Is Weight Loss the Enemy???

I’ve been thinking about the topic of weight loss.  It is a sensitive subject for me because, for most of my life, I haven’t been able to sustain weight loss for a prolonged period of time.  I haven’t ever liked to talk about it because I much preferred to deny that I was carrying around extra weight and didn’t want to explain my failure if I didn’t stick to whichever crazy diet I was on at the time.  Truthfully, I still don’t like to talk about it but I think I need to.

I believe that my desire to lose weight was the “divine symptom” that finally made me face my unhealthy relationship with food and to make necessary changes in my life.  If I didn’t need to lose weight, I would never have sought binge-eating disorder treatment or undergone a transformation that is allowing me to have a healthier life, body, mind and soul.

Weight loss, in and of itself, is not “bad” but becomes so when it is held as a toxic goal where achieving the “perfect” weight defines the value of the person.  The distinction is that the motivation for weight loss be pure and non-toxic and the way in which it’s achieved be through kindness, compassion and soul-searching, not through deprivation, self-loathing and willpower.

People’s desire to lose weight is a reality that must be acknowledged and embraced because it serves as a tangible catalyst to seek a solution.  This is great because, during the search, they will eventually realize that their weight loss journey is not about shedding pounds (as most people think) but about gaining self-acceptance and reclaiming one’s true self.  Getting rid of the weight is just the “icing on the cake.”

My Vision of BED Treatment

In last week’s post, I mentioned that when I left my treatment center, I felt abandoned with no support in the next phase of my eating disorder.  It was a terrible feeling and I found myself floundering and falling back into binge behavior although not at pre-treatment intensity.  Even though I was set up with a new therapist and nutritionist, their intervention was ineffective because they didn’t know me or how far I’d progressed through treatment.

I wished I had someone who experienced these issues, could guide me through the daily challenges of re-entering life, provide me with real strategies to deal with social situations, shopping and meal-planning, apply and reinforce what was learned in treatment and help figure out how to de-trigger my life.   Someone I could turn to if I was flipping out and needed to be “talked in from the ledge” in a hurry.

I believe that seeing a licensed therapist post-treatment is essential to deal with trauma and deep psychological issues but they aren’t the appropriate professional to serve in the “nitty gritty” support role I describe above.  Most licensed therapists don’t understand binge-eating or suggest harmful strategies that “undo”  all the valuable lessons learned in treatment.  Do you realize how confusing, detrimental and disappointing that is to a patient who wants nothing more than to progress and become healthy?

That’s why I created LifeStrides and became a Certified Eating Psychology Counselor – I’ve been there AND I have the education to guide others.  LifeStrides is designed to fill this gap, to provide the lifeline, to make the transition to daily life easier, fun and joyful…even with an eating disorder!  Being discharged from treatment is a momentous occasion to be celebrated, not something to be feared or dreaded.

My vision for the future of Binge-Eating Disorder treatment is to include this “gap” counseling as standard to ensure continuity of care thereby giving patients adequate support to create and experience their own unique version of transformation.

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I was discharged from my treatment center earlier than normal at my request.  You see, I was very uncomfortable in my Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and I felt attending was doing more harm than good and causing undue stress.  I was back to work full time and driving an hour each way to treatment 3 nights per week after working a full day was a real drag, especially at 9 at night.

The protocol upon discharge was to continue with individual therapy and nutrition counseling.  Unfortunately, due to insurance reasons I was unable to see the therapist and nutritionist assigned to me at my treatment center so the continuity of care was severed.  I had to start with a brand new therapist and nutritionist and tell my story all over again.  It was an emotionally challenging experience to open up about my eating disorder the first time and the second time wasn’t much easier.  I felt lost with nowhere to turn because the treatment center was no longer a good option (for many reasons) and the new folks, although well-meaning, just weren’t helpful.   So, I binged.

Treatment – Coping Skills

A key strategy to avoid bingeing that was taught in my treatment center was the use of coping skills.  They could be anything you like to do to distract from the urge to use symptoms (in my case, bingeing).  I typically read, listened to music, wrote in my journal or did counted cross stitching.  After months of invoking coping skills to avoid binges, I realized that using coping skills, while mostly effective, was more “muscling” and “willing” my binges away instead of identifying the root cause to decrease or eliminate them.  I realize that getting to the root cause can take time so coping skills are a good short-term tool to deal with the urges.  I use coping skills to tackle binge urges but very rarely because I prefer to rely on intuitive and mindful eating.  I’ve also realized that my binge urges are cluing me into something about my emotional state so I don’t want to “will” them away but meet them head on to figure out what’s going on in the moment.

