Diets and Our Demons



“It’s that time of the year again,” writes Judith Matz in her cover piece on our national obsession with dieting in the January/February Networker. “Every January, the weight-loss frenzy begins anew as the overeating of the holiday season subsides and millions of us resolve that this will be the year that we will lose weight and keep it off.”

Our national cornucopia spilleth over our waistlines in rolls of fat even more than it did 13 years ago: obesity rates were 15 to 20 percent in 1995, and about 34 percent in 2008. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us we’ve become an “obesogenic” society, “characterized by environments that promote increased food intake, nonhealthful foods, and physical inactivity.” For more information, click here.

As every therapist knows, we eat for emotional, as well as physiological, reasons--out of boredom, anger, sadness, anxiety, and self-hatred. Food, like drugs or alcohol, is a great anesthetic for pain, a distraction from suffering.

In our January issue, “Diets and Our Demons,” we look at the unqualified failure of the dieting industry--despite billions spent on weight-loss programs and products, 95 to 98 percent of dieters regain the weight they lost. Do therapists know something that the weight-loss industry doesn’t?

For a variety of answers to this question, check out not only Judith Matz’s cover piece on the attuned eating movement, but Judith Beck on the CBT approach to dieting and Lisa Ferentz’s remarkably candid piece on how she overcame her fear and aversion to working with eating disordered clients. By the way, Matz, Beck, and Ferentz will all be offering workshops at the upcoming Symposium.

Also in the January Networker, make sure to look out for “Cyberspaced,” keynoter Sherry Turkle’s provocative interview about the need to face the profound psychological and therapeutic challenges of today’s ever-more-seductive technologies. It’ll give you another reason to attend this year’s conference.

What’s been your experience of treating people--eating-disordered or not--who wish to improve their relationship with food? Is dieting really dead as a viable weight-loss solution? Let us know how you feel about all things food and eating.

Rich Simon
Editor, Psychotherapy Networker

01.11.2011   Posted In: NETWORKER EXCHANGE   By Rich Simon
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    • Not available avatar 01.12.2011 04:41
      There are so many more factors involved in weight control than diet and exercise, that we have only begun to develop an understanding of. Therapists who have worked with clients with these issues understand that like drug abuse, what seems to help most is maintaining a supportive and challenging relationship with the client, and accepting that cultural as well as biological factors play a part in obesity, as much if not more so than calories and inactivity. A much ignored factor is weight gain caused and maintained by psychotropic drugs.
      • Not available avatar 01.13.2011 13:38
        I agree, there are many more factors involved in weight than diet and exercise. There are many genetic factors involved as well, and size diversity within a population is normal. For a better understanding about the science of weight regulation I would recommend "Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight" by researcher Linda Bacon, PhD. About dieting, I am a registered dietitian who works mostly with individuals recovering from disordered eating, including compulsive eating. I have found that deprivation(dieting)is often the driving force behind compulsive eating and it is important for the dietitian to be addressing this at the same time the therapist is addressing emotional eating. I have found the attuned or intuitive eating model described by Judith Matz very effective in my practice. Regarding dieting and weight management, at least 90% of people who lose weight by dieting regain the weight within five years and 66% regain to a higher weight. There are many biological reasons for this (too many to go into here) but chronic dieting leads to a higher natural weight and decreased longevity.
    • Not available avatar 01.12.2011 04:51
      One binge eater who took dieting advice and then used select portions to eat as they desired, continually took on weight. Finally they were told that if they believed they wanted to date in greener pastures they should make arrangements to do so. That advice turned the diet logic right around for them.
      Sadly some medications do a large disservice to control weight and leave the gainer with difficulties they truly don't deserve. Thankfully addressing the diet portions that are greatly effected by emotions can be helpful..
    • Not available avatar 01.12.2011 07:27
      Several years ago, I explored eating habits, including the milieu in which ingesting food occurred. A conclusion I reached at the time, and I still hold to it, was that some people eat to live and others live to eat. I found those who eat to live were more inclined to be amenable to changing their eating habits including diets or eating lifestyles than those who exhibited the pattern of living to eat. My approach has been to use REBT to get to the underlying motivation for eating before attempting to get the living to eat client to changing and sticking to a regimen of eating that facilitates health and well-being.
    • Not available avatar 01.12.2011 12:35
      We are a nation of lazy, sedentary, unmotivated slobs. I've had enough of the soft approach to our epidemic of obesity in this country. Humans were meant to graze, wander, hunt, run from predators, and eat a lot of protein. Now we have marketers convincing the fat slobs that shop at Safeway to buy two gigantic bags of Doritos to receive three for free!? The entire food and marketing matrix is designed to appeal to, trap, and enable children at a young age to adopt poor nutrition. Parents complete the cycle by not putting enough energy into introducing their children to a balance of good nutrition and physical activity. And don't get me started on the poor nutritional modeling that goes on with some parents. The final lap occurs when the fat kids get tormented by mean kids at school, and eat more to mediate their sadness and fear. We need to break that cycle by educating parents about how to channel their children into the right places to eat well, exercise, and develop good self-esteem. Not an easy task, and requiring a tremendous amount of energy by the parents. But that's job #1 in being a good parent.
    • Not available avatar 01.12.2011 15:16
      I've developed a speciality on this topic over the last few years after putting ouabout 15 extra pounds myself. Through working with the unconscious using hypnotherapy and Brainspotting, I found some common themes behind eating issues. Co-dependency is one piece, obsessing on food as a way of transferring the energy of a more difficult issues into something else seems to be another one. Personally, I found that EFT- the Emotional Freedom Technique helped me to get to some core issues with my mother and self-rejection. Clearing that helped me to be open to seeing that I have sensitivies to wheat and dairy. I find that people, including myself, are often addicted to the foods that we are "alergic" to. After working through these peices, the extra weight has dropped off naturally, even over the holidays and my honeymoon!
    • Not available avatar 01.16.2011 09:38
      It is surely the no 1 job. I am a (registered-MD) psychotherapist and I am working with my clients to reduce the allostatic load described by Mc Ewen and Stellar(1993)provoqued by dysfunctional habits of parents which bring stress through the stimulation of HPA axis resulting in (constantly) elevated levels of cortisol and catecholamines. This syndrome includes high waist to hip ratios with high BMI's which are synonymous to overweight and obesity.This is were a psychotherapist can help and a think its enough clear. Less stress brings less need to food. Of course these findings are not panacea. But its a good start!
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