Category: mindfulness

How to Create Your Day

I love the title ‘creating your day’; hopefully it is a healthy reminder of the fact that we do have power over how our days unfold.  We may not be very excited about our current job or other life responsibilities, but there are things we can do (before grabbing your smartphone, computer or remote) that can set the tone for an energized and fulfilling day.  Below are a few tips from, a wonderful site that provides inspiration and the tools to live at your greatest potential.

Here are ways to change your energy state:

– When you first wake up, imagine it’s the end of the day and you are looking back to see what happened, what the events were, what accomplishments happened, what was fun, what put you a step closer to your goals, who did you share it with? If you could have the ideal day, what would it look like? In your mind, go through it as if its happening.

– Set an intention. Declare what you want to experience today – joy, excitement, fun, accomplishment.

– Try a quick grounding exercise when you are either still in bed or have just woken up. Breath deeply, inhaling for the count of five and exhaling for the count of 5. As you do this, feel every part of your body starting with your head and working your way down to your feet. Letting go of any tension you come across. Direct all your energy towards your feet which helps to ground you into your body and get out of your head and an overly mental state.

– Change your posture, sit up straight and smile. Check in with yourself throughout the day and make this adjustment whenever you need. Even a slight smile affects your thought patterns.

– Be present. Practice this in small increments, it could be when you are walking to the subway or getting dressed but be fully aware of all you are doing and that is happening around you. When thoughts arise, observe them and don’t judge them, just let it go and bring yourself back to the moment.

– Breath. Take 5 deep breaths at various points throughout the day. This helps you focus and stop the patterns of your thoughts and emotions.

– Plan. If your days are not the way you want them to be, consider what you can incorporate more of to make you happy. Is it more me-time, exercise, being with friends, less work? Plan how you can make these changes tomorrow, next week, and next month. Write it down. A plan in your head is not a concrete one, it become much more real when its thought out and on paper.


Taking time to build what you want your day to be will bring into existence the life you want to create!

Taken from

Shrein Bahrami, MFT  |  2146 Union Street, San Francisco, CA 94123  |  415.595.8963

Making Is-ness (& Recovery) Your Business

I just finished reading a very fun yet meaningful book written by Marie Forleo, a business, relationship and self-acceptance guru for women.  Her book, ‘Make Every Man Want You’, provides more than just guidance on how to meet someone.  It offers wonderful insight into how you can be present in your life and to enjoy it!  Forleo calls it making is-ness your business and many of the tips and self-reflection exercise can also be applied to the recovery process.

In the chapter titled, Irresistibility 101, she states that to foster your irresistibility, you must take personal responsibility for your life.  Honing this responsibility will allow you to acknowledge the fact that you have the ability to respond to your life instead of automatically reacting to it.  She states that “many of us behave like robots, mechanically acting out habitual thought patterns of self-pity, overwhelming resentment.  Rather than discovering who we are now or who we are with now, we re-act, or act again, based on how we reacted to similar events in our past.”

Many of my clients sought therapy because they realized that their way of reacting to life’s stressors or challenges with the ‘support’ of their eating disorder no longer worked for them or was not working as well as it had in the past.  By acknowledging that the eating disorder thoughts and behaviors were actually getting in the way of allowing them to be present in their relationships or attracting new relationships, they were ready to begin the journey of recovery.

Per Forleo, “Being personally resinspirational-quotes-large-msg-133224814478ponsible allows you to dissolve old programming and start responding to your life appropriately rather than mechanically re-acting like you did in the past.  This is an incredibly exciting place to live.  With personal responsibility, you gain a tremendous amount of control in your life.  You can free yourself from cyclical life patterns and proactively impact the quality and existence of your relationships.”

Often, eating disorder behaviors are about gaining a sense of control.  Unfortunately the control is unrelated to what the stressor is actually about and instead turns it into a problem with your body image or weight.  Therefore, the ‘responsible’ actions are instead around food and exercise versus handling the stress or conflict in a productive and healthy way.

