What are some of the changes I have seen in clients who work with me for the long haul?
One of my clients noticed, after a few months in therapy, that she went to the refrigerator for a snack and realized what she was looking for wasn’t there. You might say the light came on for her in a whole new way.
Another of my clients, after years of therapy, was finally able to give up sugary caffeinated drinks and eat fewer simple carbohydrates once she began to stand up to her spouse and work out the problems in their relationship.
Other clients gain more agency which leads to increased activity in their life and notice they are exercising more while they are eating less.
Over COVID, while other people were joking about gaining the “COVID 19,” I went to a doctor’s appointment and found that my weight was at least ten pounds less than it had been in several years.
For years I have been meeting weekly for breakfast with my writing partner, Judy. From March, 2020 through May, 2021, due to COVID, we met by Zoom. This May, returning to our restaurant breakfasts, I noticed I was eating more slowly and was satisfied with less food than I’d been the year before.
Another client of mine, after several years in weekly therapy, is now able to assert herself more effectively and is much better at self-care. Not coincidentally, she has also stopped binging regularly. She used to, at least weekly, go to the store and buy cookies, ice cream and chips, and then eat a large amount at one sitting. Now she notices taking a week to finish the same amount of cookies she would eat in one evening. At the same time she is preparing healthy vegan meals she buys from a meal preparation service.
Every one of my clients is different. Each of them have different emotional patterns that create their overeating. Each of them changes at different times in different ways. Whenever I become discouraged that a particular client is not making progress, I look back to when they first came into therapy and how much better their life is now than it was then. Sometimes the food portion of their life is the last to change.
This progress in emotional eating may seem slow to some. It is certainly slower than a diet, where many can see a difference on the scale in a week. This is because weight loss during the first week of dieting is mostly water weight, which leaves quickly but comes back just as fast.
When my clients complain about how slow their progress is, I help them create an alternative scenario, imagining what their life would look like if they took the diet and exercise approach.
With a diet approach, over the first six months it does look better. Most people will lose weight, reduce their clothing size, and feel better about themselves as a result.
But, if they don’t explore the emotional issues underlying their overeating, during the second six months (give or take a few months, depending on the person) they will begin to gain back the weight they lost. And over the six months after that, they will regain all the weight they have lost and add an additional ten to fifteen pounds.
Over the next three to five years, they may try several diet cycles, each time increasingly painfully losing weight but then regaining it back and then some. They will be substantially heavier but no closer to understanding the emotional issues that keep them trapped.
Compare this to clients who work on their emotional issues. After the initial rush of optimism that comes from starting a new approach, most see little change in their weight over the first six months. In the second six months of therapy, as a result of Expanding Awareness, they begin to connect with their emotional issues and become invested in making themselves happier, whether or not this results in weight loss. And they have not gained additional weight, like they would have if they had done nothing about their emotional eating.
It may take anywhere from a few months to several years before my clients see changes in their eating and weight. These changes tend to stick with them in a way that’s different from a diet, not coming back the moment they stop looking at the scale.
So, for the first six months diets may look like the better alternative. But over the long haul, there’s no substitute for creating the awareness that allows you to identify what’s eating you.