How To Loose Weight After Recovering From An Eating Disorder The Appeal of Dieting?

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The Appeal of Dieting?

How many times have you started a new diet, only to find it fresh and exciting that ended up failing miserably like so many of its predecessors? What is it about the free-flowing diet-breaking and binging, weight-loss-to-weight-gain cycle that is so incredibly difficult to break? Why is all the pain and suffering that preceded the beginning of the diet so easily erased by the promise of weight loss? The feeling of a fresh start is so powerful, it creates false hope of success in the face of overwhelming evidence to prove that diets don’t really work.

There are many reasons why weight loss seems like the only way to boost self-esteem: it’s an external measure of trying to fix an internal problem, and it seems easier and less scary than trying to control food against hunger. Emotional needs. For those caught in the restrictive-binge-eating cycle, learning how to control physical—hunger, fullness, and emotional—can be a lot of hard, confusing, and time-consuming emotional work, but starting a diet can feel familiar and enticing. While the attention a woman receives for weight loss can be unmatched, gaining weight back can be offset by equally strong feelings of shame. Diets make us “good” people who control base urges, while diet breakers feel like “bad” people, sloppy and lazy. (or worse)

Apart from the deprivation and restriction that dieting supports, and the dichotomy of good and bad food that it sets up, dieters who suffer from disordered eating or eating disorders are more obsessed with food in general, and they may obsess over food in particular. Trying to block more. There is a cruel irony here that is very painful. This is why dieting often leads to weight gain in the end. As with many self-defeating behaviors, realizing the behavior and understanding its origins can be very helpful, but also very scary. Psychotherapy can help with self-understanding and fear, and help you learn new, more durable eating skills. It’s important to remember that the difference between starting treatment and starting another diet is that the treatment has a better chance of helping in the long run.

Eating disorders are extraordinarily emotionally painful, humiliating and humbling problems. While not everyone with an eating disorder has tried dieting, many are familiar with restricted-craving-binge, with or without a purging cycle. A hallmark of an eating disorder is its good-bad/all-or-nothing dichotomy of thinking. This thinking also includes a lot of “do’s” and “don’ts”. It is often self-critical with a goal of perfection. Again, the cruel irony is that “permission,” the opposite of eating disordered thinking, is the opposite of dieting and the most promising for recovery.

I do not suggest eating a free-for-all. Structure and loving limits (a term I like from the Don’t Diet, Live It Workbook by Andrea LoBeau, LMFCC and Marcia Marcus, LMFCC) are really different from self-castigation and unattainable perfection goals.

I’d like to add more thoughts on shame. Shame is one of the most difficult emotions because instead of being embarrassed about the mistakes you’ve made, it strikes at the center of who you are, which needs to be corrected. There is so much shame associated with weight gain and overeating for many reasons, but I believe that to a large extent, the diet and weight loss industry is a huge contributor to shame and body hatred. How many of you reading this had someone in your family try to put you on a diet when you were young? Instead of having the opportunity to experiment with food and naturally learn your body’s desires and limitations, you may have been taught from a young age to feel restricted by food and feel ashamed of your body.

And now, for the topic that is the first topic of interest for many, if not most, women: weight loss. How do you lose weight, you ask, if dieting doesn’t work? And what about the “obesity epidemic” and health concerns and prejudice about size? What about gastric surgery and is Weight Watchers not really a diet anymore? How about Overeaters Anonymous and abstinence? As with any global issue, there will be many answers for different people. Lately, there have been more voices talking about letting the body find its own weight rather than trying to force a preconceived number on every body. There is a concept called “weight neutrality” – the idea that your weight is not good or bad but what it is. Weight discrimination is a more prevalent prejudice in our society than racism, says Dr. Sari Shepherd in her article “We Are Weight-Est.” Dr. Examples of Sheppard’s weight are: “Fat people are unhealthy and lazy”, “Losing weight is just a matter of will power”, “Thin people are more in control and disciplined”, “Thin = healthy”, “Fat is unattractive; thin is attractive”. Our society is so deeply indoctrinated with these ideas that it’s easy to forget that they boil down to nothing more than outright prejudice and discrimination. And this toxic negative thinking turns on self and others. For more information on these concepts go to www.bodyposition.com, or

Are you overweight? www.eatingdisordersblogs.com/treatment_notes/

“Do I have an eating disorder?” This is a very important question, and I believe you should look at it honestly rather than reverting to another food security. If you think you have an eating disorder, (there are many websites that address this with questionnaires) your direction about weight loss may be a little clearer because addressing an eating disorder requires special attention and care. If you don’t have an eating disorder, you may have some symptoms of disordered eating. These are questions that a therapist can help you with.

Some of the special attention and care I mentioned above points toward learning how to take better care of yourself. Why do you eat the way you do and how can you understand the role of emotions in your eating patterns? Why are you focused on weight loss above all else? If you had more tools, skills and support to manage compulsive eating, would you eat less in the long run if you were on a restrictive diet? Why do you (if you do) move your body in such a stiff and tiring way? Are there ways to move and move in your body that you can start using right away to feel better about yourself? What feels threatening or resists you about self-improvement activities like yoga? How can you find ways to increase inner self-esteem? Is it true or false that losing weight brings you inner peace? Jeanine Roth’s first book has “breaking free” in the title. Of course this is a really difficult and complicated plan, but will the diet get you there?

If you’ve read this far, here’s a question: Have you ever stopped to think why a diet didn’t work for you? Sit back and look at your own experiences. If you are currently on a diet, this can feel very intimidating. However, there are often moments in dieting when you’re not sure why you’re doing it. If you’re not currently on a diet, are you romanticizing or glamorizing what actually happened the last time you dieted? Has food helped your self-esteem, or has it caused negative feelings or excessive worry to be swept under the rug? Have you ever felt anxious about being “bad”? Are you too anxious to start “managing” your weight loss? Or have you increased the number of purified or unhealthy drugs you have taken?

If you’re open to this, I’d love to hear about your dieting experiences and any insights you have into how you really feel about dieting. Feel free to contact me via email: [email protected]

Note: This article was originally published on the Eating Disorders Referral website.

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