Deprivation dieting, binge eating, guilt . . .

Eating donuts

Deprivation dieting, binge eating, guilt, deprivation dieting, binge eating, guilt . . .

Know what I’m talking about? 

For those reading this post and have never struggled with an eating disorder, count your blessings and feel free to move onto reading something else of interest. 

However, for those who can relate, and know exactly what the cycle is like, let’s dialogue about the subject. 

Here’s how the typical scenario goes: 

Nutrients are unrealistically and severely restricted to cause the numbers on the scale to go down; aka deprivation dieting.  It's like trying to desperately breathe with no oxygen available.

 One survives a few days, and then . . bam, pent up emotions emerge out of nowhere. 

McDonalds ~ quickly! Big Mac, fries, chocolate shake, and apple pie. 

Next, Dairy Queen is in sight. Oreo blizzard and a caramel sundae.

Gas station is on the way home. Two chocolate bars and a bag of salted cashews. 

At home more food is ravenously eaten like a giant monster that has been let loose.

The belly expands. Fatigue overwhelms. Guilt engulfs. Remorse entangles. Vows are made.

 “I’ll diet again tomorrow,” is the infamous promise. 

Three days pass, and without warning, the monster returns with full vengeance.

How does one stop the cycle? 

The following are suggestions that have worked for me:

  • scalesStop deprivation dieting. If one’s focus is on calorie restriction for the scales instead of eating necessary nutrients for optimal health, that mindset will eventually lead to binge eating, guilt, and more binge eating. Guaranteed every time.
  • Take food addiction seriously. It’s right up there with destroying one’s life every bit as much as heroine and cocaine. Know that literally thousands have been set free from severe food addictions by following Dr. Fuhrman’s eating plan for optimal health. Thoroughly study his books and articles to understand the science behind his recommendations. Hold onto his life-saving instructions and don’t let them go, no matter what.
  • Establish habits of creative expression to replace the habit of releasing emotions through eating. For example, I’m a painter, and when I began the journey to get my health back, I chose to document my feelings along the way through visual creativity. I cut up 4”x 4” pieces of illustration board and committed to make one artwork per day. Sometimes I painted on the illustration boards, other times I wrote or doodled on them with markers, and a few times I glued items that I had collected on a walk. Any form of creative expression, whether it is quilting, knitting, wood working, sculpting, dancing, journaling, writing poetry, singing, songwriting, playing an instrument, or whatever one enjoys, will keep the mind engaged and distracted from the habit of turning to food for emotional release. Plus, as an additional benefit, a creative project specifically dedicated to documenting the journey, will keep one continually focused on the goal of earning health back, even in the midst of life’s many, and sometimes stressful circumstances.
  • friends walkingDevelop a healthy support system with likeminded friends, and seek professional counseling for the deep stuff. Isolation fuels pent up emotions like kerosene fuels a fire. I learned to process and communicate my thoughts and feelings on the member center instead of turning to food. The gift of understanding that others gave was priceless, and helped me establish a new path of emotional health. 
  • Exercise. And I’m not necessarily talking about the regularly scheduled, daily workout; although that’s vitally important. Get out in the fresh air. Go for a walk with a friend. Hop on a bike and ride around the neighborhood. Play a game of ping-pong with the kids. Many times, just a brief diversion of exercise will release pent up emotions that are brewing within.
  • Be still and visualize. Take a few moments to be quiet, close the eyes, and visualize life in one, five, and ten years from now living in optimal health. Make time for daily,
    quiet moments to recharge vision.  

Food addiction and emotional eating can be successfully overcome. The availability of toxic foods and the ebb and flow of emotional turmoil will always be a part of life; but food addiction and emotional eating doesn’t have to be!

What’s worked for you?   


image credits:  scales,;  friends walking,

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Comments (20) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Peau - August 30, 2010 11:54 AM

I used to engage in these cycles, too, but I also threw up after the binges. This went on for years.

To be honest I still struggle at times with the inner narrative that prompts the purging --- a narrative that has its roots in my childhood like so many other general dysfunctions. Also, I never really binged so much as I purged. What happened, ultimately, was that I began only eating foods "in the box" that I allowed in my mind --- a box that got smaller and smaller until nearly everything I ate needed to be purged. I know I was dying.

What saved me from this cycle was eating raw or, essentially, in keeping with the Dr.'s nutrition recommendations.

