Episode 70: Tips to Beat Binge Eating during the Holiday with Alyssa Scolari, LPC
Episode 70: Tips to Beat Binge Eating during the Holiday with Alyssa Scolari, LPC
Holiday gatherings are a struggle for anyone who battles with an eating disorder. With society’s ever-growing encouragement to avoid “holiday weight gain”, it can feel harder than ever to be able to enjoy yourself during big meals. Tune into this week’s episode for tips on how to manage your eating disorder symptoms this holiday season (Spoiler alert: You should NOT go all day without eating in order to prepare for a big meal!).
Check out the Light After Trauma website for transcripts, other episodes, Alyssa’s guest appearances, and more at: www.lightaftertrauma.com
Alyssa Scolari [00:23]:
Hi, everybody. Welcome back. You know the drill. It’s another episode of the Light After Trauma Podcast. I’m your host, Alyssa Scolari, thrilled as ever to be here with you today. At the time of this recording, it is just a few days before Thanksgiving. So we are going to be talking about how to avoid binge eating and other eating disordered related behaviors, specifically during the holiday or right after, or right before, because I know that’s a really, really difficult time for folks. That’s when people tend to binge eat or purge by use of whether it’s exercise or laxatives or what have you. So we are going to get into that. It might be a little bit shorter of an episode today, but bear with me as there’s a lot going on and I am actually getting a minor test/procedure done this week. So yeah, it’s been very, very busy.
Alyssa Scolari [01:32]:
Next week we actually will be back with a guest episode. This is the first guest episode we have had in quite a while. So I’m looking forward. I have finally been feeling well enough that I have been able to record podcast episodes with people again. So thank you for all of your well wishes.
Alyssa Scolari [01:48]:
Now, just a few housekeeping things before. I mean, I really don’t even have enough words to be able to express how I feel. Thank you just doesn’t seem to do it justice. It doesn’t really seem to accurately reflect how I feel.
Alyssa Scolari [02:14]:
Now, the last several months have been really difficult for me and I have just been feeling, especially this week, just really sad with the state of the world. I know for a lot of trauma survivors, there tends to be this like phenomenon where we feel in some way, shape, or form at our core, like we are not going to live as long as other people. We always feel like we’re dying or we’re going to die. And this might not be true for everyone, but it is true for so many trauma survivors and I struggle with that. I’ve definitely been feeling a little bit of like some type of, I guess, existential dread or just maybe grief, just I think pure grief at the state of the world and feeling so sad at certain things that are going on. And I was feeling really hopeless this week.
Alyssa Scolari [03:16]:
A few days ago, I was actually crying, which I probably do once every other day. So it’s not that big of a deal, but I was crying and I was just sort of saying to my husband that I just feel like, especially as mental health professionals, we are working so hard, but the mental health crisis has grown so much. And so much of it is because of the state of the world and it’s just breaking my heart. I was feeling helpless and I happened to go look at my email and I saw that I had an email from my Patreon account.
Alyssa Scolari [03:59]:
Sometimes I advertise this on the show that I do have a Patreon, which is just this account where people can go and they can donate however much money they would like per month, or it can be a one-time donation, and that money goes directly to supporting the podcast. I’ve had that Patreon for months now and I don’t have any patrons. I did have one patron that was my dear friend Owen. I was supporting his podcast. He was supporting my podcast. That was lots of fun, but I hadn’t had anyone who sort of was just a listener who had signed up to become a patron, which is okay. I understand with the state of the world, people really don’t have a whole lot to give, so that’s totally fine.
