Mind Surfer MD

Dr. Trina Dorrah: End Emotional Eating

April 24, 2022 Liz Treynor, MD Season 1 Episode 5
Mind Surfer MD
Dr. Trina Dorrah: End Emotional Eating
Show Notes Transcript

Trina Dorrah, MD, MPH is an internal medicine physician and an emotional eating life coach. She helps women who know they eat too much but don’t know how to stop.

Dr. Dorrah was inspired to become an emotional eating coach after recovering from an eating disorder, and after learning that almost everything she had been taught about diets, health, and wellness was wrong.

Ultimately, she learned that the key to ending emotional eating starts with our thoughts, and it involves practicing the concepts of self-compassion, intuitive eating, questioning traditional diet rules, and engaging in healthy behaviors regardless of our size.

Dr. Dorrah is passionate about using her experience to help others find the same freedom around food that she has found.

Dr. Trina Dorrah Life Coaching
Website: https://foodfreedommd.com

Hi, everybody. Thank you so much for joining us. I am delighted to have Dr. Trina Dorrah here today, and she is an internist and a hospitalist and also an emotional eating coach. Thank you so much, Dr. Dora, how are you? 

I'm doing well. Thank you for having me.

I would love to hear a little bit about your background. I think that it's always important to understand where somebody is coming from and what they've been through, because we've all, as you know, suffered and that's what our podcast is about, is finding the common humanity in what we all go through. 

I definitely think that we all know as physicians and other people in healthcare that the last couple of years have been incredibly difficult. And so everybody knows that. And so I think that during that time, some things that I had been doing in the past to cope just really kind of came to a head during the pandemic I been getting by with those mechanisms or those ways of COVID.

And the past, and I was just kind of like, well, I know it's not completely healthy, but it's okay. But then whenever the pandemic came and all the stress and the fear, then I just started resorting to those kind of disordered coping mechanisms pretty much every single day. And then that was whenever I started realizing, okay, something is wrong here.
I can't stop this. I need to get help. One of the bright spots of the pandemic was that it forced me to get the help that I needed. 

When we were talking a minute ago I thought was really interesting that when you first started having emotional eating tendencies, you were diagnosed with something that you didn't even recognize. Can you tell us about that? 

 So I have known, I had an eating disorder since I was in high school. That's whenever it first started. It just was, you know, I kind of thought it was every now and then. Right. I just said, well, every now and then I engage in behaviors. So that's okay. I had tried a couple of times to see therapists. It just didn't really work. And so I just kind of gotten to this point where I was like, oh, I guess this is just the way it's going to be. So, as I said, with the pandemic, I started engaging in behaviors every day. Cause I didn't really know any other way to deal with the stress and the fear. So I reached out to get help for my eating disorder.

And then as part of the initial screening process for getting help for the eating disorder, they also screened us for depression. And so the therapist ended up saying. Hey, just so you know, you also have pretty severe depression and that was a complete shock to me. I had no idea that I had depression now I've learned that a lot of that was what was driving me to want to eat so much, but at the time I didn't realize it.

And it's just interesting for me to hear this because I was an emotional eater because I was profoundly depressed. And boy, I knew I was depressed. And I just wanted to hear a little bit about what you thought depression was and why you weren't able to recognize it in yourself until somebody confronted you.

I knew I had anxiety because I felt like that was a little bit easier for me to see, you know, I said, okay, we have this pandemic. I'm afraid. I feel anxious. Like, you know, I'm worried about my kids. I'm worried about my job. So that seemed really obvious to me, but depression, I just sort of had this idea in my head.

That it was kind of like the commercials that maybe I would be crying all the time, never wanting to get out and interact in life, or maybe that I would feel suicidal and I didn't have any of those symptoms. So I didn't really realize that I was depressed now every now and then of course I felt down.

During the pandemic, every physician I spoke to said that they felt down, or every physician I spoke to said, you know, life is really hard or I'm not really enjoying things right now. So I thought that was normal. I had no idea that what I had actually qualified as depression.

Wow. It's like the status quo of being a physician is being depressed.

Like you were asking, it's like, oh yeah, that's just the way we all are. Exactly. And I think there are a lot of physicians who are depressed and don't even realize it because like you said, everybody around us is kind of in the same boat. Even if you mention it to people, they all say, oh yeah, I feel that way too.

So then you just assume it's normal when you just keep on. Yeah. You just keep going. Yeah. Wow. Thank you so much for sharing that because I think it's, um, recognizing it as kind of the first step to moving. So you are an emotional eating coach. And I think having somebody who has had the experience of being in the trenches is, is probably very, very helpful for your clients.

And so can you tell us a little bit about, about what you do? You have a podcast, for example, 

I became a coach in 2020, and my initial coaching niche was actually divorce. I wanted to help divorced women because I had been divorced several years ago. So I just felt really passionately about helping divorced women.

