Eating Our Emotions—Judith Matz’s “Attuned Eating” Approach


Recently, Judith Matz’s In Consultation article (July/August) received compliments from a reader who also specializes in emotional eating. “It’s about time this approach gets some mainstream lip service!” she writes. “This article so clearly articulates what is truly at issue here.”

The author of the comment says that her clients often come to her as a last resort, like when they’re considering gastric bypass surgery. She says, “The role of psychotherapists in addressing the psycho-emotional aspects of compulsive eating and weight management is sorely underrepresented in a{n}…industry focused on quick fixes.”

I agree with this comment, and I also feel that Matz’s article deserves praise. I believe she explained emotional eating issues in a way that makes a lot of sense. For example, dieters are eight times as likely to develop an eating disorder, are at higher risk for disease, and have higher rates of depression and lower self-esteem. She brought up a lot of great points about why dieting isn’t effective in the long run and why it can sometimes even be dangerous to our health.

I’ve always believed that the basic premise to dieting seems completely ineffective--kind of like prohibition in the 1930s, I believe that most extremes usually don’t work well! For example, if you told me I couldn’t eat chocolate, I’d crave chocolate. If I was told I had to cut coffee out of my diet (God forbid!) I’d want it even more than I do now.

Matz mentions that she typically asks clients what they would do if they were told they couldn’t eat ice cream ever again, staritng tomorrow. What would they do today? Most of them would eat ice cream.

She encourages clients to reject ideas of “good” and “bad foods” and instead to become “attuned eaters.” In America, it seems like salads = good, and carbs = bad, but it seems that putting value labels on specific foods--rather than becoming an attuned eater--can often do more harm than good.

When a person reaches for food because they have an inability to “sit” with their feelings, as Matz says, it’s “the wrong solution to their difficulties, just as rubbing ice cream on a cut knee would be.” Matz’s approach to helping her clients overcome their emotional problems as well as figure out how to eat in an attuned manner, rather than cutting out specific types or amounts of food from their lives, makes so much sense.

Often, when a friend seeks comfort after a particularly bad day, the “answer” tends to include going out for a favorite meal or indulging in dessert. But although a chocolate chip cookie can always brighten my day, cookies can’t provide an answer for problems or an outlet for emotions.

What did you think of Matz’s ideas of attuned eating, or diets in general? If you missed her article, make sure to go back and read it here!

08.12.2010   Posted In: NETWORKER EXCHANGE   By Psychotherapy Networker
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