“What will it take for me to stop bingeing?” It’s a common question those who come to The Body Image Therapy Center pose to us. Many have tried diet after diet thinking it will end the obsession or abuse of food, but it only leads to more binge eating and for many the additional behavior of purging. The outcome is just more self-loathing and isolation. To deal with that sense of isolation, many put others first – be it family, friends, bosses or co-workers – in a dysfunctional attempt at connection. Typically, all that does is leave little energy or motivation for self-care except late night binges or other eating disorder (ED) behaviors.
While the focus of anorexia treatment is the normalization of meals and weight restoration, the treatment of binge eating and bulimia often is less focused on the food itself. The ED behaviors are seen as symptomatic of co-occurring interpersonal problems according to a recent journal article in Psychotherapy (June 2016). There are several types of relationship focused therapy, such as Psychoanalytic, Integrative Dynamic, or Interpersonal Psychotherapy. But they all draw from the same well.
The goal is to create a more balanced individual where support from healthy individuals is cultivated, discordant relationships are given healthy boundaries, and old social wounds that caused such negative self-beliefs are addressed and mended. The result is the need for the eating disorder is reduced, feelings come up because the eating disorder is at bay, and the work gets deeper and more meaningful.
The result is the core issues of self-worth and belonging that drove the behavior are addressed. The eating disorder becomes irrelevant. And the person flourishes. It’s not that you need others to make you feel good, it’s that cultivating healthy relationships builds self-worth and empowerment. It’s the power of togetherness, the very antithesis of what eating disorders provide, that we’re ultimately seeking.
The evidence is there. That insatiable hunger you think you feel is not about food, it’s about connection. Don’t let binge eating and bulimia keep you from that a minute longer.
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C - Founder, Executive Director, Psychotherapist at The Body Image Therapy Center. If you would like to get in touch with Andrew please call 877-674-2843 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.