Eating Disorders and Pregnancy - Coping With Both

The media often portrays pregnant women in a happy, glowing light, yet for the seven million American women who struggle with eating disorders every year, pregnancy can arouse ambivalence and even fear.

Women who currently have an eating disorder (or who have had one in the past) can struggle with changes in weight and body shape during pregnancy. They can experience increased depression and feel like they are caught up in a state of confusion, as they struggle to reconcile conflicting emotions and sensations.

Eating disorders are not just a psychological risk; they are linked to a host of health risks, including gestational diabetes, miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, respiratory problems, labor complications, and fetal health problems. Women who indulge in binging behaviors can gain excessive weight, thereby leading to hypertension. The problem extends beyond the pregnancy itself, with postpartum depression and breastfeeding problems being more prevalent in women with eating disorders.

The good news is that women recovering from eating disorders can have healthy babies. It is vital that they discuss their issue with their health care provider and that they enlist the help of qualified nutritionists and a therapist, to ensure they eat adequately, exercise safely and that they learn necessary psychological strategies which will help them have a healthy, happy and safe pregnancy.

Guest post by Melissa Stevens

Posted on March 27, 2015 .

Savvy Girl A Guide to Eating - Kindle Flash Sale for Eating Disorder Awareness Week

As an eating disorder specialist, prevention of eating disorders is a cause near and dear to my heart. My primary reason for spending a year writing Savvy Girl A Guide to Eating, was to help women everywhere normalize their eating, learn to enjoy food again, and build a long term healthy relationship with food and their bodies.

Published in December 2014, Savvy Girl A Guide to Eating is full of personal stories of my own  and one client's journey from chronic dieting to intuitive eating. The 4-5 hour guide book offers concrete examples and visuals for how the reader can transform from an unhappy, unhealthy dieter, to a happy, healthy intuitive eater.

In honor of Eating Disorder Awareness week, the book is available in Kindle version on for only $1.99. Now is the time to read it and spread the word to help others get out of the detrimental prison of chronic dieting. If you are a blogger or food/fitness professional and would like to offer your fans a giveaway challenge please email me directly and we can have books sent to you.

Read more about my awesome co-author, former client and lifestyle blogger Brittany Deal, who made it possible for this book to come to life.

Posted on February 25, 2015 .

How Dieting Perpetuates Binge Eating

How many times have you heard people say they’re trying to lose weight and need to go on another diet? In this post we will guide you toward why dieting won't help and what you can do instead.

With the $61 billion dollar weight loss industry, we are looking for guidance in hopes that the industry is really helping us achieve optimal health. As we begin to follow these food-restrictive diets, we start to develop “food fears” without being aware of how detrimental it can be both on the body and mind.

What occurs during the dieting mindset:

  • With rigid food rules, food and diet anxiety starts to occur
  • Feelings of guilt arise and food becomes a moral issue
  • Pleasure and satisfaction from eating are lost
  • There is a slow build of distrust with the body as it cannot tell you cues of satiety

As worry and fear start to set in, we begin to ignore direct messages coming from our bodies, such as early hunger and when to stop eating. In Hawks’ study, he describes how dieters who experience the dieting mindset are more likely to show signs of eating disorders, lower psychological well-being and more body-dissatisfaction.

Many studies have shown that dieting perpetuates emotional eating and binge eating disorder (BED). BED is characterized by frequent episodes of extreme overeating, feeling out of control while binging followed by feelings of guilt and shame after eating. It is the most common eating disorder in the United States. It’s twice as prevalent as Bulimia and Anorexia Nervosa. An estimated 3.5% of women, 2% of men and 30% - 40% of those who seek treatment for weight loss have BED. The disorder impacts people of all ages, races, incomes and levels of education.

The dieting cycle from Savvy Girl: A Guide to Eating 2014, B. Deal & S. Brooks

The dieting cycle from Savvy Girl: A Guide to Eating 2014, B. Deal & S. Brooks

Over 50% of those with BED are obese, 19% are of normal weight and 36% are overweight according to BMI. The deprivation caused by dieting is often the prescription given to obese and overweight individuals, however it makes binge eating worse, and the person is very likely to continue to gain weight. As a result, the cycle continues with trying more diets; binge eating with feelings of shame and guilt about their eating.


Binge eating behavior must first be treated by using a non-diet, non-weight focused treatment approach such as Intuitive Eating and  Health at Every Size (HAES).

