An Eating Disorder Specialty Team’s Journey into the Psychological Treatment of Obesity

Beautiful African- American WomanFor the past 23 years, our psychological work as eating disorder specialists has brought our expert team literally face-to-face with some of the most distressed, disheartened — yet courageous — people in the world. Frustrated. Hopeless. Seemingly defeated, these brave individuals risked to walk through the doors of our treatment center, A New Beginning, determined “to give it one more try.”

A specialty eating disorder facility, A New Beginning’s primary focus has historically been on the comprehensive care of individuals struggling to overcome the complex disorders of anorexia and bulimia. Well known for our effective treatment practices and proud to be the first to boldly state, “Full Recovery IS Possible!” the clinical team at A New Beginning has always been passionate about helping our anorexic and bulimic clients achieve — and maintain — lasting recovery.

While our eating disordered clientele have always come in different shapes, sizes and behavioral profiles, a very different (and notable!) new client trend began emerging in recent years. Specifically, clients struggling with episodes of binge eating, night eating syndrome, binge eating disorder, obesity and weight-related issues started presenting for treatment in significant, and somewhat alarming, numbers.

This trend would ultimately transform the face of our client profile at A New Beginning forever, and ignited a passion for helping to change the lives — and physical realities — of a whole new population of people!

Our Eating Disorder Team’s Dilemma: Successful Treatment of Binge Eating Disorder … But What about the Weight?

Man in Yellow Shirt - RunningResearch consistently indicates that the majority of individuals who struggle with obesity report that they engaged in emotional eating and/or binge eating behavior prior to the onset of developing their obesity. Similarly, the prevalence of binge eating behavior has been found to correlate significantly — and positively — with the severity of one’s obesity.

As our new client population grew to include individuals fighting to overcome the oftentimes physically devastating, and emotionally shameful, behavioral prison of binge eating disorder, we were very pleased to see that our psychological and nutritional treatment was wonderfully successful at eliminating the emotional and binge eating component of our obese and binge eating disordered clients’ behavior.

As a team we found that, when the treatment of emotional and binge eating behavior was directed toward the goal of helping individuals to develop healthy, effective, non-food-related coping skills which enabled them to maneuver effectively through the emotional challenges of their daily lives without the use of food to avoid, distract and/or suppress their feelings, our clients’ binge eating stopped.

Similarly, as our clients learned how to identify, address and resolve the underlying struggles which led them to use food as an unhealthy coping mechanism (such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, trauma and/or relationship issues), their misuse of food and binge eating subsided!

Our clients found that, following successful psychological and nutritional treatment, food became what it was always meant to be, nutrition for the body — not nutrition for the soul.

But What about the Weight?

Wonderfully hopeful is the abundance of research which supports our experience that successful treatment of emotional and binge eating disorder is possible!

Following successful psychological and nutritional treatment, the majority of clients no longer binge eat. They no longer excessively rely on food to cope with emotional issues. They developed healthy emotional and behavioral coping skills that enabled them to address issues such as depression, anxiety and the daily demands of life WITHOUT having to rely on the unhealthy use of food.

Beautiful girl leaning against a tree in the fallOur clients — and our clinical team — rejoiced! Our obese and binge eating clients no longer regularly overate or engaged in binge eating episodes and, as a fantastic result, their CONTINUED weight gain halted!

A relatively happy celebration of sorts EXCEPT for the disheartening fact that, after all of the hard work and unbelievable emotional progress our clients made, our clients continued to carry around the excess weight that they had gained during their PREVIOUS years of disordered eating.

And despite feeling overjoyed by their emotional progress and newfound behavioral freedom, they were frustrated and discouraged by their still-present overweight, obese or morbidly obese physical status.

 

Dieting to Obesity!

As a team, we knew that we needed to help our overweight and obese clients lose the excess weight that they had gained during their previous years of binge eating. But we also knew that we could NOT (and would not!) approach their weight loss process by utilizing anything that looked like a “traditional” restrictive diet.

African American Couple on Bikes (2)In the community of eating disorder specialists, “DIET” is literally a four-letter word. And it should be. For as professionals who treat the devastating consequences of unhealthy dieting practices such as anorexia, bulimia, compulsive exercise and binge eating disorder on a daily basis, we know all-too-well the life-threatening consequences of our diet-obsessed culture’s unhealthy and dysfunctional attempts to lose weight by excessively restricting food.

Additionally, as binge eating disorder specialists, we know that restrict-binge-restrict eating disorder cycles are frequently born out of excessive and restrictive dieting practices. With the additional — and unfortunate — irony being that binge eating episodes are typically what puts more weight on people than merely making “poor” food choices!

Furthermore, our team works everyday with people who are testaments to the fact that diets simply DON’T work. And there is an abundance of literature which backs up our clinical experience. Specifically, it is a well-documented and frequently reported fact that the majority of people (83 – 95%) who diet to lose weight gain back ALL of the weight that they lost within two years.

Even more distressing are statistics which show that individuals who lose weight through restrictive dieting practices regain MORE weight than they originally lost, after each dieting cycle! It is this very statistic that has led researchers to declare that “dieting is a consistent predictor of future weight gain.”

Diets don’t work. AND they oftentimes backfire into disordered eating cycles which create greater and greater obesity.

Diets don’t work. In fact, diets are dangerous. Yet, our overweight and obese clients desired to lose weight. And their health status oftentimes required it.

 

TheHealthyWeighOut is Born!

flowerAs a result of this dieting / weight loss dilemma AND in response to the increased focus on adult and pediatric obesity in our nation (which we feared would create even greater “rebound obesity©” and disordered eating if approached using a “traditional” dieting manner), A New Beginning’s team of specialists set out to develop a HEALTHY and innovative treatment program for individuals struggling with overeating, emotional eating, binge eating disorder and/or obesity, who desired to lose weight.

An innovative and comprehensive program which would address the problem of emotional and binge eating-driven obesity in a healthy manner looking at the necessary and interrelated underlying emotional, behavioral and nutritional components, AND which would incorporate a necessary physical activity component, which research indicates is essential to achieve healthy – and sustainable – weight loss!

As eating disorder specialists, it was imperative that our program:

  1. Address the underlying emotional and behavioral issues which have led to our clients’ maladaptive use of food, overeating and binge eating behavior as an unhealthy and primary coping mechanism.
  2. Work toward the development of healthy, non-restrictive and intuitive eating practices which would support our clients’ bodies’ natural ability to reach — and maintain — a healthy and ideal body weight without utilizing damaging and/or counterproductive “dieting” behavior.
  3. Incorporate a necessary physical activity component which approaches exercise in a non-punishing, responsible, creative and self-supportive “Intuitive Exercise” manner and which supports the development of strength, health and sustainable weight loss.

For when individuals learn HOW to approach their relationship with food, body and their emotions in a HEALTHY way (weigh!) AND they learn how to take care of their body by engaging in loving, supportive, enjoyable physical activity, the ability to not only lose weight – but to maintain it — is possible for life!

Effective, sustainable weight loss combines healthy balanced nutrition with moderate consistent exercise and an overall positive lifestyle, which focuses on eating for nutritional value and not emotional fulfillment.

Welcome to … TheHealthyWeighOut!