Teen Eating Disorders
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Food Diary Lessons: The Lifestyle Connection

In her recent food diary, Jan expressed pride and satisfaction with her progress. In nine months she had lost 50 pounds (from 230 to 180). Yet two diaries ago her comments were full of frustration and resignation. She recovered from relapse by making the lifestyle connection.

After surgery Jan returned to the librarian job she had for many years. It had been a challenging job that involved direct contact with the public and left her feeling that she really made a difference. Her job satisfaction plummeted in a move to middle management, supervising employees she didnt like, with a boss who scrutinized her decisions and loaded her with bureaucratic tasks. It got to the point where she had to force herself to go to work. She had hoped that a great weight loss and a new look would give her the boost she needed to tolerate the toxic work environment, but the reverse occurred. At work she began to reward herself by grazing on salty chips stashed in her desk, then numbing out with continued snacking at home. As her weight loss stalled, she got even more demoralized and was close to giving up.

I suggested she respond to the six months to live test, a technique used in time management. Imagine you knew you would die in six months how would you live between now and then? Jan said, Id leave this job and not look back, and Id do some of the traveling I have put off for years. She took this response to heart, deciding not to wait any longer to make a change. Her last diary indicated she left her job, is applying for a new direct service position, and spent three weeks hiking in national parks.

Jans turnaround is a reminder that weight loss occurs in a lifestyle context. There may be things in your lifestyle that are undermining your success, aiding and abetting the very overeating which you hoped to stop. A lifestyle lacking nurturance, connection, meaning and purpose may set you up to use food to survive its toxicity. Lifestyle has the power to trump motivation and good intentions; if your food regimen is slipping, try making the lifestyle connection.

Lee Kern, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., is the clinical director for Structure House, a residential weight loss facility in Durham, NC. Kern leads the post-bariatric surgery program. Designed for patients following weight loss surgery, the program offers surgery-focused medical assessments and personalized eating and relapse prevention plans. For information, visit www.structurehouse.com or call 800-553-0052.