It's time to say goodbye, or as we call it in therapy, "termination."
As a psychologist, this has been therapy fantasy camp. All psychologists are voyeurs. Under normal circumstances, when you do therapy, you see the world through the client's eyes. You construct images of their partners, homes, parents, friends on the basis of their descriptions, and you almost never get a chance to see the reality. For me to have conducted group therapy, and then after we were done to go back via television and see their husbands, families, and homes has been a sort of secret dream come true –- to see if my "construction" matched the reality. Thanks, Bravo! This is and will remain one of the most compelling clinical experiences of my career.
I was on the fence about whether I would be able to do clinical work of any depth under lights and with cameras rolling. Time limits meant you didn't see most of the therapy, which is where these clients did heavy lifting and sweating of a different sort. They learned about why they eat what they eat, when they eat, how they eat, and where they eat. They unearthed old demons, and learned about respecting others and themselves. They learned how to talk about their feelings instead of numbing them. They were called on their BS and made to take ownership. If they sustain these weight changes, it will be because they were willing to do it from the inside out.
Shay revealed that her struggles with weight were more complex than initially thought. There is a frequently held misassumption that ethnic minority women don't get eating disorders. That is patently wrong, and the rates of eating disorders in African American, Latina, and Asian American women are on the rise. Laxative abuse can be done secretly, and many who do it report that the feeling of "emptiness," the "flat stomach," and the sense of "clearing out" following laxative use is gratifying despite being dangerous. They erroneously believe they can eat what they want and then get rid of it. Shay showed us that the psychology of weight goes well beyond ab crunches and protein shakes. These are VERY difficult and complex issues. Her revelation was courageous, and it will take time for her to make these changes.
As we sign off, let's review what we learned about weight loss. It's about respecting your body with healthy food instead of punishing it with junk. It's about pushing your body to new limits, and then finding out you can push your life to new limits. It's about realizing that your history may tell you why you eat what you do, but it doesn't own you, and everyone has the capacity to make these changes. It's about realizing that food is not a substitute for love. It's about accepting yourself, and engaging in the process of weight loss authentically.
When I end with a client, as they leave the room, I wish a silent wish for them. They have done the ultimate bravery by allowing me into the most private rooms in their hearts and minds, and I am always grateful to have been part of their journeys.
Here are my wishes for them:
Mandy –- May you stay healthy and be an active part of your family's life. Mothering is about taking care of yourself. I can already see you hiking with the grandchildren that will grace your life someday.
Bryan –- May you stay on the authentic loving path you have been following all your life, despite stumbling a few times. You brought breathtaking commitment to the program, and I hope that you see yourself in the loving and beautiful mirrors offered by the husband, friends, and family around you.
Joe –- Now that you are respecting yourself and others, I hope it leads you to a respectful relationship with a woman. Keep taking care of yourself and learn that a vocabulary of respect, not abs or bad bar banter, will indeed get you the best chick in the bar.
Shay –- You saved your most courageous song for the end, and I wish for you to keep dancing and enjoying your youth and your body. You are stronger than you think, and when you reflect on being there for your mom, and now being there for yourself, realize that you can do this on your own.
Jeana -– I want you to stay in touch with your feelings. Your vulnerability sits right under the surface, and as you trust your feelings and learn to express them, I hope they are met with respect and warmth from those around you.
Nikki –- You get it even when you pretend you don't. I wish for you to stay "fabulous" without the snarkiness and the cocktails, you don't need them. Dig deeper and see what you find.
Stacy -– I hope you keep laughing and keep others laughing and stop laughing at yourself. You had the biggest odds against you, and you never said die. I wish for you to persist, no matter what is put in front of you.
So as we say goodbye, I thank Bravo and Jackie Warner for the opportunity to sit alongside you and for your recognition that psychotherapy is as integral to weight loss as diet or exercise.
We all have inside of us a warrior, a leader, and a vulnerable child. Nurture them all.