Relapse – The Sneaky Voice of ED

While I’m not an eating disorder treatment professional, I have been trained professionally to recognize the signs. And as my readership has grown, it’s become clear that I have a large segment of my readership that is in treatment (or seeking treatment) for disordered eating. For this reason I’ve provided many resources for finding treatment in my blog posts and ebooks for people who believe they may be dealing with disordered eating, and have stressed the importance of seeking professional help.

Some people decide to forego treatment and attempt to handle the issue themselves. As I’ve said before, this can be quite dangerous for several reasons, not the least of which is the process of recovery from starvation requires medical supervision to identify and avoid any potentially fatal side effects of refeeding. The bodybuilding and fad diet communities have unfortunately co-opted the term ‘refeeding’ to refer to what is more accurately termed a ‘cheat-day’, which has had the unfortunate effect of diminishing the gravity of the term and the process of true refeeding. We’ve got people all over the internet claiming they are ‘refeeding’ when really they are simply ‘taking a break’ from dieting, or having a cheat day or week, or carb loading, or even just using the term as an excuse to eat what they want to eat. (You don’t need an excuse to eat what you want to eat, by the way. You’re a grown adult, you have every right to eat what you want. No explanation or excuse necessary.) True refeeding is serious business, people, and needs to be implemented under the supervision of a medical professional and as part of an eating disorder recovery treatment protocol.

A less dangerous, but more insidious, problem associated with attempting to recover from disordered eating without professional treatment is the very real danger of relapse. Even people in the very best treatment programs can relapse. The danger is exponentially higher when there isn’t a knowledgeable, experienced professional there to identify early warning signs and provide perspective and resources, as is the case when a person attempts recovery without the support of a knowledgeable and experienced ED professional.

Here’s how I see it play out so, so often. Things are AWESOME at first. The person feels a tremendous sense of relief at being free of their self-imposed rules. They revel in their new freedom. They have more energy and their mood improves. They may see improvements in their health. Gweneth Olwyn calls this the ‘Honeymoon Period’ and describes it as such on

“Many experience a tremendous sense of relief and initial joy at eating in an unrestrictive way. Understandably, you have many, many distributed and ingrained systems that ensure you eat because your survival depends upon it.

However, the restrictive eating disorder will not allow that relief to stand for very long. Soon you will find yourself starting to feel edgy and anxious. For many the fast physical shifts in the body will become a focal point for allowing the eating disorder to suggest that the process is not going 'according to plan' and that somehow trusting your body cannot apply to you as it does to everyone else.”
~From Phases of Recovery

But soon the very normal, but less pleasant, effects of recovery begin to create anxiety and a sneaky voice starts in and whispers “This isn’t working. Look at you! Gaining all this weight, not working out as hard as you should. You’re lazy! And fat! This was all a big mistake! You should go back to what you were doing. It was working so well! Remember how thin you were? Remember how in control you felt?” Sometimes that voice comes from inside your own head. It is the voice of your eating disorder. Sometimes, unfortunately, that voice comes from outside, in the form of a ‘well meaning’ friend, or a stranger on the internet, or someone else trapped deep in the spiral of disorder who can’t bear to be alone there. It is the voice of someone else’s disorder, or simply the disorder so deeply entrenched in our diet culture. This is a very normal stage of recovery, but it is the point at which relapse becomes almost inevitable without a supportive, knowledgeable, experienced treatment team. Which is why it is so vital to seek out professional treatment if you are dealing with symptoms of disordered eating. So that there is someone there to identify that voice for what it is: the Voice of Disorder. And to give you the tools and perspective to shut it down before it drags you right back down into the darkness.

Read more about relapse, and find resources to help you through:

NEDA: Slips, Lapses and Relapses
NEDA: Recovery and Relapse Prevention
NEDC: Relapse and Recurrance
Youreatopia: Phases of Recovery
Youreatopia: Relapse

Find ED treatment resources:

ED Referral


Diet Talk has become inescapable

I of course have a life outside of fitness. My kids have lots of activities, and I have interests that have nothing to do with food and exercise. I spend time doing things that should have nothing to do with food. I spend time with people who are not fitness and nutrition enthusiasts. There should be a respite from the constant diet talk.

But there isn’t.

At my daughter’s music rehearsal I overhear a conversation between two moms, one of whom is telling the other not to feed her kids soy because of it’s hormone disrupting qualities.

Two other moms are discussing ways to eliminate wheat from their daughters’ diets out of concern for their weight. A third chimes in with a comment about the ‘toxic’ effects of sugar and cautions the others to watch their kids’ fruit intake too, in addition to wheat.

The belief that grains cause everything from acne to Alzheimers is all the rage in my social circle, even among people who aren’t nutrition enthusiasts. Friends ask me daily for my take on the latest book/diet/movie/food villain. People who have always been healthy and active are suddenly telling me about their ‘sugar addiction’ and the extreme measures they are taking to combat it (usually involving extremely restrictive diets and expensive supplements). They tell me about the shame they feel for liking to eat sweet things. They believe it is pathological. They are anxious.