Alyssa Scolari [04:49]:
But I happened to get an email from my Patreon and I got my first patron, which was so amazing and so exciting, but what was also really, really exciting was the message that this patron left for me. And I’m going to read a little bit of it. It was very, very special to me. I hope that this does not come off as bragging in any way because it’s not, but I just thought that I would read it and I’m not going to name this person. I’m going to keep any kind of details about this person out of the message, but the gist of it is:
Alyssa Scolari [05:31]:
“Hey there Alyssa. I’ve recently discovered your podcast and I love, love, love it/you. I am literally going to love listening to every single episode over the coming weeks. So far, everything I’ve listened to has touched me so deeply to know that I’m not alone in what I’ve experienced/am still experiencing. I’m only just realizing that I have lived my whole adult life with CPTSD following my childhood experience, which I would’ve never called trauma before, but now I realize that’s exactly what it was. I loved your recent episode about this very topic. It felt like you were speaking just to me. You are so amazing and I love how you express all of these difficult things so eloquently and your sense of humor shines through always. I feel like we’re friends already, so please keep it up because your words are helping me so much as I continue on my healing journey.”
Alyssa Scolari [06:33]:
I got this message and I absolutely lost it. I needed a good 24 hours before I could even respond just to process the depth of what this message said. And there’s more to it, but I don’t want to go through everything because I don’t want to risk that person possibly being identified. But suffice it to say it was just the kindest message about the ways in which that this person has felt helped and supported from the podcast, and that helped me so much to shift out of this feeling of helplessness to like, “Oh yeah, look at what I am doing.” Sometimes it can feel a little bit isolating because I’m talking into this microphone and I don’t fully know who’s listening. I can see numbers, I can see what my downloads are like, but I don’t know if people are truly benefiting from this.
Alyssa Scolari [07:33]:
So when people reach out and they tell me, it really, really helps to me, and it really helped pull me out of the depression. And it just, it meant so much to me. The kind words, and of course becoming a patron and pledging a certain amount of money, it was so kind and so generous and I just really appreciate that.
Alyssa Scolari [07:56]:
The goal of the podcast is to continue to spread awareness and get the word out to as many people as possible, because I do believe that everyone deserves access to free or somewhat free mental health care. It’s vital, but it’s not free. So that was part of the goal of this podcast and it does cost…
Alyssa Scolari [08:22]:
Part of the reason why we even have the Patreon set up is because it does cost quite a bit of money to run this podcast between everything that goes into it. Having to purchase the website or the software that puts the podcast out into to the world, having to purchase all the materials to make all the artwork and to do all of the social media posts and the editing, all of that stuff comes down… It costs about $800 a month, thereabouts, to be able to keep this podcast rolling. And that is not me complaining, because I’m not right. Obviously if we did not have the funds to be able to do that, I wouldn’t be doing it. I would be scaling back. But again, I believe that it’s really, really important for people to have access to free mental health care. So this podcast is very important. So I do not mind the money that goes into it.
Alyssa Scolari [09:25]:
With that said, it always is really, really nice because if a few people are able to give $2 a month or $3 a month or $1 a month. Whatever they’re able to give, whatever you are able to give goes towards the podcast and it’s really, really helpful. It’s just very helpful financially and ultimately will create the space and will give me the financial ability to do even more things like create online courses that people can access and things like that.
Alyssa Scolari [10:00]:
Aside from the money, which I am so, so grateful for, and it’s so exciting to have my first patron, which by the way, if you are able to give, I would greatly appreciate it. You can go right to the website, which is http://www.lightaftertrauma.com, or you can go right to the show notes. There’s a link in the show notes that says support the podcast. I would greatly appreciate it.
Alyssa Scolari [10:23]:
But aside from the money, this message gave me so much hope and healing at a time where all I could feel was despair. So thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you who have reached out to me, who are telling me that you’re enjoying what you’re hearing. Your words do not go… I don’t take that for granted. In fact, I actually keep the messages that I get. I put them into like a Word document and I print them out. And of course, nobody’s name is used, nothing like that, no identifying information. Of course, your privacy is very important to me, but the messages I keep and on my lowest days, I go back in and I pull them out and I am reminded of the family that I have made, the family I have all across the world because of this podcast. So thank you. Before I absolutely sob, I will move on, but just thank you. I, I just can’t… I don’t have words.
