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I help my clients identify what's really bothering them by encouraging them to ask the following question when they notice mouth hunger: "I'm reaching for food, and I'm not physically hungry. I wonder what I might think about or feel if I didn't eat right now." Clients will eventually find that when they try to turn to food for comfort, it no longer works! I refer to this moment as "the good news and the bad news." While my clients no longer eat compulsively, they must deal directly with their issues instead. But, of course, this is really a wonderful step, since clients now feel they're in charge of their eating and can face their real problems. I emphasize that when weight loss occurs, it's a side effect of their new relationship with food and not the main event. I spend time teaching my clients about positive body image and size diversity: that people naturally come in different shapes and sizes. I find it helpful to remind them that even if we all ate the same things and maintained the same exercise program, we wouldn't weigh the same amount.
As clients discover how to cure compulsive eating, rather than control it, they take the first steps along the way to physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Energy freed up from a preoccupation with food and weight can be channeled into more productive endeavors, including relationships, work, hobbies, and good self-care. Learning to tune in to needs related to physical hunger leads to an ability to recognize and respond to other kinds of psychological hungers. Taking pleasure in food and one's body leads to a fuller, more satisfying life. These benefits will empower your clients, and they may empower you.
Judith Matz, L.C.S.W., the director of The Chicago Center for Overcoming Overeating, has treated eating and weight issues for more than 25 years. She's the coauthor of Beyond a Shadow of a Diet: The Therapist's Guide to Treating Compulsive Eating and The Diet Survivor's Handbook. Contact: judith email@example.com; website: www.dietsur vivors.com. Tell us what you think about this article by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or log in and comment below.