Others have eliminated all animal products from their diets, citing ‘evidence’ that dairy and meat cause cancer, heart disease and obesity. They pepper my facebook feed with animal rights propaganda thinly disguised as ‘healthy eating tips’ (no, I’m not saying animal welfare is bad. But lets call a spade a spade. Animal welfare is an important topic, lets TALK about it! Lets not euphamize it as a health or nutrition issue. It muddies the waters and makes everyone look a little silly).

Almost everyone I know has mysteriously developed an allergy or intolerance to some food or another over the last few years.

Whenever I or a friend mentions something we eat, invariably at least one person chimes in with why that food is toxic and we should avoid it.

Everywhere I go, conversation revolves around food, the latest diet book, the latest study they heard about on the news (which in virtually every case has been mangled and misrepresented by the media), the latest food ‘documentary’ (I put documentary in quotes because every food documentary I’ve seen has a strong ideological subtext that has less to do with health than it does politics). My kids come home from school with ideas about food they’ve picked up from their friends – that being vegetarian makes you thin, that gluten gives them stomachaches, that girls aren’t supposed to eat very much food (but boys are), that milk is mucus, it goes on and on.

And this doesn’t even begin to touch on what I hear in the gym. Women discussing the juice ‘cleanse’ they are doing to ‘jumpstart their metabolism’, while they work out for hours in heavy vinyl suits that make them ‘sweat the fat out’. Bros in the weight room swapping tips on eliminating every source of carbs from their diets (including vegetables). Strangers on the internet telling other people to forego chemotherapy in favor of a raw vegan cleanse to treat their cancer. People everywhere eliminating entire food and macronutrient groups because they heard those things are the cause of obesity. People eating sticks of butter. People eating nothing but fruit. People eating nothing but milk. People eating nothing but potatoes. People eating nothing because they are afraid of everything.

And the few voices who still speak up for moderation, balance and sustainability (like the Healthy Hausfrau, James Fell, Armi Legge, Matt Stone, the Fat Nutritionist, the Angry Dieter, myself and others) are angrily accused of ‘promoting obesity’ and giving people ‘excuses to be lazy’. There is no room in the New Diet Order for balance, reason, moderation and sustainability. Extremism, sacrifice, and the anxious pursuit of perfection are the name of the game and it seems like EVERYONE is playing now. Even the kids.

I’ve discussed the disordered undertones of much of the Diet Industry’s rhetoric before (see links at the end of the post if you want to read more). Many of the behaviors that today’s diet books and food trends promote are straight out of the DSM Diagnostic Criteria for Eating Disorders. Preoccupation with food and eating, making excuses for not eating, elimination of large categories of food, rigid food rules and rituals, guilt and shame associated with food and eating (have you SEEN some of the ‘fitspo’ memes about food? *shudders*), avoidance of social activities because of anxiety about food, isolating oneself from friends and loved ones because of dietary ideology, the list goes on. These are not normal or healthy behaviors, they are hallmarks of disordered eating, and they are PROMOTED in diet books and blogs and between friends, with distressing and escalating regularity.

I used to do some of these things. And then a couple years ago I began to see how it was negatively impacting my quality of life and my relationships. And then I started seeing how ubiquitous it was in the fitness and diet industries, and I started talking about it. And now, it’s everywhere. EVERYWHERE. PTA meetings. Music lessons. Makeup tutorials on youtube. Childrens’ shows. It’s inescapable.

We are, as a culture, developing a collective eating disorder. What started as a desire to improve the quality of our diets has turned into a national obsession. We are spiraling down a rabbit hole of fear, anxiety, and myopic fixation on every nuance and detail of our diets (and the diets of others).

Public health recommendations are good and solid. Get regular exercise and adequate sleep. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Pay some attention to calories – try not to eat too few or too many. Don’t eat excessive amounts of any one food, and limit (not eliminate) added salt and sugar. Eat a wide variety of foods. Eat in a way you enjoy and can sustain in the long term. Eat more whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds. Credible public health organizations do NOT promote extreme diets, macronutrient restriction, cleanses and detoxes, elimination of entire food groups, myopic fixation on one food or food group as good or evil, any specific body type or aesthetic, or absolute purity and perfection. *Got a medical condition? Obviously you may have nutritional needs not addressed by public health recommendations. Work with your medical professional to identify and address your specific medical nutritional needs. People with medical conditions should obviously not rely on blogs, facebook memes or diet books for medical care, but rather work with a trusted medical professional who is familiar with their condition and medical history.

Balance and moderation are the opposite of what is happening in our food and diet culture right now. We are spiraling into extremism and obsession. If an individual exhibited some of the thinking and behavior processes that are becoming trendy, people who love them would become concerned for their health and well-being. They would probably qualify for eating disorder treatment.

Maybe we need to start giving some thought to where this trend is heading.

Read more:

The Appeal of Fad Diets
Sugar Addiction
Fad Diets: Normalizing Disordered Behavior
I’m Calling for a New Paradigm

Resources for Eating Disorder Information:
Your Eatopia

Self-compassion: an Excuse to be Fat? No.

