The Feedbag Method: How to Beat Food Cravings, Bingeing, and Emotional Eating

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In line with the shift in focus in the new Diet Recovery, I thought it was worthy to post this insightful passage from Geneen Roth’s book, When Food is Love.  It’s about letting kids regulate their own eating, but certainly applies to making the same leap ourselves.  I had posted this in an old blog of mine that no longer exists, and it’s worth the reposting – especially for all the health-conscious moms out there who, despite really wanting the best for their kids, are disheartened by the fact that efforts to get junior to eat healthy have resulted in junior being a ravenous sugar fiend.

There is mounting evidence that the more a parent interferes with a child’s eating, the more harm is done.  The human body is fully equipped with a very sophisticated energy-regulating system, and attempts to consciously intervene are known to backfire – causing disordered eating behavior and higher rates of developing both eating disorders and obesity later in life.  More simply put, the less you let your kids (and YOUR body) decide when, what, and how much to eat based on internal cues – the worse off they will likely be.  Of course, there are unique circumstances that defy statistics, but the outcome seems more likely to be negative than positive.  Plus, who wants to have this kind of dictatorial and/or dehumanizing punish/reward relationship with your children to begin with?  Or yourself for that matter.  Been there and done that for a solid decade of Krispy Kreme dreams.

This means that you shouldn’t really encourage or discourage your child to eat, or not eat, any particular food.  The greater the neutrality with food in general, the more the playing field is leveled between broccoli and Butterfinger.  And when nothing is restricted, a child is more likely to eat until they are satisfied but not beyond.  To me, this is the ultimate tool a parent can impart to a child in today’s modern eating environment.  The true food ninjas in today’s day and age are those who eat when they are hungry, and eat to the point of fullness – no more or less.  This can only happen when all food types are abundant, there is no pressure involved with eating choices as well as rewards or punishments, foods of various kinds are not filed into definitive good and bad categories, etc.

When there is true neutrality with food, issues like binge eating, emotional eating, food addiction, and other eating characteristics of the obese and those with eating disorders alike, cannot exist.  Without further ado, here is the passage I speaketh of.  This should be called “The Feedbag Method” for achieving food neutrality.  I highly recommend it for kids and adults alike.  Whether one develops a distaste for a given “trigger” food or not, I think you’ll find both kids and adults feel and function better metabolically when this type of food relationship becomes a way of life…

“My friend Clara told me a story about a client of hers, an eight-year-old child who had been on a diet for two years and had gained fourteen pounds in the process.  In desperation, her mother consulted Clara; Clara asked what her daughter’s favorite food was.  ‘M&Ms,’ the mother replied.

‘Good, I want you to leave here and buy enough M&Ms to fill a pillowcase.  After you’ve done that, give the filled pillowcase to your daughter and let her eat the candy whenever she wants.  As soon as the supply is diminished, refill it.  Make sure she always has a full pillowcase of M&Ms.  Take her off the diet, let her eat whatever she wants when she is hungry, and call me in a week.’

After shrieking with horror and telling Clara that if her daughter gained fifty pounds, she was going to send her to live at Clara’s house, the mother crept out of Clara’s office, into a supermarket, and then home to her linen closet. 

Her daughter carried the pillowcase of M&Ms around with her for eight days.  She slept with it, she set it beside the tub when she took a bath, she put it in a chair when she watched television.  And, of course, she helped herself to M&Ms whenever she wanted them.  Which, the first few days, was very often.  In fact, after her mother bought three more pounds of M&Ms on the third day of this sugar-coated experience, she was ready to sue Clara.  In a hysterical phone call, she told her that her child was eating more candy than ever before and how the hell was she supposed to lose weight doing this?  Clara reassured her that her daughter was reacting to the years of deprivation and that when she believed, really believed, that she could eat whatever she wanted and that her mother was not waiting to snatch her pillowcase away, she would relax and begin eating from stomach hunger. 

On the ninth day, the pillowcase stayed in the bedroom.  By the end of five weeks, her daughter had forgotten the M&Ms and had lost six pounds.”

Further reading on “The Trust Method

Futility of restricting access to palatable foods


  1. First!! Absolutely freakin’ superb! Love Geneen Roth!

  2. “There is mounting evidence that the more a parent interferes with a child’s eating, the more harm is done.” Totally. And then somehow the child is blamed if they wind up with a weight problem and/or an eating disorder?? I mostly flat-out refuse to see people’s kids/teens as clients – they just don’t need to be making a big deal out of their nutrition and getting obsessed by it, too right it fosters an unhealthy relationship with food. I prefer to help people who are trying to come OUT of that mess, why the hell would I assist young kids down that slippery slope. Gave your book a plug today Matt – recommending to most people I see. Not sure about the “feed bag” method… hopefully most kids don’t get to that stage.. Although similar to a few months of solid bingeing coming out of anorexia – it serves a purpose both physically (RRARF-style I suppose) and psychologically (did for me anyway).

  3. the rule in our house used to be, “you have to take one bite of everything”. now the rule is “eat as much as you want of whatever you want”. and my teenager hasn’t overloaded on junk food.

    • Karen,
      We follow both in our house. When our kids were little we would have them taste everything because kids can easily make food something it’s not in their over-imaginative minds. There were many occasions where they thought they wouldn’t like something, then, after their one bite taste, discovered they loved it. Those foods would not have become a part of their food choices if they hadn’t at least tasted it. But, we didn’t force them to eat something if, after tasting it, they really didn’t like it. I think both approaches are important to expanding freedom and choice with food.

  4. My kids have to try everything that I cook for dinner – TRY. Other than that, we have a pretty free-range approach to food here. I stock the house with mostly healthy, whole foods, and then let the kids eat just about whatever they want, whenever they want, with the period of time in which I’m cooking dinner being the exception to the rule, mostly because I will cry if no one eats dinner, lol. While they have their foods they don’t really like – cooked carrots, onions, any type of cooked fish (though they’ll eat sushi til they bankrupt you) – I don’t have any of the picky eater issues that I see my friends struggle with. Hell, I won’t eat raw onions, and I hated cooked carrots til I was in my late teens; why should I expect my kids to love or even want to eat EVERYTHING?

  5. I tried that with unfettered access to a candy drawer- didn’t work for my kids. Maybe because it wasn’t portable and didn’t feel like it was truly theirs.

    So instead I kept the candy drawer but said they could have 2 a day – when and if were up to them (mostly at first it was the first thing they ate as soon as they woke up, now mostly they forget about it or take their candy in the evening before dinner).

    I also serve dessert every night, WITH dinner (not after as a ‘reward’). I put it all on the plate, vegetables, main course, sometimes a novelty, and dessert, and don’t say anything. Sometimes they eat it first sometimes not. Sometimes dessert is brownies, but sometimes it’s fruit. Sometimes they eat their veggies, sometimes they don’t – and we don’t judge either way. And now they try more stuff (they can’t learn to like what they aren’t served) and are good eaters. They happily eat brown rice and smoked salmon and broccoli alongside their ice cream. And I happily serve them oatmeal topped with rainbow sprinkles and real maple syrup for breakfast. Now when they go to birthday parties they hardly ever finish the cake or cupcake that they are given, whereas I see the kids who are restricted gulping it down and then getting into fights with their parents over wanting a second portion.

    There are so many other things that go into this, though. Like, we don’t have a TV and when they do watch cartoons occasionally, it’s commercial-free, so they aren’t exposed to hours of food advertising each week.

    I also cook with them (they are 3 and 5 years old so it’s very messy!). It makes a huge difference in what they are willing to eat and try, my 5 year old helped me make Hungarian Mushroom Soup and cornbread and ate it all because she had made it (and developed an affinity for fresh dill in the process). This has helped them be more open to new foods. I put it on their plates and they can throw it on the floor or inhale it – over the past year it’s evened out to them trying new things by choice, and either liking it or not. And the taste testing applies to sweets as well – we try new vegetables and other foods (a new sushi-lover in the house) but we also try new flavors of ice cream and talk about all the different flavors..

    • Hmm, intriguing…the Hungarian Mushroom Soup. My husband is Hungarian and I’ve never heard of that one. Must look up the recipe.

      I also have found that when my children are involved in making the food, they’re more interested in eating it. Same with the garden and fresh, raw veggies. If they spend time with me out there, they begin tasting things right off the vine or plant. Usually happens around age 3 and it really helps expand their veggie variety.

      • yes, faux Hungarian concoction for sure, from Moosewood. Not really that great, otherwise I’d post the recipe. The cornbread was MUCH better!

  6. Okay… I have had issues with food, now becoming better, but,,, I still have issues, especially a big issue with a single food, cookies. I always super hyper prohibit myself to buy cookies (anykind) because whenever I do (not so often now) I end up bingeing on them :/. But I suffer everytime I go to the supermarket and walk around that section because damn, I love them and I remember I could buy cookies in the past and enjoy them sometimes for breakfast or even snack without bingeing or feeling guilty and so on… I miss those sweet times of freedom,,,

    So, my question is, to overcome it… I am thinking to follow your advices in the book and here and literally, fill up my house with cookies. But at the same time I am scared… maybe I will eat the whole thing (because I have done such things before, bingeing very badly) and maybe I don’t have limit and eat until I explode :/ or until I am a fatass,,,

    I keep thinking about it, because I love those small sweet carby things… but whenever I have had cookies, I have ate a ton of them and skipped next meals, because all i want is eating cookies… yep, I am a cookie monster, I know :P.
    Seriously, this can seem funny but is not. I have a big historial of restrictive eating, bingeing, forbidding myself many foods (like cookies, or bread, or cereals, or sugar…), I am tired of feeling a slave of food, especially when I am still 28, not fat, and I have been “normal” with food until 25,,,,,

    Any suggestions? How can i overcome this cookie’s obsession or avpiding myself to stuff my face on cookies until I die?

    • Having had a similar issue myself, I think you’re already thinking on the right lines. Fill up your house with cookies and eat them whenever the hell you want. If you binge, fine. Don’t feel guilty. Think of it like you’re taking your medicine because this technique is actually therapeutic. Eventually, the cravings will subside. Once your body and mind know that you can have a cookie any time you want, the binging will stop. Oreos used to be a problem for me. Now I rarely eat them. I’m currently working through a soda obsession, and that is taking a bit longer, because I can’t seem to let go of the guilt associated with it.

      • I am also working through a soda obsession right now, and I had not yet made the connection with the guilt factor. Thanks for bringing it up!

    • Eri – what you could do is make a batch of cookies for yourself and keep the formed dough in your freezer – many good recipes suggest freezing the dough anyways because it keeps for quite a while. Then, whenever you want a cookie(s) just pop it into the oven. Still readily available to eat as many as you want, just have to wait 10 minutes.

      I find the process of making a really good cookie therapeutic in and of itself. If its a great recipe I appreciate it a million times more and savor it more than, say, just scarfing down sleeve after sleeve of Chips Ahoys

      I HIGHLY recommend making the Jacque Torres New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie. Google it. It’s a bit of a fussy recipe, but holyyyyy crapppp. If you make them as suggested, the cookies come out HUGE, and are hands down the best cookie I’ve ever eaten. I’m getting a foodgasm thinking about them (hey Matt, I guess that means my sex drive is coming back lol).

      PS – thanks for stealing my name ;-). I’m going to have to find a new moniker. Are you “Eri” short for “Erin”?

    • Like I said in the article, whether you lose your taste for the favorite food or not, you’ll probably still function a lot better with it. If I don’t eat cookies for breakfast, I eat something else with similar qualities – sugar and starch with some fat that tastes yummy and is pretty calorie-dense. I think you should go for it, but eat the cookies with “meals.” Once you start eating cookies for meals instead of cooking, it’s hard to go back to cooking. Even if you are sick of cookies!

    • Eri, it may not help to eat a million cookies. I wonder if your body might just be craving starch, sugar, fat, chocolate (i.e., something in the cookies), or just calories overall.

      When I was recovering from my ED, I used to crave (seriously crave) butter mixed up with brown sugar and even sometimes flour. Essentially a kind of icing or raw cookie dough. I literally ate tons of it. I could eat an entire pack of butter (the 16 TB size) with sugar in a night. This all went away once I got proper nutrition in 3 square meals/day, and gained weight (I was really underweight). I haven’t wanted the butter/sugar stuff in ages.

