Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth nutrition, fitness and adventure courses, and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+..
After every attempt to end her lifelong torment with food had failed, Courtney (shown at right)-an anorexic-bulimic with telltale hair breakage, absent menstrual periods, severe skin problems, and skin-and-bones frame-had exhausted all means of restriction. She was close to death.
Courtney’s father begged her to admit herself into a famous eating disorder facility, only to see the results of his $30,000 investment wasted. Not even the myriad prescription drugs she was given could calm Courtney’s determination to restrict or purge her food intake.
Soon after the failure of that expensive chapter of Courtney’s journey, she discovered my book, and-with doctor supervision-attended my five-day program. I gave her some new ways to channel her perfectionism, including doing the opposite of self-deprivation when it comes to nutrient intake, and avoiding the blood sugar-spiking food choices that made her much more likely to binge. Mind you, Courtney had not eaten any notable amounts of healthful, non-inflammatory fats, or even organic dairy fats, such as cream or butter, in a very long time. Here, she talks about her experience at my program:
“I was eating these otherworldly, full-fat foods and began feeling my body drop its impatient chatter at each meal, as if it wanted to just be still to take in and savor something in the food. The new food I was eating never gave me that old feeling food always gave me. I kept waiting for my urge to binge (which would inevitably be followed by a purge). But the urge never came. This was a shock that continued each day until I’d gone through a week without either restricting or purging. Once home, I cooked exactly the same dishes that we had at the program. For weeks, I kept wondering, ‘Is this the meal I will feel out of control with?’ But again, it never happened.”
Courtney’s family was floored by the physical and behavioral changes in her. Her menstrual period returned after four years without one. Her cystic acne disappeared. Her sleep returned, and she was able to discontinue four medications for mood, anxiety, sleep, and acid reflux.
“Now I have a flat stomach, no acid reflux, and I get the kind of compliments on my shape that I always wanted, but never got before while I was restricting. And I have not stepped on a scale since before the program,” Courtney says.
A New Outlook
“That suffering should be a lifestyle-this was the greatest myth I bought into,” says Courtney. “I have been free of my need or desire to restrict food intake for almost two years now, and I know now that much of what my body was crying out for was deeper nourishment. My father never thought I would start eating again. He thought he would lose me. Now, I indulge without restraint in decadent, nutrient-dense food. I haven’t changed in size. And there is joy in my kitchen!
“Feel-Good” Brain Chemicals
Imbalances in serotonin and dopamine have been directly linked to depression, anxiety, insomnia, carb cravings, and even compulsions. The amino acids L-tryptophan (or its derivative, 5-HTP) and L-tyrosine have been shown in studies to increase serotonin and dopamine without side effects.
Blood Sugar Nutrients
Chromium, gymnema, cinnamon, and alpha-lipoic acid, among other nutrients, help the body use insulin and metabolize sugar more efficiently, averting blood sugar changes that can create cravings and mood swings. Zinc brought back appetite to anorexics in one study.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s, like fish oil, have been proven to significantly reduce just about all of the common mood disorders connected with eating disorders and other addictions.
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
NAC has shown promise in reducing obsessive-compulsive behaviors and raising serotonin and dopamine levels.
B-vitamin deficiencies have been linked to both depression and many addictions. Low levels of folic acid have been associated