What if it's not just about losing weight ~ but healing the "mother wound?"
As a counselor who specializes in emotional eating and emotional self-regulation I am always deeply curious as to what the "cure" is for a client who has been struggling with weight and body image her whole life. What is needed in order to fill one's inner self-love and self-nurturing reservoir?
A large percentage of my clients report not having had secure emotional attachment or nurturing mothers.I know what that feels like as I grew up under similar circumstances. My poor mother wasn't able to give to me what was not given to her. Oftentimes inter-generational trauma or woundings can be passed on until one chooses to break the cycle and embark on an inner healing journey in this lifetime.
"It's never too late to become the person you needed most."
Here are my thoughts on the necessary processes for establishing a healthy and relaxed relationship with food:
On intake, I assess the “big picture”. Clients rate various areas of their lives: career, money, family, significant other, personal development, fun/recreation, self care, health and physical environment. This gives me insight to imbalances and stressors in a client’s life, and helps explain the need to “get a break” by eating for comfort, or to cope with stress and anxiety.
Clients identify two goals that they’d like to achieve six months (from date of intake), which would make a big difference in their lives. Answer # 1 is typically: “weight loss”. Answer #2 is the therapeutically more relevant answer as it provides insights to a client’s unfulfilled hopes and dreams, suppressed and unlived passions and visions. (Eating often fills an empty hole inside. What are they feeding? What is their heart hungry for?)
The client and I explore (internal and external) barriers and road blocks that may get in the way from reaching a client’s goals. If we can name them, we can remove them. Internal barriers are: negative self-talk, fears, old tapes and messages from early childhood. External barriers are: unsupportive relationships, hostile work or living environments etc.
We identify three things that a client is currently tolerating and not satisfied with. Often these are stressful and harmful relationships, unfulfilling home or work environments, or putting other people’s needs before their own.
We list the key skills, which will be essential for reaching a client’s goals, and acknowledge how they have enabled a client to make positive changes in the past. This inquiry becomes part of my strength-based counseling and coaching approach. We also take a closer look at methods of potential ways of sabotaging a client’s success, which may get in the way if we want to move forward.
The following is the most intriguing and enlightening part of the intake session. The client describes a peak experience in their lives: A time when they felt most alive, most excited and happy. This gives me an important clue to the true underlying desires, passions and strengths, which may have been dormant for a while.
The client shares how food and eating was treated when they were growing up, and at what age food or body shame became an issue. (In 90% of the cases, this was around age 7-10). We then take a closer look at the emotions which the client repeatedly experiences around the issue of eating, i.e guilt, shame, anger, anxiety, hopelessness, feeling out of control, emptiness, giving up. It is crucial to understand the underlying need for self-regulating and self-soothing with food, i.e the relationship food represents for the client.
Lastly, the client shares any medical conditions, which gives me insight into the complexity of the client’s issues, and helps provide a 360 degree picture of a client’s urgency and/or desire to change.
Then the healing journey begins, gently and safely. After approximately 3-4 months a “shift” occurs. I witness that clients experience a greater sense of calm, inner peace and self-acceptance, and a reduction of punishing negative self-talk. The need to reach for food when they are not physically hungry greatly diminishes. The new healthy rituals have started taking the place of the familiar ritual of eating when feeling stressed, bored or lonely. The inner reservoir of self-compassion and self-nurturing gets fuller, and the need to take the “edge off” and numb with food weakens throughout the therapeutic process.
Clients learn to “downshift”, stress and worry less, live more in the present moment. They start to put their needs first, and to be kinder and more compassionate with themselves and others. It’s an “inside-out” process, which goes to the root causes of emotional eating. It guarantees that new healthy habits are being formed on a behavioral level.
Their inner “barometer” assists clients with listening to their bodies, paying attention to their needs for rest, relaxation, play or movement. This leads to an inner sensation of calmness and a greater sense self-confidence. Clients become less re-active, don’t sweat the small stuff as much, and become and more proactive in taking care of themselves. The result could be measured as a greater sense of Joi-de-Vivre, a more joyous way of living and being.
I am here to support you on your journey of healing and discovery!