Is this picture familiar to you? If so, keep reading....
There are various therapeutic approaches to working with bulimia, compulsive and binge eating but viewed broadly, I see them as falling into two groups when it comes to working with the eating itself (the behavioural aspect) and I provide a brief overview of these to give you an idea of what you might expect from therapy.
The first approach is likely to suggest a menu of regular (possibly planned) meals in order to stabilise blood sugar and reduce cravings and improve mood (known to be associated with blood sugar levels). The second approach is based on the idea that the body intuitively knows what it wants and that, if we are willing to pay attention we will eat what the body needs and therefore any type of external control is unnecessary.
The way I work
I believe both approaches have validity and I may incorporate elements of each when working with clients but overall I am in the second ‘camp’. I believe that for the vast majority, listening to and paying attention to what you are hungry for will not translate to eating cake (feel free to substitute your favourite food here) for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Of course, as anyone who has tried to end binge and compulsive eating knows, it isn’t nearly as straightforward as that.
My goal is to help you get to the point that you eat what you want, when you want, when you are hungry. It is not about attempting to control the behaviour – which may work for a while but inevitably breaks at some point – but about breaking the cycle of binge eating altogether. In order to achieve this, I work with binge and compulsive eating in a twofold process: working to change the binge/compulsive eating patterns and behaviours and also working to uncover the reason(s) for the eating behaviour.
"It's not about the eating but it's not not about the eating"
I believe this quote from Geneen Roth, author of many books on her struggle with compulsive overeating and how to overcome compulsive eating, succinctly summarises the point that the behaviour – the compulsive eating, the binge cycle – is important and requires our attention while also recognising the behaviour as symptomatic. The eating is a problem in itself but it also conceals, or is an expression of, something else and if that is is not understood and attended to, the behaviour will continue.
All eating ‘disorders’ – anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and compulsive eating – are, at some level, a way of coping and a means of taking care of ourselves – although I appreciate it may not feel that way. You may be mystified by your behaviour or you may feel that you know the ‘why’ but find that knowledge has no effect on your behaviour around food. What you do know is the shame, the secrecy, the feeling of being out-of-control, the repeated resolution about ‘tomorrow’ where you start over and everything is different. Except it isn’t. The cycle repeats and the reason for this is not because you lack the willpower. It’s because part of you doesn’t want to eat/binge/purge but another (usually lesser known) part of you wants or needs to. This conflict makes tackling the problem alone difficult and is why therapy can be incredibly helpful. Having said that, choosing a therapist who has some real understanding of the issues and who has the ability to work with you on both the behaviour AND work at a deeper level to get to the root cause of the binge/compulsive eating is paramount in ending binge and compulsive eating for good.
Breaking the cycle of binge and compulsive eating
Ending compulsive eating will not happen in one ‘breakthrough’ moment. I never read a story or came across anyone who ended binge and compulsive eating in a day – at least, not anyone who was really free of binge and compulsive eating (rather than just employing their willpower to ignore ‘that voice’. You know the one). However, I do believe that ending compulsive and binge eating (including purging) IS possible so if you are looking to take that first step or want to find out more about how I can help, get in touch.