  • Practice mindfulness: self-connect and be aware as you are the expert of your own body
  • Tell yourself you will never be on a diet again and that you trust your body to tell you when it is hungry or full
  • Give yourself permission to eat and do not judge yourself because eating is good for our bodies
  • Treat accompanying psychological disorder(s) such as depression
  • Eat for physical reasons, not emotional reasons
  • Find other ways to cope with stress and other not-so-fun emotions
  • Find an enjoyable activity to keep active

Some might ask how can we eat anything we want? Once we no longer feel deprived, the novelty wears off and we begin to eat foods that make our bodies feel more energetic and healthier. The urge to binge becomes less impulsive and gradually decreases as you re-learn to trust yourself with food. As you become more self-aware your body will also begin to feel what foods make you feel better than others. Enjoy foods that satisfy you.

Learn more about how to stop dieting in  Savvy Girl: A Guide to Eating, and consider finding a professional who knows how to treat Binge Eating behavior to help.

Sumner Brooks is a registered dietitian nutritionist, co-author of Savvy Girl: A Guide to Eating, and is a certified Intuitive Eating counselor. Contact Sumner directly for guidance and help to stop binge eating, chronic dieting and other eating-related concerns.  Learn more about the Savvy Girl guide book series here.

Post was written by Amy Vida and Sumner Brooks, owner and dietitian at Not On A Diet in Torrance, CA.

Works Cited:

  1. Binge Eating Disorder Association. Date Accessed January 17, 2015.
  2. Deal B, Brooks, S. Savvy Girl: A Guide to Eating. Brittany Deal. United States. 2014.
  3. Romanick, N. Mindful Based Strategies for BED Treatment. Rosewood Institute Webinar.  2015.
  4. Reel J. Eating Disorders: An Encyclopedia of Causes, Treatment, and Prevention. ABC-CLO; 2013.
  5. Terisue, MPH, Hawks. S. Intuitive Eating, Diet Composition, and the Meaning of Food in Healthy Weight Promotion. American Journal of Health Education. 2013; vol(37): 130-136
  6. Tribole, E. Intuitive Eating: Make Peace with Food, Mind and Body. Date Accessed: January 17, 2015.
Posted on January 22, 2015 .

Eat Well after Bringing Your Baby Home - 7 Tips for New Moms

Yesterday my precious baby girl turned a whopping 6 weeks old! I’d always heard my friends who had babies talk about how fast the time goes, but it truly has flown by. I feel like it was just yesterday we were driving to the hospital as the sun came up to be induced and ready to welcome her into this crazy world.

NutritionWithNewBorn .jpg

So, at this milestone of 6 weeks for her, I realized I reached a milestone of my own. Two things happened that brought to light that I just might be starting to get a small hang of this mothering thing. 1) I actually made and ate a fresh salad and 2) I found the time to write this post!

Now, you might be thinking, what’s the big deal about making and eating a salad? Or finding time to hash out a blog post? Well, one of the things I didn’t fully realize before baby, was how little time I would actually feel I had to shop, prepare and eat food, or do anything besides cuddle, nurse, change baby and maybe catch a shower or some sleep. I feel like I’ve been in the twilight zone as far as meals and eating goes, and today I began (knock on wood) to turn a corner.

New parents are tired, worried, overjoyed, emotional and very, very busy meeting all of their baby’s needs. Yet, at the same time, as a mom who just finally made it out of 9 months of pregnancy, I know I was ready to start recuperating from labor and feeling better. Since eating can be a big part of feeling good and maintaining your much needed energy, I’m going to share some tips for eating well with a newborn based on what I’ve learned over these past 6 weeks.

1) You need protein often - most importantly this will help keep up your milk supply if you’re nursing. You need calories to produce milk and baby needs milk! It also helps you maintain your muscle and strength as you lose weight after pregnancy. Try easy grab n’ go proteins every 2-4 hours such as cottage cheese, Greek-style yogurt, nuts, nitrate-free deli meats, tuna salad (limit to once weekly while nursing due to mercury), roasted chicken (buy or make ahead and keep in fridge), milk, protein powder for smoothies.  Combine a protein with an easy carbohydrate such as fresh or dried fruit, whole grain bread or crackers, or frozen banana in a smoothie with yogurt.

2) Keep dinner easy - at least in the beginning, don’t try to be wonder woman and make dinner every night. Let friends and family bring you meals, get some healthful take out such as Mediterranean food, fish tacos, or Mexican salads with rice and beans. You’ll burn out and be let down if you expect yourself to cook too much. I’ve had cereal with nuts or peanut butter and honey sandwiches many nights over these past few weeks.

3) Listen to and honor your hunger - you may feel increased hunger when you are breastfeeding. Breastfeeding increases mom’s calorie needs by around 300-600 calories a day, plus you are healing from the delivery or c-section, and you are running around like a chicken with your head cut off learning how to nurture and care for your sweet baby. So don’t ignore your body’s hunger signals or you risk shutting down your metabolism and possibly even slowing your milk production.

