I’d like to tell you a story about a friend of mine named Amy.
Amy has had a disease for as long as she can remember. It disfigures Amy, so everyone who sees her knows she has it.
This affliction is seen as shameful and disgusting. When she was little, other kids made fun of Amy for it, and didn’t pick Amy for their team because she had it.
Amy’s parents talked about it in hushed tones, and tried strange remedies to make it go away. These odd remedies made Amy feel alone and defective. However, they didn’t make the disease go away.
Amy has become obsessed with getting rid of this disease. She tries all sorts of home remedies offered on the internet and TV. None of them works. Amy decides to go to a new doctor, a specialist in the area. He gives her new remedy for her illness.
Amy asks him, “How often does this remedy work?”
He says, “About one in twenty patients get better as a result of it.”
Amy doesn’t like these odds, but she is desperate, and nothing else she’s ever tried has worked. She believes she will be the exception, the one in twenty who will get better because of the treatment her doctor is giving her. After all, she’s so motivated, right? Maybe his other patients didn’t try as hard as she will, maybe they didn’t follow his directions exactly as he said. She’ll be the exceptional one who licks this disease once and for all.
So Amy tries the remedy for six months.
At first this remedy reduces the disfigurement. Her friends notice and tell her how good she looks. Her parents breathe a sigh of relief. Amy feels excited and hopeful.
But, after a few more months, the disfigurement comes back. By the time a year has passed, it has become even worse than before she started the remedy.
What do you think Amy should do? If you were Amy, would you go back to the same doctor and try more of the same remedy that doesn’t work? Would you look for a different treatment? Or would you give up, and just learn to live with your disfigurement?
Some of you may have realized by now that the disease I am talking about is emotional overeating and the “cure” that doesn’t work is dieting.
Copious research shows that only one in twenty people who go on diets are able to maintain their weight loss for more than a year. And yet, overweight women return again and again to the diet cycle, trying to lose weight but only managing to put more on.
Why is this? What makes these women keep repeating a treatment that doesn’t help them, in fact makes them worse?
Because Amy blames herself, not the treatment, for putting those pounds back on, she keeps dieting again and again. She (along with many other women) has been told, many times and in many different ways, that it they can’t keep weight off it’s the result of their own lack of willpower.
When will women recognize that they are not to blame because diets don’t work?
I have spent the last 20 years working with women who compulsively overeat, most of whom have gone through the diet cycle at least four or five different times. I believe that diets don’t work because they don’t explore the underlying emotional issues which cause women to eat when they are not hungry. I believe that, until those issues are addressed, compulsive overeaters will not be able to keep the weight off that they lose.
I do not promise a simple, quick or easy fix to compulsive overeating. What I do promise is a program that helps emotional overeaters develop more compassion for themselves, as opposed to diets, which create ongoing shame and a sense of failure.
Women who participate in my program are able to move away from food preoccupation, the state of constantly beating themselves up for what they eat and how they look. They learn to a focus on what they want to get out of their lives as well as their everyday joys and satisfactions.
In other words, the women I work with can develop the capacity to feel good about themselves and their lives, no matter what they weigh.
Many of them find that, over time, their eating becomes self-regulating. They may be able to stop binging. They learn how to eat more regularly and more moderately. They develop the capacity to sense when they’re full and stop eating when they are no longer hungry. They may add regular, enjoyable exercise to their lives.
Some of these women lose weight, though usually this is after they have been in treatment for a while. If they don’t lose weight, they learn how to live with it. They turn their focus to how they can create a satisfying, meaningful life for themselves and what they can do to positively change their lives. They no longer pursue the unattainable dream of looking like a movie star.
Are you tired of going round and round on the diet cycle, the cure that doesn’t work? Are you willing to consider another way?
I have helped compulsive overeaters change the ways they think about food, their habits and their lives. Check out my free resources today, including a quiz to determine if you are a compulsive overeater.