Excellent book by Kathryn Hansen on binge eating, review coming soon!

Hi folks!  I’m nearly finished with an excellent book by Kathryn Hansen.  Here’s the precise title of the book:

Brain over Binge: Why I Was Bulimic, Why Conventional Therapy Didn’t Work, and How I Recovered for Good.

Now those of you that know me know, of course, right off the bat, just reading the title alone why such a book might appeal to me, Julie Greene.

First of all, I have had first-hand experience with binge eating, that is, I have done this act.  No, I’m not one of those therapists that makes ridiculous claims based on tons of reading and study on eating disorders that can cure patients without ever having starved herself or ever having lived in an emaciated body.

I do have what we former patients call “lived experience.”  So yes, I do know what a binge is like.  I know what a gigantic, terrifying binge is like and I do know what it’s like to have to keep it all inside.  I do know what it’s like to finally go for help, absolutely terrified, not knowing what the reaction will be, and then get the variety of responses that either make us laugh, cry, or kill ourselves.  Rarely do any of us “recover.”  The statistics that state that binge eating is “highly treatable” are completely wrong.  Dead folks can’t fill out those surveys, after all.  And some are just too sick or discouraged to hold a #2 pencil.

Secondly, I you guys know that I have now totally rejected the mental health system, which I often refer to as the System, yes, capital S.  So I love that Kathryn Hansen managed to stop binge eating without conventional therapy.  I saw in the title that she did this, so for sure I’ve wanted to read the book for a while now.

Today, my health plan called me and again offered me a “therapist.”  First, they offered two of the ones I’ve already “tried out” and I said, “no thanks.”  They offered a third.  I said, “I need to speak with this person on the phone first.”  I got excuses and was told to look online at the person’s smiley, photoshopped face.  I wanted to say more.  I wanted to say, “Do you know that three of your people turned me away last summer when I was clearly starving, physically weak, barely able to stand up, and my kidneys were on the verge of failing?  Instead I was poked fun at and threatened. Put off and trivialized. Told to go elsewhere.  Am I going to take my chances with the mental health people at this health plan again?  Or take charge of my body?”  But no, I kept my mouth shut.

I never phoned the “therapist.”  I have no intentions to do so.  I don’t want more abuse.  Kathryn Hansen speaks in her book about how therapy did more harm than good.  I’m getting to this part now. She was lucky.  She rejected therapy after only four years of that baloney.

In a nutshell:  One day, Hansen picked up a copy of Rational Recovery.  Have you folks heard of this?  It’s a cool book and program that’s designed for alcoholics as sort of an alternative to AA.  It’s not religious or spiritual.  What’s cool about it (in my opinion) is that RR completely rejects the disease model of alcoholism.

In other words, we are not damaged.  We are not defective. Not that I know anything about alcoholism.  I’m not an alcoholic.  I totally don’t get why anyone would drink it in the first place, and although at odd times I’ve attempted to swallow the stuff, I think it’s rather disgusting and it’s a struggle to consume it.  I’ve told you folks that now and then I’ve attempted to turn myself into a habitual drinker and I simply can’t.  I lose interest.  It’s boring.  It’s even more boring than the worst of Julie Greene’s blog posts that you end up x-ing out.  I’ve got a bottle of cooking sherry around here I think I’ve had for two decades.  Anyway, RR is very cool.  Kathryn Hansen doesn’t just talk about RR, she incorporates tons of research into her book, as well as her own original ideas based on lived experience with her own binge eating.

One thing you do need to know:  Brain over Binge is geared specifically to tackle binge eating.  The thesis is that purging behavior happens because the person has binged.  However, I do know people who purge not because they have binged, but because they have eaten something they aren’t comfortable with.  Therefore, if you are seeking a solution to purging behavior and this is your main problem, I don’t think this book is for you.  If your purging is purely a reaction to binge eating, and solving binge eating will in turn solve the subsequent purge, then by all means, pick up this book.

I don’t throw up and never did.  Hansen states that she, too, attempted to vomit many times but was unable to do so.  She used exercise to “get rid of the calories.”

