Dear Kat,

Your Letters, My Replies:
Atkins or Zone: No Contest
Eating and the Emotions
A Battle With Bulimia

Birth, Development, and Anatomy of a Compulsive

The Superman of Fat Absorbers:
What You Need to Know About Chitosan

"Carb Upgrade":
When Ya Gotta Have Cereal

"Final Word On...":
Eggs to Lower Cholesterol?

The Get Wise Food Quiz

I was fascinated by the article that you wrote in Ladies’ Home Journal. As soon as I was through reading, I plugged in to your website for further information. What I am interested in learning about is overeating and the emotions. How much of your battle with being overweight stemmed from your emotions? Is there any literature that you have come across in your journey that addresses this issue?

Thanks for the tips!


Dear M:

My battle was emotional and chemical. No victory could have been had with either link missing. This is what I have found to be elusive for most women I encounter who are dealing with the problem I had.

I used my journal and books to address and bring my emotional issues to the surface. I needed separation from my family. It was hard-core, emotional separation, not just physical separation that worked for me. Some can't do that, so the alternative is to take emotional space and solitude very seriously. Setting boundaries. Even if you live in the same house with the person who's energy sets off, or just reinforces negative patterns. And beware; you may not recognize the pattern as something negative. For example, perfectionists who live together...

Emotional Weight by Colleen Sundermeyer was good for me. Another book called Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway was very good for me. But it was an objective book on food called Food and Healing that may have been the most powerful read for me. It really changed my head about food, and the author (Annemarie Colbin) had a wise tone. Turns out she's quite a respected figure in the world of holistic nutrition. She definitely turned this junkfood binger into a healthier food binger who wanted to know more...

John Bradshaw's book Bradshaw on the Family was very powerful. There you have my favorites. If you choose therapy, my only caution is that you might be tempted to give up a degree of ultimate responsibility subconsciously. I didn't do therapy, but I spent years blaming my mother, who did have a lot to do with the early on development of my shame and even my eating style. I got very angry. Became very sensitive to her energy, got her out of my life for a while, which was the only way to get her out of my head. Then one day I realized that actively blaming her was putting off my own responsibility for what was still a problem so many years later. Only I could help myself now.

I could go on and on but I'll post the rest on the website over the following months. I think your question is representative of many readers concerns and would love to post it in an upcoming Q&A. Do you mind? Can I use your initials?

Everything in my website comes from the handful of principles that led to my freedom from compulsive eating, so I hope you'll look over the whole sight, not just the food articles! Awareness was so much of my change.

Hope this helped.

Kat James



Thank you for the great information. I am constantly surrounded by family, we live very close together. Unfortunately, most of them have very negative advice for me, and often drag me down with them. I was molested as a child by my father and I know that this is a very important part of my emotional, over-eating problem. I am very interested in your self help approach and I look forward to following your site for further assistance. Yes, you can include my questions in Q&A and my first name or initials would be fine.

Thanks again for your help.


A Battle With Bulimia

From: T. P., South Dakota

I have an obsession with food and I am also bulimic... I really need help on how to control it. I would like any suggestions you could give me.

The bingeing and purging has been going on ever since I was in seventh grade (I am 25yrs old now). In sixth grade I weighed 175 lbs and was teased and humiliated terribly by my family and 5 older brothers. In the 7th grade I moved to a bigger town and was so scared that I dieted heavily and lost 40 lbs. Everyone liked me and I swore I would never be heavy again. Later that year I started to gain weight and didn't know how to lose it so the binging/purging started. I couldn't stop. I thought about food non-stop, I would eat a whole pizza myself, a whole bag of chocolate and then some just so I could throw up. It later became a control thing. When I was under stress, I would do it more and more.. It got so bad that I was throwing up at least 25 times a day and sometimes more. It was just built into my normal routine. I know it is affecting my health because my stomach hurts all the time, I always have headaches and I have a serious compulsion of food. I am now married with two children and I have tried to talk to my husband about the problem but he doesn't understand at all. I feel like I am going at it alone. In college I did go to a therapist but felt so humiliated and embarrassed about my condition that I quit. I don't know what to do. I don't feel comfortable enough to go to anyone and I don't know how to go about it. I don't feel like male doctor's understand because I view them much like my husband.

