End Emotional Eating: Using Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Cope with Difficult Emotions and Develop a Healthy Relationship to Food by Jennifer Taitz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book was given to me by one of my coaching clients. She struggles with emotional eating and she thought it might be helpful if we read this together.
Jennifer Taitz is "a clinical psychologist and director of the dialectical behavior therapy program at the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy in New York, N.Y. She is a certified diplomate of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy and is a founding board member of the New York City Association for Contextual Behavior Science."
Taitz spends the majority of the book talking about emotions. How to face them, accept them, and embrace them for what they are. Interestingly, much of what she writes applies to just about everyone as the narrative deals with emotions, both negative and positive, and the way we that deal with them. In a nutshell, she suggests it's not the emotion, but what we do with it and allow it to do to us that ultimately matters. Negative emotions are a part of life. Pain and sorrow are a part of life. Acceptance of the emotion is key. It's when we try to numb ourselves so as to not feel the discomfort of certain emotions that we get into trouble. For example, many people use food as a means to "escape" from an uncomfortable emotion.
Unfortunately, her discussion of emotional eating never quite goes much behind the observation that emotional eating is an unhealthy way of dealing with emotions, which is sort of strange given that the book is titled "End Emotional Eating." In fact many times while reading I completely forgot that this was a book that promises to help you develop a healthier relationship with food.
Of course, emotional eaters do benefit from learning more appropriate strategies for dealing with emotions, but still. It felt as if something was missing. The information was fairly generic in that respect, and not necessarily focused on emotional eating as much as emotion avoidance. I also felt her attempt to discuss mindfulness as it relates to eating was a little over the top. For example, she recommends an exercise that involves eating a strawberry by first smelling it, feeling it, noticing its texture and taste, savoring it, etc. I mean, come on. Really? I'm a foodie. I love food. I love to cook and experiment. I love to eat. But this? This is not helpful. This is also not mindful eating. Mindful eating is about taking inventory of the eating experience. Paying attention to cues for hunger and satiety. Being aware of motivation and emotions as they relate to your eating. Mindful eating is not taking 20 minutes to eat a strawberry.
I think "The Binge Code," a book I recently read and reviewed, did a much better job of not only exploring the emotional context of emotional eating, but also in providing real life strategies for dealing with eating disorders like binge eating.
I get it. Emotional eating is driven by emotions. We eat to avoid dealing with some uncomfortable emotions. Clearly, an emotional eater must learn how to work through their emotions in a more positive way. But in a book that targets emotional eaters specifically, I would expect a more in depth discussion of food's role in avoiding emotions. Seriously. This book could just have easily been called "End Emotional Drinking" or "End Emotional Drug Use" or "End Emotional Fill-in-the-Blank (destructive behavior)."
Taitz addresses the importance of dealing with our emotions in a positive way. This often means learning to simply experience the emotion and allow it to pass, because it will.
Taitz never really connects the dots between emotions and eating, nor does she discuss how dealing with emotions through food (abuse) might be different than dealing with emotions through sex abuse or alcohol abuse, etc.