Binge Eating and Self-Esteem
online conference transcript
Jane Latimer , our guest, author and therapist, struggled with eating disorders and binge eating during twenty long years. What did she learn that helped her recover?
David Roberts is the HealthyPlace.com moderator.
The people in blue are audience members.
David: Good Evening. I'm David Roberts, the moderator for tonight's conference. I want to welcome everyone to HealthyPlace.com.
Our topic tonight is "Binge Eating and Self-Esteem". Our guest is Jane Latimer. Ms. Latimer holds a masters degree in psychology and is a therapist, coach and mentor. She is CEO of The Aliveness Project, a mentoring program for women with food and weight issues. And Ms. Latimer is author of several books including "Living Binge Free" and "Beyond the Food Game." For twenty years, she suffered with various eating disorders, including binge eating. She says it's been eighteen years since she broke free from the pain of those eating disorders.
Good evening, Jane, and welcome to HealthyPlace.com. Thank you for being our guest tonight. The first thing, I'm sure, that everyone would like to know is: How did you do it? What were the keys to your recovery from eating disorders?
Jane Latimer: A lot of things. I believed I could fully recover because I didn't believe that I was being my real self. Then, I got into a food plan, which enabled me to start feeling things. The food plan provided space for me to get in touch with myself.
The spiritual part of my recovery from eating disorders was so very important, because I knew that I was first and foremost, a beautiful being who was loved by my Higher Power. The eating disorder wasn't me. I learned that I wasn't really all those horrible feelings I had. And I learned to use the feelings to discover my truth, my authentic self which is in alignment with the FLOW, or with Higher Power. I also began to really trust myself. That took awhile, but I had to learn to trust ME, not be what I thought others wanted me to be.
David: What is the difference between binge eating, overeating, or being a compulsive overeater?
Jane Latimer: I like to think of binge-eating as a feeling of being out-of-control. While overeating is more eating when you are not hungry.
David: What causes someone to binge eat?
Jane Latimer: That's very complex. I like to follow 3-tracks.
- Track 1 is looking at the biochemistry.
- Track 2 is looking at the underlying emotional issues.
- Track 3 would be the relationship to food itself.
Usually, when I ask people not to binge-eat when they want to, they describe the feeling as being out-of-control. The word I use for that feeling is fragmented. A person feels panicky, scattered, disoriented and food helps them get grounded and numb out.
David: I'm assuming that since you were involved with eating disorders for twenty years, separating yourself from food issues is a very complicated process. Am I right about that?
Jane Latimer: It's very scary. There are so many scary feelings that a person doesn't know how to deal with. They can't make sense of it. It's very overwhelming. So, it's easier just to go back to the food. I always suggest that people work with safety. It is very important to build safety resources, both internal and external, so that giving up their reliance on food becomes easier. They, then, have other things they can rely on.
David: We have some audience questions, Jane, and then we'll continue:
Becky1154: Have you used other ways to cope with the stressors that used to make you binge?
Jane Latimer: Absolutely, I use many things. I've grown to rely on my ability to process my feelings, if not with another person, then in my journal. I journal daily and I also meditate daily. I exercise quite a bit, because that keeps me feeling good. I also have really worked on shifting my "negative mind" so that I don't let it ramble on for days on end anymore. I think that everything that is happening is always for my best. That's what has gotten me through.
David: Going through your site, you talk a lot about what I like to call "alternative" healing methods vs. strict therapy for eating disorders. Can you expand on that for us here and tell us what role that played in your healing and continues to play today?
Jane Latimer: Actually, I recovered before there was therapy for eating disorders, so I used all alternative healing methods. As I mentioned, my recovery process was mainly through my spiritual practice. I learned how to work with my feelings spiritually. I used Overeaters Anonymous (OA) for the first three years, as I was recovering, because I needed the support of the group and my food sponsor. But then, I broke away because I didn't believe, as they did, that I'd always be a compulsive overeater. I, then, began testing different foods and teaching myself how to eat them. I would say that the biggest help to me was learning how to love myself and that I got through my spiritual program. I literally learned to love myself through everything. I'd meditate and think of surrounding myself in loving light. I'd love myself when I binged. I practiced sending loving thoughts to my body (which I hated by the way.) Soon the love words, and the light, and the meditations just began having their effect.
