put on pajamas immediately. Think/feel/emote/take action after. 

Who knows, it might help with a tendency to eat cookies as soon as you walk in the house? :)

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.
Ever.

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!