A Little Bit Of Kindness Goes A Long Way
I sincerely hope everyone has been coping in these unusually challenging and turbulent times? I really miss being with my clients face to face, but I have found zoom, face time (audio or video) skype and old fashioned phone calls have been working quite well. It has enabled me to expand my hours and locations as people can dial in from any where now making it possible to work with people interstate and internationally. I hope it has also relieved some stress for people not having to fight traffic, public transport and that they may feel relaxed and safer being in their own homes with a nice cuppa while we speak.Bit by bit I am also going to go back to face to face sessions when restrictions ease but will also keep all my online options going forward.
I read a quote a little while ago written by Dr Keith Humphreys, former senior advisor on alcohol and drug policy to the Obama administration about an addiction myth: It made quite an impression on me. The myth is that getting tough with a substance user will make them stop using. "Studies show that tough love, shaming, blaming and humiliating addicts will only make their addiction worse. They will feel even worse about themselves and may use more, often in secret."
This got me thinking about how poorly we treat people who have problems related to their weight. Firstly there is a massive misunderstanding about the causes of excess weight. It is negligent and insulting to attribute peoples weight only to the food they eat, the amount of food they eat and if and how often they exercise. Sure, these things play an important role in our health but are not the sole reasons people struggle with their weight.
Secondly if someone struggles with binge eating, a binge eating disorder, compulsive eating, and restrictive eating how on earth is it reasonable to think that perhaps being tougher on them might just be the answer?
Shaming, blaming and humiliating people for what they eat, how they eat and when they eat runs the same risk that the doctor wrote about.
It usually just makes people feel worse about themselves and more likely to eat in secret.
The other thing that is so misguided about being tough on someone for the way they eat is that while it is possibly coming from a place of good intentions, it fails to understand the depth and magnitude of reasons that cause a person to eat (or not eat) outside of physical hunger.
There might be significant childhood trauma, family violence, domestic abuse, childhood sexual assault, major or minor mental health problems, trouble with self regulation, responses to being brought up with a family member who has body and self esteem issues that have been projected on to them, childhood illnesses, and a myriad and multitude of other complex genetic, psychosocial and psychological reasons.
People struggling with their weight and relationship with food often are also incredibly hard on themselves, shaming towards them selves and quite often really negative towards them selves. (Not everyone who has excess weight is like this of course) but I am talking about those who are.
Being tough on them, commenting on their eating, their food choice, shaming them in public or private just hurts them more.
Why is it anyone's role to humiliate someone else?
An approach I prefer to take with my clients and patients is to help them be less judgmental about themselves, to beat themselves up less, to be kind to them and to be forgiving towards them selves.
It is not my role to be hard on them either. I am yet to see evidence that being harsh, cruel and judgmental serves anyone well when they are struggling to make changes to behaviours that are long standing and often quite painful to work on.
I really hope as a society and culture we can start to shift the messaging that weight loss is " just about eating less and moving more". If it were that simple no one would have ongoing weight struggles.