Overcoming Overeating
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The book 'Overcoming Overeating'

The book Overcoming Overeating: How to Break the Diet/Binge Cycle and Live a Healthier More Satisfying Life was written by Jane Hirschmann and Carol Munter. It offers some useful insights, but can be enabling and destructive. It overemphasizes "legalizing" formerly forbidden foods, and underemphasizes the development of internal controls that naturally limit what we eat. The result is that people often gain weight without end.

Telling a compulsive eater that she can stop food cravings by unlimited compulsive eating makes about as much sense as telling an alcoholic that he can overcome his craving for alcohol by unlimited drinking!

Deprivation: Just One Piece

Normal Eating used to use the term "Legalizing" to describe Stage 1. This led to widespread misunderstanding because Overcoming Overeating uses the same term very differently. Stage 1 is now called "Reframing" rather than "Legalizing".

In Overcoming Overeating, "legalizing" means eating lots of formerly forbidden foods on the theory that this will remove compulsive urges for these foods. But eating lots of something only removes feelings of deprivation, and deprivation is generally a small piece of why someone eats compulsively.

For most people, the issues that fuel compulsive eating run much deeper. If you eat a lot of a particular food you may tire of it. But if you haven't dealt with the underlying emotional issues, you'll just eat some other food compulsively.

The advice to eat lots of formerly forbidden foods without any attempt at mindfulness or self-control leads to significant weight gain that is never lost.

Reframing vs. Legalizing

Normal Eating's Stage 1, called "Reframing", is not meant to remove feelings of compulsion. It's the emotional work in Stages 2 and 3 that removes the compulsion.

Reframing is about changing how you think about food - learning that you have the right to eat whatever you want, and becoming able to do this without guilt. You'll probably still be overeating at this stage, but you will stop beating yourself up for it. This prepares you for the work in Stages 2 and 3.

Changing how you think does not require eating foods that you previous avoided. You can know you're free to eat potato chips without actually eating them. Conversely, you can eat potato chips every day, and if you feel guilty every time you do it, you've accomplished nothing.

In Normal Eating, Stage 1 is not something you eat your way through; it's something you think your way through.

This is an excerpt from the book Normal Eating for Normal Weight: The Path to Freedom from Weight Obsession and Food Cravings by Sheryl Canter