Binge Eating & Bariatrics

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BINGE EATING

Obesity is one of the most highly stigmatized conditions a person can experience in this day and age.  It is one of the few populations where it is still considered socially acceptable to overtly discriminate against and even mock those that fall short of the socially prescribed ideal.  The world we live in is hypercritical about our bodies, and the eating disorder research suggests these messages contribute to the endorsement of a negative belief system that our individual worth is directly determined by the numbers on our scale.  

Every day, we are inundated with messages that suggest that, regardless of our weight, those who resemble anything shy of a stick figure fall grossly short of being “good enough,” and social structures co-sign this belief every single day—restaurant booths in many restaurants are not adequate for people of size, airplane seats are incredibly small, people in the general public may point, stare, or make derogatory comments.  Often, well-meaning doctors shame their patients, provide inadequate assessment, and disregard their patient’s medical concerns, assuming their obesity is the only reasonable explanation for their presenting symptoms. Even our friends and family may contribute to the bias we experience with implicit messages of judgment such as, “are you sure you really want that?” or, “are you really still hungry enough for seconds.”

Unlike other issues, it seems that all bets are off when it comes to an individual’s food, body, and just how an overweight individual moves through the world. 

Available services include:

• Individual counseling

• Group counseling

• Telehealth (currently available in California only)

Regardless of how comfortable one may be in their body, these experiences impact us deeply—and only serve to further perpetuate the collateral damage resulting from past trauma.  The truth is, some trauma is so severe that we wear our scars on the outside so that others know where we stand and to create a feeling of safety in a world that we haven’t always experienced as safe.  Obesity is one way to create a barrier between the self and a world that feels uncertain, unpredictable, and potentially a threat to our survival.

As a clinician, I’m unique in that I believe obesity, and binge eating in particular, is the symptom of a greater underlying problem. This means that in order to adequately address the problem, it’s important I work closely with my clients to address, not only the overt assaults from the public regarding their weight, but also drill down to the deeper work to discover the negative beliefs they hold about themselves—the beliefs they hold that tell the story of their history and their relationship with food.  By healing your relationship with food and your body, the weight will begin to stabilize on its own. In other words, the weight is serving as a protective barrier against a perceived threat and a belief that that we are not worthy. So, the work isn’t just in changing the behavior—but actually in changing your relationship with yourself—and we do this by walking through the pain, reclaiming our voice, and discovering through our growth and healing that we, too, deserve to take up space in this world.

WHY IS THERAPY IMPORTANT?

Obesity and chronic overeating are symptoms of greater life challenges that are difficult to cope with effectively.  To be successful in your weight loss journey, it’s important to process the cause of your original weight gain.  The idea of facing those challenges head on can feel overwhelming, but with my help and support, you can:

  • Develop new coping skills
  • Process trauma from your past
  • Learn to love yourself and your body
  • Repair your relationship with food
  • Learn effective strategies to cope with depression, anxiety, and triggers for overeating
  • Reduce your shame and negative self-talk

5 QUICK FACTS ABOUT FOOD AND OBESITY

  1. Individuals that have experienced trauma often use food as a means of numbing or coping with intolerable feelings or sensations. 
  2. Approximately two-thirds of those with a dysfunctional relationship with food have struggled with food issues for more than half their life.
  3. Sudden weight change leaves an individual little time to adjust to a change in body dimensions, and the attention from others, which may result.
  4. Research suggests a strong relationship between obesity, and depression and anxiety.
  5. Research also suggests a strong correlation between sexual victimization and the development of disordered eating patterns. Sexual victimization can lead to body-image disturbances, confusion about bodily sensations, negative self-esteem, guilt and shame, and difficulties in identifying or knowing one’s feelings.

BARIATRIC PATIENT THERAPY

Bariatric surgery is not only a medical intervention, but also constitutes a permanent and life-changing event. Weight loss surgery results in rapid physical changes—and the change in your body can, often, occur faster than your brain can keep up. Additionally, many people experience a sense of grief and face unanticipated challenges due to being forced to find new coping strategies, as they are physiologically no longer able to use food to cope in the way that they may have in the past. In the average hour it takes to perform weight loss surgery, one goes from food being a source of comfort and safety, to losing what many may feel has been their “best friend.” This can feel very destabilizing for an individual—abruptly an individual is forced to directly face the parts of themselves that they have often spent years trying to hide from the world. For this reason, it’s really important that clients who have undergone weight loss surgery, or are considering doing so, have an adequate support system to buffer against the challenges that may arise, and therapy is one of the ways to put that support in place.

As a leading provider in bariatric patient therapy, my approach is designed to help prepare you for the emotional journey you will undergo before, during, and following surgery. Having undergone the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass procedure myself, I am closely connected to this work. I have a unique understanding of the personal and psychological impact of weight loss surgery on an individual, as well as his or her family. Your surgeon wants to ensure you have the necessary resources and support in place in order to have the best chance for success, and I am prepared to travel along this journey with you.

Available services include:

• Pre-surgical bariatric psychosocial assessment/evaluation
• Pre/post surgical support
• Individual counseling
• Group counseling
• Telehealth (currently available in California only)

IS BARIATRIC SURGERY RIGHT FOR YOU?

Making a decision regarding bariatric surgery may be one of the most difficult decisions you ever make regarding your body and your health. Bariatric surgery is a lifetime commitment and a decision that should not be taken lightly. If you are considering bariatric surgery, it’s important to understand your relationship with your own body, mind, heart and spirit.

Together we can explore your relationship with yourself, as well as your relationship with food. Having a concrete understanding of yourself and you personal needs will give you the resources to set achievable goals and proactively pursue the best version of yourself.