A theme I run up against frequently is the idea that people who don't conform to societal weight expectations either don't love themselves or SHOULDN'T love themselves. Because self acceptance translates to complacency in some people's minds, and therefore they claim that 'self love is an excuse to be fat and lazy'. People who weigh more than is socially acceptable are told every day, both directly and indirectly through advertising, that they don't deserve to feel good about themselves, that the only way to become more socially acceptable is through self-punishment and self-hate. This couldn't be further from the truth, and in fact there is scientific evidence that people who are kind and gentle with themselves (termed 'self-compassion’ in the study I'm going to discuss) are actually MORE successful in changing their behavior, and therefore are much more likely to be successful in long-term maintenance of a healthy weight and other health promoting behaviors.

I have direct personal experience here. I spent decades hating myself, hating my body, trying to punish my body into being smaller than it was. The result was always frustration, binging and increasing weight over time. And then one day I decided to stop hating myself and instead treat myself with kindness and patience. And that fundamental change in mindset put the behavior changes into effect that resulted in lasting and sustainable weight loss and health improvement.


Have you ever wondered why some people seem to fare better emotionally and mentally than others do, in the quest for fitness, health improvement or weight loss? They seem to have patience with themselves, with the process, and with the steps needed for permanent results. They’re kinder to and more satisfied with themselves, more understanding of the troubles of others, and have a realistic outlook. Typically, they achieve healthier and more lasting physical results.

On the other hand, there are people who beat themselves up constantly, who are impatient with themselves, get frustrated and freak out when the process doesn’t comply with their wishes quickly enough, who try to skip necessary steps. They seem unkind to and unsatisfied with themselves, and are frequently scornful or resentful of others. They are often the people who jump from one fad diet or punishing exercise regimen to another, seeking immediate, extreme results.

We hear a lot about self-esteem, see it promoted as a determining factor in people’s levels of happiness, satisfaction and success in life, but there’s much less awareness of the concept of self-compassion. At first glance, self-esteem and self-compassion may appear to be the same. However, there’s a subtle but important difference.

What is self-compassion? I'm going to use a few quotes from, a site run by Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneering researcher into the concept of self-compassion, to help elucidate the concept before I get into the science of self-compassion:

“Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings ' after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect? You may try to change in ways that allow you to be more healthy and happy, but this is done because you care about yourself, not because you are worthless or unacceptable as you are.”

It’s an unfortunate fact that the concept embodied by the term “self-compassion” is often viewed as weakness in our society. Being compassionate towards others is seen as virtuous. But to extend that same compassion to oneself is generally seen as either self-absorbed or undisciplined. We are expected to “be hard on ourselves”, to be self-punishing and ashamed about shortcomings or failure to live up to standards (regardless of whether those standards are reasonable or humane).

How does self-compassion differ from self-esteem? Again, from Dr. Neff’s site:

“Self-esteem refers to our sense of self-worth, perceived value, or how much we like ourselves…The need for high self-esteem may encourage us to ignore, distort or hide personal shortcomings so that we can't see ourselves clearly and accurately…our self-esteem is often contingent on our latest success or failure, meaning that our self-esteem fluctuates depending on ever-changing circumstances.

In contrast to self-esteem, self-compassion is not based on self-evaluations…This means that with self-compassion, you don't have to feel better than others to feel good about yourself. Self-compassion also allows for greater self-clarity, because personal failings can be acknowledged with kindness and do not need to be hidden. Moreover, self-compassion isn't dependent on external circumstances, it's always available ' especially when you fall flat on your face!”

So…what's the evidence?

There’s a fascinating report on a series of five studies that examined the behavior of people with higher levels of self-compassion, as compared with people with lower self-compassion and/or lower or higher levels of self-esteem, Self-Compassion and Reactions to Unpleasant Self-Relevant Events: The Implications of Treating Oneself Kindly. The full report can be found at here.

The researchers gathered reports from participants on negative events in their lives, presented hypothetical scenarios, recorded reactions to interpersonal feedback, showed participants recorded performances by others in awkward situations and observed their reactions, and asked them to reflect on negative personal experiences.

Some findings from this report include:

“…self-compassion was positively associated with mastery orientation (being motivated by curiosity and the desire to develop one’s skills) but negatively associated with performance orientation (the motivation to defend or enhance one’s self-worth).”

(Layman’s terms: People who were more self-compassionate were more likely to be motivated by how a behavior made them feel, and less likely to be motivated by how it made them look.)

“self-compassion was consistently associated with having fewer negative, pessimistic, and self-critical thoughts…self-compassion was inversely related to believing that one has bigger problems in life than most other people, wondering why “these things always happen to me,” thinking that one’s life is more “screwed up” than other people’s, and having the thought “I’m a loser.””

(Layman’s terms: People who were more self-compassionate tended not to believe that their problems were worse than everyone else's (what I see as victim-mentality), and tended to be more optimistic.)

