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The reissue of a classic in healthy living, with more than 300,000 copies sold! Diet/binge, good food/bad food, punishment/reward. These are the compulsive eater's nightmares—a long-time pattern of recrimination and guilt that ultimately leads to more overeating and more weight gain. In an updated edition, here is the ground-breaking, step-by-step plan that doesn't control eating habits but cures them instead, once and for all. Overcoming Overeating will show you how to: * Give up dieting forever * Eat from true stomach hunger instead of "mouth hunger" * Stop overeating and lose weight naturally * Move beyond a preoccupation with eating and weight in order to live a more satisfying life.
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Introduction to the Book
If you count yourself among the people who feel compelled to eat even though you're not at all hungry, this book is for you. It offers a radical alternative to chronic dieting, a way to go beyond controlling your compulsive desire for food and start curing it. "Control" means eating foods prescribed by others, according to their rules—what you do when you go on a diet. "Cure" means no longer needing rules and food restrictions—challenging many of your most deeply-held convictions and dealing with something much more basic. Cure involves making peace with food, making peace with yourself, and making peace with your body. Cure is what this book is all about.
You may be the sort of person who turns on the TV, remembers the pie in the kitchen, and polishes it off before the program's over, just because "it's there." Or perhaps you're the type who wants the pie, thinks about it all evening, but doesn't eat it. In either case, you feel that you live in a "thin or die" world and you're desperate. So first you diet and then you binge, despite the fact that study after study has proved that diets do not work and that the yo-yo effect of the diet/binge cycle serves only to make further weight gain inevitable.
We know that you, as a compulsive eater or chronic dieter, regard food as your problem. You believe that you must learn to curb your desire for food and eat less. As therapists who have worked with compulsive eaters for eighteen years, we've discovered that food is not really the problem at all. Food is delicious and nourishing, and no one should ever feel deprived of the enjoyment it offers. Your problem is that, as a compulsive eater, you consciously or unconsciously use food to manage your anxiety, to calm yourself when you feel stressed, and to bring comfort when you feel lonely or sad or afraid.
Because you alternate between using food to keep yourself comfortable and desperately trying to limit your intake, you've forgotten the true purpose of eating. For you, food no longer has anything to do with physiological hunger. Indeed, most compulsive eaters are rarely aware of when they are physiologically hungry. The signals that trigger your eating come from everywhere except your stomach.
Our cure for compulsive eating involves putting food back where it belongs. We are going to teach you to "legalize" food, to learn about yourself from your desire for food, and ultimately to eat your way out of your eating problem. We are going to show you how you may lose weight by relearning how to eat. By the end of this process, you will know how to feed yourself on demand—when, what, and how much you need.
Demand feeding opens the door to the fundamental cure for your addiction to food - the feeling of having been fed. You will discover that the simple act of feeding yourself when you're hungry has great psychological consequence. Our clients often report that feeding themselves on demand makes them feel stronger and generally less anxious. Many say that following our recommended way of eating increases their sense of entitlement and leads them to "feed themselves" in other ways as well.
We have discovered in our work as therapists and teachers that once you feel fed, you are in a position to tackle the emotional concerns that led you to misuse food in the first place. Once you feel fed, you'll have the awareness and the energy you need to deal with underlying problems that were masked by your "problem" with food.
Our approach to curing compulsive eating will enable you to:
- give up dieting forever and discover that you eat much less without the restrictions of a diet.
- learn to eat from physiological hunger and, perhaps for the first time, enjoy the enormous satisfaction of meeting that hunger with the foods you most desire.
- stop overeating and possibly lose the weight that has been its by-product.
- move beyond your negative preoccupation with eating and weight into a fuller life.
If you are a chronic dieter, these goals may seem unattainable to you, and your skepticism is understandable. You are, after all, part of a terribly exploited group. A $40 billion diet industry thrives on your failure. You have been offered umpteen promises of cure, none of which have worked, and now we're saying that you can expect more than you've ever dreamed possible, that you can end your overeating and your overweight by doing away with all restrictions and eating freely.
