The Importance of Support for Eating Disorders
In her first session with me Rose exclaimed emphatically, “No offense to you, but I feel that I should be able to control my food and weight by myself without the help of a therapist!”
Over the years, Rose had tried various ways to cure her food and weight obsession. Although she had been able to achieve some temporary relief, nothing lasted for very long. She soon found herself back on the not-so-merry-go-round of failed diets and increasing self-hatred and desperation. Was there something Rose was not getting?
I did a thorough review of all her previous attempts to get better: the numerous diets, New Year’s resolutions, self-help books, a workshop here and there, also a couple of Overeaters Anonymous groups.
A pattern started to emerge: It seemed that every time she started to feel better and more in control of her weight she would stop getting support, because she believed she should be able to control her food and weight by herself.
She was able to keep the healthy momentum on her own for a while, but inevitably she would fall off the wagon and then feel terrible about herself again. She would beat herself up and resolve to do “better next time.” Years of this pattern had brought her self-esteem to an all-time low. She described herself as “a failure” and “out of control.” She had developed painful habits around constantly obsessing about her weight and hating her body.
The Band-aid Approach
I call this approach that Rose was using “Band-aid treatment.” She was not really addressing the underlying wound or problem; she was simply trying to feel better. There is nothing wrong with trying to feel better—we all do this. But if a wound keeps reappearing, the underlying cause needs to be explored and addressed; otherwise, the wound will keep getting reinfected.
Rose’s problem was that as soon as she experienced some symptom relief she would drop whatever support she was receiving, because she honestly believed she should be able to continue on her own. Dropping the support was sending her back into the negative cycles around her body and weight. She needed to stop the negative cycles long enough to be able to see what was driving them emotionally. In other words, she needed to stabilize patterns on the physical plane before she could explore what was happening on the emotional plane.
I was honest with her. I told her I wasn’t sure I could help. I predicted that after a few sessions with me she would start to feel better and then move on without addressing the real problem. I suggested that she decide on one method of treatment and stick to it until her recovery was rock-solid strong. I encouraged her to stop beating herself up for not being able to sustain recovery by herself. Most important, I stressed the importance of getting ongoing support if she really wanted full and lasting recovery.