“…self-compassion was negatively related to negative feelings, specifically, anxiety, sadness, and self-conscious emotions.”

(Layman’s terms: Self-compassionate people had fewer negative feelings and showed less anxiety and self-consciousness.)

“…self-compassionate people react with greater equanimity to difficult situations than people who are lower in self-compassion…self-compassionate people are assumed to be able to maintain emotional equanimity while seeing themselves accurately (without either self-enhancing or self-deprecating) because they compassionately recognize their own imperfect humanity.”

(Layman’s terms: Self-compassionate people tended to react to difficult situations in a more balanced and stable way, and to have a more realistic perception of their own strengths and weaknesses.)

How does this apply to fitness, health and weight loss? It’s common to hear people ridicule or devalue themselves for being unable to stick with healthy behaviors. Most of us have probably heard people say something like, “I was so bad today! I ate too much and didn’t exercise, I’m such a pig!” Even people who don’t express those types of thoughts out loud commonly think those things about themselves. Our culture endorses self-punishment for “cheating” on diets, eating “too much” or “junk food”, not exercising enough, and not conforming to the very narrow range of socially 'acceptable' standards of attractiveness.

Eating a balanced, sensible diet and engaging in regular physical activity are essential to achieving and maintaining fitness and a healthy weight. However, shaming and vilifying ourselves for perceived failures isn’t a sustainable way of motivating ourselves to establish these healthy habits. If we believe we aren’t worthy of compassion when we don’t meet certain standards, we are unlikely to have positive motivation to develop and maintain lifelong habits that support health. It’s like the difference between punishing misbehavior or positively reinforcing good behavior. The former isn't as effective as the latter; the latter is more likely to inform and shape positive behavior for life.

When we care about ourselves; when we truly believe we are worthy of understanding and compassion from ourselves as well as from others; when we believe that we deserve good health and deserve to feel attractive as we are; when we take responsibility for our own behaviors without harshly judging them; when we view ourselves honestly…we are much more likely to maintain a lifestyle that promotes those healthy behaviors.

If we DON'T see ourselves as worthy of any of those things; if we vilify ourselves for our behaviors; if we deflect responsibility for our own behaviors by trying to justify them or blame them on others; when we have a distorted view of ourselves…we are less likely to follow through with healthy habit changes and more likely to continue self-sabotaging behaviors that are harmful to our well being.

When it comes to exercise, self-compassion may give us more incentive to find and continue activities that develop a higher level of fitness without the damaging effects of certain extreme exercises. The finding that “…self-compassion was positively associated with mastery orientation (being motivated by curiosity and the desire to develop one’s skills) but negatively associated with performance orientation (the motivation to defend or enhance one’s self-worth)” may indicate that those with higher self-compassion are more likely to stick with an activity because of the intrinsic motivation of satisfaction with acquiring and mastering skills. We continue engaging in an activity because we enjoy it! And because it makes us feel good! On the other hand, “performance orientation” would be extrinsic motivation, a focus on external factors such as a prize, recognition or praise, or a certain aesthetic goal in order to more closely adhere to social standards of attractiveness. An example of extrinsic motivation is engaging in an activity because a partner wants you to, or because you believe it will produce a certain aesthetic. Intrinsic motivation (doing something out of a sense of personal enrichment, or because of the way it makes you feel) has been shown to be more sustainable than extrinsic motivation (doing something in order to receive praise or approval from others or project a certain image).

People with more self-compassion may be more likely to recognize that extreme and punishing diet regimens are counter-productive. Dietary ‘purity’ is a rigid concept that rarely allows for pleasure or social bonding with food. Self-compassion allows for the knowledge that it’s okay to enjoy food, to not feel deprived, to eat in a way that serves one’s nutritional needs and health goals but allows for pure enjoyment as well. The binge/restrict cycle that is so common today is associated with a self-hostile mindset, and with a pattern of alternating self-loathing and repentance. A higher level of self-compassion could illuminate that unhealthy cycle and help people break free of it. Many people try to break the binge-restrict cycle at the binge, which usually doesn't work. A person with a higher level of self-compassion is more likely to recognize that they can break the pattern at the restriction point, rather than the binge. Self-compassion recognizes that the restriction is a form of self-punishment, and that the binge is the natural response to such punishment. Stop the self-punishment, and the binge response will begin to fade.

The finding that “…self-compassionate people react with greater equanimity to difficult situations…” could give a clue to another key feature of people with more consistent satisfaction and results. Equanimity is a state of psychological stability and composure. With equanimity comes a resistance to extreme reactions. It allows for a less catastrophic mindset, but also less irrational, unsupported optimism, allowing more accurate assessment of situations and greater ability to make rational decisions about future actions. Self-compassion allows for a reasoned, balanced response to difficult situations and setbacks, rather than the cycle of bouncing between two extremes that so many people are trapped in.