We know from long experience that our suggestion that you give up food restrictions may trigger terror and incredulity. Compulsive eaters almost always believe that if they abandon diets and controls they will never stop eating. That is simply not the case, but we don't expect you to take our word for it. You will have to evaluate our arguments and the evidence presented in this book carefully and critically. And you will need a considerable amount of resolve to try something as new and different as what we offer. We think you will find our analysis compelling and that your fears will dissipate when you begin to take some steps that can change your life.
Over the years we have worked with perhaps eight hundred clients, one on one or in small groups, and as teachers and lecturers we have dealt with literally thousands more. We are therapists, not statisticians, and we have never been in a position to conduct the rigorous, double-blind studies that allow scientists to declare that something has been "proved." Nonetheless, our long experience with clients indicates that although 25 percent of people may feel frightened about such a radical change and give up on the program before it yields the desired results, the remaining 75 percent have a remarkable experience. They resolve their compulsive eating and in so doing change their lives. The examples throughout this book are drawn from our experiences working with people very much like you.
If you will stop yelling at yourself about your eating habits and your weight, if you will promise yourself—and truly mean it—that you will never diet again, we guarantee that, with our method, you will stop binging and gaining weight. Many of you will go on to become skillful, attuned "demand feeders" and return to your natural, lower weight. Even more important, you will develop a radically different feeling about yourself and your life.
One word of caution: although you may be tempted to follow some of our recommendations and omit those that most intimidate you, breaking an addiction to food is not something you can do successfully with a halfway approach. Those who can take courage in hand experience the greatest success in the shortest period of time.
- Imagine being able to go to the cupboard and discover that most of the cookies in a box that you opened several days ago are still there.
- Imagine having a terrible week, in which everything goes wrong and you feel depressed, yet not thinking about food except when you're hungry.
- And imagine not being on a diet, yet eating less and putting a stop to gaining weight. Not only does your weight stay the same without your "watching", but you can see how you'll actually lose weight once you get the hang of feeding yourself "from the inside."
We would be remiss if we didn't tell you that these ideas developed initially from our own problems with compulsive eating. In 1970, Carol Munter, determined to come up with an alternative to dieting, started a group for compulsive eaters, a group formed in the context of the developing women's movement. Susie Orbach, the author of Fat is a Feminist Issue, was a member of this group. Many of you have probably read or heard about the radically new approach begun there and elaborated in her books. Several books were subsequently written about the need for women to examine their oppressive relationship to food and to their bodies. Kim Chernin, Geneen Roth, Nancy Roberts, Marion Bilich, and Carol Bloom are among the leading contributors to these developing ideas.
In 1982, Jane R. Hirschmann and Lela Zaphiropoulos took these ideas one step further. They developed a comprehensive approach to the feeding of children from birth through adolescence, an approach designed to remedy existing eating difficulties as well as to prevent children from developing food and weight problems. Their ideas are presented in the book, Are You Hungry? (Note: Title has subsequently been changed to Kids, Carrots, and Candy.)
Overcoming Overeating is the culmination of the work that was begun in 1970, which we have both expanded through the years. It further develops our unorthodox view of compulsive eating and combines it with an in-depth, psychological understanding of the underlying dynamics. We offer men and women a practical, step-by-step guide to the resolution of compulsive-eating problems.
We present this material here much as we do when we teach it. We argue for a new view of compulsive eating, then lay out the systematic approach that flows from our ideas. Our goal for each of you is the same as it is for all the people with whom we work. We believe that it is possible for you to break your addictive relationship with food and be free to live life unencumbered by an "eating problem". The proof of the pudding is in the eating!
NOTE: We are no longer accepting the Questionnaires that were published in Overcoming Overeating. However, many find it helpful to complete them for their own use. For your convenience, we have made a printable version of both Questionnaires available here:
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