Well, whenever I ended up going to treatment for my eating disorder. There was something that one of the girls in treatment said that really stuck out to me. And one day we were having a kind of a group session and we were saying, you know, we have been here for the last few weeks, learning all these new, not just tips and techniques, but just new ways to think new ways to view, you know, food and our relationship with food.

But then every time we would go, like the day would end and then we would go back to our normal lives and interact with our friends. Nobody else was doing this work. Right. So we would go back into the world. Our friends were still on diets or, you know, everybody was talking to us about losing weight. And so we kind of said like, why are we working so hard?
Like, why are we here in this program working so hard because this obviously isn't the way the world thinks. And one of the girls in the program said, you know, I like to think of it as. All of those people are trapped too. They just don't realize it. And that just really struck me because I was like, you know, I think that is true.

And I say trapped, I think that it's this whole idea that we have to look a certain way. And so unless you look that way, You either don't really like yourself or your confidence is low, or you're always trying to change how you look. You're never happy. We have this idea of how much people should weigh.

So unless you weigh that, you feel like, oh, I need to go on another diet. So all of these things, and when I thought about it, I was like, that's right. We are all trapped. And we don't realize it because of the expectations society has put on us. So whenever I left that treatment program, I knew that I wanted to change my niche.

And now I knew that I am not an eating disorders psychiatrist. So I said, okay, I cannot focus on people with eating disorders. And so that's one thing I definitely want to tell your audience. If you have an eating disorder, you definitely want to be treated by an eating disorder team. But then what I realized is there are so many women that don't have eating disorders, not clinically defined, but they still have what we call disordered eating.

And they were still trapped by all of these ideas. And I was like, I can help them. Like if these concepts helped, helped me, despite kind of how messed up my eating was, and my thinking was, then I know I could use these same skills and concepts to help other people. And so that was whenever I ended up changing my coaching niche from divorce to emotionally.
Yes. Yes. And I know there's a, there's a big need. That's a big need for that. Yeah. So I like to think of myself as curvy and embrace that, but yeah, shedding, the idea that I needed to be a certain size was so liberating and I, I feel very fortunate that I have a husband who adores me just the way. And I have to admit that that is liberating too.

And it really, I don't want it to, it doesn't really matter that I have a husband who does, but it just makes it a little bit easier. I don't know. But yeah, society's expectations are just, they're just silly. I don't know. Cause like who cares? I love the concept of a meat puppet. Have you heard of that? This is temporary, everything you're looking at is. It's not who I am.

Yeah. I mean, that's definitely been the, one of the hardest things to try to accept. And I remember my eating disorders therapists saying, you know, you're going to get through recovery, you know, you're going to learn how to change your thinking around food. You're going to learn how to, you know, stop with your eating disorder behaviors. But the hardest thing is going to be the self-image, you know, the self-esteem the body confidence. That will be the hardest thing for you. And she's right. Like I'm about a year into this. And I certainly have higher body confidence and self-esteem than I had when I started, but it's a daily struggle. Like I have to put work in every single day, just because no matter what I tell myself, then whenever I go out into the world, look at television, you know, open a magazine, then.
You know, I've spent all this time telling myself you're beautiful, just the way you are. But then I go out there and I'm like, oh, well, nobody else thinks that that's not standard. And so definitely takes a lot of work. Yeah. I'm so glad you're doing this work.

So tell me a little bit about Bad-ass body, bad-ass life. I think that's really cool. That's like a new program or something. Can you tell us about that? 

 I think it's fun just because a lot of times in our culture, if you were to think of, okay, what's the definition of a bad-ass body, then it would be those kinds of stereotypes that our culture has a certain size, a certain weight, maybe even a certain height, you can fit into a certain size clothing.

But my belief is whenever you do this work, because. I help people with emotional eating and yes, I help them with the actual eating, but it's more than that. Like it changes your mindset. It changes your relationship with food, your relationship with your body. And. You end up feeling at the end that you do have a bad-ass body.

Even if your body doesn't look like what society says it should look like, but whenever you do this work, you really start to appreciate who you are and what you have so much more. And so that was why I named it. Because I even feel like I'm on my own journey of believing that I have a bad ass body and believing that I have a bad-ass life, even though it's not exactly what society may say it should be.

And even though it's not what it used to be. So whenever I was deep into my eating disorder, I actually did look. What most people would say is beautiful. Right? So I was the size and I could wear the clothes, but every day almost I was engaging in some sort of eating disorder behavior. And so I've even had to, as I've gone through this recovery journey, I realize I can still love myself, even though I weigh a lot more.

Now I can love myself, even though my body has changed and I can still believe that I'm worthy and I'm beautiful. And again, it's not easy, but it's definitely something that I've been working on because for me, the alternative to get back to that place where I was before, I would have to go back to the eating disorder and I don't want to.

Not worth it. Just for the record, I used to say I was a failed bulimic because I was kind of an exercise nut and it's like, I'd finish the chocolate chip cookies, and then I'd go run 10 miles, but I could never run off what I ate.  I was so depressed. Being free of that is a gift. I can enjoy my food instead of.