4) Don’t OD on the caffeine - as much as you may feel you need that extra large Starbuck’s every morning, try to take it easy on the caffeine and stick to the amount you had during pregnancy. The biggest benefit here is that you will be able to sleep when your little one sleeps. If you don’t take advantage of the nap time, you could end up majorly sleep deprived and left just with jitters and headaches. Studies show some caffeine should not interrupt your infant’s sleep patterns or give tummy aches, but each baby and mom will be affected differently.

5) Eat fat - it’s vital for you and your baby to have healthy fats in your diet. Every day try to eat 2-4 servings of nuts, natural nut butter, fish, avocado, or olive oil. This helps maximize absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and also helps keep you satisfied and energized. These fats are a rich source of nutrients and calories which your body will appreciate as it’s healing, recovering, and feeding a growing newborn brain which grows 1% bigger every day! Brain tissue is largely composed of fat, so make sure to take a good quality omega-3 supplement that contains EPA and DHA  which is readily passed on to your newborn through breast milk. If you’re not breastfeeding, feed your baby a formula that is fortified with DHA.

6) Don’t stress about your eating - no stress is good stress, so in the beginning it’s perfectly fine if you find yourself eating cookies and milk for breakfast and leftover pizza for lunch or just grabbing turkey slices out of the fridge with your free hand. Give yourself the time you need to even make simple meals come together. The bottom line is you need nourishment and calories - your body and baby will survive if you don’t have fruits and vegetables at every meal (or every day for that matter!) I know that for me, my entire mind was just consumed with meeting her needs and answering her cries and I didn’t even think about food for the first couple weeks. Keep taking a good quality prenatal vitamin, iron supplement and omega-3 daily to make up for any gaps in your diet. Everything will fall in to place as you learn how to be you in this new life of yours. Try some of the simple meals at the bottom of this post to get some balanced meals in.

7) Keep food in your diaper bag - I think almost every time I left the house the first few weeks I realized I was starving because my mind had been totally caught up in getting the baby ready to go on time that I forgot to feed myself. Keep almonds, dried apples and Larabars in the bag so you can get some calories and nutrition in when you need it. Sitting in the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office might be the best time for your breakfast!

Quick, Nutritious Meals for Eating Well with a Newborn

  • High fiber cereal with milk, nuts and fruit
  • Protein smoothie: water, plain Greek-style yogurt (protein and calcium), frozen pineapple (for Vit C), banana, natural peanut butter (fat), hemp protein powder (for omega-3 and fiber)
  • High fiber store-bought muffin or whole wheat English muffin with almond butter
  • Cottage cheese, fruit, nuts and granola
  • Peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread with honey and cinnamon
  • Nitrate-free deli meat sandwich with cheese or avocado
  • Organic store-bought soup or chili with salsa and tortilla chips
Posted on September 23, 2014 .

Top 10 Reasons to Stop Dieting and Learn to Eat Intuitively


I'm wrapping up a very exciting time in my life - co-authoring my first book! I can't wait to share the book with you when it's ready sometime this fall. But for now, what I want to share are my Top 10 Reasons to Stop Dieting and Learn to Eat Intuitively.

My co-author, who also happens to be a former client, recently gave me some feedback on the book writing process and something she said was really powerful. She said that what was making the editing to meet space requirements most difficult, was that I had so much content to share and so much passion to convey to the reader about getting off the dieting bandwagon, she couldn't decide what to keep and what to toss. This got me thinking - that she's right. I am incredibly passionate about helping people get out of food and dieting jail, and as cliche as it sounds, my passion comes from going through that very process in my own life.

Living through the hell of chronic dieting, weight concerns, self-loathing, food restriction and binging and coming out alive on the other side as a happy, peaceful, healthy person is what drives me to help others do the same.  Here are the Top 10 Reasons to Stop Dieting and Learn to Eat Intuitively, and I'd love to hear your comments about what all I've missed. I'm positive there are more than 10 reasons... so help me compile a list of 100!  Here we go!

1. No more waking up feeling bad about the day before - alternatively you can feel much better (physically and mentally) much more often!

2. Total, complete freedom to enjoy any food at the right time

3. No stress about what to eat - you learn to want the foods that make you feel great, and eat fewer of the foods that don't.

4. No more starting a restrictive diet - ever! (you may still have to put up with listening about other people's diets unfortunately)

5. Save all the money you would have spent on diets, books, pills, shakes, etc and spend it on something that makes you happy!

6. You don't have to exercise off the calories you feel bad about eating - exercise because you love the way it feels!

7. Actually learn to have love and acceptance of your precious body at any size - don't take it for granted.

8. You don't have to crash diet before an event or a vacation

9. There is SO much more time, space and energy in life for what really matters to you.

10. Dieting and deprivation actually create feelings of failure, depression, anxiety about eating, self-loathing and.... more emotional eating.

Posted on July 8, 2014 .