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Obesity, Bulimia, Anorexia, and Binge Eating: A Simple, Natural Way to Help Them All

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When I contacted Barbara L. Holtzman, psychotherapist and author of Conscious Eating, Conscious Living; A Practical Guide to Making Peace with Food & Your Body, I asked her if she had any thoughts on healing eating disorders naturally. After Ms. Holtzman logged on to EmpowHER.com and saw, as she said, “… the good work … we were doing,” she gave me permission to use two of her papers.

According to Ms. Holtzman’s paper Making Peace with Food & Your Body, “Diets don’t work.” Holtzman goes on to explain the three different types of diets and how each causes the dieter to fail and possibly to develop an eating disorder. Holtzman wrote, “Diets that eliminate the food you love and want set up an urge to binge as a rebellion against feeling deprived.” Certainly these types of diets could lead to bulimia and binge eating disorders.

Of the second class of diets, Holtzman writes, “Diets that dictate what to eat and when to eat keep us reliant on external cues rather than responding to our body’s needs for food.” Not being able to eat what you want or when your body is naturally hungry is the best recipe for failure. How many times can dieters fight the urge to eat what they want when they feel hungry? Obesity is one obvious outcome.

The third types of diets are the most dangerous. Holtzman describes them as “Diets that severely restrict the quantity of food turn a weight loss diet into a maintenance diet as the body’s metabolism changes to prevent what it believes is starvation.” Of course these diets could result in anorexia nervosa, the most deadly of all eating disorders.

So what’s the alternative? How can we keep our weight in a healthy range and also feel satisfied? Well, Holtzman lists ten ways, but of these she said the most important one in today’s frantic world is to “Practice conscious eating. Slow down your eating and enjoy each bite to the fullest; you will enjoy it more and be satisfied with less.” There is ancient wisdom in these words.

In fact, a wise old woman once told me something similar. She said, “When you eat, just eat!" Imagine what type of dining that would curtail: no eating while on a cell phone, watching TV, standing at the refrigerator door deciding what’s for dinner, driving, working or playing on the computer and definitely no eating while watching the kids play sports of any kind.

These are all places many of us take our repast today. And it’s unhealthy. Imagine if we only ate while sitting at a table while concentrating on and appreciating the gift of food in front of us.

My Catholic school nuns, God bless them, always said you should chew each mouthful of food twenty times before you swallow it. But most days we’re in such a rush our food disappears before we realize we’ve eaten it. The brain never has a chance to register we’ve eaten. No wonder we’re always hungry. The nuns were right. Don’t tell anyone I said that.

This one recommendation of Barbara Holtzman’s, practice conscious eating, could revolutionize the eating habits of Americans today. It will not just help people with eating disorders; it will help everyone.

Barbara Holtzman is a psychotherapist, hypotherapist and lifestyle coach in Providence and Wakefield, RI. You can get her free tips on making peace with food at www.makingpeacewithfoodandyourbody.com.

Barbara L. Holtzman, MSW, LICSW, Making Peace with Food & Your Body.

Add a Comment2 Comments


Thoughtful, wonderful words from Barbara Holtzman indeed, and it's cool that she let you use her info on the site!

Several years ago a friend and I were lucky enough to visit Paris. First, it is right what they say -- people in Europe are simply not as overweight as we are in the United States. Most people, in fact, are lean. Second, I was astonished at how my own eating habits changed while we were there. Because of the way it's presented, a bowl of french onion soup and a chunk of bread with a glass of wine was one of the most satisfying meals I'd ever had. We'd walk around all day shopping and when we needed lunch or a snack, we would pop into one of the many sidewalk shops available all over the city -- their version of fast food would often be something fresh, made on site, from whole ingredients. Sandwiches on croissants, salads, focaccias or quiches, for instance, with small places to sit and enjoy them. It was satisfying food and it was an enjoyable experience and it was plenty of food. And this happened even though we were walking and getting quite a lot of exercise.

Diets don't work, but clearly if we are to tackle obesity in the United States, something big will have to change. Our society is built around the car, convenience and size. When you're surrounded by fast foods of all kinds, made from processed foods and given in mammoth sizes, it almost feels like the deck is stacked against you from the start. And that out-of-control feeling is a trigger for eating disorders, too.

January 27, 2010 - 11:46am
(reply to Diane Porter)


Yes Barbara is a wise and generous woman. She sent me an email saying how pleased she was with the article.

And I can't tell you how pleased I was to see your comment on my site. Since before Christmas I'd be notified that I had a comment, and when I would click on the link, nothing was there. It was a technical glitch that’s obviously fixed now. But if anyone made a comment on any of my pieces that wasn't answered I sincerely apologize. If you have the time to send it again, I will be happy to respond.

And I agree with you about France Diane. We went to visit our oldest granddaughter for her second birthday walking around Paris pushing a stroller is exercise I don’t care to repeat. But everyone walks and enjoys beautiful food. And they all seem to be thin. Thanks for the comment; it was good to see your smiling face.
Mary Sornberger

January 28, 2010 - 2:56pm
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