Disordered Eating and Body Image Issues

There is an increasing prevalence of body dissatisfaction being seen in today’s therapists’ case loads. Clients with body image issues are defined as those who are moderately to severely unhappy with their bodies. This dissatisfaction has many causes, including the pressure in the media for women to attain unrealistic body shapes and sizes. Air-brushed photographs and reality shows of extreme makeovers support the idea that unless you look a certain way, you are not “ok.” Negative self judgment is also reinforced by friends, family and romantic partners’ opinions and expectations of what is attractive.

THE LEFTOVERS Workbook/DVD sessions focus on all of these influences by providing the therapist with specific group and expressive arts exercises to identify:

  • the client’s level of body dissatisfaction
  • dysfunctional eating patterns
  • influence of family history
  • response to media pressure
  • root causes of their negative body image
  • regaining an understanding of the experience of “hungry and full”

As the therapist leads the clients through the exercises, the goal is to make long lasting tangible changes—resulting in reality-based body satisfaction.

Binge Eating / Compulsive Overeating / Binge-Diet Cycle

Binge eating, also referred to as compulsive overeating or the binge-diet cycle, is defined as eating large amounts of food in a short period of time until one is uncomfortably full. The client is often alone while binge eating, experiences feeling out of control during the binge and deep shame shortly after the binge is over. A client who is a compulsive over-eater will feel anxious, depressed, and filled with self loathing because of their behavior. This self loathing manifests as hate for their bodies which often results in feeling that dieting is the only answer. This perpetuates the binge-diet cycle, creates disordered eating patterns and promotes body dissatisfaction. It has been proven that this cycle of yo-yo dieting is more detrimental to the body than remaining (by societal standards) “overweight”.
The LEFTOVERS Workbook/DVD sessions use the NAAFA award winning, Off-Broadway theater piece,“Leftovers: The Ups and Downs of a Compulsive Eater” to illustrate the binge-diet cycle behavior. Watching the scene depicted on the DVD, the client is an observer of a behavior that has always been conducted in private. Seeing the actresses struggle with the binge-diet cycle helps break down the barriers and secrecy often associated with this pattern. Sessions employ humor, theater games, personal story telling, role plays and group discussion so the therapist can lead participants to a deeper understanding of the reasons behind the cycle. The support of the group setting breaks the isolation and lessens the shame often experienced by the client. Through this process the client discovers the possibility of self acceptance along with a healthier relationship to food and eating patterns.

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