How do you determine if you have self-compassion? Dr. Neff has a quiz on her site that can help you guage your own level of self-compassion. This is also a subject that you should be able to discuss with a therapist. If you have a high level of self-critical thoughts, I highly recommend working with a therapist to learn tools to reach a more balanced self-image. Also, keep in mind that many of the benefits attributed to high self-esteem may, in fact, be a result of high self-compassion instead, so focusing on self-esteem to the exclusion of self-compassion may not be beneficial. The studies cited above found many indications of this, and recommended further study of this distinction.

The report on the five studies concludes, “In general, these studies suggest that self-compassion attenuates people’s reactions to negative events in ways that are distinct from and, in some cases, more beneficial than self-esteem.” This means that those with higher levels of self-compassion may be better equipped to deal with life’s challenges, and have advantages over those with high self-esteem but not high self-compassion.

How do you develop and maintain self-compassion? Again, working with a qualified therapist may be of great value. Dr. Neff also has free exercises available on her site meant to develop self-compassion. In essence, these types of exercises promote being mindful of your own level of self-compassion and learning how to treat yourself the way you would treat a close friend, the way you would want a close friend to treat you. This may feel uncomfortable to many people at first, because so much about our society conditions us to suppress any innate self-compassion we may have, tells us that self-compassion is weakness and undesirable. Most of us experience constant exposure to advertising and social messages that tell us we aren’t good enough as we are. We’re bombarded with unreasonable beauty standards, a greater level of social praise and acceptance for certain categories of professions or socio-economic status, and pressure to compare ourselves to others in order to gauge our own worth. Those things actively discourage self-compassion, and some people are more susceptible to those pressures than others.

I think we can all learn to break away from those patterns, to develop and practice the skills and mindset that promote the ability to stick with the consistent, healthy habits that give us the power to transform ourselves. Once those habits, mental tools and attitudes are developed, maintaining them is relatively easy (much like a muscle!). Along with them comes a greater clarity about the destructive effects of extremes, and a comfort and surety about the value of continuing to practice self-compassion and the behaviors it supports.

It’s not fat. It’s not sugar. It’s not the USDA guidelines. It’s the DIETS. It has ALWAYS been the diets.

Forward: this blog post is not intended to promote any specific diet or way of eating. This blog post is about critical thinking, and critical thinking alone. This post is meant to promote critical examination of the actual evidence. The intent here is to goad the reader into thinking more deeply about the information they’re consuming and where it’s coming from. The intent is NOT to tell the reader what or how they should eat.

This is a post I made on my facebook wall:

“Diet gurus like to blame the USDA dietary recommendations for the obesity epidemic. But there’s a flaw in their logic.

The USDA dietary recommendations call for 5-9 servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Currently, the percentage of American adults consuming the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables is hovering around 25%.

So, we can safely estimate that at BEST, 25% of American adults are following the USDA dietary recommendations.

So how the gurus figure that the recommendations, which most people don’t follow, are responsible for obesity is beyond me.

No, I’m not advocating any specific diet here, I’m advocating examining the evidence critically. Until we get better compliance with the recommendations, there’s no way to tell if they cause obesity.”

We can’t know how awful, or how good, the guidelines are unless and until people actually follow them. So all the rhetoric blaming them for obesity is completely specious.

But the guidelines made us afraid of fat, Amber! And then we started eating fake processed foods because they were low fat! All because the guidelines said fat was bad!

The guidelines do not recommend a low fat diet. The current guidelines recommend getting 25-30% of calories from fat – that’s not low fat! It’s actually quite moderate. I get about 100 grams of fat a day on average, which works out to about 30% of my calorie intake, which is totally in line with the dietary recommendations. 100 grams of fat a day is NOT low fat.

No, it wasn’t the guidelines that made us fear fat. It was the diet gurus of the time. The diet gurus of the 80′s and 90′s who took the recommendations out of context, who cherry picked evidence, who used logical fallacy to support their claims that their low-fat diet would cure you of disease and obesity. You know, kind of exactly like the low-carb anti-sugar diet gurus of today take recommendations out of context, cherry pick evidence, and base their claims on elaborate logical fallacy constructs to support their claims that their low-carb diet will cure you of disease and obesity. Today’s diet gurus have creatively found a way to blame “the government” for the sins of their predecessors. It was the DIET GURUS that made us afraid of fat. It was the DIET GURUS who sold us low fat diets and low fat fake food and low fat cookbooks. Blaming the government is handy, because it distracts the consumer from the fact that they are selling similar exactly the same shit as the gurus of yore, just wrapped up in a different colored bow. It’s not fat that’s evil any more. It’s sugar now.

But look Amber! The guidelines recommend low fat dairy! It’s CLEAR that the guidelines vilify fat! And you know what happens when ‘they’ take the fat out of dairy…they put in all sorts of toxins and additives and fake stuff!

‘Low fat dairy’ is not synonymous with ‘low fat diet’. I prefer low fat dairy for the texture in general, and also because low fat dairy is more protein dense that regular dairy. Am I saying YOU should eat low fat dairy? No. Eat what you want. But there is more to the low fat dairy recommendation than the ‘fat phobia’ the diet gurus trumpet. Protein density for instance.

