This is my current relationship with food:

Food is my comfort.

I eat when I’m sad.

I eat when I’m lonely.

If you ever said these words to yourself…It’s time to renew your relationship with food.

In this interview with psychotherapist, Pattie Cashman, you will learn strategies for fixing your relationship with food.   Learn more about our Renew Weight Loss Program – a group therapy program starting Monday, September 17th in Clayton, Missouri. Contact us here to learn more to see if this program is the one for you.

headshot of white women in red jacket smiling in front of a yellow tulip tree

In your experience in working with clients over 35 years, why do you feel psychotherapy in conjunction with nutrition therapy increases the success of long-term weight loss?

The psychological, emotional, and cognitive aspects of one’s food relationship and weight loss are my areas of expertise. Typically my clients come with a diet plan they are willing to try.  I urge them to consider the fact that most diets fail and refer them to a registered dietitian to support them in diet and lifestyle strategies that will be the foundations for long-term weight loss. The clients who are willing to accept guidance from both are likely to embrace a process that results in the transformation of both body AND mind.

What is the role of self-compassion in weight loss? Why is this a crucial practice?

Self-compassion is critical to long-term weight loss success.  People who seek professional help for weight loss have typically been struggling for some time.  Their inner critics are often ruthless, harsh and demeaning and in the end, keep them stuck. This does not motivate anyone to alter self-defeating behavior.  In fact, this kind of harsh self-talk is part of the problem. Self -compassion introduces an inner voice of gentleness, kindness, and understanding. This voice of self-acceptance and  self-care sets the stage for real change.

You prefer group therapy over individual therapy, why? 

Group therapy allows members the opportunity to benefit from the work of each other.  Our clients will bear witness to each other’s progress, setbacks, challenges, and struggles in an intimate and supportive setting.  When they see themselves in one another, it a chance to learn from each other and offer compassionate even when they struggle with self-compassion.  They challenge one another in ways that come from deep identification and knowledge. It takes the shame of being overweight out of the closet. Connecting with others that share the same problem promotes a sense of being alive.  When we can’t connect, we feel anxious, isolated, and empty.

What do you think are the biggest barriers for people when it comes to group therapy? How does their mindset change once they try it?

The biggest barriers are self-consciousness, shame, and a belief that their issues are unique and other people wouldn’t understand them.  Keep in mind that many people have tried online groups, Weight Watchers, Overeaters Anonymous, etc They may think our group would be a support group of this kind.  These groups can be helpful, but a therapy group is different. In a therapy group, we will look into how the self-sabotaging behaviors began and what’s causing them to continue, and we’ll delve deeply into how to pursue the deepest desires of each group member.

Do we all have something in that happened in our childhood that contributes to our relationship with food and self now?

Our relationship with food develops early in life and is influenced by so many factors as we develop.  Many of them are unhealthy. We look back in an effort to understand current behavior. We do not look back to blame or criticize the negative influences.  Finding ownership of our life in the here and now is the goal. Sometimes looking at when, where, and how things got off track can be useful. But the emphasis is on life in the present, where we can control our choices, thoughts, and behavior.

Why does my relationship with food need to be addressed if I want to succeed at long-term weight loss? In the end, doesn’t it just all come down to improving my diet and eating less?

Changing your relationship with food is the foundation of long-term success.  Insight is not enough. Modifying your food habits is not enough.

Having a healthy relationship with food is like a sturdy scaffolding that holds everything together.  Almost everyone who has attempted some kind of food plan or diet generally has some short-term success.  Longer term, or lifetime success, requires us to build a new way of thinking about food, but most importantly new ways of being with ourselves.  Thinking, feeling, and behavior must be addressed in order for real change to take place.

What are your top 3 strengths as a therapist? Why do people love coming to see you? What can I look forward to?

Therapy is, at the most basic level, a relationship.  It is more an art than a science. Empathy, care, and a desire to connect are the traits which I believe carry the day.  For a client to understand their inner world they need a present and engaged “other.” I am happy to be that “other” in their life helping them love themselves and their food relationship.

The Renew Weight Loss Program is open to only 8 clients. Open enrollment. Sessions begin Mondays, September 24th at noon CST.  Contact us to learn more. 

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.