I didn’t do overexercise, and still don’t.  There are many reasons for this.  Hansen does a brilliant job of describing her binges in vivid, gory detail.  I believe for the most part, over the years, mine took more of a physical toll on my body and by all means, I couldn’t get up the next day and go jogging!  Perhaps people’s bodies are just different, or maybe my quantities are larger.  Or maybe it went on for more years and decades for me.  I would be in so much physical pain from massive binge eating that I could barely move or breathe. I was afraid I’d aspirate my food, choke, or my stomach would rupture, even half a day after the binge.  To get out of bed was painful. Sitting in a chair, walking across the room…geez…I have been quite ill from this…so in that way, our experiences of the aftermath differ.  I do know of people who have taken themselves to emergency rooms following episodes of binge eating due to physical consequences that for me, sadly, are everyday occurrence.

So here I am, having stated that “I am going to review this wonderful book once I finish it” and have already yapped on and on, far more than I had intended.

I do want to say this: I intend to study Kathryn’s theories further and I do want to implement them.  She’s definitely onto something and WE need to pay attention to what she’s saying.

I also want to say that the book is a quick read and it’s not at all difficult or complicated to grasp her ideas.  No hocus-pocus, no gimmicks, nothing to purchase. No pharmaceuticals.

Hansen was originally helped by Topamax.  What happened was that the Topamax stopped working.  So she told herself that she was going to have to find anther way to stop binge eating. The brief success she had with Topamax served to help her realize that therapy is ineffective by comparison and a complete crock of shit.

My own experience with Topamax is that Topamax works.  It does.  Currently, it works so-so for me.  Not 100%.  Due to my kidney disease, I’ve been taking a lower dose of it than I did previously.  I know that if I didn’t take the half dose I’m taking now, the binge eating would be far more frequent.  I’m terrified just to imagine it.  I’d say I binge slightly more often than once a week.  What I go through is extremely disabling as it is.

I’d say binge eating was the main reason I had to give up writing my Nano book this year.  Following each binge, I was just too physically sick to get any writing done.  It was happening too often.  I knew this, deep down inside.  There wasn’t much I could do.

So…one more thing I want to mention, and then I’m going to go mail some things and then go read Hansen’s book some more….

Hansen talks about “habits.”  I thought a whole bunch about stopping an activity that’s harmful.  When did I do this?  When did I walk away from a very, very bad habit that was generally thought of as “addiction”?

Bingo!  Smoking.  Yeah.  Butts.  That was simple, wasn’t it?  And yet others found it a bitch to quit smoking.  Joe could never do it.  Most alcoholics say it was tougher to quit cigarettes than it was to quit alcohol, and they smoked like fiends after stopping the booze, compounding the issue.

But me?  Nope.  Just walked away.  I need to look back on how I did that.  I do know that I smoked like a fiend.  I do know that as I awoke and felt that I absolutely had to have a cigarette before I could even arise from my bed!  In fact, I had to have two!  I’d fall asleep with the cig lit, right in my bed, cuz I was too drugged on antipsychotics.  Then, I had to have two cigs right before going to sleep at night, right in bed there with my journal.  I’d watch the tube and absolutely had to have a cig during each and every commercial.  If I went to a “day program,” I absolutely had to have a cig during breaks.  If there was ever a break between anything at all, I reached for those cigs.  If I didn’t get the right brand, or I ran out, I’d throw a fit.

I know I quit cold turkey.  It wasn’t hard, and I know I didn’t “white knuckle” it, either.  I know I no longer want a cigarette or have cravings.  If there was withdrawal…I’m sure there was something but I knew that this would last a certain amount of time, and this I accepted as MY BODY TELLING ME IT HAD BEEN ACCUSTOMED TO CIGARETTES and now it was not receiving them on schedule.  So my body was saying, “Hey, where are they?”  After a while, my body realized it wasn’t going to get one, and quit asking.  Done.  It wasn’t physically or emotionally painful.  It shouldn’t have to be.  I wish that it could be so easy for anyone who desires or needs to quit smoking for any reason.  Unfortunately, most aren’t that lucky.

I’m totally positive that quite by accident I used the exact same process to quit cigarettes around 1991 or 1992 (I don’t know the date) that Hansen used to walk away from binge eating around a decade later.

I need to use my “card catalog brain” right now.  Search and find and remember.  Read and study further.  And write, for you folks.  It is a gift.  I love you all so much, and I want us all to be well.  Are you with me on this?