And as for the claims that low fat dairy contains fillers and additives and toxins – it’s bullshit. The back of my container of FAGE low fat greek yogurt lists “milk, cream and yogurt cultures” (yogurt cultures are probiotics like acidophilous and bifidus – you know, things the gurus tell you you should take in pill form). Milk, cream and yogurt cultures. That’s it. Where are the toxins? Where are the fillers and additives? They’re in the rhetoric made up by the diet gurus, that’s where. Not in reality.

The USDA guidelines are not responsible for the obesity epidemic. Barely anyone is following them, so there’s no WAY they could be responsible. And the USDA guidelines are not responsibly for fat phobia. The USDA guidelines even explicitly recommend against dropping below 10-15% fat. The DIET GURUS are responsiible for fat phobia. The DIET GURUS are also responsible for sugar phobia and carb phobia and cardio phobia and fruit phobia and bacon phobia and virtually every other food phobia we are plagued with. Those diet gurus are very good at creating a mythology that they the ones saving us all from the evil government, but their logic is flawed. The DIET GURUS, and the DIETS are the problem.


Want to check out the guidelines, and rates of compliance, yourself? Start here:

Is It Bad To Plateau?

By Sean Flanagan

Some real quick food for thought today.'? I think it was Alan Aragon that originally got me thinking about this.

When it comes to fat loss, plateauing is often viewed as a terrible thing.'' “Damn those plateaus!”

This is really unfortunate.'? Plateauing, while perhaps not as exciting as seeing change, is a really critical aspect of your success.

When you plateau, you’re practicing stabilizing your results (whether consciously or unconsciously).'? If you went from 200 lbs to 190 lbs and you’re now stabilizing 190, you are reinforcing the skills that are important for weight maintenance.'' How are you going to maintain your goal weight, let’s say of 150, if you can’t maintain 190?

That IS the end goal, right' To get to a certain range and then KEEP your results''? You’re not planning on losing 30 lbs and then gaining it all back….are you?

In addition, if you’re maintaining your weight, then you’re at maintenance calories.'? So you’re giving your brain and body a break from a calorie deficit.'' This is really important long term for keeping you feeling good and mentally fresh.

At the risk of being pretentious as I quote myself (from Facebook). “How to lose 100 lbs:'? Lose 5 lbs 20 times.”

That’s not just a matter of breaking up big goals into bite sized chunks, though that’s important too.'' But it’s also a matter of cycling between periods of change and periods of maintaining change.'' Developing the experience of maintaining your results is absolutely critical.

So don’t resent plateaus. If anything, plan for them.

You can (and should) follow Sean over at his Facebook Page ( and you can download his free Ebook 'The No B.S. Guide to Health-First Fat Loss' here at

Fat Loss Summit – Sign up FREE! And I’m a Speaker!

fatlosssummitI don’t usually participate in these types of summits, because they usually promote a lot of ideas and individuals that I think are part of the problem, not the solution. When this one came along, though, I was excited to see so many really solid and knowledgeable people included, so I threw my hat in.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of these summits, it’s essentially a broadcast of interviews and presentations that you can listen to for FREE (you can purchase a recording too, if you want). My interview will be airing on Monday April 29th. The inimitable Nia Shanks, and Danny Johnson (from the Sweaty Betties) are also involved, among many others.

You can read more about the summit here. Sign up today for free!


The Appeal of Fad Diets

I remember how it felt in the early days of adopting a new diet, especially a diet that promised radiant health and effortless weightloss. Specifically veganism and paleo, though these promises are made by MANY diets out there – juicing, gluten-free, primal, keto, etc. These diets offered more than weight loss – they offered the promise of eternal health.

‘Eat like our ancestors ate, the way we evolved (or were designed) to eat! Disease is a product of our modern, western diet and lifestyle. You can avoid disease by eating the right food!’ -Fad Diet Rhetoric

I adopted the diets because I was scared. I was scared of cancer, mostly. Who isn’t? And the diets promised me control of my health. They offered freedom from cancer and other diseases. They offered reprieve from fear and worry. This is powerful stuff.

And of course, the next logical step in this thought process was that people who are sick have brought sickness upon themselves by eating the wrong foods. And the diets and diet ‘leaders’ reinforced this belief, this sense of superiority. I knew something the sick people didn’t, and I was safe, and it was their own fault they were sick. They should have eaten more [insert magic food here] and less [insert food villain here]. Thank goodness I knew the truth.

When famous people got sick, people would speculate online about what they did wrong to make themselves vulnerable to disease. Too much processed food. Too much animal food. Too much soy. Too many carbs. There was always something, some grave mistake they’d made out of their willful ignorance, their selfishness, their laziness. Because they didn’t work hard enough, they didn’t read the right books, they didn’t care enough about their health, so now they were paying the price. And of course we who knew the truth, we who had worked hard enough, we who cared about our health, were safe. We knew how to avoid disease and death. We were doing it right.

