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Sharing and Reflecting About Eating Problems

Many people who have difficulty with eating aren’t sure how to approach resolving their food or body image problems: Should they get support from other people or try to figure out solutions on their own? The answer is yes to both, hopefully in good balance.

Over my 30-plus years treating disregulated eaters (and other types of clients), I’ve noticed that they tend to fall one way or the other with overcoming their problems. Some keep them secret and spend years working by themselves trying to get appetite right. I had a client who was a helping professional who had never told a soul about her binges and purges until she came to therapy. Not only did she truly believe that she could solve her eating problems on her own, she was convinced that this was the way they should be solved. She wouldn’t join my HYPERLINK "" message board or groups I suggested in which she could share and get support. Instead, she obsessed about her problems nearly continuously and made little improvement. Every day was a lonely struggle.

I’ve also treated clients who would tell anyone about their eating issues, but in a superficial way that only appeared useful. These clients went from therapist to therapist, group to group, guru to guru. They were looking for “the answer” or, at least “an answer.” These clients needed more inward work on their own--to sit quietly and reflect on what was and wasn’t working for them and figure out what they could do differently. The fact that they were constantly outwardly focused on “the answer” made them falsely believe that they were trying to resolve their eating problems but, in truth, they were merely running from them. Obsessing is not problem-solving!

So, where does that leave you? Most of us have a general inclination to work things out on our own or to go to other people. These approaches were developed in childhood and are part of our adult coping mechanisms. Each approach has its merits, but doing both is far better than doing one or the other. If you tend to be someone who’s more comfortable noodling about a problem on your own, to balance yourself out, you’ll benefit from sharing your difficulties with others. You’ll receive validation and support and know that you’re not alone with your problems. Alternately, if you’re used to running to others to solve your difficulties, it’s time to sit back and focus on them by yourself so that you can become your own resource. You’ll never develop self-trust and self-worth without knowing the stuff you’re made of and building on it. The point is not to strike a perfect balance here, but to be equally comfortable with both modes of problem-solving.