      This is all to say, you probably do need to eat cookies if you crave them, but you may be better of having a few after dinner (maybe buy a small pack to keep around), but really focus on getting enough real food in and eating what you’re really craving of the real foods – too many people don’t eat all the meat/potatoes/rice they are craving because they’re concerned they’re eating too much, and then they end up hungry for cookies a few hours later. If you fix all of this and still want cookies, then maybe try to unlimited supply trick, but I don’t know that I would go there first, personally.

      • this reminds me of sally fallon’s story in nourishing traditions about the prisoners of war that were released to a big feast of all kinds of food and the thing they all stuffed themselves with was all the butter.

  7. Thank you Bonnie! It’s so relieving to read other people has similar issues…
    I’ just trying to convince myself and overcome the fear of having cookies… and being able to have them anytime I want… o_o… it’s both my heaven and my hell. Maybe I will eat only cookies for 5 days? or one week? I am scared of myself!!

  8. I agree with this post. Overall I think we do need to give our kids healthy options, but making sugar or junk food off limits makes that food seem more appealing. Its great when your 4 yr old chooses plain old good food over junk because they have no love affair with the junk. That being said I grew up with unlimited amounts of soda, junk food, and candy and I wish my Mom would have been a bit more strict, I still struggle with an addiction to soda, I don’t drink a lot, but I can’t go for more than a few days w/o it. Even giving myself unlimited access doesn’t cure it because its as if my body thinks it needs it, so doing that just makes it worse. I used to be able to satisfy the need with Kombucha, but then I decided tea has too much fluoride.

    • And I had the opposite experience Janelle. My mom was the quintessential “health nut” and I never had sugar growing up. She would get into fights with my Grandma when she tried to give me homemade pound cake. As a result I had intense cravings and low blood sugar. I would have dreams about eating candy bars and wake up just before taking that first bite. I thought that people who ate fast food were immoral or something.

      I’ve had to fight for years to feel ok about eating a little sugar. It took me reading this blog for a couple of years to realize that maybe I have LOW blood sugar because I NEED to eat sugar. LOL!

  9. Keep your child hungry is vile crime.

  10. Love that you posted this Matt! Geneen’s Roth is amount my favs and has helped me so much. This particular issue hits home for me bc this was me as a child-restricted, being yelled at for wanting a cookie while others sat and ate them, and was always on a diet while being whispered about bc I wasn’t losing weight. Duh! Bc an 8 year old doesn’t need to diet, and will most certainly learn to hide and sneak food, and be downright fearful of it.

    Eri-you most certainly should fill your house with cookies and do this until you truly believe that you can have them whenever. I did this with MANY foods, cookies being one of them. First it was all the store bought ones-Oreos, chips ahoy, Keebler….when I realizes those tasted like crap anyway(after numerous bags) I stopped buying them-only bc I truly didn’t want them, not because I believed I couldn’t have them. Fresh baked cookies and the raw dough was always a weakness, so I also baked dozens and dozens of cookies, every day for I forget how long. I ate them raw, cooked, half cooked, mid-day for lunch, for breakfast, late at night…..until the cravings started going away. At some point I used to make the whole batch of cookies, but only bake a few and than freeze the rest for a later date. Than I started becoming a cookie snob and if the dough wasn’t perfect or they did not bake just right I wouldn’t eat them. After looking at the dough for months in the freezer I ended up tossing it and haven’t been craving a cookie since.

    When you give yourself permission to eat whatever you want it loses its appeal. You no longer stand over the tray and burn your mouth to shove 5 bookies in your face before anyone sees. I still love my homemade cookies, but don’t feel the need to eat them everyday.

    I also did this with brownies. And those tubes of refrigerated biscuits. And White Castle. Do this with every forbidden food!!!!! But truly commit-don’t say your doing it but secretly restrict in your head. Go balls to the wall. Somewhere along the way you will realize that you really don’t want to eat that shit everyday-sometimes we create this drama and need for things in our brains that is a fantasy and when we actually let ourselves eat what we want, we realize that being scared of gaining weight bc all you’ll ever want to eat is cookies is silly-realistically all you want is a few cookies, a few times a year which will not make you gain 1000lbs. :)

    • Very well said, thank you! I have trouble not secretly restricting in my head, but I am working on it. My biggest hang up is figuring out what to say to loved ones who know I have been dieting (and really super interested in health), when they want to know why I am eating jelly toast all day. It’s hard to explain that reading the phrase “toast with real butter and some jelly” actually made me cry about a week ago, lol… It feels soooo good to eat it, and shut my eyes, and taste every little crispy buttery bit. But I know that EVERYTHING I have ever binged on fully in the past turned out to just be food after all. I could take it or leave it once the “magic food spell” was broken in my mind.

      It’s too bad there isn’t a set number of days that works for everyone, so you would know for sure that you weren’t leaping off into the abyss of fat by indulging your craving. I wish I knew, but honestly noone out there has ever done just exactly this, at my exact height and weight and age and stress level, with my exact set of neurotic tendencies, and my exact family history – so noone can really tell me how this will work out for me. I have to jump all on my own to find out.

  11. Good stuff, Matt.

    I think deprivation comes in multiple forms and each probably has slightly different effects. Growing up, money was tight, and I remember feeling jealous that mom would treat herself to as much diet soda as she wanted, while I had to ration my regular soda. And I was always very aware of money constraints.

    On the other hand, despite my very picky tastes and eating habits, I was never given any prescriptions about what I should be eating. Anything went. I remember that I would make my own lunch and my friends would marvel that it was a half pound of gummi bears, seven or eight oatmeal cookies, and maybe some saltines or cheez its. Whatever I wanted was the practice nutritionally, if not financially, as far as my family was concerned.

    At one point, mom was dating a guy who had more hard line views about food- I was to eat what was on my plate for dinner, or go to bed immediately, hungry. It was awful.

    Anyway, I wonder if we’ll ever be able to pinpoint what forms of parental interference produce each variation of disordered eating in kids, or whether it’s too multi-factorial to pin down.

    • There’s quite a body of research out there asking these same kinds of questions. Most conclude that a regular eating structure, square meals without pressure to eat more or less of any foods given, and no cues to eat more or less is the safest route. But there’s obviously an infinite amount of nuance to the general attitudes around food.

      As a kid, I imagine part of your drive to concoct that lunch was out of ease. I think a whole buffet of foods laid before you with gummi bears and oatmeal cookies included in that selection would have resulted in a plate full of food with a lot more than just cookies and gummi bears on it. I think ease and convenience could be a big part of the problem in today’s food world. A lot of wholesome, nutritious, and less hyperpalatable food gets displaced by the drive for convenience.

      Hopefully in the future the virtues of fast food (cheap, quick, available everywhere) and desire for higher quality square meals made from scratch with few additives will mesh together. Right now you can only get this kind of thing at places like Whole Foods. And their food usually tastes like ass, is expensive, and is still filled with soy oil.

      • tastes like ass….lol…

        • Pretty much all health food stores make all their prepared food out of produce and meats that were too old and disgusting looking to sell in the store fresh. Hence the disgustingness of it.

          • Huh, interesting. That sucks!

  12. Interesting reading. After twelve years of anorexia/bulimia/just plain disordered and obsessive thinking about food and weight (and weighing close to the ‘overweight’ BMI) I find myself wanting to do this kind of thing but unable to stick to it for more than a few weeks. Maybe sometime I’ll get there.

    Anyway, my real question here is, could this reasoning apply to diet drinks? I find them so addictive, but I wonder whether the substances in them could make them a special case. If so, any tips on cutting down or even quitting?

    Thanks in advance!

    • My girlfriend managed to give up diet drinks by switching over to regular soft drinks.

      • BOOM! What I did was to start getting a tall Starbucks mocha frappucino with whipped cream in the morning. Now the diet soda days are gone, because really chocolate is much better. I am way more alert, only on the one coffee a day. My sleep and mood are so much better, and I don’t run to the bathroom all day and night. I also have regular soda instead of diet if I have the craving, and I really don’t even want more than a few sips, maybe a tumblerfull over ice. I ended up trying a Diet Pepsi one day and drank 2 cans in a row, and I was just about laid out with almost like a jittery anxiety attack. It can’t be the caffeine, because coffee has way more, and I always get an extra shot of esspresso.

    • I think addiction come more easily when there is a deficiency in the diet;

      ie, if your diet is low in calories, you will be far more attracted and drawn to high calorie foods.
      Once you have sufficient calories- you will be attracted to a range of different types of food, and the old ones will have lost some of their hold/attraction.

      I know this is a vague example, but it is just to convey a general idea.
      Addictions lose their hold when the body is getting everything it needs to be happy and satisfied.

      • Thank you both. I’ll give it some thought.

      • This is what im thinking more&more lately,however i wonder if its just about calories. Im thinking more about mineral uptake/absorption and balance bc if that is whack you dont take up other vitamins properly so you can eat huge amounts of stuff and still not get over it while becoming fat?…and is this bc of bad gut flora/leaky gut?
        Am halfway through reading DR2,but havent come across this being discussed(yet?) Till now it just reads as if it is just ‘simply’packing in calories,which i find a bit disappointing but like said im only halfway so. Who knows and still a nice read if only for matts humor:) (though i have to say i like the old books with scientific studies more,kinda reassu4es me more thhough i know scientific studies can easily be manipulated as well)

        I think it was at billy craigs site,where i read one could only handle sugar well when one has sufficient mineral(balance). I must also conclude that salty foo#ds such as cheese rob me of minetals and have to be evened out with himalayan salt which makes it all too salty

        • Come on, himalayan salt does not have minerals in large enough quantities to make any difference in mineral re-balancing, whatsoever. Come on, come on, come on dutchie!!!! There are other natural substances far more rich in minerals.

          By the way, cheese is so very incredibly mineral rich. How come you conclude it is de-mineralizing you?

          And for the leaky gut and unwanted gut organisms, there is little hope in fixing that if body doesn’t produce enough energy. :) Or at least, if you are sure you have a parasite, you can try feeding your body and killing the bug with some anti-parasitic substance.

    • Christina- diet soda is really tricky because it makes you more thirsty. And it is addictive. I was a diet coke addict for over 20 years but I gave them up when I got pregnant. I felt a lot better after a week or so but it took a lot of willpower. I have given up alcohol and cigarettes too and I think diet coke was the hardest. But now I just enjoy a regular coke once in a while. Just go cold turkey and let yourself have regular soda for a while- you wll never be able to drink as much regular soda as you can diet.

  13. As this post is more about childhood obesity,cravings and restrictive parents.
    For one,i was never restricted as a child,yet grew fatter and more sluggish whilst eating everything bc it all tastes so good. How do you xplain that?

    I wonder if it does really make a difference if one eats purely homemade ‘junk’ or storebougth in regards to appetite,binges,satiety,food addictions,possible nutrient malabsorption,energy,metabolism etc.? Any thougths/researches on that?

  14. Sigh, what I love about reading the posts on this site is how I feel like SOMEBODY understands, because noone in my circle of people does. Like Rebecca -“It’s hard to explain that reading the phrase ‘toast with real butter and some jelly’ actually made me cry about a week ago, lol… It feels soooo good to eat it, and shut my eyes, and taste every little crispy buttery bit.”

    I had this experience this morning with an Ezekiel sprouted grain english muffin – one half had butter and grape jelly, the other half had cinnamon and honey and butter. Just stood in the kitchen in a little happy place for 5 minutes out of my day.

    Husband always says, “It’s just food”- so he doesn’t understand for sure. Mom said just last night, come live with me, I’ll get you to lose weight”- I said, “I got this way from living with you!” She was always monitoring what I ate and restricting my portions and commenting about how heavy I was. My favorite adjective she used to describe me once was – “that dress makes you look MASTODONTIC.” Yeah. I feel the need for a feedbag!!

    • I wonder if you guys won’t treat food this way if you start looking at some pictures of kids and people who are starving and have generally very miserable lives compared to ours.

      This works well if my kiddo is asking for another pair of shoes or another doll.

      • Sheesh! This is just the kind of twisted guilt trip the feedbag method tries to overcome! Why not just say, Sorry, we can’t afford it, or No, you already have perfectly good shoes?