Alyssa Scolari [11:38]:
With that said, let’s transition a little bit into the upcoming holiday or holidays, whatever holidays that are coming up that you are celebrating. I know lots of people tend to get very, very nervous about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving tends to be… I actually remember being an eating disorder treatment. And when I was there, it was sort of a general consensus that Thanksgiving was one of the most triggering holidays for people who struggle with eating disorders. And for me, it was so difficult. Thanksgiving was a huge, huge binge day for me, huge binge day. And it wasn’t just Thanksgiving. It was sort of the days leading up to Thanksgiving, then during Thanksgiving, and then after Thanksgiving. So this episode is really focused on how to function and how to beat the binge, how to beat relapsing when we have big holidays like this.
Alyssa Scolari [12:50]:
Now the first thing that I recommend is you treating the day like any other day. What do I mean by that? So many people… I remember growing up and a lot of the adults in my life being like, “Oh my God, I haven’t eaten all day to prepare for this meal. I am starving.” So I naturally just sort of assumed that when you were going to have a big meal, you weren’t supposed to eat all day. So I didn’t for so many years. And then what would happen is I would skip breakfast, skip like lunch, and we would have Thanksgiving dinner and I would binge and I would be just hoarding food into my mouth. And when people weren’t looking, I was like taking extra bites or scooping food onto my plate when I thought no one was looking at me because I couldn’t get enough, because I was so famished. It doesn’t need to be like that.
Alyssa Scolari [14:00]:
So the most important thing is for you to wake up and eat. And that might go against everything that you are eating disorder tells you to do. That might go against what the people in your family are doing. That might go against what your partner is doing, but you need to eat your food. It is so important. So have a good breakfast. If you don’t have lunch, okay, because sometimes people eat… I know most people have Thanksgiving dinner at like two or three o’clock. In my family, we always had it at like six o’clock, 6:30. So you can bet I was eating breakfast and lunch. I was having all the meals. And then when it was time to eat, I wasn’t ravenous and ready to just eat everything in sight, without even thinking about what I was eating, or really checking in with my body at all.
Alyssa Scolari [15:05]:
The next thing I want to talk about is a lot of things you see on the internet will say, which I think that people think this is helpful, and I don’t necessarily think it is. So a lot of people will say things like, “Well, you need to shift your focus of the holiday. Don’t make the holiday about food. What you need to do is you need to make the holiday about gratitude or family or Jesus or this or that, or whatever.” Whatever it is that you want to make the holiday about, so many people will tell us like, “Don’t make that holiday about food.” And I’m going to call BS on that because I think that that too sets us up for binge eating. And the reason why I think that is because it is not realistic to pretend like the food doesn’t matter on a holiday.
Alyssa Scolari [16:04]:
There’s a reason why people love going to Epcot in Disney, in Orlando, Florida. And that is because you get to eat around the world. Yes, it’s really nice to look at the knickknacks and the statues and the other different types of cultural things that are in the different parts of the worlds in Epcot. I say worlds with air quotes, because it’s all in the same park, but what people go there for is the food and the drink. And that is because food is so deeply tied into our culture. Food is so important. And when we try to tell ourselves that we need to shift out of being excited about the food, and instead think about other things, then we’re denying our culture. We’re denying who we are on a fundamental level, which listen, I’m a foodie. I am a foodie.
Alyssa Scolari [17:06]:
If somebody tells me not to make a big deal out of a food that’s going to be there, I get flooded with shame because it goes against who I am quite frankly. I’m coming for the food. I mean, I’m staying for the company, don’t get me wrong, but I’m coming for the food. And that is okay. It is okay to love the food. So allow yourself to be excited for the food. Please don’t do what’s so much of the internet and diet culture and disguise is going to tell you to do, which is to like make a gratitude list.