One thing that I really realized whenever I was in treatment, because I always thought, you know, if I could just get to this weight, if I could just get to this size, you know, then I would be happy.

Like we always hear,  the arrival fallacy. Right?

Exactly. We're always like wear that outfit. But then whenever I was in treatment, there were several girls in my group who were anorexic and they were very tiny, but. It's normal standards, but they still hated their bodies. Right? Like they still hated the way they look.
They still hated their bodies. They still thought that they were fat.

And so that's what I really started realizing. It has nothing to do with our physical appearance. It really does require a different approach. The approach can't just be going to diet because the problem isn't food.

Right. And that I think is the critical piece, right? It's like, if you can just realize that, you can feel better about yourself instantly. I mean, if you can make that mindset shift, but of course, it's a constant mindset shift. Like Dr. Sunny Smith says ,welcome to the human condition.
We are always going to struggle, and that is really profound, right. Because no matter how thin they were, they still hated themselves. It's just heartbreaking. It's just so heartbreaking. 

 If our listeners would like to get some other golden nuggets from you, how can they find you?
Because I think you can really help a lot of people. 

My website is FoodFreedomMD.com. 

And you have a Facebook group too, is that right?

Yes. I have a Facebook group called end Emotional Eating Now, and then that's actually the same name as my podcast.  So I definitely encourage you to check out the podcast. I do talk about emotional eating, but I also talk a lot about, you know, body confidence and, you know, tomorrow I'm actually going to record the podcast about doctor's day and how my job gave us these jackets for doctor's day and how my jacket doesn't fit and just all the emotions that that brought up.

And then the thoughts that no, should we be giving clothes? And what about the people who those clothes don't fit and how does that make those employees feel? So actually that's what I'm going to do my podcast on this week. Well, very timely. Yeah. Oh, thank you so much. Yeah. That's and you can decide if you want to edit this out or not, but that was one thing that I learned as well as I was going through treatment.

You know, we talk about how emotional eating and, and moving beyond that is a lot about working on your mindset and your feelings. One thing that I, I thought going into it was that, okay. I go to this treatment program, I work on my thoughts, you know, work on my feelings, I figure it out. And then I lose a hundred pounds or something like that.

You know, that's what I thought. Like, I thought you just go into this treatment program and just do this work for a little while, and then you lose lots of. Well, one thing I've realized is, or learned on this journey is that's not necessarily true. Like we all have different bodies, different body types, different set points, you know, different things we've done to our body through dieting and exercise.

And there is no guarantee really of what your body is going to do at the end. My therapist would always say your body's going to do what your body's going to do. And so that's been also a really interesting journey for me to work so hard at recovery. Even though I know that recovery and weight loss are not necessarily linked.

And so I've really had to find other reasons to want to recover. Even if my body never changed. 

Wow. Yeah. It's so profound to have that mind shift and so liberating, I think. Yeah. Thank you so much. Is there anything else you want to add? I, I just, I feel like again, you've got so much rich love to offer people, you know?

I mean, one of the things that I have kind of started telling people, you can always choose to change your body. Right. You know that there's a program out there that you can join. To change your body, but I've started asking clients, is it worth it to you to do that? Like how much work are you going to have to put into it, to look that certain way, way that amount be able to wear that dress?

And is it worth you giving up that much of your life? And so that's what I really. I've had to think about, and then I try to encourage my clients to think about it because yes, you could go on a diet and lose 30 pounds. Or I used to do a lot of keto dieting when, whenever I was on keto, I always lost weight.

And so I'm like, yes, you can change your body, but then you think. Is that how you want to live your life. Do you want to have to be on keto the rest of your life? Or do you want to have to go on and off Keto? Or do you want to have a friend invite you to dinner last minute? And then you feel that you can't go or you feel guilty about eating.

And so I've really started challenging people to think about, you know, this is our one life. We're maybe halfway or over halfway through it. Do you really want to spend the rest of it spending so much of your mental energy and time thinking about weight and food? 

Amen. Oh my gosh. I have loved talking to you. Such great stuff. So end emotional eating now. It is the name of your podcast, is that right? 

Yes, that's correct.

And that's your Facebook group and your website is again, FoodFreedomMD.com. I wish I'd known you 30 years ago when I was struggling.  

Oh my goodness. Thank you.  I'm glad you have this podcast because for so many years, this was something that I hid.  Whenever I first went to treatment, I didn't tell anybody, like, I felt so much shame over it.  And so only recently did I decide, you know, I'm going to start speaking up because there's somebody out there that needs to hear this.

So I'm so glad that you have this podcast because you give us a forum to be able to share our stories. And somebody out there is listening and they're going through the same thing and all these stories that you have, people sharing may give them the courage to seek help. Exactly.

Oh, thank you. That is exactly why I started this podcast. I was tired of being ashamed and silent and because I know that so many of us have struggles. I mean, it's part of being human, and just to normalize that conversation makes it a little easier. 

Well, thank you everybody-- have a wonderful day, and I will check in with you guys in two weeks.  Thank you so much!