  15. Ok, – I love this article!

    I find it to be fully in my experience!

    The true key to overcoming food issues is going beyond good and bad – ie neutrality..
    (now if I could only become neutral about weight! lol)

    My son is great, I have interfered very little, and he now he generally has full access to all the food and types and amounts of food he wants;
    and he doesnt eat much of chocolate and biscuits or so called “junk foods”.
    Lately he has been asking me for cauliflower with cheese on top, which he tells his friends is better than chocolate.

    A couple of times lately when I have been busy and not ready to cook food, and told him to just go get a biscuit or some chocolate or whatever food he can find:
    he did a big spiel about how I should be like all the other mothers and cook him real food- brocolli and cheese and so forth, and how he didnt want chocolate and biscuits, and why couldnt I cook him real food, and so on..
    It was hilarious actually, made me laugh so much..
    (I do cook him real food- just not always at the drop of a hat and when he wants it!)

    But my son exhibits fully what a person does when they are allowed to eat amounts and types of foods in an unrestricted fashion;
    he eats a range of food over time, and doesnt stick with sweets and junk- wants veges , meat etc,
    and stops eating exactly when he has had enough- in the middle of a sandwich, muffin , sweet or whatever.
    He absolutely does not want to eat when he is not hungry.

    I know it for myself too – when I have had enough I have had enough!
    And you do get sick of biscuits chocolate etc. The body has its own balance, and when it has had enough of something,
    you get an appetite for something else!

    • Yes, it’s amazing when your body has enough food to function you start having an appetite for life :-)

      • very true,
        not having enough food makes you very insular- I have found!

  16. Does the motive for the restriction matter? I really am extremely lenient with my children about their eating, but sometimes, I find myself stopping them because I just don’t want to have to make another trip to the store and spend more cash on more food. I know Matt has had this complaint as well…it costs more to eat more. :-) I suppose I have to adjust my expectations there, too, and just get used to either making or buying more food/snacks. My kids do snack a lot, partially because they’re home with me all day, every day. One is starting puberty, so it is insane the amount of food he can go through. The second one is only 8 (soon to be 9), is always snacking on something, and would probably be labeled as overweight if I brought him to the doctor (he’s put on a lot of weight this year, but is also very tall for his age). But truly, he’s really just a beefy kind of person. He was only slim-ish for a few months of his entire life. :-)

    Any thoughts on snacking? I’d rather they eat more at meals and less in between, but I haven’t made an issue of it.

    • It’s generally believed that eating more frequently is superior to eating less frequently. So I don’t think there’s any problem with snacking in and of itself.

      And yeah, some parental interference with eating is unavoidable. You can’t just drop everything to go get a kid exactly what they want at every occasion or life would revolve around the kid’s diet.

      Just being mindful that some adverse consequences can happen as a result of overly-harsh food regulation, and being sure problems don’t develop is plenty to get the benefits of this type of approach.

    • Hmm, this is interesting and something i’ve experienced as well.

      I checked out that “French kids eat everything” book, and their secret is: no snacks (except for the one in late afternoon). I tried just to see what happens, and it works – kid does eat more during the meals, but i found it too difficult to keep restricting…no way. It would work if the whole society is like that, as in France.

      Also, if kids are doing something interesting most of the time, they will snack less and eat more at meal times. The mind would be too engaged to think about the snack unless they get truly hungry from physical and mental work.

      • I love that book. Actually they do snack, gouter in the late afternoon and it’s often a chocolate sandwich :).

  17. I have always let my kids eat what they wanted, never forced them to eat anything they didn’t want. I never forced them to *try* anything either. Someday, sometime, they will try what they want to try. There are PLENTY of foods I don’t want to try. I am not deprived. Sure, maybe there is something out there that I would absolutely love the taste of, but so what? I have lots of other things that I love the taste of. I don’t need everything. My kids were never good nor bad for eating or not eating. I never worried about them eating enough or too much. A healthy child will not starve themselves. (Note-I said HEALTHY).

    There is no single food in our diet that we absolutely MUST eat, and there is no single food that we absolutely MUST avoid. I eat to the point of not being hungry. That is opposed to the point of being *full*. I eat enough to not be hungry, and when I am hungry again, I eat to the point of not being hungry. Oh, and I eat whatever I want. A donut, some carrots, a piece of chicken, some chips, crackers and cheese. No food is bad, no food is good.

    Basically, this article is what I tell my clients all the time. And what I tell new parents when they tell me “I can’t get junior to eat XYZ.”

    • I think making kids try things is a good idea. We have a one bite rule at our house. One bite of something is not going to hurt anything. As a result my kids have decided over time that they like or at least are ok with and will eat many things that at first they wouldnt. I have never had too much trouble with them over just one bite. Anybody can handle that. I dont apply the rule to particularly difficult to learn to eat things like liver, for example. Actually, I wish I had accustomed them to eat liver when they were infants, because most of the people I know who like liver learned to like it eating it with the rest of the family every week, from infancy. And if you dont aquire a taste for it then, it is a hard sell when you are older. I only recently learned to eat it myself, having learned to make chicken liver pate that is pretty darn good. I think parents should serve plenty of the foods their kids like, but helping them along with widening their horizons is important, for their own health, and for their social lives so they are not annoying pains in the ass about food when they go to the homes of others. I have a nephew that is horribly picky. His parents make separate meals for their children to accomodate their pickiness. Literally, about all this 11 year old will eat are hostess cup cakes, and kraft mac and cheese, and cheese pizza. His parents totally coddle him. When I was a kid mom made good meals with protein and starch and veggie and you could eat as much as you wanted. You at least had to try whatever you didnt like, and if you wouldnt eat the meal it got put away and when you were hungry enough to eat you could get it out and eat it. But mom didnt make separate meals and allow us to live on nothing but two or three junk foods. That to me is irresponsible parenting. I cant tell you how many kids who are incredibly rude have come to my house and cautiously looked at each food item at a meal, and even in at least one instance sniffed each item trying to decide if it was safe to eat. Sometimes they reject all but one thing, and in some cases have actually had the gall to ask me to make them something else. And Im not talking about weird or bad tasting food. I am known in my community and church as a good cook. These kids are just pathetically and embarrassingly picky.

  18. I’m sure a post about this is around here somewhere, but can a similar approach possibly be applied to re-introducing things like gluten and dairy? I am self-imposed gluten-free but now wanting to actually be free of restrictions… I also need to gain about 10 lbs due to ED. I’m trying to eat unrestricted a la Gwyneth ( but worried about confusing gluten-inflammation symptoms with the refeeding symptoms (bloating, fatigue) and then just being miserable forever? Does that make sense? Any advice?

    • Wheat and dairy, 9 times out of 10, are the most important foods of all for recovery due to their palatability and calorie density. I think you should go for it, and know that you aren’t going to feel good during recovery no matter what you do and don’t eat. The objective is to feel good no matter what you eat, and eating everything in sight for a while is a more likely way to arrive in such a place. Good luck!

      • I had terrible responses not just to wheat and dairy, but to all starchy foods. They gaves me terrible intestinal inflammation with diarrhea and sometimes bleeding. The thing that turned it all around for me was berberine and gildenseal or barberry, I alternate. I take about a third of a 400 mg capsule of swansons berberine hcl and 1/8 tsp goldenseal or barberry three times a day usually before or after I eat. It is best to ramp up slowly, taking once a day for several days then add another dose, stick with 2 doses for several days and so on. Before I did this when I would try to take a whole cap at once I would sick with bad headaches and nausea. I have now been full on rrarfing for over two months, eatting lots of pancakes, potatoes, basmati rice, ice cream and other desserts like cheesecake, chocolate, pudding, etc. AND I have had none of the bad symptoms you have described. They more I have eaten the better I have felt and higher temps I have had the more and better poos I have had. I think this might be because of some of the other beneficial metabolic effects of bereberine and the herbs such as improving insulin sensitivity and I would suspect other hormone sensitivity like leptin. It also improves bile flow, liver/gallbladder functioning. All of this change was dramatic and quick for me. I started trying to eat the things I couldnt within about a week of starting the berberine and I was ok, nothing bad happened so I started eating more and more. Now I forget to take the berberine, but im still ok. I plan on taking it, or some of the other mucous membrane tonics I have discovered, like yerba mansa and I think the other one was called red root, for a few more months before I attempt titrating down and quitting.

        • Thank you so much for your comment. My Mom has a friend who was diagnosed with celiac disease who is now eating gluten again. Her doctor had her take Oregon Grape Root (high in berberine) and Vitamin C and test with gluten every six months or so. It took two years, but she is now eating gluten regularly. I also have celiac and while I don’t actually miss gluten foods at all I do miss the freedom of being able to eat whatever where ever. But every time I tried to take berberine I ended up so nauseated that I had given up on that approach. I was so disappointed as I also have insulin resistance and berberine is supposed to be excellent for it as well.

          I will try your approach of just a little at a time and see how it goes. Thank you.

      • I would like confirm that what Matt is saying is 100% true and WORKS. I healed myself of 15 years of emotional eating, bingeing, dieting, obession etc after reading one of Geneen Roth’s books. She said the way to heal is to start eating whatever you wanted whenever you wanted. Let nothing be forbidden! When I first tried it, I thought it was madness and so did people around me. I feared I’d blow up to be a blimp! I stocked my pantry full of “forbidden” foods that I would deprive myself of and then later binge on (candy, ice cream, desserts, processed foods, chips, butter, breads, cheeses). At first I ate so much junk but felt freedom. After awhile when I became in tune with my body and unafraid of any food shortage, I started craving fruit or meat or salads or healthyish type meals. Now, after 9 years of being healed, I literally eat whatever I want (healthy, non healthy etc), whenever I want to fullness and never think about food unless I am hungry. I also dropped 2 sizes and have consistenly stayed a size 4 for 9 years. What Matt is saying WORKS! The best part is the mental and emotional freedom from the horrific bondage of dieting!

      • Thanks, Matt, and everyone… I’m giving it a go! Starting with the dairy as I’ve never cut it out completely (love cheese!). Ate a lot today and am now eating pretty much an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s. That’s a first… but my body was asking and it shall receive. I really don’t want to have an f*ed up metabolism for the rest of my life.

        • Hi Nicole, I am wondering how this is going for you? Are you sticking with it? I want a working metabolism, but am fearful of gaining weight. Is it working 5 months later?

    • Nicole,
      I’ve been following Gwyneth’s advice for about three weeks now. I was anorexic for four ears and then on GAPS for three ears until recentyl when I realized that what I was experiencing was probably not food intolerances but the fact that I’d never recovered from starvation! I’m paranoid about food, but the article about phases of recovery hit me over the head so hard that I went for it. The first few days were a little rough, but I’m having much less inflammation and my digestion is AMAZING! Much better than before. Basically I’m incredibly swollen and look like a toad, sore from being swollen, very tired. BUT super happy to finally be free. And feeling much stronger and balanced mentally and physically if that makes sense.
      Oh, and I’ve pretty much been living on milkshakes, cereal, toast and pasta. Never imagined that would be possible.
      I say go for it! And a big thanks Matt, I don’ t think i’d ever have made it here without the info u put out.

    • Try adding it in once a week or every four days at first so that your antibodies don’t have a chance to build up and you can guage your reactions, and build up from there. The rest of the time pig out on everything else to try to crank your metabolism up. I am trying to add these foods back in too and it is tough! On a break right now because my breastfeeding baby was having inflammatory reactions too. :(

  19. I havent read this post yet. I wanted to comment on what I am getting out of Diet Recovery 2. I posted a while ago to say how well I am doing RRARFing. I could not do it without severe diarrhea until recently when I started using berberine and herbs containing berberine like goldenseal and barberry. Interestingly, since I posted that I learned that berberine and the herbs containing it as well as a few other herbs are mucous membrane alteratives or tonics. Paul Bergner at has info on studies that show that rather than directly killing infectious microbes, what they do is to heal and improve the functioning of these membranes. They imrove immune functioning and increase the production of immunoglobulins and normalize mucous production and reverse permeability. These benefits have gotten me over the hump so I that now I can get what I really needed, the healing from being fully nourished. So many light bulbs have been lighting up reading DR2. Matt talks about starvation causing intestinal permeability, allergies, and digestive problems. I think I was suffering from this from infancy. My mom fed me formula that I apparently couldnt digest as I projectile vomited almost all back up. As a result I cried all the time and would not sleep much. At two weeks old, the pediatrician had my mom start feeding me rice cereal to fill my belly more so I would stop crying for awhile and sleep. My mom says that I still had crying jags. She said that i would get so hungry and scream and cry so hard I would choke. I obviously wasnt able to digest the formula and I am sure the early feeding of rice which my digestive tract was too immature for caused further damage. Throughout my childhood I had many low metabolism symptoms of easy bruising, coldness and constipation amongst others. I wonder if many people have gotten off to a bad start metabolically, and digestive wise from the practice of bottle feeding cows milk formulas that are not digested well and early feeding of other foods that are too hard for infants to digest.