Alyssa Scolari [17:42]:
Listen, if you want to make a gratitude list, by all means, please do. I think that that is a great idea to be able to shift your mindset and get you in a good head space, but also make sure if you do a gratitude list, that one of the things you’re grateful for is the bombass food you’re about to eat because it is so important. Food is a part of life and we are meant to enjoy food. And certain foods nourish our bodies and other foods nourish our souls and we need both and we love both. Amen. Okay, I’m done with that part.
Alyssa Scolari [18:22]:
The next thing I want to talk about is figuring out what your boundaries are going to look like. And some of this ties into, and you can find this in an older episode that I put out a few weeks ago about setting boundaries with your family around the holidays, but it’s important to touch on… So I’m going to touch on it again briefly. You want to make sure that you are sitting by people or surrounding yourself with people who are not going to engage in the diet talk. So please, please, please if you need to send this to a family member, this is the message and the notice to not bring up diets during the holidays, during the meals. Please, please, please. And don’t surround yourself with people who you think are going to bring that up.
Alyssa Scolari [19:24]:
Listen, sometimes it’s unavoidable. I know for me, it was unavoidable. I had no choice. But you sit at a table with people at certain times in my life who can talk about nothing but, “Oh, I have to work this off.” And, “Oh, I can’t have this because it’s too much sodium,” blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Sometimes you can’t get around it. Sometimes you have no choice.
Alyssa Scolari [19:46]:
Here’s what I would like to recommend. If somebody starts to talk about the calories or the carbs or the fat content or the salt content, get up and go to the bathroom. Give yourself permission to get up and go to the restroom. As uncomfortable as it may make you, get up because you don’t deserve to have to sit there and listen to that crap. And it’s not even just about that very moment, because this is what often happened to me when I was in the height of my binge eating or in the height of my anorexia. What would happen to me is I would be sitting with people and somebody would say something. For example, I went to my cousin’s… Was it a cousin? I don’t know. Some family member’s baby shower… No, wedding shower? I don’t know. Some family member shower. This was like in the throes of my anorexia. So I had lost a significant amount of weight, but because I was heavier, I was being praised for it.
Alyssa Scolari [21:06]:
I saw this audio clip on TikTok and I don’t know whose audio clip it was. So I can’t give them credit. But if you happen to hear this and you want the credit, please reach out to me and let me know. But it was this audio that said: when you are already thin and you develop an eating disorder, you go to the hospital. But when you have fat on your body and you develop an eating disorder, you are a success story.
Alyssa Scolari [21:33]:
So at that point in my life, at that shower, I was a success story to everybody. People could not get enough of me at that shower. “Oh my God, how did you lose so much weight? You look amazing,” blah, blah, blah. I had a piece cake, a singular piece of cake at the shower. And I went to go sit down at the table and a family member from three… I shit you not, three tables over, stood up. She stood the fuck up and she said to me, “You better be carefully eating that cake because I don’t want to see you put all that weight back on.” [inaudible 00:22:12] the shame and the guilt.
Alyssa Scolari [22:16]:
So in that moment, did I do anything about it? No. Because I was such a people pleaser back then and I didn’t know how to fully be in touch with my rage, I just laughed it off and just said, “Oh yeah, don’t worry about it. I’ll be fine.” And I maybe took two bites of my cake, couldn’t eat anymore. But then I went home that night. And while it wasn’t necessarily on my conscious mind that content or that comment, that night and the next day I found myself binging and binging and binging and engaging in purging tactics and I could not stop. Looking back on it, I understand now that I felt so much rage that that family member said that to me, that it led me to use my eating disorder because so much of my eating disorder was about my ability or my lack of ability to feel comfortable and confident in my anger and to be able to use my anger appropriately. So I just ate to stuff all of my emotions down and it was the night after the shower. It was the day after. It was horrible.