For a while, it was really very calming. I wasn’t afraid any more. I believed I had control of my health. I would remain healthy. Thank goodness I’d found the truth and was doing it right.

And it was gratifying too. I felt a little smug. I felt a little superior. The ‘masses’ may have to deal with cancer, but I would not. Because I cared about my health, and they didn’t. If they cared about their health they would eat better. They were lazy, and lazy people are the ones who get cancer.

The diets preyed on my fear of mortality. The fear of mortality that we all have. This is why the diets are so appealing. They promise protection from scary things, from pain and suffering, even from death. Much like religion. Which is why so many people defend and promote their diets with the fervor of a religious zealot. The diets offer the same thing religion does – freedom from pain and worry and death.

Except that people still get sick and die even if they eat the ‘right’ diet. Diets don’t really protect us from disease and death. They simply prey on and exploit our fears.

Fruits and vegetables are good for you. You should eat (or drink) them. Don’t starve yourself. Get some protein. Sleep well and be physically active every day. Don’t smoke. Drink alcohol in moderation (or don’t drink). Wear your seatbelt. Wear a helmet (when appropriate). Cultivate close friendships. Engage in your community. Get some sunlight every day you can. Get your mammograms and skin cancer screenings. Maintain a healthy weight. If you do these things, you can reduce your risk of many diseases. But there are no guarantees, no matter how perfectly you eat. You may still get sick. People get sick. And it is not because they did something wrong. It is because we are mortal. But we can enjoy the time we have here, and the best way to enjoy it is to do the best you can and not stress out about the things that are out of your control, and be kind to yourself and others.

The appeal of Fad Diets is that they quell our fear of mortality. Temporarily. Because we all eventually realize it’s a false promise. We get sick, or someone we love gets sick, or we just come to our senses.

Kat Von D Ladybird Palette

Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 4.10.08 PMI have so much love for this palette*. Especially the orange shade, ‘Cleopatra’. For this look I took it under the entire length of my lower lashline. My upper lid is ‘Fur Elise’ (purple) in the crease, and ‘Vespertine’ (neutral highlight shade) in the inner corner and under brow. I used a Stila Dark Brown Smudge Stick to highlight the lashline and make a subtle wing, as well as in the waterline. Tarte Lights Camera, Flashes Mascara completed the eye look.

Photo on 2-21-14 at 4.02 PM #2My upper lid is ‘Fur Elise’ (purple) in the crease, and ‘Vespertine’ (neutral highlight shade) in the inner corner and under brow. I used a Stila Dark Brown Smudge Stick to highlight the lashline and make a subtle wing, as well as in the waterline. Tarte Lights Camera, Flashes Mascara completed the eye look.


Lips are Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in ‘Naked2′.

*The Kat Von D Ladybird palette is available at Sephora.

How I Deal With Chronic Pain

One of the things a lot of my readers may not know about me is that I live with chronic pain. Pain was in fact one of the reasons I began exercising in 2008. I had fallen and dislocated my knee the year before, and what had been nagging but tolerable arthritis achiness in my knees until then developed into constant pain that had begun to effect my quality of life.

My doctor had told me repeatedly that exercise would be very helpful for the arthritis pain, but I hadn’t been ready to hear it. When the injury increased the level of pain I experienced, I began to be more receptive to the message. Many things culminated in 2008 to trigger a fundamental behavior change, and the pain was one of them.

I’ve talked before about the various health issues I was dealing with back then. Blood sugar issues, hormonal issues, rising blood pressure, poor lipid markers, migraines, obesity. It was a ‘perfect storm’ of chronic, nagging conditions that were beginning to effect my quality of life, and fill me with worry about my future and that of my kids. Was I setting them up for the same health issues? I was their primary female role model. The way I cared for myself would be their lifelong model of self-care. I needed to do better. Exercise was the one thing I knew would benefit me and potentially improve all those conditions, but that I’d never been able to do consistently. 2008 was when everything came together and I made the changes. Finally. And exercise was life-changing, in so many ways. Almost all the health issues I was dealing with have resolved in the years since, and I credit exercise. Unfortunately, while exercise has been immensely helpful in mitigating the pain and dysfunction, it has not ‘cured’ my arthritis. I still deal with chronic pain and stiffness. So today I’m going to share some of the ways I’ve learned to manage my pain levels so I can live a productive and enjoyable life. I still have pain, but it doesn’t have the same impact on my quality of life as it used to.

What Works

Exercise. The doctors and scientists aren’t lying when they say exercise improves arthritis symptoms. Studies show again and again that exercise improves the short term and long term experience of pain. It also improves joint strength and flexibility, and bone density. When I first started exercising I dealt with sore muscles after workouts for a while, but I began to notice that my knees didn’t hurt when I was moving, and for several hours afterward. In other words, exercise gave me an immediate, but temporary reprieve from the pain. This was motivating. Over time, I observed that my legs grew stronger and my agility and confidence increased. Climbing stairs became less painful because I learned to use my hip and thigh muscles in ways that took the pressure off my knee joint. Exercise continued to give me daily, short term pain reprieve, and increased my long term functionality and flexibility. I now use exercise as my primary ‘defense’ against pain, both in the immediate short term and as a long term hedge against continued deterioration. Lifting weights has increased my bone density and made my joints more stable. While I still experience pain, I no longer worry about falling or fear that my knees will give out. I’ve learned what I can and can’t do, and I’ve improved my confidence to do many things I used to be afraid to do.