    • Very interesting, thanks for sharing. I have a feeling that herbs can be very helpful in addition to other metabolism increasing strategies.

  20. Unfortunately parents are not always given good guidelines to follow from ‘health authorities’. In Australia the National Health and Medical Research Guidelines – our most authoritative source of information on nutrition, a reference for health professionals, policymakers and educators, has just released new nutritional guidelines (the first in a decade). Apparently after reviewing 55,000 pieces of scientific research and modelling about 100 dietary patterns their major change in recommendations is to eat more fat than previously recommended, but to ‘avoid the unhealthy saturated fats such as butter and cream’ and embrace fats containing ‘mainly beneficial polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats such as olive or canola oil, nut butters and pasts and avocados.’ These recommendations have been welcomed by the Heart Foundation as these fats ‘provide essential nutrients for heart health and protect against disease.’ Oh dear:(

    • Why do we love our polyunsaturates so much down here???

      We also love our exercise, guidlines were lifted from 30 minutes daily to 1 hour. Because we eat too many calories, they say.

      They should have reduced exercise then, idiots…

  21. I followed this method with chocolate- it took me a YEAR to get over chocolate. Every single day after work I would go get an expensive chocolate bar- for a YEAR. I seriously wondered when it would stop. Then suddenly one day I just didn’t want any. Now I can take it or leave it. This totally works… but sometimes it does take quite a while :)

    • Sounds like you may have had some sort of deficiency. Cocoa is high in magnesium and copper.

  22. I did something similar a year ago, but I as well could not get “sick” of junk food. 5 months of letting myself binge on family sized bags of chips and chocolates and pastries and I was in pain every single day, my stomach so distended. I nearly failed my second year of university because I felt so ill all the time. But yeah, after gaining 35lbs I just freaked out and called it quits. I didn’t go back to a super restrictive diet, but slightly more moderate eating based on “whole foods” and limited sugar, lots of veg, maybe 2000-2300 calories on average with some weight exercises a couple times a week, yada yada yada… And that reduced my cravings more than eating everything unlimited did. My stomach felt much better too but still not great. My attitude about food is much better. I lost some of the weight I had gained without much effort, but I was conciously trying to not go overboard.

    Now, I don’t know. If I am restricted too much then I start to binge. These days I am eating mostly what I want but mainly “healthy” foods. I’ve recently begun working out more intensely in preparation for one of those team-building muddy obstacle course races… And now I’m super hungry all the time. Eating like 3000kcal every day despite just working out 3 times a week for 45 mins. I guess I have the typical worry that I am going to go out of control and gain weight and such. I’ve finally been accepting my size and being happy with it but now I’m not sure!

    Anyway, I guess I am wondering why letting myself eat anything and everything made me feel worse and and worse and keep gaining weight after months. I feel like my experience goes against a lot of what I read here, even though it makes so much sense.

  23. I think another reason this method that works, besides achieving food neutrality, is just that you eat enough to keep your entire digestive system full and busy.

    Through all of the dieting, ED years I equated an empty stomach and empty bowels with virtue, cleanliness, good behavior. (Thus, weighing in the morning after evacuating the bowels is the best time to get your *lowest* weight of the day…) That’s the whole point of juice cleansing, detox, no?…And I associated being full with failure, being fat, feeling fat, punishment, etc.

    Eating enough food was really hard for the first two weeks psychologically because my stomach felt full, and I could tell my small and large intestines were full. This was very uncomfortable for me, and still is sometimes. But I’m learning to associate it with happiness instead of hate, mostly because I am so much happier.

  24. Hi Matt and everyone,

    Sooo… I’ve read Eat for Heat AND the new Diet Recovery, and think that both are fantastic. Since September of 2012 I was trying a “no-sugar” diet along with my BF, and learned a lot from it (i.e. how much I use food to numb my emotions), but since reading EFH and DR2 and thinking a lot I decided it would be for the better to eat anything and savor it!! And learn to trust myself and my inherent biological mechanisms. (I have also been using procrastination as a means to numb my emotions too, so in general I’m becoming more aware of how I’m feeling and why I’m feeling it.)

    While my use of food-as-numbing is very low-level, my BF has been a chronic binge eater for as long as he can remember. He was once severely overweight — he’s since lost the weight, and in an effort to keep himself on track has cut out refined sugar and flour for the past 2 years.

    I’ve been trying to discuss the idea of eat-what-you-want-trust-yourself with him, and he doesn’t think it’ll work. He claims he had unrestricted access to the good stuff in the past, and that he never got emotionally desensitized to it no matter how much he ate. (However, I’m thinking that he was doing that in a household where his parents were still judging him like crazy for his weight and appetite…. so with that atmosphere, how could the food lose its emotional charge?)

    What I’m wondering is this: How can someone like this get to a place where they feel food neutrality? It can’t just be eating the food – it’s almost as if you have to practice eating the food with no guilt. But as my BF says, “you can try to eat it without guilt, but what if you still feel guilty even if you’re trying NOT to feel guilty? Aren’t you just practicing feeling guilty?” I think he fears that he’ll just get fat again if he tries to eat the food but is unable to get rid of the guilt.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated – even links to other articles/resources on this subject.
    Btw, I ate so much junk in the past week and my temps were up by a whole degree. Still not above 98 but thank the fucking lord I wasn’t freezing all the time. Now that I’m back home in a no-junk-food land (I live with the BF), I am getting cold again…

    • As someone who has suffered with binge eating for years, I can say that what helps me is knowing there’s a class of food/drink I can eat as much as I want of. It doesnt have to be junk food. At one time it was coffee, then it became decaf coffee, then it was sugar free soda, and then it became stirfrys…etc.
      Knowing that theres always “something” I can turn to that I enjoy somewhat always helped me. I used to have junkfood as a weekend treat and allow myself to buy whatever I wanted, and enjoy it.
      Knowing that there’s that food “safety blanket” for when I feel bad always helped give me mental space to focus on other things in my life, and deal with them.

  25. This article really hits home for me, and I can truly attest to the notion that you should leave your children to decide when and what they need to eat!
    As a child, I was always a really skinny girl. There was hardly so much as an ounce of ‘baby fat’ on me, and I generally resided in the low-normal range in my weight growth charts. As far as I can remember, I had a normal relationship with food.

    Around the age of 7, my mother took a job that forced her to travel, which made my dad responsible for breakfast, lunch, and dinner a few nights out of the week. My dad would feed us in the morning after he worked out (around 10-11am, we were starving!), and we typically wouldn’t be fed lunch because it was “too close to dinner time”, and dinner would be around 5. Snacks were nearly non-existent. We had to ‘ask’, and we were usually denied snacks because again- Too close to dinner time, you just had breakfast, I’ll feed you in a minute. I don’t want to give everyone the impression that my dad is a horrible man, he just didn’t understand the needs of children. That, and he was kind of in the midst of his own restriction and body image issues. To him, eating frequently was not normal, and eating less was better.

    Of course, my brother and I developed a habit of sneaking food out of the cabinets. I grew into an opportunistic eater, and would literally shovel down every morsel of food in sight whenever it was offered to me. I vacuumed my plate at every meal, and accepted hand outs from my brother. No matter what I never felt satisfied unless I was extremely full.
    This lead to RAPID weight gain, and I quickly became ‘the fat girl’. This also put me on a path of a mild binge/guilt/semi-restrict cycle that has persisted through out my life. I felt guilty because I felt like I was eating so much, would constantly hide food and eat in the shadows, and would kind of restrict myself and felt like I couldn’t eat everything I wanted. Yet I would also use food to make myself feel better, overeat some days to the point of bursting, or find myself unable to feel satisfied on normal amounts. It was a complicated relationship.

    Needless to say, this restriction is nearly ingrained in me, and it’s hard to get over. I’ve lost a lot of weight through ‘healthy diet’ and ‘healthy exercise’, and I’m still plagued by the binges. I’ve attempted to give up calorie counting and eat what I truly want when I want. It goes well for a few days, and then the evil guilt monster slides back in and I find that I can’t complete the process. I’ve also discovered, ironically, that despite the fact that I’m 5’4 and about 115, I tend to lose weight when I think about food less and just EAT whatever I want, whenever I want, and participate in healthy exercise. I just can’t seem to stick to it, without binging out of guilt, and feeling the need to start over.

    Any tips?

    • bh
      Terra S
      No need to suffer, get some help. Sometimes we do need outside help and it’s available, why suffer?

    • Honestly, Terra and Kate’s boyfriend, you may need to see a nutritional therapist that supports the disordered eating recovery process. One who only supports the eat less, move more philosophy will not do you any good. Have you gone to yet? I think that blog would be a lot of help for you. Some people just need that extra helping hand with complex eating issues.

      This process is not easy, or black and white, for anyone. I think for many people it may be easier because their food issues are more simple, if you will, so it’s more a matter of getting out of the dieting mentality. Also, someone who’s bingeing because it’s their body’s starved response is experiencing something different than someone who is bingeing because of an emotional response. Once a person has refed themselves and no longer needs excess calories, if bingeing still persists, then they can look at the possibility that they have some emotional bingeing going on. These links from youreatopia might be helpful to you. Good luck.

      • I should clarify that I’m talking about bingeing as a result of negative emotional scarring that developes because of emotional/mental/sexual abuse, etc., which should be addressed. This is different than an emotional food response from a normal life event, such as dealing with the death of a loved one. Emotional eating in that case is usually temporary and resolves itself with time and healing as you learn to cope and re-adjust in the face of such an event. Emotional eating in such situations can actually be theraputic in helping to reduce stress, which would be more harmful than eating more than you normally do could ever be. Healthy, specific, situational emotional eating is a reponse our body has for very good reasons. I hope that made sense.

        • Thank you EmmaW, these links look really helpful. It is a little more nuanced for him, I think. I will also look up info about emotional bingeing.

    • Terra S this sounds so much like my story (although it’s my mom that gets the credit-since 3rd grade)…I HATED eating in front of strangers always felt like I was being judged and only ever felt like I was taking care of myself when I binged, until the guilt of course.
      I can say that it’s possible to get past it, I RARRFed 15 months ago, gained a lot of weight although already overweight and am still working on my temps. I am past the guilt but it took a lot of self talk to stop questioning what my body wanted and absolute refusal to feel guilty! Despite the overweight everything is absolutely worth it, my moods and mental health are so much better sometimes I even feel content with myself. So my tip would be “stick with it” and “keep fighting those erroneous thoughts that you don’t deserve food or to eat”!

  26. I can totally vouch for this- after bulimia I didn’t think I’d ever be normal around food again. After eating whatever I wanted for a couple months, there isn’t a food that has power over me, and I have a sweet tooth. I live with my boyfriend and he always has some ‘junk’ food in the house and I eat it rarely because its honestly not appealing. I now crave home cooked foods like soup, risotto, roast beef sandwiches, hummus, etc. I still don’t have much interest in fruits and vegetables, but I think that’s because in the Midwest there’s not much in season right now, and I didn’t like fruit before my ED. But, I honestly can’t believe I’m the same girl that would sneak away from work to binge on pizza, cookies, etc. in the breakroom.

  27. Sometimes by restricting yourself or craving for food lets you eat more desperately, which results in weight gain not weight loss. So don’t crave for food rather eat frequently healthy and delicious foods, which will make you eat less during meal times.