Alyssa Scolari [23:34]:
And that is how most Thanksgivings would go for me too. I would hear at the kitchen or at the table about, “Oh, I’m, I got to make sure I get on the scale and get back on weight watchers on Monday,” and all of these really triggering things. And maybe in the moment I wasn’t thinking I was very affected by it, but then I would bring leftovers home from Thanksgiving. And then that night and the next day I was binging on all the leftovers. Looking back on it now, I realize it’s because I was feeling pissed off and constricted and triggered by people who were just obsessing over dieting.
Alyssa Scolari [24:22]:
So it is really important. Move your seat, try to change your seat, try to sit next to people who are safe and have a support. If you can’t have a support when you are at that meal, then make sure you have somebody on the phone. And if somebody starts talking about dieting and exercise, just go to the bad bathroom, go to the bathroom. And if you get up and go to the bathroom enough times, people get it. People actually start to catch on and then it’s not uncomfortable because people start to see what’s happening. Again, not everybody, but either way, at least if you get up and go to the bathroom, or if you say, “Oh my gosh, somebody’s calling me. I really need to take this. Excuse me.” Anything. “Oh, I need a glass of water. I’ll be right back.” Let it take you five minutes to get a glass of water. You don’t owe anybody anything.
Alyssa Scolari [25:19]:
Here’s some other things that I have found really, really helpful. Check in with your body throughout the day. If you can’t bring a notebook with you, then I find it really helpful to at least go into the notes section on your phone and start tracking your hunger and fullness levels. Not to judge. Try to track them without judgment, but just to get a sense of where you are. Again, if you want to eat more, that’s okay. Let yourself eat more, but sometimes during big meals like this, we tend to check out. Trauma causes us to be disconnected from our bodies anyway. But then when you have a big meal and a holiday on top of that, we’re super checked out and dissociated and not in our bodies at all. So just have an intentional check-in, do a one to 10 hunger fullness scale and just take a note. This might be triggering for some people. So if you feel like it would be triggering for you, then please don’t do it. But I know that for me, I had to intentionally…
Alyssa Scolari [26:34]:
In the earlier stages of my recovery, I had to intentionally write down what exactly I was feeling in terms of like, I had to give it a numerical value in order for me to really feel connected with my body at all. If you think that would help you, please do that.
Alyssa Scolari [26:54]:
Here’s something else I want you to remember. You are not going to gain a significant amount of weight from eating past fullness. You don’t have to eat past fullness on this day because the very, very foods, the very exact same foods that will be on that Thanksgiving table or that Christmas table, or that Hanukkah table are the same foods you can have all year round. I feel like nobody tells us that. Those same mashed potatoes, we can have all year round. You can roast a turkey all year round. You can have green bean casserole, cranberry sauce. Heck yeah, it’s in season for the fall. Have it all year round. You do not need to overeat because you can eat those foods time and time and time again, however much your heart desires, as long as you’re checking in with your body.
Alyssa Scolari [27:56]:
With that being said, if you do overeat, if you do eat well past fullness, that’s okay too, because eating well past fullness on a holiday meal is not going to make you gain weight. It’s simply not. It takes a lot more calories than people think to be able to cause true weight gain, which means… When I say true weight gain, our weight fluctuates. Especially if you are a woman, your weight fluctuates so much because of where you’re at in your cycle, because of water weight, inflammation, what have you. So when I say true weight, I mean it takes a lot of calories for like one extra pound of fat to form on your body. I’m talking a lot, a lot. And I forget the exact number and I tried to look it up, but I could not find the source where I read it before. So if I find it, I will definitely let you know. But trust me, it’s not as easy as people think it is to truly gain like pounds and pounds of fat. And you sure as hell are in doing it in one meal on Thanksgiving.
Alyssa Scolari [29:13]:
So if you eat past fullness, dude, it is fine. It is so, so fine. I want you to tell yourself this over and over and over again, you are allowed to eat past fullness. It doesn’t make you any of the things that you’re telling yourself in your head. Doesn’t make you a slob. It doesn’t make you fat. It doesn’t make you out of control. It doesn’t make you any of that. Fat isn’t even… Fat is an adjective. Don’t even get me started with that word, but I know these are the things that we tell ourselves. So please remember it is so very difficult actually, to gain a ton of fat because you overate at one meal on Thanksgiving.
