For the many individuals that struggle with weight and poor body image because of compulsive overeating or binge-eating, it can be incredibly frustrating when people (often loving partners, friends or family members!) offer what they believe is helpful advice – is there anybody out there who hasn’t been told, “just don’t eat as much”, “go on a diet” or “I followed WeightWatchers/Atkins/low-fat/low-carb/insert any other diet plan here and it worked for me – you should try it!”? People who haven’t struggled with their eating in this way often seem to have no idea that it is just not that easy!
Unfortunately it is not just friends and family who tend to offer unconstructive advice such as this – frequently health professionals are the guilty parties. One of Australia’s leading medical practitioners in this area (I won’t name names – and he does actually have some helpful advice too) even has on his website:
“When it comes to eating chocolate cake, they say that willpower is very important. WILLPOWER is something you need in large quantities when you have decided you are going to do something really tough. The chocolate cake scenario actually involves won’t power. I am convinced won’t power is easier than willpower because all you need to do is just not do it. So don’t eat it.” Does anyone else find this unbelievable?!
In fact, the vast majority of the clients that I see here at the Shape Your Mind clinic have had unhelpful experiences with health professionals that they have gone to for help with this issue. At the very least they have been prescribed a diet or restrictive meal plan, which inevitably they are unable to stick to and end up feeling as though they have failed yet again, and in many cases they have been made to feel ashamed, weak and guilty for their struggle to lose the weight! This only serves to reinforce the problem, as self-esteem and self-compassion decrease even further, leaving the sufferer feeling disempowered and more likely to turn to their primary source of both comfort and punishment – food.
It is essential that health professionals (such as dietitians, doctors and psychologists) are educated about binge-eating, compulsive eating and Binge Eating Disorder so that they are able to offer real solutions – that NEVER involve diets – and as for partners and loved ones, rather than offering advice or suggestions about what someone struggling with binge-eating should or shouldn’t eat, or making comments about their weight (as if they didn’t already know it was a problem!), it is far more helpful to simply show support and compassion.
For those of you who have struggled or are struggling with overeating, what helpful or unhelpful experiences have you had with partners/friends/family members/health professionals? If you are the partner of someone struggling with this issue, how do you show them support without judgment?