Myths and Misconceptions: some wisdom from Peggy Claude-Pierre

Peggy Claude-Pierre’s book, The Secret Language of Eating Disorders seems to be about as cool a book as you can get.  I picked it up at the library today and already I’m convinced that this book is going to be outstanding.  A little birdie recommended it to me.

Peggy Claude-Pierre’s chapter, “Myths and Misconceptions” just so happened to be one that I flipped to upon opening the book.  Here is her list of myths:

(I couldn’t agree more.)

Myth: Anorexia is the by-product of a culture that prizes thinness above everything.

Myth: Anorexia is more prevalent in females than in males because females are told that appearance is important while males are praised for other qualities.

Myth: Anorexia is caused by physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.

Myth: Anorexia is caused by distant, uncaring, demanding, or otherwise dysfunctional parents.

Myth: Anorexia is the consequence of perfectionist people failing in their desire to be perfect.

Myth: Anorexia is caused by low self-esteem.

Myth: Anorexia is the result of trauma from the pain of parents’ divorce, adolescence, or other life crisis.

Myth: Anorexia is a disease of the “economically advantaged.”

Myth: Anorexia is a psychosomatic disorder caused by a child’s refusal t grow up into an adult.

Myth: Anorexia is an unconscious attention-getting device, a cry for help.

Myth: People with eating disorders are selfish.  They just need to get on with their lives and stop ruining everyone else’s!

Myth: Anorexia is a tool for control.

Myth: Anorexics are to blame for their situation.  They’re doing it to get back at others.

Myth: Sufferers need to hold on to their condition as a crutch.

Myth: The longer you have anorexia, the harder it is to cure.

Myth: Anorexia can’t be cured; it can only be managed.  You’ll live with it and die from it.

Of course, those of us who have had to go through this struggle have heard ALL these lines…or will hear them, eventually.  Many of them were topics of discussion between patients at Walden, while I was there.  But of course, the staff squelched all meaningful discussion…or tried to.  Anyway, we often talked about all of these topics.  I would say that most patients agreed with Peggy Claude-Pierre on almost all these statements, that they are not true.

Well, here are my personal answers:

Myth: Anorexia is the by-product of a culture that prizes thinness above everything.

I think most of us realize it goes far beyond “the media.”  It is much deeper than someone looking at a fashion magazine, and then flipping out.

Myth: Anorexia is more prevalent in females than in males because females are told that appearance is important while males are praised for other qualities.

This illness has nothing to do with values.

Myth: Anorexia is caused by physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.

Not all patients were subject to such abuse.  Many weren’t.

Myth: Anorexia is caused by distant, uncaring, demanding, or otherwise dysfunctional parents.

My parents were the “distant” type.   But they were not “bad parents.”  Their intentions were altruistic.  It’s not any of my mom’s doing that she had it in her genes.

Myth: Anorexia is the consequence of perfectionist people failing in their desire to be perfect.

Some people with anorexia are perfectionistic but I have known many that I’d say were around “average” as far as perfectionism goes.  I run around average.  I know, I know, I was demanding with myself when I was in graduate school.  Yeah, I can kick ass, but that doesn’t make it an ingrained part of my personality.  In high school, I sure didn’t kick ass.  It was a conscious choice, upon entering college, to work my butt off. 

Myth: Anorexia is caused by low self-esteem.

Most people I know who suffer from this illness have low self esteem.  Most people I know who have any mental illness suffer from low self-esteem.  Guess what?  Do you think it’s because of the way society treats us?

Myth: Anorexia is the result of trauma from the pain of parents’ divorce, adolescence, or other life crisis.

I think this one has been pretty much knocked down already.

Myth: Anorexia is a disease of the “economically advantaged.”

Yeah, this one, too, has been proven wrong.

Myth: Anorexia is a psychosomatic disorder caused by a child’s refusal t grow up into an adult.

This is what Dr. P claims, and I’ve always known it was complete bullshit.

Myth: Anorexia is an unconscious attention-getting device, a cry for help.

No mental illness is an attention-seeking device.

Myth: People with eating disorders are selfish.  They just need to get on with their lives and stop ruining everyone else’s!

Apparently a bunch of people dumped me because I was ruining their little party.  Oh well, party-pooper.

