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When Food is Love

August 26, 2019

70% of Americans remain overweight or obese.  Consumers spend billions of dollars every year on fad diets, false promises and short-term solutions.  One-third of lost weight is often regained in the first year of treatment and often continues. People are tired of yo-yo dieting and want to have a healthy, relaxed relationship with food. Quick fixes don’t last. Many commercial weight loss programs are based on behavior change and meal replacements only. Diets increase a client’s inner critic and further disconnects him or her from their true needs. When Emotional Eating is not addressed, weight loss is temporary and leaves the dieter feeling more hopeless and frustrated than ever. 

 

A survey asked 1,328 psychologists which strategies were essential to losing weight and keeping it off.  They cited that “understanding and managing the behaviors and emotions related to weight management” were critical. More than 70 % identified cognitive therapy, problem-solving and mindfulness as “excellent or “good” weight loss strategies.

 

Mindful Eating promotes mindful self-compassion and self-empathy. It is my belief that a non-diet approach to overeating and obesity is the only longterm way for a client to achieve peace with food and their body. 

 

Throughout the therapeutic process clients are encouraged to explore the triggers that lead to emotional eating. They develop the tools, strategies and rituals for establishing a healthy relationship with food. The goal is to gain an understanding of how to free themselves from the “eating instead of feeling” cycle and to transform mind (and body) along the way.

 

The therapeutic goals are to not use food as a mood regulator and end the familiar pattern of worrying about calories and dieting. A client gains an understanding of how the quick reliable “fix” of the emotional eating ritual has induced a “trance” state. He or she learns to be in tune with their body & differentiate physical from emotional hunger. The therapeutic process is based on crafting and developing healthy rituals, i.e. taking a walk, talking to friend, having a cup of soothing tea, writing in a journal, and understand the true need for comfort or relief. “I need a treat!” means: “I need a break.” “I need comfort.”

 

Contrary to the seductive promise of fast weight loss, this kind of deeper work takes a minimum of six months to a year. 

 

The “heart” of therapy becomes re-mothering, strengthening the Self, and embracing the small inner child that needs emotional comfort.

 

Based on evidence-based research as well as my own experience as a former weight loss coach I conclude that that diets don’t work, long-term. A client’s relationship with food should be the focus of intervention, not the food itself. Without addressing the emotional eating component, weight loss is temporary. We all have the need for comfort and self-soothing. The therapeutic goal is to craft new, healthy rituals for the emotional eater who has relied on food as a mood regulator.

 

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