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Fixing Problems Food and Otherwise

One of my clients insisted that because her food problems were totally her fault, she was the only one who could fix them. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, two underlying beliefs of hers were mistakenly tied together and we talked until they got sorted out.

They were: 1) It’s my fault that I continue to have eating problems and weigh more than I wish to, and 2) I’m the only one who can fix these problems because I’m the one who caused them. First, we tackled belief #1, her eating and weight concerns being totally her fault. I noted the statistic from Gina Kolata’s Rethinking Thin (page 123) that “70% of the variation in people’s weights may be accounted for by inheritance,” which led to my client acknowledging the eating and weight issues of her parents and siblings. Then we discussed her mother’s overfocus on weight and eating healthfully and our thin-obsessed, fat-phobic culture. And last we went over how she’d tried for decades to diet herself thinner. Since only 5% of dieters keep weight off long-term and chronic dieting can make people fatter, was she really at fault?

We next examined the error in her second belief, that only she could fix her problem because it was her fault and that not fixing it by herself was yet another reason to blame herself for failure. Really? Is the outcome any different whether someone crashes into your car while you’re parked and you end up with a broken leg or if you stumbled dead drunk, stepped off a curb, and broke it? Wouldn’t you still need to figure out how to get your leg fixed? Moreover, would you still insist on fixing it yourself?

My conversation with my client made me wonder how many dysregulated eaters also mistakenly think that they need to fix their eating problems by themselves because they feel they’re to blame for them. Why does it matter? Don’t you want to get problems fixed because they’re, well, problems, no matter how they came about? What’s the advantage of resolving your eating problems yourself or getting help to do it?

If you’re unhappy with your eating and have dieted to take off weight, know that you were duped like the rest of us into believing that diets work long-term rather than being likely to put more pounds on you in the long run. If you come from a family of people who have high weights, there’s no one to blame, as they had antecedents too. Focus on fixing what’s going on with your eating now and give it 100% of your energy. You can’t do that if you’re blaming yourself for where you’re at. Separate the self-blame from problem-solving and the journey will be easier. And, please, ask for help if you need it.