Myth: Anorexia is a tool for control.

I think  people who feel that their lives are out of control are the ones that accuse the folks with anorexia of “controlling behavior.”  Makes sense, right?

Myth: Anorexics are to blame for their situation.  They’re doing it to get back at others.

No one is to blame for having this disorder, or any disorder.  If you were born without legs, would that be your fault?  Nope.

Myth: Sufferers need to hold on to their condition as a crutch.

“Addicted to being ill”?  Oh, pleeeese.

Myth: The longer you have anorexia, the harder it is to cure.

Peggy Claude-Pierre emphasizes that we are told this and then we end up feeling more hopeless, and this sure doesn’t help us to get better!

Myth: Anorexia can’t be cured; it can only be managed.  You’ll live with it and die from it.

This is kind of a big debate right now.  Whether mental illness of any kind can be cured or if we have to take meds and “manage” it.

This all gets me back to thinking about expectations.  I get the impression that Peggy Claude-Pierre is pretty much in tune with the thinking that it is degrading the way the medical profession treats us with LOW EXPECTATIONS.

I mean, do you really expect me to go to some mental health “sheltered workshop” and spend the rest of my days doing “gainful employment” in a candle factory?

I think it’s time to break down that shelter and burn down the fucking factory.  Because if eating disorders care is like a factory, all about fattening up skinny kids until they are bloated and miserable (which was about what I saw over there) then sufferers are surely going to be nothing more than candles in the wind.

I will report more on my feedback on this book.  Well, gee, I must be rather impressed, right?

See ya later, alligators….

Book Review: Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs by Lew Olson

I’ve just had to return this book to the library so I thought it would be fitting that I review it, since I think it is a very good book….

Title: Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs: The Definitive Guide to Homemade Meals

Author: Lew Olson

Copyright Date: 2010

Publisher: North Atlantic Books, Berkeley California

Available through bookstores.  If your bookstore doesn’t have it, it can be ordered, or you can order it yourself from an online bookseller.

Also, chances are you’ll be able to find the book in your local library, especially if the library has access to other libraries through InterLibrary Loan.

I found out about this book by painstakingly going through the zillions of “how to make your own dog food” and “dog food recipe” and “dog nutrition” books on Amazon, and reading the reviews.

A word of caution on online reviews: Amazon’s reviews have been infiltrated with “fake” reviews, that is, reviews that appear to be by everyday readers, but are not.  Many of the reviews written by real readers have been inundated with comments from folks accusing them of being fakes.  A lot of the reviewers don’t understand that they’re supposed to be reviewing the book, not how fast the book arrived at their doorstep.  For books that have accompanying online message boards and information websites, reviewers tend to review these sites and forget that they are supposed to be reviewing the book.  And you always get the occasional person with their own agenda putting up crap that has nothing to do with the book and is not helpful for those of us deciding whether to purchase.

Despite this, I do read reviews, but I read between the lines.  People have whatever reasons they have for giving a book a star rating…read between the lines here, please, because a lot of people will adore a book and only give it three stars.  Are they naturally stingy with stars?  Heck if I know.  Then you’ll get the reader who gives a book five stars, and says, “It was great, but it gave me a rash,” or whatever.

When I read book reviews, mostly what I’m looking for is:
Who found the book useful, and why?
Does it contain the material I’m looking for?
Does the book have a particular slant that may turn me on or off?
What makes this book unique?

If the book passes the test, I look it up in my library’s catalog, and get this: Chances are, your local library’s catalog is available to you right at home!  Google your local library, find its website, and then find the link to your library’s catalog.  At my local library, I can request books from home, see what I’ve got checked out, renew books, and even pay (ouch!) library fines.  Check into your library’s available services for text or e-mail alerts reminding you when a book is due.   Another thing you might want to do is to ask at the library if there is a book drop return box super handy for you so that you can return a book with ease.

Anyway, just a plug for libraries…I look the book up in the catalog and see if it’s on the shelf at the moment we speak.  If it is, awesome, I go have a look and decide if the book is what I’m looking for.  If not, I look over what my library’s catalog site offers for information about the book.