There is a history of depression in my family. While in college I did try to O.D. on meds but it was an issue with my is taking over my life. You are the first and only person that seems to understand my pain. I am so grateful that I read your article. I live in a small rural community in South Dakota and there isn't any health food stores or resources available. What do you suggest?

My Longest Letter

T: I'm assuming you read my story in Ladies' Home Journal.

The first thing you must do if you haven't already is find a good doctor to keep an eye on your condition. Second, you must use your solitude to confront your emotional issues, and perhaps some people in your life. Allow yourself to be selfish, and apologize in advance to others about needing space and being a bit unstable. Don't avoid facing your problem by distracting yourself with activities or by not saying no to social obligations.

Picture your life without the problem. Are you ready for life without your "handicap" to focus on? Don't indulge in "if only I were thin." Love the you that has the problem.

Next, focus on your health -- not "being thin." There’s a great book by Annemarie Colbin, called Food and Healing. It helped me to see food objectively for the first time. Understand that while part of the problem is emotional, it's not all in your head. Chemical food cravings can be as strong as other chemical addictions. The sedative affect we get can literally intoxicate us. By stabilizing my blood sugar and raising my serotonin levels naturally with supplements, I was able to lose some of my chemical addiction to food. If you're on prescription anti-depressants, don't start with 5htp or St. Johns Wort (two supplements shown to naturally raise our serotonin levels) without medical supervision to wean you off the drug (which has numerous depressing side affects). If your doctor isn't open to or doesn't seem to know much about chromium (a blood-sugar stabilizing mineral), 5htp or even Kava kava (an anti-anxiety herb) -- all available at the health food store, you may want to find a doctor who does. There's one near you, I guarantee it. To find out who, go to Resources on my website,, and get Dr. Julian Whitaker's Directory of Nutrition Oriented Physicians or call the American Preventative Medical Association (APMA) at 1-800-230-2762. If you're not on any drugs or pregnant, start the 5htp, Kava Kava and chromium right away with the supervision of a doctor who’ll take your desire to get well naturally seriously.

Eat only real food, even if you're bingeing. Real chocolate and real butter instead of cheap packaged, hydrogenated stuff is actually a big step up. Try taking Chitosan, a fat-absorbing fiber, if you know you're going to eat a lot, and decide if you can to use it as a rationale to reduce your purging. Four capsules a half hour before eating can offer binge "damage control" without harming your health (see story on Chitosan in IB’s Feeding Beauty section this month.)

If you develop a list of unrefined foods you like and binge on them instead of pure refined sugar or super high-carb foods, you will reduce the damage and dramatically reduce your cravings. Forget fat free food. Upgrade your binge foods gradually. Replace bread with brown rice when you can. Put anything you want -- cheese or whatever on it. Same with vegetables. Use butter or cheese on it, but pile the veggies high and, again, skip the bread or pasta.

Have eggs or plain yogurt with berries instead of cereal for breakfast. Have a piece of protein (beef, chicken, fish or tofu), some veggies and some brown rice instead of pasta and bread for dinner. You may not have much brown rice available at your restaurants, so buy it at the store, make a huge batch at the beginning of the week and eat it with your dinners. This will address carb cravings. Quinoa (available at the health food store) is another good whole grain you can use as hot cereal, instead of rice, or even with pasta sauce.

Become a regular at the health food store. If you know you can't stay away from sweets or crave "creamy", have Designer Protein or Atkins shakes or Atkins Bars (1-800-6ATKINS or The Vitamin Shoppe 800-223-1216), which are low in sugar and won’t perpetuate your cravings . Buy a good multi-vitamin (TwinLab's One Daily is good.) Buy a cereal called Smartbran by Lifestream, if they have it, and eat it if you crave bread. Lose your taste for soda. Drink seltzer with lime instead. I used to drink at least four diet sodas a day. Now anything that is suspected to cause seizures (like nutrasweet) or that is commercially sweetened is out of the question. In fact anything with hydrogenated fat, white flour or sugar, or nutrasweet is a total turn off to me. There's no longer any "self-discipline" involved in my not eating these things.