At first I felt like purging after eating a huge salad --- simply because it felt so abundant. I never typically allowed myself to eat so much. And it WAS abundant. Yet I was amazed to find that even though I ate HUGE amounts of food (I think this is normal when first starting out raw, too) I still lost weight. I thought I was at or below weight when I began to eat raw, but no. I dropped an additional five pounds and I presumed this was where my body naturally wanted to be. My skin cleared up, my toenails were hard and strong, my hair was lustrous and long.

I also felt so joyful every time I put something in my mouth. Realizing that you are actually blessing this body that has supported you so long --- is a gift. The more you bless and honor yourself by giving yourself what you need, the more you want to continue to do so, and to give to others, as well. Not to sound too dramatic, but eating this way truly is a path out of self-loathing and depression and it's a doorway into being a better person on this planet.

Just my two cents!

Matt Stone - August 30, 2010 12:31 PM

Interestingly, low-serotonin levels, induced by repeated ingestion of addictive substances, appears to match up with increased cortisol levels. Much of this may be psychologically-induced, as in a low serotonin state you tend to be stressed, filled with anxiety, worried, irritable, and depressed - all of which are known to increase cortisol - the primary driver of metabolic disease, rapid aging, autoimmune disease, immuno-suppression, abdominal obesity, etc.

However, I can't give huge ups to ETL, as eating an extremely low-fat, low-calorie density diet can increase my cravings for junk food and alcohol like nobody's business - whereas the protocol I've created seems to perform with almost 100% effectiveness.

Dalia Kinsey - August 30, 2010 12:52 PM

Getting a life coach (who is also a Nutritarian) has been a huge help to me. It is so true that dieting can turn a normal eater into a disordered one. It isn't easy to get back in touch with your true hunger, but it can be done and is worth every bit of the effort required.

Karen Harris - August 30, 2010 1:24 PM

Excellent post, Emily!!! This is something I have struggled with for much of my adult life. I listened to an interesting TED Talk the other day about vulnerability. (It was given by Brene Brown if you want to look it up.) It talked about how we don't like vulnerability and fear, and so use addictive behaviors to numb those emotions. The sad thing is, we can't selectively numb emotions - so when we try to numb negative emotions, the positive ones, like love and joy, are numbed as well. Like you, I think creative expression is an excellent way to discover and nurture your authentic self - but you have to get past the fear of failing at the creative endeavor or you get caught back up in the avoidance behaviors. : ) Thanks again for the great post.

Deana Ferreri, Ph.D. - August 30, 2010 2:10 PM

Just a reminder that Dr. Fuhrman's nutritarian diet style is not a low fat diet. Dr. Fuhrman simply recommends whole food sources of fat rather than added fats, e.g. processed oils. The fat content varies widely based on an individual's caloric and other specific needs.

The uniqueness of nutritarian eating is the attention to micronutrient content which enables the connection with true hunger, so that the body signals lead to most accurately consuming the ideal amount of calories to maintain lean body mass, not too much and not too little.

Dr. Fuhrman would argue that even though there is some flexibility in eating healthfully, the diet design cannot have a wide variance or it would not maximize longevity and anti-cancer effects.

Chronic stress can raise cortisol levels and contribute to emotional instability, but the serotonin issue is complex. There is some evidence that high protein diets may impede serotonin production in the brain.

Bev - August 30, 2010 4:05 PM

I love the idea of the 4x4 pieces of illustration board.

I am someone who loved art, but it became such an issue with my father - heck, everything was an issue with him - that I felt like I couldn't do anything unless it was done at the genius level. I have gotten to retirement having spent most of my working time as a clerk, and even now, find it impossible and scary to make creativity a real part of my life. (And, until I discovered Fuhrman and Esselstyn, ate to fill the yawning hole in my life.)

Open the door!


Emily Boller - August 30, 2010 5:25 PM


I sincerely hope that you will be able to make those little works of art! You'll have a lot of fun creatively expressing yourself. Know that many artists started their creative journeys in their retirement years.

When the late, world renown architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, was near death, someone asked him which one of his works that spanned his lifetime was his best. His honest reply was, "The next one will be my best."

It's never too late to start anything.

Go for it!


donut - August 30, 2010 6:04 PM

I wish you'd think before you put up the "unhealthy food" pics on posts - for many of us less advanced folk, a pic like that is all we need to touch off a craving.

misty - August 30, 2010 9:59 PM

Thank you so much for this important topic. If someone can help me stop drinking Pepsi I would greatly appreciate it. I have tried everything, exept caffeine pills. So addicting and I am in the clutches of it! Thanks for taking the time to write about this.