  28. Thank you all of you for the advices! =) (and sorry for stealing your name Eri (>o ” too many people don’t eat all the meat/potatoes/rice they are craving because they’re concerned they’re eating too much, and then they end up hungry for cookies a few hours later” this really describes my behaviour in the last 2 years…
    Joy—> “When you give yourself permission to eat whatever you want it loses its appeal. You no longer stand over the tray and burn your mouth to shove 5 bookies in your face before anyone sees ” that’s the point!! thank you!!! I loved your message :)

  29. I grew up in a household where cookies and candies were always available, but nutritious food was not. I was constantly looking for something other than cake to eat. All the meats, cheeses, breads were like olive loaf, Swiss cheese and pumpernickel bread – not kid friendly. My parents demanded that i eat their leftovers (or not eat at all) and food was typically stale, rotting, freezer-burnt or even bug-infested. It was awful, and as long as I wasn’t underweight or overweight no one cared, although i complained constantly. My parents had an extreme eat the food approach that had no consideration for nutrition. So while its true that it was a good approach to make sure that I wasn’t obsessed with junk food, it was incredibly irresponsible and damaging in the long-term. Anyway, I still refuse to eat anything stale, rotten, freezer-burnt and leftovers in general, I have a happy dog as a result. It’s bizarre that a parent would use their child as a garbage disposal, but it does happen. Society does not protect children from the weird food bullsh*t of their parents. Anyway, I would think that people who read this blog have enough common sense to listen to their child and work towards a normal diet.

  30. I have mixed feelings about this method. While I do appreciate that over-restriction can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food, I wonder how much children can be relied on to make good choices in this junk food-filled world we live in. I had a friend years ago whose little girl loved hot dogs. My friend loved her little girl dearly, and was most distressed when her daughter didn’t want to eat what was served for dinner. She was so anxious to get something in her daughter’s stomach that she agreed to let her eat whatever she wanted. What she wanted turned out to be hot dogs. Almost every day the little girl had a hot dog because that’s what she liked. No fruits, no vegetables, just hot dogs. My friend would shrug, roll her eyes, and say, “but it’s all she’ll eat.” Fast forward to now, this little girl is 19. Do you think she’s turned into an adventurous and sophisticated eater? Of course not. She is the pickiest 19 year-old I’ve ever seen. She turns her nose up at pretty much anything but white bread, processed meats and ice cream. My kids are 5 and 7. And while I do restrict their eating, particularly sugar, I have always insisted that they at least try 2-3 bites of what I’ve made for dinner, no matter what it is. Consequently, they eat almost anything. I am also careful to let them have treats so as to not make junk food so restricted that it’s all the more appealing. Isn’t it our job as parents to foster healthy eating habits in our children? Doesn’t this mean access to healthy, diverse foods as well as limiting the overly processed and ultra-palatable foods available everywhere today? I don’t claim to have all the answers. I’m not in any way saying that I’ve raised my children perfectly, but I guess what I’m saying is, maybe some reasonable restriction isn’t as bad as you’ve suggested, Matt.

    • I agree. I think parents have an important role in shaping proper eating habits. Providing 3 balanced meals a day of a variety of foods and making kids taste everything is very different from being restrictive. The people I know who could eat any old junk as kids are still eating it now. In my house, we didn’t have soda or much junk on hand, but I could eat it when we went out to eat with no discouragement. I’ve never had much of an appetite for soda or junk beyond an occasional thing.

    • This is the reason we had the one bite rule. A child’s body/taste buds won’t crave something it’s never had before. So, the more amounts of foods their body has tasted, the wider the of a range of foods they will eat. That’s what we did with our kids, and they eat a very balanced diet. For example, up until recently, I never had mangos, nor my kids for that matter. Not because I didn’t want to, it just never crossed my path. Because I never had mangos before, I never thought about mangos or craved them. I recently decided to buy them to bring diversity to our fruit intake, and we loved them. At first, we couldn’t get enough of them. I was buying them weekly. Now, I just buy them when we crave them. The craving we now have for them would not be there had we never ate them.

  31. I wish it were as easy as it sounds. To just eat whatever junk food you want to your heart’s content & hope it all straightens itself out is what I’ve done for years, & I still have cravings at 55 years young.

    As a child, except for meal times, where we mostly just had to eat what my mother put before us (she was a great cook though, so that wasn’t a problem), I grew up being able to eat whatever I wanted. I had access to doughnuts, cookies, ice cream, popsicles, candy, chocolate, cake, etc. all the time in unlimited quantities. And I certainly partook. Even as I grew older, I never restricted myself. There were periods of time when I would go from one thing to another over many months, first eating 1/2 gallon containers of cookie dough ice cream daily for weeks, then moving on to Mrs. Fields’s chocolate chip cookies daily for weeks, then Marie Callender’s banana cream pie daily for weeks, then See’s chocolates daily for weeks, etc. I eat really good food too, & I eat until I’m full, so I don’t know why I still have cravings. I think it boils down more to stress, which I don’t lack.

    • I don’t think this means you won’t have any more cravings, just not out of control cravings that stem from prior restrictive behavior. I think it’s normal to crave a particular food, stick with it for awhile, and then move on to the next thing that sounds good.

  32. I’m catching a recurring theme in some of the above posts. People are seeing this as a “strategy” that will eventually lead to “healthy eating”. However, it occurs to me that they have a fixed notion of what “healthy eating” would be, i.e. a meat dish, with a side of greens, maybe some rice, and a fruit for dessert. However, as it turns out, this static notion of what “healthy eating” is may be false. Sally Fallon is no longer Queen.

    • Thomas, what would be your notion of healthy eating then? BTW, I want to thank you for mentioning Three Twins ice cream in a blog post from several weeks ago…their Salted Caramel is sublime :)

      • I will respond to your first question below, where I will respond to Nira.
        On the second point, very happy to have turned you on to Three Twins. Salted Caramel is “the bomb.” Try the Vanilla Chocolate Chip now!

        • Thank you Thomas. LOL! Actually, I bought the Vanilla Chocolate Chip flavor after I finished up the Salted Caramel…it was awesome! :)

    • I don’t think enough evidence has been presented to throw out the work of Sally Fallon and WAPF. To do so would require a formula that ensures normal childhood development, eliminating the dental decay documented by Price. To that end, Matt has yet to directly reinterpret the findings of Weston A. Price based on his understanding of the role of metabolism.

      • We don’t need to throw out their work, but it shouldn’t be dogma either. And that’s basically what it has become: a dogma. Sally Fallon and company ape agriculturalist society the way Paleos ape cavemen.

        The point is that I am in the process of learning what healthy eating is for me: through trial and error and listening to what my body tells me. When you have a canned dogma, it interferes with your ability to figure out what your body wants. So I am not saying that Weston Price was wrong. I am saying that he is incomplete, because he didn’t include ME (or you, or your main squeeze, or Matt, etc) in his book. I am also saying that you need to throw him and Sally Fallon in the god damn trash for a while in order to get in touch with yourself.

        I can’t tell you what a good diet would look like. You will have to figure that one out on your own. If that sounds like I have raised the anecdote above the laboratory, then good! That’s what I am getting at. If I have a manifesto, it would be the book, “The Yoga of Eating”.

        • I think Weston A. Price’s main points were: eat fresh, unprocessed food grown in mineral-rich soil, and eat plenty of fat-soluable vitamins (namely A, D and K), and have raw instead of pasteurized milk. I don’t think any of that should be thrown in the trash.

          I think that the WAPF swerved a bit too low-carb and high-fat, but their basic tenets about nutritious food are sound. I follow them basically now (although I eat refined foods like flour and white rice, and I don’t take CLO right now – but I will when I’m ready to get preggers some day). They give a good foundation, the problem is some people get too dogmatic, as you point out.

          I agree that we all need to listen to our bodies, and form our own rules, but I think that for a majority of people the basic advice of 3 squares a day of balanced nutritious foods is about as good as it gets, and people can determine the specifics that work for them.

        • Also, just want to add, I think Sally Fallon has done a wonderful service to the world. She started a huge movement toward real food and has helped a lot of people find more nutritious baby formula and more nutritious diets in general. I still consider her the queen of the real food movement, even if she’s not perfect.

          • Love Sally’s work, I just think as a whole, we as humans throw ourselves at the guidelines whole heartedly and if its not on the list of things to eat we guilt trip ourselves. I do love Sally’s work and I love that her baby formula is available it has changed my life and my kids.

            Sometimes we need to “pig” out on something we are craving, let the craving subside and move on… others have said sometimes the less pressure/guilt placed on a food the less limelight it will have.

            On the part of raising kids, less control is needed, but not no control. We want to raise kids that are polite, that try things, that are not stuck in the mud and have manners when out in society. They need new experiences, new comfort zones are required to be pushed onto them. So ultimately there is a balance. They are still kids and we are still the parents.

        • I agree about finding a personal balance and ignoring the baseless assertions from health pundits who have no real understanding of how a single person is responding to their program. My interest is directed towards children. What I am looking for is the criteria needed to meet to support development for children. This could simply be in the form of body temperature minimums. I am also looking for a direct refutation of Weston A. Price’s interpretation of his findings. Did he simply confuse low metabolism with lack of fat soluble vitamins, or are fat-soluble vitamins necessary to maintaining a high metabolism in children?

          • No, you need both: high-nutrient food, and enough calories to provide proper energy. If either is lacking, the child will not develop properly. The calories fuel the metabolism, the fat-soluable vitamins and the minerals in food provide the building blocks for growth.

          • I don’t need Sally Fallon to tell me what to eat. Eating is not that difficult. Eat fresh foods. Ok. Why did I need Sally to tell me that? My grandmother told me the same thing. For the rest, let my body decide which fresh foods.

            She’s made a nice dime for herself being Captain Obvious and giving sheep an authority figure to follow. Throw her in the trash can!

            I don’t know that anybody has refuted Weston Price, however, I do believe he left out environmental factors in his study (which would have been too complicated to include). In his comparisons, how much did the stress of being in an industrialized society figure into the equation? I don’t think I am nit-picking in bringing this up. I think we all agree that stress plays a HUGE role, maybe even decisive, in health. There are other factors, other than diet, that he did not take into account. Such is the case when you start conducting experiments outside of a controlled laboratory.

          • BTW, Sally Fallon didn’t start a movement towards Real Food. I think that started a long time before her. What she did was ride a wave and write an opus that *appears* authoritative. She managed to give it a title that appealed to backwater libertarians. “Nourishing Traditions The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats” was a title bound to give Red State folks a wet dream, imagining that in following her advice they were lashing out against all those politically correct Californians who were vegetarians and all those Democrats, I mean Dictocrats.

          • Why are you so angry, Thomas? You are throwing out some pretty subjective criticisms. Sally brought back some really valuable information from WAPF that had been forgotten. Yeah it’s not the whole story. If you don’t want to follow it, don’t. But don’t tear her down. Not everyone has grandparents that taught them how to eat well, and WAPF dietary guidelines have been very helpful for a lot of people. It’s not just about eating fresh food, it’s about stewardship of the land and mineral-rich soil and raising animals in a sustainable way (and you’re right, she’s not the only person saying this). A lot of the extreme WAPF eating issues are with what bloggers turn it into, not what Sally herself actually has outlined.

            That said, I totally agree that we should all listen to our bodies and adapt accordingly. And I agree stress is huge. I think it should be looked at and considered. Some studies would be great. I also don’t think just “fresh” is not enough. Someone trying to live on “fresh” GMO foods grown in pesticide-saturated and demineralized soil might not do so well.

          • Sally Fallon brought absolutely zero to the table that was not out there already. We can date the organic food movement at least back to Luther Burbank. Let’s not forget to mention the contributions of Rudolph Steiner and the Anthroposophic Biodynamic agriculture movement that extends back to the early 20th century. I don’t see what so special about Sally Fallon. A lot of people have done a lot more to promote sustainable agriculture than her. Has she even ever tilled a patch of soil? I doubt it. Maybe some perennials in a flower pot.

            I am angry because some people (you seem to be one of them) give her credit for something many people before her had built up and never got credit for. She is a gnat riding on the ass of giants. Again, what the hell has she done (except promote another diet ideology AND pimp a bunch of superfoods, i.e. supplements)? I can live without drinking the expensive fermented cod liver oil and butter oil she touts.