I also would experience some spontaneous regressions during my meditations in which I felt myself very young in darkness and void, very empty, very despaired, but I always brought light into those dark spaces. It was the creation of the Sacred Healing Space that created a container for my healing. So while I was despairing, and feeling shame and stupid, I was also in a "Sacred Space" that I had created for myself through my spiritual teachings. I felt like I was actually transforming my past. I wasn't just venting or reliving the pain, I was transforming it.
David: You touched on Overeaters Anonymous. Here's an audience question about that:
jat: I'd like to know what you think of the twelve step model of recovery, applying it to food. Does what works for alcoholics, work for compulsive overeating?
Jane Latimer: It works for some people, not everyone. Track 1 is the track that deals with biochemistry. And some people absolutely cannot tolerate sugar or flour. They do well with a strict OA food plan. And the twelve steps can be very, very helpful. But not everyone needs to do this. In fact, it just doesn't work at all for some people.
ms-scarlett: What, exactly, was your food plan?
Jane Latimer: I was on a very strict weighed and measured plan with no starches at all. It was called Grey Sheet and I believe they don't have it anymore, because it's not considered too healthy.
David: What did it consist of?
Jane Latimer: I would prefer not to go into details about it, because I don't think I'd want people copying it. Instead I would prefer you talk to a dietician or go to OA or HOW, or FA and get a food plan that they're using today.
dnlpnrn: I can't quit eating, partly because I don't want to look good. When I looked good, too many times it only brought more abuse, more trauma. I don't love myself. I don't want anyone to see me. I don't even look in a mirror at myself.
David: What would you suggest in this instance, Jane? I think a lot of people involved in binge eating or compulsive overeating feel this way.
Jane Latimer: That goes back to the safety I was talking about before. We have to learn strong boundaries. We have to learn to say "no." We have to learn that who we are is loveable, even though people abused us. It's about learning that the abuse was about them, not about us. It's about learning how to strengthen ourselves from the inside out, learning to become strong. Sometimes, it means feeling the rage for a very long time, maybe even years. The anger has to be directed outward, so it's not going inward to the self.
As children, we can be hurt, because we are small and vulnerable. And when we're hurt like this, we don't learn how to fight back. So, one of our biggest jobs is to learn to fight back and to say "no." That is a skill that we can learn. Then, when we have that skill, we begin to feel safer to be in our bodies.
David: Here are a few audience comments about what's been said so far, then we'll continue:
tereeart: I totally agree with Jane that, self talk that is positive, really changes my behavior.
dnlpnrn: I am a victim of child abuse and I know now, that is a large part of the reason I binge eat. I do it to relieve my anxiety and it seems like I just have to eat like that when I am upset. You are right about the out-of-control part. I do panic and it is like the food is a source of comfort to me.
Jane Latimer: The panic underneath the binge-eating is the biggest thing to learn to deal with. That is what all of my work is about with people. I help people take the mystery out of the out-of-control place and help people understand it.
David: How long did it take you to come to grips with your eating disorders and go through the healing, therapeutic process?
Jane Latimer: I was working on myself from the age of twenty-four. When I was twenty-eight, I really got it, that my food was a bigproblem. Then I worked very hard for the next few years. So by the time I was about thirty-three years old, I was pretty much okay.
David: What about relapses? Have you had any? Or any urge to go back to the old ways?
Jane Latimer: Not since that time. No, not at all. Although before that, all during my recovery period, from age twenty-eight to thirty-three, I was relapsing off and on. I'd do well for awhile and then I'd just have a bad episode. This happened over-and-over again. The most important thing is to pick yourself up and keep going forward.
David: One of the things that struck me, Jane, was the use of the phrase "out of control" eating. What produces that feeling? And how, specifically, would you suggest one cope with that?
Jane Latimer: That is a real big topic and the subject of my book, "Beyond the Food Game." But to briefly describe it, it is an experience of being back in the original wound. So, for example, since we were talking about child abuse, when we are feeling out-of-control, something has usually triggered that feeling. Maybe a person looked at us in a mean way and that triggers the memory of the old abuse (or an old wound, whatever it is). That old wound is felt in the body (all wounds are in the body). Then the disoriented feelings starts to happen, like we can't tell if we are in the present or in the past. And in fact, the experience is a memory. If we can understand that the out-of-control feeling is a memory we are experiencing in our bodies, and we know what to do at that point, then we have the incredible opportunity to heal it. If we don't understand that, we reach for food, and we never get the healing. We perpetuate the cycle and it never stops.