StephenMarkTurner - August 30, 2010 10:20 PM

Matt - remember that E2L really is geared to people who have significant weight to lose. In Eat For Health, DrF describes some people eating over 30% fat, lots of nuts and seeds.

Regards, Steve

Emily Boller - August 31, 2010 10:17 AM


If one scans the vast selection of posts on Disease Proof, there are pics of SAD foods from time to time, because SAD food is so prevalent in today's culture; and that's a part of what we are writing about. I'm sure the pic of that steak several weeks ago caused some to drool, yet, it was very appropriate for Dr. Ferreri's article presented. All images are an artistic presentation thing; not intended to invoke food cravings.

Is anyone else bothered by the various images of SAD food posted on DP? I'm sure if enough voiced concern, we could possible consider a workable solution for everyone.


In a time of intense stress, I had developed a terrible cocoa powder addiction last fall. (I was putting the stuff in my unsweetened oatmeal!) Dr. Fuhrman recommended that I stop the use of cocoa powder immediately from the time I told him about it for at least two weeks non-stop. At first it was difficult, but the longer I did it, the less I desired it. After two weeks, I no longer craved it at all. With food addiction, there are no shortcuts. No magic pills. (to my knowledge!) Cravings are overpowering, but if you commit to not giving into them, they become less and less, and then eventually non-existent. Definitely surround yourself with supportive friends and family who can and will hold you accountable to your journey to freedom. Addiction is too overpowering to do it alone! Freedom is always possible; no matter how deep the entanglement.

OA - August 31, 2010 12:27 PM

I agree re: pics of sad foods. Y'all seem to understand that people can get addicted to food the same way they can get addicted to alcohol/drugs/etc. In Overeaters Anonymous, it's considered polite not to name specific foods b/c you just never know what is going to touch off a craving for someone else. Instead, people talk about "a food that triggers cravings for me," or "a food I've already decided not to eat," etc, etc.

There have been several times when I've wanted to stop by Disease Proof to get the great information that is posted here, but I don't come b/c there are so many pictures of SAD foods or detailed descriptions of binging out on specific foods that I'm struggling with.

I think it would be great if you all considered adopting OA etiquette - esp. b/c you can just say "SAD foods" and we know what you mean. Not that Disease Proof has anything association with OA, but rather by taking a cue from another organization that has the same goal (though not the same methods) of breaking peoples addiction to food.

HH - August 31, 2010 6:06 PM

I don't know anyone with binge eating disorder so it never occured to me the pictures might set off a binge in someone. However, I find pictures such as this donut one to be sensational and gratuitous used in this context - really just there for the shock value. Messages would be more effective without this type of graphic.

StephenMarkTurner - September 1, 2010 6:40 AM

Hi Emily

People who area bothered by the video content of this (and other) site could consider using a text only web browser to view the internet.

The most well known of these is called Lynx, and has been around for almost 20 years ie it is reputable.

Regards, Steve

Jeane - September 1, 2010 8:28 AM

What do you all think all those food commercials on TV are for?

donut - September 1, 2010 11:19 AM

Thanks for your thoughtful response to this. One idea - some photos of SAD food highlight their unhealthy nature - for example, congealed grease on the plate.

elizabeth - September 26, 2010 1:09 AM

First I want to apologize that this post turned into a novel. I guess I've been needing to vent... 

I realize now that emotional eating and food addictions have been a huge part of my life, even since my childhood. I can remember my mother baking to reward, baking to offer comfort, or the biggest treat of parents taking all 7 of us out to eat for special occasions at our favorite restaurant to binge on the "all you can eat" seafood buffet.  

I started E2L in January of 2008, and initially lost 35 lbs., just 5 lbs shy of my ideal weight at 125, but more importantly I was "cured" of some very severe health problems I'd been dealing with for more than 20 years. (You need to understand that I was extremely unhealthy before E2L, to the point of not being able to leave my home without the fear that I would have "accidents" or intestinal "attacks" while out, causing me to have anxiety attacks, depression, etc.). I know because of my success with E2L and E4H I have been an inspiration to many family members, friends, neighbors and acquaintances. For a little over 2 years I have been motivating, coaching, teaching, encouraging and meal planning for many people and with great joy at seeing their successes. I ate the nutritarian lifestyle 95% of the time. Some would say I was zealous, but I didn't preach, and I didn't wear my success as a badge on my sleeve. I was happy, felt great and it showed.  