Sleep. The difference in my pain levels is profound when I am not sleeping well. A good night’s sleep means an almost pain free day. When I am fatigued, my knees ache. I’ve learned how important it is to prioritize sleep, and recognize the difference it makes to my quality of life. It is still hard for me to shut down my mind after a busy day, but I’m working on things like turning off electronics earlier in the evening and making sure not to have caffeine later in the day, things that make it harder to fall asleep.

Pain medication. I resisted pain meds for a LONG time. I believed that resorting to pain meds was ‘weak’, and that if I just ate the right diet, I wouldn’t need meds. There’s a lot of that kind of thinking in the fad diet world. It’s a form of victim blaming. “If you have a problem, you obviously just aren’t eating clean enough. If all your problems don’t go away when you eat the ‘right’ diet, then you’re doing it wrong. Pain is caused by toxins in your food, or by gluten (I went grain fee for almost a year and there was no change in my pain levels) or by dairy or whatever other food the diet-of-the-day blamed everything on.” Two years ago, I began to sink into a depression because of my pain. It was exhausting. I recognized what was happening to me, and I talked to my doctor. She referred me to a pain expert, who helped me create a pain medication treatment plan. We didn’t get it ‘right’ immediately, it took some trial and error, but we eventually found a combination of two different pain meds in low doses that control my pain and allow me to stay active (which keeps my heart and body healthy and strong). I no longer allow myself to feel ‘guilt’ for taking medication. Seeking adequate medical treatment has improved my quality of life dramatically, made me a better mother and wife, and allowed me to engage fully in a life that I now enjoy.

Physical therapy. With the physical therapist I work with as part of my pain management program, I’ve learned new ways of sitting, standing, walking and sleeping that have decreased the level of pain I experience. I admit that for a long time I dismissed the idea of physical therapy, thinking that I was strong and already did all the exercises I needed to do. I was wrong. My physical therapist doesn’t make me do exercises – she knows I do exercises on my own. She has taught me to tune into the way I’m moving (or not moving) in my day-to-day activities that can affect my knees and my pain levels. I am glad I got over my preconceived notions about physical therapy. It has made a difference.

Massage. I’m a massage therapist so work on my own legs regularly. My thigh and calf muscles get very tight on the side I injured, and deep massage helps them relax.

What Doesn’t Work (for me)

Diet shenanigans. I tried it all. Nothing made a difference, except low carb. Low carb made it worse, I suspect because I was recovering poorly from workouts. All the other fads I tried were useless in regards to my pain levels.

Accupuncture. I tried it and didn’t notice a difference. I really enjoyed it though! It was super relaxing.

Chiropractic. Didn’t notice a difference.

‘Barefoot’ shoes. I gave these a real shot. They actually made things worse though. My knees feel better when I have cushioning to take some of the impact of walking.

What Might or Might Not Work

Supplements. I take turmeric and glucosamine on the suggestion of my doctor. I don’t know for sure if they help, but they are cheap, so I take them on the off chance they are doing something.

So there you go. There are more things for me to try. I will keep trying them. I know that some things will work and some will not. And I have found things that work already, and my life has improved because of them.

If you take nothing else from this post, please take this: It is OK to seek medical treatment. It is not ‘weakness’ to take medication if that medication improves your quality of life and allows you to engage fully in activities that you enjoy. There is too much ‘medicine shaming’ in the fad diet community. Eating well, sleeping well and exercise can improve your life in many ways and I absolutely encourage everyone to do all three. You may be amazed at just how powerful a ‘medicine’ sleep, exercise and good food in adequate amounts can be. But sometimes there are things that sleep, exercise and good food don’t fix. And seeking treatment for those things is not weak or shameful. It can give you back your life. Do not allow yourself to be shamed out of seeking adequate and appropriate medical treatment for pain or any other condition that impacts your quality of life. Medicine shaming is one of the worst things to come out of the fad diet community. So many people are suffering needlessly.

Smashbox Photo Op Eyeshadow in ‘Quick Take’

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Click on image to view larger.

For this look I used the Smashbox Photo Op Eyeshadow trio in ‘Quick Take’. It’s a deep green and bronze combination. I covered the entire lid, up to the brow, in the lightest color (Vanilla). Used the dark green color (Serpent) in crease and along lower lash line, then the bronze middle color (Ambient) on lid up to crease, plus a little bit below the serpent on the lower lash line. Blended it all together with a MAC blending brush. Then a thick line of Stila black liquid eyeliner on upper lash line and Shiseido Defining Volume mascara. Smashbox Blush Rush in ‘Heartbreak’ on cheeks. My lips are bare.