In regards to Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs, I found the following publisher’s description:
In the whirlwind of information about local, organic, and whole foods, it’s easy to forget that our canine companions can also benefit from–and deserve–a more natural and nurturing diet. Preparing Fido’s food at home may seem daunting, but it’s really not, says Lew Olson in Raw & Natural Nutrition for Dogs. Olson discusses canine nutritional needs and explains the research on how home-prepared foods, particularly raw foods, can meet pets’ needs better than commercial, processed dog food. Step-by-step instructions and recipes make preparation easy. The book includes charts with the recipes, instructions on keeping diets simple and balanced, guidelines on preparation, suggestions for finding ingredients, and how much to feed a dog by body weight. There are recipes for healthy adult dogs as well as guidelines for puppies, senior dogs, and dogs with health conditions including pancreatitis, renal problems, gastric issues, allergies, heart disease, liver disease, and cancer. Pet owners seeking to give their dogs a better coat, better skin, and healthier teeth and gums, as well as longer lives and more stable temperaments, are sure to welcome this book.

I would say that this description is completely accurate.  Here’s a link to my library’s links to Table of Contents, Author notes, etc:


Lew Olson, the author, is not a vet, but holds a degree specializing in dog digestion.  She is a dog breeder and dog show judge.  She also is president of a couple of kennel clubs.  You can bet she’s seen a lot of dogs and the ins and outs of feeding them.  In case you’re curious, her specialty is Rottweilers.  I trust this author.

Just reading the Table of Contents tells you that you can find a variety of choices as to how to feed your dog.  This book leaves it up to you to decide what is the most practical and healthy option for you and your dog.  There are also special chapters on specific health concerns and special considerations for puppies, elderly dogs, breeding females, etc.

Please note that there is no chapter on feeding your dog a vegetarian diet.  There’s a reason for this.  I’ve looked at seven instructional books on how to feed a dog something I make at home from scratch, and the consensus is that dogs and vegetarian diets don’t jive.  Many dog recipe books do contain vegetarian recipes, but these are not meant for everyday feeding.

My two cents would be to reserve vegetarian dishes for “treat” foods.  I don’t know about your dog, but Puzzle loves both raw and cooked vegetables.  You can freeze a vegetarian dish in an ice cube tray (mini-cubes if you have a teensy dog like Puzzle)  and then give them to your dog in nice small bits.  How yummy.  You can also freeze canned dog food in cube trays for treats.

If I’m going to chop veggies, Puzzle often, but not always, comes tip-toeing into the kitchen to wait for some piece of veggie to go flying off my cutting board.  If I don’t want her to have what I’ve dropped, I can usually retrieve it in time, either by being quicker than she is, or by telling her it isn’t hers and keeping my fingers crossed that she actually minds me.  It’s very interesting that of all the foods that have gone crashing down to my floor, the food she’s quickest and sneakiest about has always been eggshells.

There’s a reason for this: eggshells are a good source of calcium, an essential nutrient for dogs.  The dog food books I borrowed all confirm that many home cooked diets require calcium supplementation.  Calcium is supposedly in kibble, but I’m not really sure if the calcium is digestible and in the appropriate amount for Puzzle.

Some dogs can get calcium from raw bones that they chew on.  The awesome thing about this is that the dog can use his or her natural body sense to know when to chew on the bone to get the calcium.  The not-so-good thing is that some dogs are heavy-duty chewers and will break the bones into nasty pieces that can mess up their insides and cause all kinds of grief. Be forewarned that puppies and adolescent dogs often end up with some kind of digestive woe from swallowing contraband and this can include bones.

This happened to Puzzle once.  My vet explained that a dog’s digestive system is very cleverly made to handle bones just fine.  The problem was that Puzzle had ingested a lot, lot, lot of chicken bones from devouring someone’s discarded cooked chicken that she found while we were out on a walk.  Cooked or not, the sheer number of bones she wolfed down while I stood there like an idiot, helpless to get them away from her, was too much at once for her little tummy.  Yes, there were a bunch of vet bills and lots of doggie throw-up on my floor to clean up, as well as special “bland” diets to keep Puzzle’s tummy soothed while she recovered.  If your dog throws up a lot and has diarrhea, you definitely should take your dog to the vet to get an injection of fluids to treat dehydration.  You also want to stop the diarrhea in its tracks.  Whether to give anti-emetic medication or other tummy medications such as antacids varies from vet to vet.  Your dog’s stomach needs acids to digest the bones, but too much acid can irritate the dog.  I actually had two vets disagree on what to do about the antacids.  Needless to say, I, Puzzle, and my credit card eventually recovered, and I caught up on lost sleep.

