I am asked the question “will this approach really work?” almost on a weekly basis by most, if not all of my binge-eating clients who are in a larger body than they want to be in. The other question I hear regularly is “are you sure this process will help me lose weight?”
The following article was in the “Huffington Post” several days ago. It is about Geneen Roth’s new book Lost and Found, which chronicles the parallels between her relationship with eating and her relationship with finances and shopping. In her book, she describes her “binge shopping followed by periods of budgetary self-deprivation”. Below are a few quotes from the article that illustrate the process of healing from binge-eating disorder.”
Q: How do you explain how Oprah could say she found the answer in “Women Food and God,” and yet still struggles with her weight?
A: I can’t speak for Oprah or about Oprah, but I can say when you find something that speaks to you, when you find something that feels like “Now I’m at home,” that’s the beginning, not the end. That “a-ha” moment is wonderful, but when it ends, and it always does, it needs to be followed by some kind of commitment to take action on your own behalf, a daily decision to be there for yourself.
Q: How do you decide to be there for yourself?
A: You can’t do it alone. Support helps you follow through, and the desire to follow through helps you get support. It can’t just be the support of one friend giving you advice. Advice doesn’t help so much. The problem with all the advice we’ve been given is we don’t know how to follow it. When people don’t feel instant change, they think it’s not working. This is a failure. I’m a failure. At that point, they need support in asking the right questions, like: What am I feeling? What happened in that moment when I went to eat when I wasn’t hungry? When I went to spend when I was feeling hurt? Unless you become interested in those moments, you’ll always turn to food or money to fill them.
The bottom line is that the process of healing from binge-eating disorder (or any other eating disorder) first involves the development of a good amount of insight about the relationship between your emotions and your eating, tracing back to when you were a child (presuming you are an adult). Making connections in an “objective” way, like being a detective, is key. So many of my clients focus on their disordered eating episodes, time after time in a self-critical way, which prevents them from seeing beyond or beneath the behavior to try to understand what the behavior is trying to “tell” us. When people with binge-eating continuously focus on the feelings of failure associated with their current eating patterns and current body, they prevent themselves from digging deeper into the origins of their disordered eating and the reasons why it is perpetuated.
Does insight translate into a different body? No. It doesn’t. It is one step on the journey to healing. Without insight, the same disordered patterns will continue day after day, month after month, year after year.
With insight, there necessarily has to also be a commitment to challenging the disordered behaviors. This is tricky because many, if not all binge-eating clients have extensive disordered behaviors and disordered thoughts that accompany these behaviors. Challenging disordered thoughts and behaviors runs the gamut of challenging restriction, deprivation, diet thinking, as well as binge eating, overeating and self-deprication. For example, most, if not all of my clients who suffer with binge-eating have been on numerous diets, to the point where they have no idea how to look at food in any other way than through the lens of a diet program. They feel guilt and shame if they are not restricting something or things out of their diet. Then when they can’t take the dieting anymore, they rebound binge once again…focusing only on how they “failed” to follow the diet plan.
Challenging the urges to restrict or diet ALWAYS makes my clients fear that they will gain weight. After all, they have spent a lifetime in the “black and white” pattern of restriction and weight loss followed by rebound bingeing and weight gain. Usually when a binge eating client comes into my office, they are absolutely “done” with dieting, but also want to lose weight. This impasse is very complex and not “fixable” in a short period of time. Years of disordered eating and thinking, and yo-yoing cannot be eradicated quickly.
Committing to stopping dieting is a huge step but will not necessarily create weight loss. Recovery from binge-eating disorder IS NOT A DIET IN DISGUISE. It is a healing process in which the goal is to considerably diminish the use of food as a coping/communicating mechanism over time, and ultimately have a more peaceful relationship with yourself, your food and the world. Stopping dieting is another essential step in the process. It is not the end point.
After a binge-eater commits to quit dieting and begins to develop insight about the complexities of her eating, she will need to develop the skills to identify her needs and emotions so that she doesn’t NEED the food to cover all of it up. This is very difficult and will not only take time, but considerable commitment, weathering the storm of ups and downs, and trying not to focus on weight loss. I know…this sounds crazy, right? It sounds especially crazy when you are in a body that feels extremely uncomfortable and you are used to continuously trying to fix your life by fixing your body. When that fails, you continue to experience disordered eating and you have gotten nowhere. Recovery from an eating disorder is a COMPLETELY different approach. You must be ready to try something new, imperfect and extremely challenging, in order to be free from your illness.
So, to answer the two most commonly asked questions.
- “Will this really work?”
- “Are you sure this process will help me lose weight?”
1. In my opinion, this process begins working from the moment you take the first step. It continues to work every single time you develop an insight, make a connection, avoid a disordered behavior, feel a feeling, eat foods you like, don’t restrict, challenge unhealthy thinking. It is always working…
2. When you have worked on all the steps and have a considerably healed relationship with yourself, your eating, your feelings, and your world, your weight will reflect your new life…whatever body shape or size that may be.
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