David: What about those who haven't been abused. Why do they get involved in binge eating?
Jane Latimer: There are two types of wounding: abandonment and invasion wounding. I was never abused. I was "abandoned." My parents were not present for me and I just didn't learn how to be present for myself. So, it doesn't matter what the wound is; however, it does matter that we understand the wound, for then, we can heal it. Because for every wound, there is a corresponding healing that is very specific.
David: Are you talking about emotional detachment?
Jane Latimer: Yes.
David: So, to clarify, there are some who were physically or sexually abused, and binge eating is one way of dealing with those issues. Others, are coping with strong emotional issues.
Jane Latimer: Yes, underneath most emotional eating, is a wound. We're all wounded. It's wounding just to be born. But some of us are wounded more than others.
And now, we have another question:
ms-scarlett: Do you agree with the Geneen Roth method of eating only when hungry or do you agree more with the three square meals a day strategy. I need to know what to eat if I'm going to be thin.
Jane Latimer: Again, it depends on a lot of complex issues. If you're very sensitive to sugar or flour, then you might not be able to handle those foods. So Geneen Roth's natural eating method doesn't work. On the other hand, the three squares don't work for some because its too rigid. I like to think of Full Recovery from eating disorders as a process in which we learn to eat in a way that supports our unique biochemistry and that is different for different people.
David: One of the things Ms. Scarlett said was her goal is to be thin. Should that be the goal?
Jane Latimer: If the goal is to be thin, then we can be in trouble. I prefer to think of the goal as aliveness. When I was recovering, I remember I had to confront and get over my fear of fat. That was very important. Because if I didn't, then the scales would be my God. I'd be happy only when the number on the scale said what I wanted it to say.
However, if my goal is Aliveness, then I'm in charge of my own happiness. And the potential is always there. I can be happy no matter what I weigh, and no matter what life presents me with. With our priorities straight, we are free to lose weight if that is appropriate.
David: Can you define "Aliveness" for us?
Jane Latimer: Aliveness is about the body-felt experience of joy and that is felt in the heart. We love living. We are able to choose things that bring us joy. We can say no to things that don't bring us joy. And we can find "joy" in many things, even in those things that appear to be stressful. Aliveness is about being in control and surrendering at the same time. It is about living in alignment with the flow of life. To feel alive is to be full and fulfilled, even when things aren't going as planned. In fact, aliveness happens outside of the plan.
tereeart: I like that perspective of making your goal aliveness, not thinness. I also like the thought of using your abilities to meet your needs not others.
Jane Latimer: I like to call that Extreme Self-Care. Meeting my needs is so important. It was learning how to really honor my needs, that enabled me to deal with life. Because before that, I couldn't deal at all. I was overwhelmed. So, I learned to meet my needs however I could. Little by little, I've inserted things into my life that truly meet my needs more-and-more.
David: I always like to give our audience something they can take home with them. If you are "out-of-control" with your eating, what is the first thing you would suggest that person do to regain control and move towards recovery from eating disorders, binge eating?
Jane Latimer: Not joking, read my book, "Beyond the Food Game." I don't know anyone who addresses these issues as succinctly as that. Because I list very specifically the steps to healing the out-of-control experience. After that, I'd say, journal. Journal about what triggered the feeling. Then, ask yourself, is there something about this situation or feeling that reminds me of my family? Then I'd ask myself, "What did I need as a child, that I didn't get?" Then it is your job to give yourself what you didn't get then. Its really quite simple, its just hard to do at the time.
David: Thank you, Jane for being our guest tonight. For those in the audience, thanks for coming and participating. I hope you found the conference helpful. We have a large eating disorders community here at HealthyPlace.com. Almost 24/7, you will find people interacting. So please feel free to come by anytime and also to share our URL with others you may know. It's www.healthyplace.com Good night everyone.
Disclaimer: We are not recommending or endorsing any of the suggestions of our guest. In fact, we strongly encourage you to talk over any therapies, remedies or suggestions with your doctor BEFORE you implement them or make any changes in your treatment.
Last Updated: 06 April 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD