When food becomes the enemy

By Misch Pautsch Switch to German for original article

For many of the people with eating disorders in therapy at the Clinique de L’Obésité at CHL, food has become an enemy - through years of social pressure and sometimes triggered by traumatic experiences.

The first bite. Consciously. Slowly. A first approach with the “enemy”. How does it taste? Keep chewing. Don’t swallow. Not yet. The “Repas thérapeutiqe” is all about learning to feel food again. Bite by bite. “Our mission”, says Françoise Münster, a psychologist at the CHL, “is to alleviate the enormous pressure that is put on people from all sides and to give them the tools to rebuild a normal relationship with food. To leave the spiral of guilt.” This could very well have an impact on people’s weight, but it’s not the primary goal of the exercise. It’s about rediscovering pleasure.

Around 53 percent of Europeans are overweight or obese. Luxembourg is just below this average at 48 per cent, but even here the numbers are rising constantly and rapidly. This trend is also true for schoolchildren: Already here, a distorted self-image of many pupils can be found: 34 percent of the girls consider themselves “too heavy”, although only 16 percent actually are. Among boys, this discrepancy is much less pronounced: 22 per cent are too fat, 28 per cent think they are. But the picture is clear: Luxembourgers are becoming overweight more often and earlier and it is not easy for many to objectively assess their weight situation. “I don’t want to put all the blame on diets, even though they are definitely a problem, because they give a false picture of what the problem really is”, says the psychologist. Often, she says, the problem lies in upbringing, in encouragement to eat the whole plate, even though children are very much in tune with their energy balance. Children, for example, can already sense in the womb when their mother eats due to stress. But to really understand the problem, it is necessary to look at the whole picture. “Sometimes, in more extreme cases, the problems can be rooted in trauma, violent experiences or abuse. Then eating suddenly becomes coping mechanism, compensation and dissociation at the same time. On top of that, diets are added later on, which further reinforce the cycle.”

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