Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What if the Experts Who Treat Compulsive Overeating Are Actually Do More Damage Than Good?

By Nadine Ann

I will most likely lose the friendship of my colleagues by saying this but I truly believe that the so called experts involved with Overeaters Anonymous and in residential facilities may be doing more harm than good when it comes to treating people with compulsive overeating disorder.

They work hard at restricting diets, creating rules, finding triggers and talking about emotional issues which get their clients thinking and doing. This is how the disorder has been dealt with for the past few decades. But what if this traditional method of treatment is actually making people hang on to compulsive overeating longer than others who tried a different approach?

Let's take for example Overeaters Anonymous (OA). Their 12 Step Program is based on the original 12 Steps for Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) which encourages abstinence from the substance altogether. Well we know we can't do that with food or we will die so the next best thing is restriction.

The first thing that OA has you do is state your name and that you are a compulsive overeater. You say this every time you attend a meeting. This just reinforces the fact that you intend to stay a compulsive overeater. The next thing is to follow their diet to the letter. You measure your food, you report your daily intake to your sponsor and hope you haven't screwed up because you could be tarred and feathered for it.

Another thing that OA believes is that once you are a compulsive overeater, you will be for life. You'll never be free of it. But what if this thinking is all coming down from years and years ago before research was done on the subject of binge eating disorder? What if this just isn't true?

Now I'll use a residential treatment facility as the next example. Residential treatment facilities do the same kind of food restriction, often times prescribing anti-depressants and having clients stay for 30-60 days at a time. They do "Talk Therapy" but I have yet to see them hold classes on becoming assertive and dealing with stress so that when the client is released back into the wild they can fend for themselves without falling back into the same trap they were in before.

Could all the traditional or old ways of thinking and treating clients be just that...old?

Now lets say we give people the tools they need to reduce stress, become organized, and face deadlines and fears. We also help them learn to use facts without emotions, question beliefs that limit them, and learn to be assertive in their relationships with people. What if we also taught them to use short chunky goals that are so easy to achieve it makes the brain want to keep going for more? And how would they feel if we could bring back the self worth and self esteem that is gone from their lives instead of making them feel worse?

We could send a message to the world that compulsive overeating is no longer a disorder you must live with forever.

I am reminded of when my dad had a heart attack a couple of years back. It was the old way versus the new way of thinking for us and we immediately chose what we thought would be the best for my dad. It came down to two cardiologists. One had graduated in 1968 and had a ton of experience and the other had graduated in 1990 with obviously less experience but specialized in the latest technology which meant my dad could have the heart catheterization procedure with minimal pain and not have to have open heart surgery.

Sometimes the new guy with the new procedure is the way to go!

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