Can You Decrease Belly Fat with Mindfulness?

Did you know that our taste buds tire quickly? Yes, it’s true. If you’ve ever bitten into a piece of chocolate cake and found that first bite heavenly and then finished the cake barely noticing the taste of the final bite, then you’ve experienced tired taste buds.

Our taste buds are chemical sensors that pick up on taste acutely for the first few bites.  After eating a large amount, we may taste very little of what we’re eating.

So what does this have to do with belly fat and mindfulness?

According to clinical psychologist Jean Kristeller, PhD, president and co-founder of The Center for Mindful Eating, many of us are eating too often and too much.

Continue Reading


Does Obesity Change Your Sense of Taste?

How much do your taste buds have to do with your weight? Anything? Everything?

In a recent study researchers compared taste sensitivity in obese children and adolescents to that of healthy weight children and adolescents.  According to this study, taste sensitivity is linked to weight.

Children and adolescents who were obese had less sensitive taste buds.  That means for obese children sweet foods tasted less intensely sweet, bitter foods were milder and salt was not as readily perceived.

What do these differences in taste perception mean?

Continue Reading


How to Curb Your Food Cravings

Too many sweets can leave you wanting one thing:  more sweets.  Our food cravings, whether for salty, sweet or something else, when overindulged don’t result in satiety or satisfaction.  Instead they affect our bodies in the same way as alcohol or drugs, causing us to want more and more, while we experience less pleasure each time we give in.

Knowing that food cravings are much like other addictions can be disheartening and you might despair that you will not be able to make changes.

The good news is that there are several effective strategies to delay eating craved food and weaken your habitual response to food.

Continue Reading


Helping to End Eating- and Weight-Related Disorders

Our current culture presents a confusing array of messages about eating and body image. We see media images which promote unrealistic (and generally unreal) bodies paired with headlines about obesity prevention programs; news stories about eating disorders alongside multiple supersize food options; push for perfection alongside marketing for indulgence.

It's no wonder we have both increasing incidents of eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, as well as increasing prevalence of binge eating disorder and rates of obesity.

Navigating this confusing world without falling into an eating- or weight-related disorder does require a return to some basic facts.

Continue Reading

Why Do Women Hate Their Bodies?

Women’s National Health Week, an annual awareness event dedicated to all issues related to women’s health, was May 13-19 this year.

In honor of this year’s message, “It’s your time,” I want to draw attention to the link between how we see ourselves and how we treat our bodies.

Currently, 80 percent of women in the U.S. are dissatisfied with their appearance. And more than 10 million are suffering from eating disorders.

So the question I have to ask, Why all the self-hatred?

Continue Reading


My Psychotherapy Story for an Eating Disorder

I live in a town where eating disorder treatment is almost nonexistent. Feeling in danger of a relapse, I decided it was time to see a therapist. She was a licensed psychologist specializing in eating disorders and women's issues. I went voluntarily, not expecting what I received.

Everything was booked and set via email. My choice. I hate calling people. She mailed me all the paperwork from her office to bring with me on my first visit. What I loved when I first met her was that she didn't even want to look at the filled-out documents during session; she was eager to get down to talking. I was nervous being there, naturally, it's sensitive material being shared with a stranger. I remember which chair I sat in and how she sat on the couch.

Eager. Ready.

Continue Reading

Is Unresolved Trauma Preventing a Full Eating Disorder Recovery?

There is a strong correlation between trauma and eating disorders. A number of studies have shown that people who struggle with eating disorders have a higher incidence of neglect and physical, emotional and sexual abuse. In particular, binge eating disorder is associated with emotional abuse while sexual abuse has been linked to eating disorders in males.

So what constitutes trauma?

Trauma comes in many forms, including childhood abuse or neglect, growing up in an alcoholic or dysfunctional home, environmental catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina, a serious accident, loss of a loved one, and violent attacks such as rape and sexual assault. What all of these experiences have in common is that they leave the individual feeling helpless and out of control.

Trauma isn’t the same as having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a specific diagnosis with distinct criteria, involving a serious or life-threatening experience that results in nightmares, flashbacks, attempts to avoid situations similar to those that led to the trauma and a hyperactive startle response, among other symptoms.

Continue Reading


Interview with Margarita Tartakovsky

Recently I had the chance to ask Margarita Tartakovsky, an associate editor at Psych Central, a few questions about eating behavior.  She blogs regularly about eating and self-image issues on her blog Weightless.