            Another reason I am angry is because of the OPPORTUNISTIC title she gave her book. I can’t think of a diet book with a title as opportunistic a title as that one. It would be like me selling a book titled, “The Anti-Bush Diet” in San Francisco. She’s just another vacuous, self-promoting, diet pimp, in my opinion. Her recipes taste like shit. She could have at least got that right.

          • well….i learned a lot about fermented old-fashioned foods from N.T. , started making my own kefir, learned a lot about traditional foods…all in one fat book, but yes, lots of misinformation too, oh well.

          • *I also don’t think just “fresh” is enough.

          • I don’t buy the environmental factors argument. Simply because I have experience in developing nations, which are heavily polluted, but have intact food and therefore the children have normal teeth. I know, the impact may be cumulative over generations…

            I actually take issue with WAPF…enough so that I will not look through any of their literature or support them in any way. I would really like to see the strengths of Weston A. Price’s research appropriated and interpreted in a way that is useful for the food supply we have available to us.

          • I think that’s the million dollar question, but I think Chris Masterjohn is undertaking some research in that area. Why do you take issue with the WAPF? (Just curious, if you feel like sharing, no pressure)

            From having read Weston A. Price’s book, I took away the following:
            -He was able to rehabilitate children’s teeth on only 1 really nutritious meal/day including things like bone marrow, raw milk, fresh rolls with butter oil, orange juice, vegetables and meat – i.e., stuff you could definitely find today (the other 2 meals they ate were apparently nutritionally poor and I think even low in calories – white bread with margarine and jam, or the like – so perfection is not necessary with diet)
            -Fresh food grown on the best soil possible is what you should aim for – farmers markets make this easier today
            -Cod liver oil and butter oil will help make up gaps
            -Drink raw milk, not pasteurized (this is tough for some today, but there are raw milk aged cheeses everywhere)
            -For bread, use freshly-ground flour if possible
            -There are a WIDE variety of foods that can provide nutrition; the main key is quality of those foods

            I also think what the mom eats during pregnancy is huge – and just eating enough.

            I have several friends who didn’t need braces growing up, and one friend whose kid has awesome teeth now, and none do anything crazy. It’s definitely still possible. I bet just trying to get the best quality food possible, eating full-fat dairy, avoiding margarine/refined veg oils and not restricting intake would go a long way.

          • So I spent a couple months steeped in WAPF before I realized that there were fundamental flaws in the ideology. Essentially, I think that WAPF has appropriated the worst biases in Western medicine/ health and reinterpreted these ideas to allow followers to self-aggrandize.

            So the first example is genetics, an idea which has been incredibly damaging to illness prevention in the West. In WAPF this is converted to the unseen role of intestinal bacteria. With this, they recommend dangerous and unproven alternative health treatments like cleanses, colonics and juicing, (which have absolutely nothing to do with Price’s research).

            Next example builds off of what Thomas was indicating, which is the liberal appeal. I came across a number of articles where the author’s arguments were essentially reverse racism justified through phrenology. Many health practitioners fall into the trap of attributing superhuman powers to individuals we deem as attractive and degrading those that are not as having some sort of mental deficit. (The highly damaging Western ideas on obesity are a prime example.) This also has the pernicious effect of encouraging unhealthy practices which make one more attractive in the short term. These articles essentially absolved the doctor for potentially giving damaging medical advice, while debasing patients under their care for somehow having deficient mental capacity. I found one article where the doctor was patting himself on the back for having earned good health… a practice that should be demonized, but is widely accepted in the West. The worst part about WAPF is that they have misinterpreted and thus marginalized the work of Weston A. Price, and so as a Foundation I would describe them as a failure.

            Having said all that, I still try to incorporate some of the dietary lessons, although I view them as secondary to the advice on this website. Good summation of WAP advice, by the way.

          • Nira,

            Can you give me an example (link?) where they use phrenology and reverse racism? I am not doubting you. I just want to read it with my own eyes.

            Speaking of Weston Price and reverse racism, I think he, perhaps unwittingly, contributed to this exaltation of the exotic that you find in Western Alternative Health movement and draws its inspiration indirectly from Rousseau. Namely, that if you go far enough back in time, or far enough (away from the West) in distance, you will find the Noble savage who sports robust health. I call this the “Minniver Cheevy” complex, after the poem by Edward Arlington Robinson.

            It’ goes like this….the Chinese, the Japanese, the Hunza, the Caveman, the (put in your favorite people to romanticize) enjoy robust health and are more <> while we Westerners are weak and prone to ill-health, and spiritually bankrupt.

            I am not trying to put down any of the above groups, but my experience (reasonably vast) is that they suffer from their own health problems and are just as
            subject to greed, nastiness and human foibles as any other population, including our own.

            The above projections have been the basis of many STUPID diets and religious movements in the West, from macrobiotics to Paleo.

          • Hmm, I don’t view this as phrenology at all. As I read it, he is associating face shape with proper physical development, which allows people greater physical strength and endurance. Weston A. Price did the same. Maybe it’s racist, but as an NYC resident, I can actually attest to this. I see a LOT of different people each day, and the ones able to thrive in the toughest, labor-heavy jobs, are very often the ones with proper weston a. price faces (they are usually mexican, but there are other ethnicities, too). I’ve observed it frequently, and always admire how beautiful their faces and bodies are, and how strong they look. Totally different form from most of us Americans. I am physically attracted to the Weston A. Price type of face, too – I think it’s human nature.

          • 1) Ok, obviously in the cases where these structural formations are causing problems, it is something to be concerned about.

            2) How selective was WAP? Were his paragons of good health truly representative?

            3) Amy says she is attracted to the WAP type. Is everybody? There are people who are truly attracted to really skinny people. There are people who are attracted to more corpulent people. How much are our aesthetic sensibilities culturally constructed?

            4) In the article Nira cites, the author writes-Let’s ask a question: who can perform better in jobs or sports with very difficult physical requirements and conditions? Generally you will find the well-developed (that doesn’t mean large muscle mass), well-formed individuals who are capable of such physical feats and they tend to come from rural or isolated areas or from families that have consumed more traditional diets and therefore had much better development than the average city child growing up these days. Many of these individuals are people who come from other parts of the world and are involved with professional sports and or jobs we consider menial, such as doing our gardening,-

            The above is false. A lot of our professional athletes come from relatively impoverished urban areas. I would not say that they have had a superior diet (according to WAP definition of superior diet).
            How does he know that these rural, traditional people can perform the physical tasks better? After all, they are the ones doing this task because of their socio-economic position.

            5) The particular article cited does not apply phrenology. It simply says that modern man’s facial structure has deteriorated and this is due to the degradation of nutrition.

          • I don’t buy that the facial structure is causing oxygenation issues which are responsible for the continuing emotional duress of the patient- there is no a science behind this explanation. I think that the change in skull formation is distracting the doctor and as a result the patient is receiving improper treatment. Due to the doctor’s analysis of the problem through a combination of pseudoscience supported by skull formation, I am calling this phrenology–albeit one that is considered socially acceptable.

          • Nira, when I state “environmental” factors I am not exclusively, or even primarily, indicating factors like “pollution”. I am considering things like stress. How stressful is it for these people (transplanted from agrarian societies to cities) to be living far away from their culture and larger family? How stressful is it for them to be working in, say, a factory? There are a bunch of factors that he did not and could not have taken into account

            Prices’ studies were epidemiological and suffer from all of the problems of epidemiological studies.

  33. Hmm… this has been a struggle for me as a mom – it’s hard to say yes to chocolate every time we sit down to eat.. but maybe I can do the offer it WITH other options thing.

    The harder issue (and its driving me NUTS) is the WHEN… my kids ( 5 and almost 2) want to eat about every hour. So we sit down & eat.. within a few minutes they are “done” and “too full.” Yet it’s commonplace that as we are walking out to the car FROM the restaurant my daughter will say, “I’m hungry.”

    There’s gotta be some happy medium where they can learn to eat actual meals and go a few hours at a time without eating.

    • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with setting a schedule. Like, you get 3 meals and 2 snacks at a set time. Tons of people grow up that way just fine.

    • I know some adults that drive me NUTS with this type of pattern too. Sometimes I wonder if they like to torture me!

    • You might want to read “French Kids Eat Everything”. It talks about getting kids to be more adventurous and to eat meals instead of snacking all day.

      • Or “Bringing up Bebe”. Setting an eating schedule is really key.

  34. Not sure if anyone else mentioned it and I’m pressed for time – check out Ellyn Satter’s website on how to feed children. There is a balanced approach there where the parents have responsibility to provide food, etc within a certain structure and the kids decide what and how much from what the parent provides. I have a couple issues with it, but incorporating some of the ideas has been supremely helpful. Actually I think Matt did mention this, but still…

    • Ellyn’s stuff is awesome! For adults, too. I’d come across it while recovering from my ED.

  35. I just want to thank you Matt for this article and for all the commentors. It does my soul good to read these thoughts about tuning in to what we really want and to let go of the struggle with food.

    I gave up dieting about six months ago and have steadily gained weight. It’s been relieving and daunting at the same time. I am the biggest I have ever been and it’s scary. I wonder all the time, will my weight just keep going up??? What I’m hearing here is that it won’t, but I am skeptical. What about all the massively obese people out there?? The ones who do eat everything they want and the cravings obviously never disappear??? They just keep eating and keep getting bigger. I have read about people like this. What is the dynamic in this situation?? According to what I’ve heard here they should get over their desire for junk at some point and start craving vegetables but they don’t. I’m talking about people like you will see on the biggest loser and they will tell you what they eat every day and they’ve eaten that way for years. Why didn’t they start craving vegetables??? I am really interested to understand this because I fear for myself.

    Reading Geneen Roth is enormously helpful. I am reading her book “Over-coming emotional eating” at the moment in which she goes into detail about how she beat her cookie addiction and yep, it was the feed-bag method. She ate nothing but cookies for two weeks and then never wanted to see a cookie again. I had an experience a little similar to this lately. I thought I was craving cookie dough. So I bought some, ate about half of it, felt sick, threw it in the bin and then really wanted to eat an orange.

    Haven’t read my copy of DR2 yet but I’m really hoping it will allay my fears re; my weight. I really love wearing jeans and I can’t wear them now!!!! But then again I had been dieting on and off for 22 years and I know in the end my metabolism was stuffed coz I couldn’t lose any weight no matter what. Just don’t think I have the courage to go completely “balls to the wall” as I keep gaining.

    Oh and I just feel I have to say I love Sally Fallon’s book. She gave me an alternative to formula when I couldn’t breastfeed and also has taught me how to heal my kids cavities using clo and butter oil. It’s awesome. You can google it for testimonies. This is stuff everyone should know about, wish dentists could open their minds just a little.

    • Nicole, Matt talked about obesity here:

      Also, have you read Gwyneth’s post on the phases of recovery here: (the information applies to dieters as well)

      It is a multi-faceted issue, but I don’t think we will just gain and gain, unless we are not addressing the factors that heal the metabolism and keep it up, and learning to handle stress in healthy ways, and avoiding it when possible. If you click on my name it will take you to my blog where I have others links as well. Like you, I have consistently gained over the past seven months. My metabolic markers continue to improve though, so I’m not worried that I’ll keep gaining into oblivion. My temperature was consistently at 98.1 for the longest time, and recently, since being consistent with my calories not going below 2500, my temperature has now consistently been at 98.5. The longer I stick with recovery, the more I improve. For some, like me, it just takes longer to recover; I don’t know why, but as long as recovery is taking place it really doesn’t matter why.

      My sister and I, genetically related, are both doing Matt/Gwyneth’s recovery plan. She has only been doing this for 3 months. Her temps are already at 98.6 from a low of 95-96. She only gained about 10 lbs., and her weight is already starting to come back down. I’ve been doing this for seven months. I started at a low temp of 97.1 and only now have reached 98.5. I’ve gained about 30-35 lbs., and my weight has yet to start coming down. Maybe 98.6 is the magical point at which the body begins to let go of the fat. BTW, we both are hypothyroid as a result of having hashimoto’s, so neither of us has an advantage over the other in regards to thyroid function.

      We are all just so different, and heal at different rates.