Well, lesson learned I guess.  I must say that ever since then, Puzzle has picked up bones off the street now and then, and it seems that her digestive system is much, much stronger than it ever was before the mishap.  Very weird.  I really should have taught her to “give up” stuff she’s got in her mouth, but I neglected to teach her this.  So if she steals your grandma’s statue of Baby Jesus and chomps on it and carries it around town while we’re on a walk, well, that’s just tough.  This  has never happened, anyway.

I studied and studied dog nutrition and what would be right for us, Puzzle and I, as a team, given every factor you can think of.  This includes availability of food, cost of food, nutritional benefits of various foods, where I can get the food, in what form, how much home cooking effort is required and whether I have the cooking equipment, how much I’m going to concoct at a time, and how I’m going to store leftovers.  And…will Puzzle eat it?  Of course she will.  My dog eats any crap you put in front of her, especially if it’s in her bowl.   I’ve seen her turn up her nose at food only once.  Rice saturated with Pepto Bismol.  She grumbled about it for a while, took little bites and (as far as I could interpret) gave me a questioning look, and then went and ate it anyway.

So I decided on a cooked meat diet for Puzzle.  Yes, there’s a wonderful chapter in Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs on feeding a cooked diet.  Nothing fancy, just a basic how-to.  Of all the dog food books I took out of the library, this one has the most down-to-earth and practical guide for doing exactly what I wanted to do.  The chapter is short, to-the-point, and sensible.  Nothing fancy.

You won’ t find delicious stews, meatloaves, and birthday cakes in this book.  Go elsewhere for those.  What you will find are guidelines and how-to instructions.  The book will tell you how to transition your dog to the new diet, how much to feed your dog (it’s not the same as kibble) and much more.

The introduction to this book is awesome.  It’s called, “The Untold History of Dog Food.”  Set aside some time to read this.  It’s well-written and as a matter of fact, I’d say this chapter is rather profound, or at least I found it to be.  Why?  There’s a little message in it for the dog owner: Be aware, be informed, be skeptical, dig deep.  By digging deep I mean looking at dog food from a political and economic standpoint as well.

“Why is all this questioning necessary, when all I want to do is feed my dog?” you may ask.  Trust me, it pays to learn what went on with the economics of dog food to understand what is behind the kibble in fancy colorful eye-catching bags you see in the supermarket aisles.  It pays to understand what the “dog food industry” is doing to our heads with all their advertising.  It affects how we spend our money.  If you buy a product, you are saying “yes” to that company and all its practices, including the practice of deceiving us and lying to us.   Every purchase you make is a political statement.  Who are these companies, what else do they do, and who is behind them?  This chapter goes into that.  It’s what it says it is, a history, an evolution of how we went from feeding our dogs scraps of meat we had on hand to opening a can of god-knows-what and giving the contents to our dogs just because a big business making lots of money told us that this was how to love our pets.

Advertising is just that.  It tries to tell  us how to become more loved in a love-starved society.

Anyway, this is a good book.  I read the chapter on skin conditions because Puzzle occasionally has dry skin, but didn’t read the one on, say, how to feed a lactating dog or the chapter on kidney issues or other issues because these do not apply.  I will not hesitate to borrow the book again should I need it, especially when Puzzle graduates from “adult” to “senior.”

Puzzle will be six in November, on the 26th.  Since I switched her to a cooked meat diet, she has picked up stuff off of the ground less while we’ve been on walks.  This may or may not be an indication that perhaps she is less driven scavenge to acquire nutrients while we’re out.  Still, I often think of her as the Trash Queen.  She still finds a discarded wrapper full of a half-eaten delicacy such as a bagel or cupcake or pizza crust hard to resist.  The object for her is to scrunch it around as much as she can and then extract the goodies.  If some of the paper gets eaten, well, so be it.  Lately, though, Puzzle has eaten less paper, if any, so there must be something I’m doing right, don’t you think?

Have a nice night.  Happy doggie dreams.