Friday, July 27, 2018

What the Counselor Says

A few months ago I once again decided to try counseling to see if it could help me in the mental and emotional aspects of keeping the weight off. I've done counseling before, most memorably my counselor Cloe who had been an eating disorder therapist with anorexics and bulimics and advised me to stop weighing myself and eat candy bars and potato chips instead of stressing about it. It's funny, because several years later that is pretty much what I ended up doing! It wasn't such bad advice after all... but the timing was horrible for me. I was not in any way ready to do that. I think she missed some of the important details of normalizing food, and a person has to be really *able* to accept weight gain when doing that and feel calm about the overall journey. Otherwise, you just end up eating a bunch of junk, dealing with tightening clothes, freaking out, trying to diet, feeling stressed, and eating more. Not a good cycle. So I had to stop with Cloe... it was just not helping me because of the state of mind I was in.

The new counselor is not in any way trained in dealing with disordered eating. I was not sure if that would be a drawback or not, but since I couldn't find any ED specialists in my area that take my insurance (and are not inpatient), I figured I'd give him a try. And he's been very helpful! Most of the time, I don't even talk about food or weight or any of that. In fact, when I finally did bring that up, he was visibly surprised to hear my story of having been almost 300 pounds, losing over a hundred, gaining almost all of it back, and losing it again. I explained to him how I used to binge eat when I was stressed and how even after I stopped bingeing, I still would feel compelled to eat when I was upset. He told me that is a coping mechanism, and a "very good one" as he put it; it works. Overeating releases calming and soothing chemicals in my brain and helps me feel better. It's the same mechanism that drives alcoholics to drink, addicts to use drugs, and gambling addicts to gamble. I probably subconsciously chose this coping mechanism because it is much more socially acceptable to be fat and eat too much than it is to be a Mom who's a drunk or an addict. You don't get your kids taken away and put in foster care because you're a size 3X.  You don't lose your college funding for eating too many brownies like you could for using drugs. Being a food addict was a pretty safe bet for me, even though in the end it did not serve me well.

We talk about other, healthier coping mechanisms I can use, but we are also talking about those few, lingering emotional issues that still make me want to overeat. I worked through most of those things (mainly via blogging) last time I lost all this weight, and the only "baggage" I have left undealt with is very specific and related to certain people in my life. We've been talking about those things and I am working through my feelings by expressing them out loud with the counselor and getting his input and encouragement to resolve them in real life. I am really happy to be doing this!

Scale says: 184.


Anonymous said...

Lyn, I have been reading almost all along. I remember Chloe! I love that you acknowledge that she was right in her advice and method, but it was just not the right time for you to do it. You were not ready. This is why counseling is so beneficial. Even if you can't use their educated opinion that very day, you usually will find some use for it down the road (even years ahead). I am so glad you are comfortable in yourself now. p.s., one benefit of a counselor is that you don't have to vent as much to your friends, lol.

Anonymous said...

"You don't get your kids taken away and put in foster care because you're a 3x." I kind of giggled at that but So true!! It's been my coping mechanism too. You're doing so great. I want to be like you when I grow up! :)

Anonymous said...

This is the cron anon and I'm really glad that you shared your counseling experience.

I had a therapist back in high school, when I was dealing with anorexia, who sort of told me the same thing: "Your eating issues are just a way of avoiding the rest of life. If you fill your time with other things and don't fear engagement with the world, the food games will fade into the background." He very specifically called it "playing food games" because for me, that's what it was (the mental gymnastics of counting calories and obsessing over what I could/couldn't eat, starving myself so that I would feel too tired to do other stuff, etc.).

It was VERY HARD advice to take at the time because my brain was still addicted to the obsessive-compulsive cycle of food restriction, but many years later I STILL remind myself of his words when I want to make sure I'm not relapsing. I ask myself "Is food getting in the way of my life" and if it is, I force myself to do something out of my comfort zone, like go on a trip where I don't control what we eat.

Anyway, thank you again for sharing.

MaryFran said...

It sounds like this thearapist is just what you needed at this time in your life!!!

Xani said...

So happy to hear you are having a positive experience with your therapist! Has he brought up, or have you ever encountered, the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs) model? You might find it interesting.