      • This I anxiously keep wondering too,as I don’t believe ,like Billy writes somewhere on his site,that it’s just a matter of quantity. What has led me to all these food/anxiety/selftrust issues is that I’m constantly seem to be steered by wrong organisms whether in gut/body?(mineral imbalance/vitamin deficits/malabsorption?)Yet giving me a warm&fuzzy feeling at the moment of eating,until the mental(&digestive/fatigued/metabolic) shitshow comes afterwards.
        I’ve probably been born with a bad start already,since I wasn’t breastfed/had formula and my mom experienced horrible pregnancy sickness the first couple of months,only being able to tolerate milk&tangerines.
        Meanwhile I keep being stuck in my detrimental pattern becoming more&more extreme bc some weird part of me enjoys it sometimes but basically out of frustration about my entire life/not knowing anymore what feelings(&energy and shit make me feel ‘good/normal’ anymore)fear&anxiety,frustration of constantly not getting a paid job/schooling I’d like (though what I like can also differ depending on my mood). I’m totally stuck&lost in life and feel like I’m in a transitional phase and just can’t handle it anymore….
        I’d love to be able to eat big&lift big and get away with it all laughingly,but I have such weird energy&strength patterns etc. feeling like I’m never doing enough,practical issues about ‘how to go about it all’ bc I’d actually love to be able to do the entire ‘homecook/prepared-thing’ but I feel so anxious having to be at home.
        I wish I’d discovered this site,amongst some others,years ago when I was still obese and shit….

        Interesting in regards towards your sister&you and the weightloss. Are you both also eating the same types of food?for instance, I don’t know if you eat lots of gluten/soy,which is said to suppress thyroid and I guess bodytemp and she maybe doesn’t so much?
        I really hoped DR2 would ease my mind a bit/give me more courage but after the reading the ‘what to expect’ pages,I only became even more fearful&anxious :s………God,I really wish I had a healthcoach such as for instance Billy to guide me through this&’hold my hand’ as pathetic as it may be.

        On a sidenote,I notice that sunlight,also mentioned in DR2, is an important factor for me I guess bc of Vit.D. Yet sunny days are rare over here at the moment and supplement don’t do anything for me,so I’m looking into lamps that stimulate Vit.D production but those therapy lamps are way too expensive!
        So I was wondering if someone know’s if there are cheap alternative lamps that basically do the same?…..I can’t stand suntanning,so no trips to the sunparlor studio for me.

        • As for quality vs quantity.
          In all of my dietary experiments, of which there have been many,
          I have found that quantity was more important than quality for me,
          in terms of the way my body feels and functions.

          ie : more calories on a “junkier” diet ,
          was better than less calories on a so called “health” diet.

        • My sister and I both avoid soy, but not wheat at this point. I was on a gluten free diet for 6 years and noticed no difference with my thyroid. I later discovered that I was reacting to the bran of wheat (severe depression being my worst symptom), not refined wheat. As long as I eat things with white flour I’m fine. Wheat used to constipate my sister, but as she has gotten her temp up and improved her metabolism, she’s been able to eat it without getting constipated.

          As Matt has mentioned many times, you may just need to go through feeling horrible as your body heals and then feel better as your body gets stronger.

        • bh
          Dutchie, you can safely put your pre-birth and infancy gremlins away forever. There are tons of people I know who have had worse “starts” then you and have overcome both physical and mental “monsters” and gotten ahead in life, fat or not.
          See if you can be a bit easier on yourself!!!

          • “See if you can be a bit easier on yourself!!!”

            You’re too funny!
            All these mental mood changes,strange anxiety feelings(usually with bodyheat and/or right before pooping),sometimes weird cravings(which can subside after going to the toilet,drinking or whatever)/major food binges,detrimental eating patterns,feeling ‘too good/strong/like never doing enough’ etc. are all caused by all these weird patterns of uneasiness,brying from the inside about what I’m doing to myself out of pure fear &frustration about lots of things/yet also part ‘enjoys it’. Most days I don’t even know what to eat anymore,what I’d consider normal etc.

            I so much dream about the life I’d like to have(Eat Big Lift Big,on homeprepared meals, 3/4xtimes a week with no more foodissues about how much/what I’d eat/macro’s/anxious feelings and create a body such as GoKaleo’s/do kickboxing/there’s also a rollerderby team here which seems fun to do,having a paid outdoors job,having a creative hobby such as metalsmitting/furnituremaking/customizing shoes,clothes while feeling at ease doing it etc.Always dreamed of living abroad either in a sunny country preferrably close to the sea such as Hawai or some other tropical island(think its the lack of Vit.D causing it) yet on the other side ‘colder more rural parts’ are appealing too such as Canada,Colorado,Switzerland) but am getting nowhere near to it,as I’m my own worst enemy and can only ‘destroy’ that’s why I long for someone to intensively guide me through this,such as Billy though I love Matt too, especially bc he has Asperger and I’m probably gonna get such a diagnose either as want to get tested bc for years I expected I have some autistic/Asperger streaks in me.

            Now I only usually hope my life’s gonna end,the only time I can be a bit optimistic about the future&fantasize about it is at night when I lie in bed….

  36. It seems that when your metabolism becomes stuffed from dieting there comes a place where your back is against the wall!
    ie, The point comes when dieting works hardly at all, or not at all, and the returns have become less and less;
    and eventually there is no where to go with it since as you know it leads to failure sooner or later,
    even if it does work very temporarily.

    I hate the weight gain thing on refeeding, and cant go completely “balls to the wall” either,
    despite the fact that I am at the end of the road with dieting.

    A couple of posts back Celia posted a technique where in you eat 3000+ calories until you gain 3-5 pds,
    then drop back to 1200 cals until you have lost it.
    Then start the cycle again.
    The idea is to raise metabolism over time to tolerate higher calories (without gain).

    At first I thought this idea sucked- but on reflection there might be merit in it.

    If I was to do it though I would be making the calories of both phases a lot higher!
    And I hate weighing…

    • I don’t know, Nola. I would be worried about the consistency factor. It seems like dropping down like that would create the same problems that yo-yo dieting, or the starve/binge cycle would create of only wanting to store fat because the body will come to expect the calorie shortage to be just around the corner. I mean, it may work initially because the body isn’t sure about what’s going on, just like a calorie restriction diet works initially, and just like dieting, the body would adjust and you would stop seeing losses. Then you would be right back where you started and have to start at square one again. It just sounds like another way to diet to me.

      • Hi Emma

        Yeah, I have thought about the consistency thing, and the long term thing,
        but I am just hating myself so much with the weight gain that I dont think I can live with it.

        At this point I am not going to do Celia’s thing,
        but am planning to do a calorie cycle of 4000/3500 cals on alternate days.

        I have done 4 weeks (minus two days) of 4000 cals, and 6 of those days I went up to 4500.
        I feel well fed now and not hungry, and should not be hungry on 4000/3500 either.
        Although I cant say my body is in a healed state, it is not in a dieted state at least, and 4000/3500 should not compromise it-
        I dont think.

        I dont know what will happen on that ratio – I am hoping that my body has gotten a bit used to 4000 cals and will drop some fat on it. But that may be hopeful thinking.

        It is not a diet in sense of calorie restriction (it is probably crazy high calories for some, though not for me),
        but it is a manipulation of dieting variables in order to mediate weight gain.

        I am still on the fence about absolute consistency being the key in this business-
        Bily managed to lose weight with first 3500 cals,and then 6000 cals.
        And he maintains consistency was the absolute key.
        But is it duplicable by others- other bodies?
        In the past – thinking about it,
        I was eating a consistent amount of high cals at one point,
        pretty consistent, pretty regular (though not exactly to the dot like Billy),
        and I was just gaining, and gaining over time.
        He also says (paraphrasing from one of his blogs)- that the idea of the consistency is to convey to the body that it is safe ,and food intake is abundant and regular etc,
        and that the body no longer needs to hoard or hold fat to alleviate potential starvation.
        So going by that premise, I would think that just eating , and eating well, whenever you start to approach hunger would do the same job??

        I am only making conjectures and hypothesis,
        and trying to work it all out.
        If anyone has any better ideas or comments please say!

  37. Ah well , it is ironic;
    I have been reading Matts bk by piecemeal and just turned to his pages
    (after posting the above);
    where he talks about eating more than you feel like,
    and many extra calories needed to reverse physiological damage , (not just enough),
    and eating beyond hunger..
    And eating 4000+ cals ..

    For me I am still hungry at around 3300 cals a day, and feel good at 3500-4000 cals a day;
    so eating more than these amounts it seems- would be the ticket for true healing/damage reversal, etc.

    But the damn weight gain…

    • nola, are you gaining true body fat, or could it be fluid retention? Just wondering because I’ve been doing what Gwyneth from youreatopia recommends for a little over 3 weeks now and I’ve put on 30 (yes, 30!) lbs, which is obviously almost all fluid.
      I don’t know what your history is, I come from an eating disordered background so maybe we’re not experiencing the same thing. But the fluid retention is for cellular repair.

      • Hi Kate

        Yes , in my case it is fat rather than water.
        I do know some like you who do blow up with fluid retention, but my body doesnt do this in any meaningful way that can be noticed.

        My background is not too bad, just many years of food restriction or some sort or other, though not ED’s as such.
        My body is reasonably stalwart, but displays symptoms of low metabolism and diet damage.

        • I have a hard time with the weight gain too. Right now I know it’s mostly fluid, but it’s still hard. I’m not sure how I handle it when/if I put on a lot if real weight.
          I’m trying to change m mind about all of that and embrace the fact that I don’t have to be skinny and that fat can be just as beautiful. I’ve spent the last ten ears trying to look and be a certain way and I’m so glad it’s over that some extra fat ain’t gonna turn me back!
          How long have you been at this? I know Gwyneth says it takes an averega of 18 months, and then it still might take more time to reach our optimal weight. So really I suppose we could be looking at a couple of years?

          • Matt mentions in DR2 that if the fat loss comes it often comes after you achieve a very stable 98.6 body temp. How long it takes to get there can be different for everybody.

            I’m almost there. I’ve noticed my temps stabilizing. Used to be I’d hit 99, but still wake up in the 97’s. But Rarely have a reading below 98 now, so it’s not swinging around as much. Haven’t had to get new pants yet, hoping not to have to…

          • My temp was 98.8 this morning! Yay. I swear, ever since I started consistently eating no less than the 2500 minimum that Gwyneth talks about, my temps seem to be rapidly increasing. I reached 98.1 after 6 months of following Matt’s protocol. From there, the moment I started eating no less than 2500 my temps have consistently gone up from 98.1 to 98.8. That’s such a huge difference for me in such a short amount of time! I only started following the minimum 2500 calories last month. I’m really excited by this. Hopefully it will remain consistent and I will start to lose the excess weight. I’ll definitely let you know. I think once I notice a definite difference in how my clothes are fitting, I’ll weigh myself again and let you all know if the scale is going down. I know that the body can change its composition as well, so either way it will be interesting to see what it will mean for my body, scale change or not.

          • Awesome! Am enjoying all of your updates, looking forward to more :-)

          • I haven’t gotten to the part in the book where he mentions 98.6 being the point where fat loss begins. I suspected so, as I mentioned elsewhere that maybe 98.6 was the magical number for turnaround to happen.

          • I’ve been at this for 7 months now. I have days where I have a difficult time with the extra weight as well, especially the days when I feel puffy. I’ve been really encouraged by my recent temp improvement though, so I feel extra optimistic about the process right now. I read a really inspiring story at Gwyneth’s about one lady whose healing process took 3 or 4 (?) years to complete. She gained a good bit of weight, but with time and consistency she is now at her normal stable weight. Reading it really gave me the hope that if I just stick with it, no matter how long it takes, I will get back to my normal weight again as well. Her story was the longest recovery process that I have heard of yet. I’m glad I read her story because if I’m not at my normal weight in another year, I know not to throw in the towel – that my body just needs more time. I mean, seven months already feels like a long time to me, so I can only imagine how frustrated a person would feel, not knowing better, after 2 years. It’s good to have a success story like that out there.

            I can’t help but wonder where I would be at now if I was following the 2500 minimum from the beginning and my temp reached a normal level within just a month or two. Oh well, I can’t worry about that now. I can only move forward from where I’m at right now.