Treatment – Con’t

Last week, I mentioned that my treatment center provided a foundation on which I based my transformation.  Basically, the eating strategy in treatment consisted of eating what I wanted in normal portions when I wanted, eating balanced meals and no bingeing.  Diets were not a welcome strategy but exercise was encouraged in moderation and only doing something you liked.  I followed an “exchange” program to help normalize my eating and to ensure balanced meals…it felt like a diet.  Remember Weight Watchers when they had the exchanges?  It felt like that.

During day treatment, I had no binges and followed the eating plan pretty well (I was in perfection mode!) Once I stepped down to the evening program and went back to work, it all pretty much flew out the window although the binges weren’t as frequent or intense.  Once I quit my job and moved home, I felt like I was starting over once again.

Treatment – Con’t

I was in Day Treatment for 5 weeks from 9:30am to 3pm and, although it was emotionally draining, I look back on it with great fondness.  During this time, I participated in group therapy focusing on Body Image, Art Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Multi-Family Therapy and Food Planning (to name just a few) along with our individual and nutritional therapy.  I’m not gonna lie…there were some days that I didn’t want to go or couldn’t wait to leave for the day.  It was worth it to persevere because it laid a good foundation for my transformation.  STAY TUNED….I will go into more detail about the foundation in next Wednesday’s treatment post.

Treatment – Con’t.

It seems that I only complain about my treatment center but I truly am grateful for their intervention in helping me better identify, understand and deal with my eating disorder.  They were a lifeline for me in that they validated my behavior and showed me that conventional diet and exercise doesn’t work for those with Binge-Eating Disorder.  Before treatment, I felt like such a failure always thinking “why couldn’t I get this eating and weight under control for the long term?”  They showed me a way out of the self-torture, I just needed to figure out how I was going to get to the exit.


It just dawned on me how much more relaxed I feel in my own skin now as compared to before treatment.  Before I lived in a constant state of anxiety resulting from insecurity with my weight/body and acting like things with me were OK.  It was exhausting but, interestingly enough, I didn’t realize why I was so exhausted, I just knew that I was tired…so tired.

Now, I have moods and feel exhausted but I’m SO incredibly thankful that my exhaustion is derived from other factors.  It’s realizations like this that make the difficulty of treatment worth it because I know this process has brought me peace.  🙂

Treatment – Con’t.

There is a relatively new field in healthcare design called “Evidence Based Design” which was created to study the effects of a person’s environment on their healing.  The evidence shows that certain design aspects (i.e. color, placement of furniture, artwork) can positively or negatively effect how someone recovers.  I experienced this first hand at my treatment center.

The environment at the center was not ideal, the space was too small, the furniture mismatched, the blinds broken and the physical therapy gym above had us all covering our heads because of the thumping.  I joked that I was going to bring a hammer with me just so I could rearrange the artwork into a more appealing array.  Although the treatment helped me, it was hard for me to look past the physical space and feel relaxed enough to fully process everything I was learning.  I can see now just how important the physical environment is to healing and how conducive it is to transformation.

Treatment – Con’t

I mentioned before that I was in treatment with an amazing bunch of girls and women.  Although all of us suffered from an eating disorder, the symptoms manifested themselves differently.  Some would not eat (anorexia), some would binge and purge (bulimia) and some would binge (binge-eating disorder).  Most suffered from anorexia and bulimia so I was very much in the minority.  This was extremely difficult, especially when I “stepped down” from full day treatment to evenings.

The anorexics/bulimics triggered me to feeling badly and I triggered them.  You see, I represented and looked exactly like what they feared most – being heavy.  I couldn’t understand how they thought they were fat.  My day treatment group dynamics were such that I didn’t feel the triggers profoundly, however, I did feel them in the evening group.

Because of this (and having spoken to others in binge-eating disorder treatment) I believe it most efficacious for anorexics/bulimics and binge-eaters be treated separately.  There is enough emotional sabotage to sort through without the treatment group adding to it.  This is one of the reasons I decided to start LifeStrides…so binge-eaters had a community of their own in which to heal.