Why therapy doesn’t work for many binge eaters

I realize now, way too late, that going to therapy for binge eating back when I was 23 was a mistake. I had no way of knowing where it would all head, not back then. I started ED in 1980. Most of you were not alive then, so allow me to explain. We didn’t know what anorexia was. We had no internet to look these things up nor was anorexia very common. No one spoke of it, ever. Bulimia had barely been invented and BED would not enter the DSM until 2013. Most clinicians did not know what binge eating was, and many didn’t know what anorexia was. I remember many of them couldn’t spell anorexia and they couldn’t spell bulimia, either. How was I to get help at all?

I didn’t know what caused it. I never found any clinicians, ever, who fully explained it to me….

After anorexia, your body is still recovering even if you are eating normally and even if your weight is okay. This goes on an average of nine years. During this time you will find that you binge now and then. This is not a disease, it is part of your body’s normal process.

For those who were never anorexic but find themselves binge eating, almost all were starving prior to the onset of bingeing. Either this was due to a diet or due to unavailability of nutritious food. Some were starving and never knew! This can happen at any weight.

Yes, binge eating is extremely uncomfortable and incapacitating. However, overly focusing on it in the form of therapy will likely make it worse. I don’t think therapy that doesn’t deal directly with the behavior is the answer, either. I think therapists that won’t talk about it are avoidant and possibly aren’t comfortable talking about food issues themselves. Or the ones I remember I had were like that. They would talk about anything but!

Overtalking about it will make you obsess about the behavior. It’s just like thinking too much about not sleeping will cause insomnia. Same deal. This is also why keeping a “food diary” can be quite defeating for many people. Never mind the therapists who insist on peeking at your food diary. I always felt violated when they did that. I usually didn’t want to admit this to the nicer therapists, either.

Seeing a competent nutritionist might be the way to go. Expect to shell out big bucks to find one that know his/her stuff. Some of the alternative ones, so-called, might be better, but many of those don’t know anything about ED whatsoever.

I found it helpful to talk to my acupuncturist, just talking helped me immensely. My first one, anyway, the next one I didn’t like as much. I would say my first acupuncturist was a terrific influence on me. I would like to write her a thank you. Back then I remember going and feeling like she was the only one who would listen. It felt hugely relieving to go. I had no social life back then. Acupuncture was it. She didn’t do therapy. She hated traditional medicine as much as I do now.  She would feel my pulses and look at my tongue and then ask me some very basic questions about how things were going. She was incredibly intuitive. She and her supervisor were the ones who recommended I report to the police, after I told them I’d been raped by my neighbor in 2008. They knew I wasn’t lying.

Sadly, my appointment with the cops happened after the acupuncturist graduated. I had no way to get in touch and I couldn’t use her as a validation witness. The police told me my story “sounded fabricated.” And that was that.

We do what we can do. I stopped bingeing after I stopped therapy.  After I stopped all mental health treatment and stopped calling myself a mental patient. It didn’t happen right away, but being free of “them” was a big deal for me, as I realized that after 33 years of therapy, totally wasting my life, I had finally done something right.

After that, I taught myself many things that have helped me. I found I didn’t need a therapist after all and that therapy was holding me back.

I love my life now. I think about other things, not ED. I have many goals and I manage to achieve some of them. I love working and earning money. Paychecks are starting to come in. The next big step will be to get off the disability rolls for good.

4 thoughts on “Why therapy doesn’t work for many binge eaters”

  1. From your writings I’m surprised by how cruel and vicious many of your therapists were, Julie. Do you think the ones who specialize in ED tend to be more controlling/emotionally abusive?

    1. Yes,I believe the field is a goldmine for controlling people. They demand that you get force-weighed and also demand intimate information like how often you poop and what you eat, etc. They usually want patients to come in twice a week and also demand that they see a PCP to get weighed and a nutritionist and psychiatrist. This is usually standard practice.

      Therapists love being the center of the circus ring. The patient is so wrapped up in the therapy that the situation actually can worsen ED. It took me years to realize that therapy was the cause of worsening ED.

      1. Sorry, I had to update that comment. They have you come in twice a week…..Serves me right for trying to do this during work time!

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