Alyssa Scolari [30:05]:
Which leads me to my next point that I want to bring up, which is like exercising. I used to wake up early every Thanksgiving and go workout because I thought I needed to burn all the calories I was going to be eating. Oh dear Lord, I was so wrong. Speaking of calories, it is like nearly impossible to use exercise to burn off a meal. You would have to do so much exercise. Exercise doesn’t necessarily control your weight either. And I know there are a lot of people who might come at me with this one, but I have spoken to enough dieticians, enough registered dieticians, enough intuitive eating experts to know at this point that exercise truly does not affect your weight all that much. And you really can’t burn off your Thanksgiving meal or your Christmas meal. It doesn’t work like that. Of course, diet culture is going to lead you to believe that you need to get to the gym five days a week, at least to be able to burn off all the turkey and the stuffing and whatever, but it doesn’t work like that at all.
Alyssa Scolari [31:32]:
So please remember that if you want to exercise, great. If you want to go take a walk after your meal, before your meal just to get some mindfulness in, just to be able to connect with your body and see where you’re at, if you want to do some yoga, phenomenal have at it. But please do not do so with the intention of burning off the food that you plan to eat or the food that you have eaten because it just doesn’t work like that.
Alyssa Scolari [32:14]:
That I believe are all of the tips that I have to survive a holiday meal. I want you to remember that it is just one holiday, that’s it. It’s just one meal. And yes, there is the season where we are really enjoying cookies, but here’s the thing. You can have cookies all year round. What causes so much binge eating is this concept of, “Oh, well I only get it this one time. I’m going to have to go hard at this meal. I am ready.” People love to say, “Oh, I brought my elastic pants.” Or the ever condescending and insulting, “Oh, I brought my fat pants today.” Ugh, I hate it. I apologize ahead of time if I sound pretty cynical, I don’t mean to disparage your thought process. If you do this way, that’s not my intention. So I do apologize if I’m coming off a little bit cynical. I just get so frustrated at how bad we are made to feel about our bodies simply from enjoying some good food.
Alyssa Scolari [33:34]:
So you are not going to be needing fat pants or elastic pants because of a meal. And those types of foods that you’re having at the holiday, you can have any time of the year. In fact, I encourage you to, because as I was saying earlier, it’s when we restrict ourselves and tell us that we can only have stuffing on Thanksgiving one time a year, that we tend to find ourselves binging on it. For me, as I started to allow myself to have pumpkin pie and stuffing and cheesecake and what have you during non-holiday days, it started to become more normalized in my life. So then when I go to Thanksgiving, I’m not in this like my eyes are bigger than my stomach mode, where I’m just inhaling everything that I can, because I’m not going to get it again for another year. I know that if I wake up the next day and decide that I want cheesecake, I can have that cheesecake.
Alyssa Scolari [34:42]:
I want you to try to adapt the same kind of mentality here. It takes a long time. So please have compassion. Please be patient with yourself. Please just take it one minute at a time and please know that if you are triggered and if you have a moment of relapse, it is okay. You are still loved. You are not alone. We are all with you and I am holding you in the light. Have a lovely holiday and holidays to come. Take great care, and we will be back next week with another episode.
Alyssa Scolari [35:20]:
Thanks for listening, everyone. For more information, please head over to lightaftertrauma.com, or you can also follow us on social media. On Instagram we are @lightaftertrauma, and on Twitter it is @lightafterpod. Lastly, please head over to patreon.com/lightaftertrauma to support our show. We are asking for $5 a month, which is the equivalent to a cup of coffee at Starbucks. So please head on over. Again, that’s patreon.com/lightaftertrauma. Thank you and we appreciate your support.