Q. Why doesn’t the current model of treating obesity -- only telling people what and how much to eat -- work for most people?

A. Great question, because the current model definitely doesn’t work. I can’t remember who said it, but there’s a saying that if you want to gain weight, go on a diet. Diets have a failure rate of about 95 percent. People may lose weight initially but then they usually gain it back and then some.

So this model doesn’t work for many reasons. For one thing, genetics plays a prominent role in our weight. This is why you can have two people who eat the same foods in the same quantities look very different. One may be thin; the other may be considered “overweight.” Our bodies are more complicated than the “calories in, calories out” equation assumes.

Continue Reading


Integrative Medicine to Treat Eating Disorders

Integrative medicine can be defined as “a healing-oriented discipline that takes into account the whole person -- body, mind and spirit -- including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship and makes use of both conventional and alternative therapies.”

Complementary and alternative therapies used in integrative medicine can include acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal medicine, dietary supplements and others that give the clinician a wide array of treatments for difficult conditions. This is particularly true in the integrative medicine approach to eating disorders.

Eating disorders have been documented in adolescents and adults for many years. More recently, there is evidence that these disorders can also affect young children.

The cornerstones of an integrative medicine model for eating disorders includes some components that are found in every approach to the treatment of eating disorders, but may be used in a unique manner. Others are more specific to the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies. The most important difference in this model when compared to other treatment strategies is the philosophical underpinning of integrative medicine -- that is, the belief in the self-healing nature of body, mind and spirit.

Continue Reading


Little Research Supports Residential Treatment of Eating Disorders

There's a lucrative cottage industry in the U.S. for the residential treatment of almost anything you can imagine. Everything from "Internet addiction" and drug and alcohol problems, to eating and mood disorders. If you can treat it in an outpatient setting, the thinking goes, why not treat it in a "residential" setting for 30 or more days where you control every aspect of the patient's life?

The "residential" treatment approach has long been available for eating disorders, since the treatment of these disorders tends to be long and complicated. Andrew Pollack writing for the New York Times notes how these kinds of programs have now become the focus of insurance companies looking to cut back on treatment options.

It's no surprise, really. With the rollout of mental health parity -- requiring that insurance companies can no longer discriminate against people with mental disorders for their treatment options -- those companies are looking for other places they can cut costs. Residential treatment for eating disorders appears to be one obvious area.

So is residential treatment a legitimate modality for helping people with eating disorders? Should insurance companies cover the costs of such care?

Continue Reading

Borderline Personality

A Day in the Life of a Mental Hospital Patient

6:05 am: You lie awake in your tiny bed, underneath the salmon covers, your neck sore from sleeping on one pillow (you asked for another but you’ll need a doctor’s order to have more than one.) Your sleep medicine has worn off and you are now once again a prisoner to your insomnia.

All there is to do now is listen to your roommate snore and mutter to herself in her sleep and the sounds of the nurses talking and phones ringing at the nurses station. You remember a Seroquel-induced nightmare you had previously in the night in which you were trapped in a house that was filling with water, drowning and gasping for air. You make a mental note to mention the dream to your doctor later on.

7:00 am: Morning checks. A tech bangs on your door just as you have started to drift off into a sweet sleep again and informs you that you must be up for breakfast in thirty minutes. You incoherently moan something that resembles an “OK,” roll over and close your eyes again.

Continue Reading


Is Anyone Normal Today?

Take a minute and answer this question: Is anyone really normal today?

I mean, even those who claim they are normal may, in fact, be the most neurotic among us, swimming with a nice pair of scuba fins down the river of Denial. Having my psychiatric file published online and in print for public viewing, I get to hear my share of dirty secrets—weird obsessions, family dysfunction, or disguised addiction—that are kept concealed from everyone but a self-professed neurotic and maybe a shrink.

“Why are there so many disorders today?” Those seven words, or a variation of them, surface a few times a week. And my take on this query is so complex that, to avoid sounding like my grad school professors making an erudite case that fails to communicate anything to average folks like me, I often shrug my shoulders and move on to a conversation about dessert. Now that I can talk about all day.

Here’s the abridged edition of my guess as to why we mark up more pages of the DSM-IV today than, say, a century ago (even though the DSM-IV had yet to be born).

Continue Reading