Oh. My. God. Who knew? People don't overeat because they really need a dozen doughnuts. They overeat because of emotional needs!
This is the message being shared by Roger Gould, a psychiatrist and author of the new book Shrink Yourself. The book is featured in the August issue of Psychology Today:
For most of us, food equals comfort -- and the association can go back as far as breast-feeding. "Food is more than nutrition," Gould says. "Kids get treats when they're good. Or they scrape their knee and they're given a piece of cake. It's an expression of nurturance." So if you're the kind of person who reaches for a doughnut when you feel bored or angry or tense, Gould says, "Ask yourself the question: What am I really hungry for? Because it's not food."
It's not that Gould's message isn't valid. What's stunning in part is that it's being treated like news. The "world renowned psychiatrist," as his website calls him, has popped up everywhere on TV explaining his thesis and simplistic solutions to perfectly shaped interviewers, as in the video below (replete with split-screen scenes of people maniacally shoving food in their faces).
But here's the galling part: When asked if therapy might not be useful for a chronic overeater, Gould emphatically replies that people should skip therapy and instead read his book. After all, his website notes, "Shrink Yourself gives you the equivalent of eight expensive sessions with the best weight-loss therapist in the world for the price of a single book."
This of course is nonsense. Gould correctly describes the way dieting usually fails to address the underlying compulsion to overeat -- and then exploits the American compulsion for quick fixes. But wait! There's more! Besides buying his book, you are encouraged to enroll in his online 12-week program for $120.
Are you getting the drift here? Overeating is an emotional problem. Rather than engage with a therapist or a real-life support group like Overeaters Anonymous, so you can actually experiment with those problematic feelings, Dr. Gould promises that you can fix your fat self in private, without too much messy real-life engagement or expense before making your debut as the new, broccoli-craving you.
Honestly, I'm a severe critic myself of the way psychology turns every problem in American life into a disease requiring professional, expensive intervention. But it's obvious to everyone that obesity is rampant in America, despite universal understanding that it is a serious health problem with an emotional basis. If you need help with overeating or any other eating disorder, visit the Eating Disorders Information Network website, a terrific resource for education and therapy in this field. Meanwhile, watch Dr. Gould promote his book:
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