So how do we stop these patterns?  Forleo believes that the first step in personal responsibility is by facing the reality of how you operate in your life.   But this does not mean you should beat yourself up about it! “When you judge, berate, criticize, complain, or otherwise add commentary to your self-observations, you actually cement undesirable behaviors in place.  The challenge, of course, is that our minds are automatic judgment machines.  They instantly evaluate everything we do as either good or bad, right or wrong.  Thankfully this isn’t a problem.  The trick is to simply notice the judgment and then not judge yourself for judging yourself and if that doesn’t work, take one step out and don’t judge yourself for judging yourself for judging yourself.  At some point, you’ll reach a state of neutrality.  There’s a law in physics that states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  In other words, what we resist persists.  Judging, berating, criticizing and complaining are all forms of resisting.”

Here is your assignment:

For the next 24-hours, make is-ness your total business.  No matter what happens- your printer breaks, your date cancels, or the plane is delayed for two hours- pretend that you wanted it to happen.  You can even say, “And this is what I want!” after any circumstance that your mind wants to resist.  While this may feel odd, it will help you become aware of all the ways you resist your is-ness and unwittingly create misery, frustration and upset in your life.


Shrein Bahrami, MFT  |  2146 Union Street, San Francisco, CA 94123  |  415.595.8963

Is Food Addiction Real?

intuitiveeatingI will often hear from clients that what gets in the way of following a meal plan or eating in a non-dieting way is the fear that they cannot control themselves around food or are addicted to food.  The book, Intuitive Eating, addressed the debate around food addiction and below is their research explaining many of the compulsive and impulsive behaviors around food.

Survival of the Species

This brain-reward system is believed to be necessary in order to ensure human survival.  This involves the brain chemical dopamine, which triggers both a pleasurable feeling and motivation behavior.  Engaging in activities necessary to survival (such as eating and procreating) triggers a rewarding feel-good experience.

Hunger Enhances Reward Value

Hunger by itself enhances the reward value of food, through triggering more dopamine-related activity.  For example, if you discover you are hungry, you might find yourself suddenly interested and motivated to cook a meal.  Dieting (which can be a form of chronic hunger) also has this effect.

Pavlovian Conditioning

The dopamine effect could be attributed to Pavlovian conditioning (recall the classic study, in which Pavlov’s dog salivated at the mere ringing of a bell.  This anticipatory salivation occurred because the dogs were conditioned to receiving a treat each time, after a bell rang).  This is not addiction.

Dopamine Deprivation

Many pleasurable activities trigger dopamine, including socializing, hiking a nd playing games. The great majority of people we see in our practices, who binge eat, are often leading very unbalanced lives.  These unbalanced lives “deprive” them of the dopamine benefits.  When needs are not being met, food becomes even more enticing,  more  rewarding.

Music Lights up Dopamine Brain Centers

Recently, a new study showed that when people listen to music, it lights up the same region of the brain which has been implicated in the euphoric component of psychostimulants, such as cocaine (Salimpoor 2011).  Just the anticipation of hearing the music lit up the dopamine brain centers. (Yet, we really don’t think you can make the case for ‘music addiction’!)

Food Addiction Studies are Limited and Flawed

The research on “food addiction” is too much in its infancy to be drawing any conclusions.  In addition, the great majority of studies have been on animals.  The limited research on humans has only been focused on brain-imaging studies with a very small amount of people and not much exclusion criteria (Benson 2010).

Yale Food Addiction Questionnaire

This has generated a lot of headline news.  Yet, upon a closer look the questionnaire seems to actually be measuring compulsive eating or rebound eating from chronic dieting (Gearhardt 2009).  Here is a sampling of questions:
– I find myself consuming certain foods even though I am no longer hungry.  (Classic compulsive eating or distracted eating can cause this.)
– I worry about cutting down on certain foods (Classic compulsive eating or distracted eating can cause this.)
– I have spent time dealing with negative feelings from overheating certain foods, instead of spending time in important activities such as time with friends, family, work or recreation.  (Classic compulsive eating or distracted eating can cause this.)

Studies Show Eating ‘Forbidden Food” Decreases Binge Eating

Finally, there are three studies to date, in which binge eaters eat their forbidden foods as part of the treatment process (Kristeller 2011, Smitham,  2008).  Binge eating decreased significantly in all of these studies.  If food addiction were an issue, you would not expect these types of results.  Food addiction theory would predict increased binge eating, triggered by eating ‘addicting food,’ yet the opposite happened.


Shrein Bahrami, MFT  |  2146 Union Street, San Francisco, CA 94123  |  415.595.8963