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"When I decided to come to this Eating Disorders Therapy Group, I didn’t think it was going to be this hard," the young woman said to me with more than a hint of disappointment in her voice.

More than forty pounds overweight, feeling disgusted with her body image and discouraged about yo-yo dieting, she came to the group hoping for a miracle. 

"It seems like letting go of these stupid habits ought to be easier," a man added with disgust. Having struggled for years with obesity, he too wanted a miracle.

After completing my book, Breaking Everyday Addictions and having spent time as the psychologist on a drug and alcohol inpatient unit, I knew it was time to apply my knowledge of addictions to people suffering from eating disorders. I wasn’t prepared, however, for their resistance to change.

"You don’t understand how hard it is to change," another woman said angrily, after explaining how her lap band surgery had been a disappointment. Looking at me, eyeing my body, she then challenged me.

"Since you’ve probably never had an eating disorder, I doubt you can understand what it’s like to fear food, enjoy using laxatives and diuretics, and wish for anorexia."

"You’re absolutely wrong about that," I said frankly. "I’m an addict, too. I’ve struggled for years with work and approval addiction. I attended a recovery group for seven years. My addiction nearly killed me. I’ve relapsed and paid the consequences."

For a moment there was a silence in the group. Then the woman persisted.

"But, anyone who hasn’t had an eating disorder can’t possibly understand what we’re going through," she continued. "It's just about impossible to change our habits."

"No, it’s not impossible to change your habits and you must get beyond feeling misunderstood and victimized," I shared. "We're all addicts to one thing or another. Everyone can understand to a certain extent. Everyone feels teased and tempted by their addiction. It is terribly hard to change, and accepting that is an important part of recovery. It may never be easy."

"It still doesn’t seem fair," another woman added.

"Your addiction is to food," I shared. "Many of my clients are addicted to drugs or alcohol or gambling or sex. They don’t think it’s fair either. We all come to our addictions through different means," I said. "Some have hereditary predispositions. Others were raised in an environment that fostered a particular addiction. Some simply began experimenting with a substance or process, thinking they were safe, and ended up trapped. They continued their destructive habits until the habits became more powerful than them. But, we can’t camp on feelings of unfairness. We’re not victims and we must take responsibility for our recovery."

Again, stillness fell over the group as they considered my words. They had come to my group secretly looking for more quick fixes, the kind offered on glossy television ads.

  • "Lose a pound a day for thirty days."
  • "Drink your way to being thin."
  • "Everything you need to know to look the way you want by Christmas."
  • "Seven secrets to being thin for life."

And on it goes. Simple solutions that always disappoint. Quick fixes that never fix, and are never quick. Empty promises.