I had a conversation recently with a colleague who works with people who struggle with compulsive overeating and are considering or have had bariatric surgery. She told me how frequently the surgery doesn’t help very much unless the underlying psychological issues are confronted. Which of course got me thinking about how issues related to food, weight, body-image and so on can be addressed in Group.
In February, I co-led a workshop called Food, Sex and Relationships. The basic idea was that the same emotional wounds that drive us to seek out particular foods and diets would manifest in how we related to others. If we paid careful attention to our interactions in a group setting, we could gain insight and awareness about the pain that prompted our over-eating, zealous dieting and shame about our needs and desires.
Group is the perfect place to receive the message that you’re valued, lovable and even attractive, regardless of your weight. This message can be explicitly expressed, or gently reinforced meeting after meeting, as members continue to show interest and appreciation when you contribute.
Our society is so quick to shame fat people that it can become almost impossible to address the issue with gentle curiosity. An authentic Group will wonder:
What the weight is protecting you from?
How does it help you?
Which part of you are you trying to nourish when you overeat?
Who would you be without it?
Someone in Group may remind you of an abusive parent, a bullying peer in middle school, or a narcissistic spouse. Perhaps you unconsciously hoped that having more weight would make it harder for them to push you around, that taking up more space would force them to pay attention to you, that becoming unattractive would protect you from their predatory lust and controlling desire. Now, you have the opportunity to learn how to protect yourself effectively.
Hopefully you will discover what you’re truly hungry for and start getting nourished by the Group.
Eventually, this awareness of what you’re needing and wanting, what feels good and what doesn’t, empowers you. You no longer need to carry the burden of other people’s emotional immaturity and cruelty. What a relief!