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Mindful Eating:
The Problem Isn't Food

Angela Simms remembers the stage being set at a very early age for what would ultimately become her consuming battle with eating disorders.

"I think, when I was the age of five, I remember my mother taking a picture of me and saying, 'Let's send this to grandma and show her how fat she's gotten, in kind of a light-hearted way, and that sticks out in my mind. And I think from that time on, I slowly gained weight and that's what kind of framed my whole childhood."

By the time Angela graduated from high school she weighed 205 pounds. Then, in college, she discovered exercise, losing some 60 pounds, and gaining the attention of many of her friends. She began to wonder what she would look like should she ever gain her weight back. Soon after, the psychology major who through her studies had just learned to recognize eating disorders, had one herself. She was caught in the relentless cycle of bingeing and purging called bulimia.

After a trip to the doctor due to an irregular heartbeat and palpitations, Angela joined an anti-diet group known as Overcoming Overeating. Cheryl Juba, co-director of the New England chapter of the organization sums up its philosophy: "Diets don't work. And they don't work for a few different reasons. Psychologically, when you go on a diet, the first thing that happens is you begin to think of deprivation and what you can't have. And for a little while most people experience kind of a high from going on a diet. But shortly thereafter people begin to really obsess about all the foods that they can't have on the diet. So diets are a short-term fix for a longer term problem."

Barbara Ganzer, another co-director at the New England chapter puts it this way. "We live in a culture that emphasizes our size and our looks. What's important is to be thin and to be fit. And because of that we have created a US $40 billion diet industry which feeds on itself because, in some sense, it's like buying a car from a dealership and having it break down and continuing to buy the same car."

Angela is now an overnight nurse working at the Lakeland Regional Medical Center in Florida, and though she can't guarantee she'll never have a problem with food again, she has discovered her true ally is awareness. "The problems are not food itself, it's what's going on around your life when you feel out of control. You have no control in certain aspects of your life except eating, so you can control what goes in and what comes out. And now I'm conscious of that, and I can recognize what problems there might be.

"If you think you might be having a problem with food, it's important to recognize that. And when you recognize something like that, that's the first step of getting some help. It's important to try and find someone that you can discuss this with, some professional counseling. It's helped me a lot. Because your body's important, you only have one, and you have to remember that it's not the food that's the problem, it's something else going on in your life that you need to focus on and try to resolve."

Program Description
Geneen Roth
The Zen of Eating
The Problem Isn't Food
Tell Me More
Help YourSelf

Body & Soul is currently airing Monday-Friday at 7:00pm and 8:30pm on PBS YOU.

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