As if I hadn't taken away all your vices already, coffee is bad news. It raises "fight or flight" adrenaline hormones and causes a subsequent blood sugar drop and intense sugar cravings. During the colder months, be sure to get every bit of sunlight you can, since lack of it is connected to increased "carb" and sugar cravings.

The above is only one third of the battle, but get that routine underway, and things stand a good chance of "clicking" when you've done the other parts... Then, I believe your ultimate victory over the problem will be permanent. The rest is both emotional and intellectual work...

The emotional work is to know yourself more and more, and determine the origin -- the answer to the whole "chicken or egg" phenomena that makes us become obsessed in the first place. Did you grow up with an inherent sense of shame, does it have it’s origins in a painful incident, or did you develop it when you first gained weight and reinforce it by bingeing, which compounds things and often obscures the true source of the shame. Are you a perfectionist. A "please-everyone-but-yourself" type person with deep-seeded resentment? Did one of your parents "mess you up." One of mine did, but it wasn't her fault. She couldn't help it. I know that now. What ever it is, you need to "get there" through journal writing, books or therapy, sometimes talking to friends helps.

Having to be around the person who may have reinforced negative patterns is something you may have to change. That could mean parent, friend, or even spouse. If you've got kids, it's hard to take enough time for yourself to figure these things out. Then I suggest finding books that strike a chord of truth with your family/relationship issues and reading them once the kids are asleep. Turn the light out after particularly good passages after you've written it in your diary. Look to passages that validate your feelings or bring them to the surface.

The last issue as I said, is intellectual. It's about getting objectively informed about what you put on and in your body, so you can begin to live with vigilant self- respect. Act as your own advocate -- your own ideal parent. Refuse toxic products, food and even treatment from others. Just say no. My website is rich with information about the products, foods and rituals that either harm or serve us. As you learn how from my site, you can incorporate changes at a comfortable pace. Not all at once, as the perfectionist (doomed to failure) often wants, just like the crash-dieter.

It's hard to decide to begin to treat yourself with respect and not eventually want to go all the way. That’s what happened to me. One self-respecting act (though I didn’t really feel the self-respect at first) led to another, and eventually my tolerance for putting up with my own self-abuse wore thin. This is why I have never looked back after breaking my twelve-year compulsive spell seven years ago, and why I might have if I had only had an emotional breakthrough and not taken responsibility for getting informed. If you're being consistent in all areas of your life, you are not likely to fall back into your old ways. And I can tell you from experience, the physical affects are mind-blowing and joyful every step of the way!!

After getting informed and acting more and more out of self-respect, I think you'll wake one day soon and not be able to purge anymore. Sometimes it takes a health crisis to stop something like bingeing or purging, and believe me you'll have one if you haven't already...unless you rally all you've got and stop now (with the help of all of the above factors.) Don't wait for an irreversible crises. If you are "waiting for something" from someone other than yourself, it could be tempting you subconciously to use your problem as a cry for help -- at your own expense. How much sense does that make?

I didn't even know I loved myself until my health crisis. Maybe you could dig down and tap the unwavering love you still have for yourself that hasn't been permitted to fully express itself. Invite it to take over when you're ready. Eventually you will be a huge inspiration to all who know you if you stop waiting or blaming or "acting out" and decide to blow everyone’s mind by taking responsibility and becoming your own best advocate.

I've run on and on. This is certainly the longest answer to a letter I've given in a while, but I think you've asked a question that represents many of the readers who log on to my website. I would love to post this as a Q & A on my site so others can benefit, and also be inspired by the humility you showed in making such a bold statement at the start of your question. I don't have to use your name, just initials. May I?

Please let me know if any of this helps.


Kat James


From T:

I would love it if you printed my question. I hope there are people out there that could benefit from this and maybe they are going through a similar situation.

I sit here with tears in my eyes because I am so happy to have found someone to talk to about my disease. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!

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