So in April of this year something changed... It started when I went on a weekend cruise with my mom, sisters, and sister-in-laws. I was the thinnest, most energetic and healthiest of the 6 of us. Just a few months before I'd competed in my first triathlon. I was happier than I'd been in years. I had been to "all you can eat" places before with my husband and kids and wasn't that tempted to binge. I felt good and didn't want to ruin it, or damage my longterm health with poor choices. Now I'm on this cruise where it's "all you can eat - all the time" and it starts with a dessert after dinner, then other SAD foods start creeping in... But here is where I know something changed, I started sneaking away at different times of the day and night to go to the buffets. I would be this pilar of strength and perfect example for my family, and then I'd sneak away to binge on SAD foods. It became an obsession...and it continued after I got home.

The crazy thing is I'm usually binging on healthy foods; too many raw nuts and seeds, salads twice the size they need to be, and lots and lots of fruit on the side. I'll make homemade "ice creams", whole wheat bread for my kids, or wh. wheat oatmeal raisin muffins and eat 4 or 5. I'll not eat breakfast until 10:00 or 11:00 when I'm truly hungry, lunch at 2:00, usually raw salads and fruit, then not eat again until the next day. I can sustain this for about 4 or 5 days but then be ravenous at 7:00 at night and start binging all evening and it will last several days until I make myself quit eating and recommit. 

In the past 4 months I've sustained a 10 lb. weight gain, I feel terrible, some of my old health issues have come back, and mostly I feel guilty all the time. I KNOW BETTER! I'm studying to take Dr. Fuhrman's Health Counselor certification exam. Ask me any question about being a nutritarian, E2L, E4H, etc. and I'll know the perfect textbook answer, or I'll know exactly where to look it up. So what's wrong with me? I know stress is a huge trigger for me, but what am I doing wrong? What information am I lacking? Is this truly a matter of just will power, or is it something more? Is my daily exercise triggering hunger I'm not satisfying the right way?

This article was an eye opener for me. I realize I'm not alone and that helps. Thank you Emily and Peau for your comments, I appreciated everything you said. 

Emily Boller - September 27, 2010 4:59 AM

Are you a member of the member center? If not, perhaps it would be a good idea to daily post your meals for accountability. If I'm not misunderstanding your questions, you'd seem to benefit for outside-of-yourself accountability. It will make you think twice before eating something if you are going to be writing it down for others to view. Once you get a string of successful days linked together, you will gain momentum again. Also, are you eating plenty of beans, perhaps at each meal to curb cravings and blood sugar issues?

All the best to you.

Congratulations on your great progress in the past, and you'll get there again!

Add accountability.
Add beans.
And . . . .choose to add joy to your life!

Cheering for you . . .

~ elizabeth ~ - September 27, 2010 3:55 PM

I know you're right Emily, I do need outside of myself accountability. Ironically, I actually just renewed my membership to the member center this past week. My user name is DanLiz, and I used to read the forums all the time when I first started. I wasn't much of a poster myself but I gleaned so much knowledge and support from reading the posts.

I have been wondering about the beans, I know they contain essential nutrients, but I guess I haven't tested it out fully on myself. I need to study more to understand how it works for them to curb craving and how they help control hunger. I remember one of the members saying something about eating beans separately than at meal times, like 1 1/2 hours before dinner for easier digestion. Do you know anything about that?

Thanks for the words of support... It really does feel good to know others are cheering for your success... off to the member center...

Timber - October 11, 2010 9:06 PM

Quite a few years ago I made a goal poster.

It helped me stay focused and I'm thinking of starting a new one. Maybe it's something that will help some of you too. You personalize it of course for your own goals, , dreams, likes, etc. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be.

My old one covered the complete inside of my bedroom closet door. At the time I wanted it to be 'just for me' private. You can put yours anywhere.

I was recovering from a back injury so I had fitness as well as weight goals. I had graphs for my weight, my BMI, exercise record, trail mileage, weight lifting progress, etc. Photos of athlete role models, and of my self at a very fit stage. Pictures of veggies and fruits and flowers. I had pictures of beautiful scenery from where we live and places we visit. Pics of my endurance horse and dogs. Pics of beading projects I wanted to complete. Pics of neat outfits I wanted to make and fit into. Ideas for drawings and watercolor paintings. Lists of books to read.

And throught out, numerous encouraging and positive quotes. All chosen to help on the journey to health.

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