          • EmmaW. Could you link to that story?
            Hopefully you’ll start moving along quickly now that you’re at the minimum. From what I’ve gathered, eating even a little less than the minimum will make fat gain much more likely and length! I know for me when I was averaging around 2000-2500 ( my minimum is 3500 because I’m breastfeeding) I was slowly gaining weight and it it was mostly going right to m tummy, which is what Gwyneth says is the first thing our bod will do with an extra energy coming in. I didn’t gain super fast, maybe about 8-10 lbs in 4 months.
            M understanding is that if you’re eating more but still not enough, than our body will make fat stores to protect from the next famine?

          • I think this bit of info is crucial;
            that potentially you can gain more and for longer if you dont overfeed to the critical level.

            I suspect that in a lot of my refeeding/healing attempts my calories still have not been high enough. And maybe that has lead to continuous seeming non-stopping weight gain.

            Does anyone else have info or experience on this?

          • It’s mentioned in the comment section of this post:


            In there, she says it took a couple of years, but I could swear that I read 3-4 years somewhere, maybe another one of her comments in another post??? I was reading a lot the day I came across her comments. That, or I just imagined it. :) Either way, she does say it took several years.

          • Thanks, that was a great post! So encouraging:) It makes sense that it takes time, I mean we’re reversing years worth of damage.
            I personally am mostly over the weight thing (or so I think), If I get fat I get fat. Whatever. I do however have anxiety around “healthy/unhealthy food. In other words I have trouble eating “junk”. Though I’m getting better at it;)

          • Lol,
            I am over the food thing- have no problem eating whatever, whenever and whatever amounts;
            I have experienced how well my body self regulates in this regard, and balances out and lets me know what it needs!.

            However the weight thing and getting fat, has a huge emotional loading for me, and this is where I really feel my body will do me the dirt, and gain endlessly,
            and not change (unless I restrict calories and go hungry).
            It is a combo of fear, and lack of trust, and hating myself when I gain weight,
            and though I do not have anxiety attacks as such;
            gaining weight causes me tremendous malaise.
            I have struggled with it forever and a day and still not managed to crack whatever is at the bottom of these deep and painful feelings.

          • Hi Kate

            Currently I have only been at this a month, in terms of this refeeding session.
            In the past I have tried it for longer times (months) but never made it all the way through since as the weight gain gets on top of me in the end and I just cant deal with it and find it hard to trust that there will be an end and a reversal.

            I have read that a couple of yrs is common for this kind of a process.
            I dont know if I have got that in me or not!

    • I’m sorry, Nola. I know the weight gain is hard. I’m having a hard time some days as well. With Billy, when he was eating 3500, he was eating that much consistently at that amount. When he was eating 6000, he was eating that much consistently. He did move his calories up, but he remained consistent at whatever level he was at. I really have no concrete advice other than to include more raw fruits and veggies, and harder to digest proteins like I mentioned before. I’ve been adding in a little each day, mostly fruits because their higher in calories and taste better, and my temps are still going up. I have no idea if I gained anymore weight since the last time I weighed because I haven’t gotten on the scale since then. I feel like I’m about the same size though. Unfortunately, I think we as just among those who gain more weight than others, but try not to let that stop you from following through.

      • just sympathy here. it is tough. but I wouldn’t have been able to go down this path unless some little part of me was ok with the weight gain. I feel pretty schizo about it- some days I feel really ok and some days my ED brain freaks out. I guess it won’t be a linear process, some back and forth, hopefully the rational part of my brain will eventually win.

  38. EmmaW and Nola, Are you coming from a normal weight place? Versus under or overweight? I’m coming from a normal (or at least what I think is normal, who knows). I know Gwyneth also points out that if you start out weight restored you’re quite likely to overshoot our setpoint….

    • I’m a similar story to you Kate. 25+ years of ED, dieting, restricting through diets and exercise but normal weight. After second baby and a round of paleo I ended up 5’7” and about 160. Now I’m sure I’m above 170 (haven’t weighed since I hit 170). Still just barely fit in size 12, but approaching a very stable 98 body temp, so I’m hoping for a plateau and then a decrease. All the other signs are coming along nicely- warm hands, clear skin, pink tongue, good digestion, good mood, motivation to move, libido is even moving, though incrementally.

      • Jessica, we are similar – I’ve come to this after 3 ears on GAPS (basically paleo) and my second baby too:)

    • Well, I was at a normal weight when I began this process. That’s because I was actually dieting at the time I read Matt’s blog, and had gotten myself down to my normal weight range. I immediately dropped the diet and jumped head long into Matt’s protocol. There was no delay time whatsoever. And I also wasn’t hesitant and slowly increased my calories, etc. I jumped in with both feet. Nola had mentioned to me that I probably gained as much weight as I have because I was in the midst of dieting, so I was probably primed for my weight gain because of it. That makes complete sense to me.

      • Has anyone else experienced a lot of fluid retention?? I think I mentioned above that I packed on 30 lbs in 3 weeks. So swollen I can’t cross m legs or itch m back:(
        I had anorexia athletica which I know can make fluid retention worse, but it was over 4 ears ago! Maybe I just never had enough energy coming in to heal the damage.

        • I get it here and there, some mornings I’ll wake up and my hands and eyes will be very puffy. For a long time I’ve had some edema in my lower legs (at the end of the day my socks make a deep impression around my ankles). Where is yours?

          • Everywhere. A lot in m bell, arms and thighs. Before I started with the 3500 calorie minimum and was getting between 1800 and 2000 (I guess quasi recovery) I would sometimes wake up with puff eyes and swollen fingers. But this is crazy!

          • *belly, not bell!

    • A year ago ( when I half-started this round) I started from lean;
      and now at this point – 10kg (+?) more, I started from normal.

      My morning temps when I was doing them a few months back were under 98, and sometimes under 97.

      • Kate, Nola, EmmaW,

        Just wanted to share an update this a.m. I caved and weighed myself, but had a glorious moment when I realized that the number didn’t send me into a tailspin. I think I’m over the scale obsession.

        today, 175lbs (I’m 5’7”). Waist 31, hips 42, meatiest part of the thigh 25 (bust 38). Now compare that to July measurements 169lbs, waist 31.5, hips 42, thigh 24.5. Interesting. I started EFH early Jan, and I started 2500 cal. minimum, many days much over to appetite around mid-January. So I’ve gained 6lbs from all of this eating and overall stayed the same in inches (lost half an inch in the waist and gained half an inch in the thigh). Things are moving around, and I’d say that means most of the weight gain has been muscle. I lift weights about once a week, mostly walk and do yoga otherwise. i’m not really that active (I’d say I average 5,000-9,000 steps a day) but I do have a standing work station and two kids. i felt like I was gaining so much fat from eating TDEE+, but i’m glad I have all of these (obsessive) measurements that show things are shifting around. Anyways, just wanted to share because I have been feeling like i’m floundering around here eating all this food (well, quite enjoying that) but it seems there is mostly good (but not always visible) progress going on in the body recomp. dept. surely good things are happening in your bodies, too.

        • Wow Jessica. That is good news- a success story i would say!
          It does not sound like you have gained fat at all.
          And 6 pds is negligible really, in the scheme of things-
          it can be part water too-
          I think that when we eat more there is more glycogen stored in the body
          (muscles),and this holds water to itself.

          I hope we can all do as well!

        • That’s fantastic! I’m still waiting for my weight loss to begin. None of my clothes are feeling looser yet.

  39. I read When Food is Love way back in the mid 90s; I always liked the pillowcase story. Would I do that with my kids or myself? No. It’s not how I was raised. I let myself have 1/2 the container of Hagen Dazs which is terrible but if I had kids they would get what I got: one scoop of vanilla or chocolate and no snacks. One Girl Scout cookie, not a whole bunch thrown in a pillowcase. I think that would be a great way to bring a lot of bugs in to the house.

    • I always give unlimited amounts of girl scout cookies and ice cream. My girlfriend’s 7-year old went from eating whole pints to 3 spoonfuls of ice cream. She doesn’t even really like cookies.

  40. Matt, did you give unlimited access at anytime, no matter if she ate meals or not?
    Just wondering because I’m having trouble navigating the diet change with my kids. I want them to know that food is not dangerous and to trust their appetites, but I also don’t want them carrying bags of chips around the house and not eating dinner….having trouble finding a balance!

    • I give unlimited access at anytime whether my son eats meals or not. And sometimes he just does eat chips or something similar, but he doesnt want to eat them all the time,
      neither cookies lollies or icecream,
      he naturally wants and asks for meat and veges and other food.

      • Thanks nola! How old is your son? Have you been doing that for awhile?

        • I have mainly let him be fairly unrestricted all his life- he is 9.5 yrs;
          but when he was younger I had more particular ideas on what I thought was good and healthy, and mainly just had those foods available to him in the house.
          When he went out he could eat as he pleased ( at other peoples houses etc).

          But in the last year, I have completely loosened my own bounds on my diet, and his too,
          so we have a lot more chocolate and biscuits and processed food around.

          I am more free than ever myself with food, and realised that I had to trust his body as well as my own in terms of food!

          So he really is free, and it is good to watch.
          Sometimes he eats the same thing repetitively (at the moment it is canned spaghetti with cream on toast, interspersed by meatloaf, and icecream),
          and then he will suddenly switch and refuse to eat any of these things again , or for a long while, and will latch onto something else.
          For quite a while he was into biscuits, but now he will hardly eat them and will choose many other foods over them, actively asking for veges, meat , or similar.

          • Do you have regular meal times?
            my kids are 1 and 3 1/2, so I can’t really be all the way hands off.
            Basically I’ve been giving them snacks when they’re hungry and we have meal times, but I don’t try to get them to eat certain things, or everything, or anything if they don’t want to.
            I’m considering designating snack times at the table though for the sake of eliminating chaos and messes.

          • We dont really have exact mealtimes,
            though there are roughly similar times and patterns to our eating each day ;
            It is only me and my son- so our eating is able to be very flexible.

            When I eat or cook, I often ask my son if he is hungry ,
            and I try to keep some precooked foods or available foods around that can be easily heated or had at the drop of a hat ,
            for when either he or I want to eat or snack.

  41. I’m here at 4:30 in the morning because I woke up at 3:00 and was starving. I tried to ignore my hunger and just go back to sleep, but after nearly an hour I just couldn’t take it any more and had to get up to eat something. A snack didn’t work. I’ve eaten several things already and I’m still hungry. I need to go get something else to eat. I have never had this happen to me before! This is not good for my sleep. I hope this doesn’t continue to happen. Has this happened to any of you? Please tell me it won’t continue, and if it does, any suggestions about how to make it stop? Before you ask, I had a full meal and a slice of cheesecake at 7-8pm, so it wasn’t a matter of not having enough to eat at dinner, or finishing my eating for the day too early.

    • Happens to me. I have to eat right before bed, like a lot. And sometimes I get up in the middle of the night too. I figure I just need the extra energr for now, or could be from not eating enough earlier on.

      • Sounds like you were in an energy/calorie deficit for some reason and your body just needed it!

        I eat just before bed too. If I have not eaten enough before bed or in the evening in general, I cannot sleep properly,
        I wake up unable to sleep a few hrs later.

        My brain feels bad and keeps repeating the same thing over and over again, in a manic fashion,
        and I feel in some kind of hyper state where my brain cant shut down and rest.
        Basically – I would say there is not enough glucose going to the brain at this point, and adrenal stress is happening, and so on.

        Needless to say this happened exponentially more on low carb diets- I slept very badly on low carb!

        • So, maybe get in the habit of eating a bowl of ice cream before bed?

          • That’s what I do:)

    • This happens to me. Ugh. Not every night, but it does happen fairly often. It got pretty bad (like every night for about 10 days) then it kinda stopped. I think, for me, it was/is partly hormonal, but not sure. You might want to try not having too many sweets at night, but I honestly don’t know if that would help or not. It *seems* like if I have too much sugar in the evening, it causes a hypoglycemic situation and I wake up very hungry in the middle of the night. Maybe try it both ways–have some ice cream before bed, see what happens. Then have something like toast or something instead, and see what happens. Not sure though because I am still dealing with it fairly often too.

  42. @Matt I’m curious, How do you explain this?as this woman is accused of eating too much sat.fats and sugar in her diet,2things you recommend. This woman should be a metabolic supermarvel……


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