Eating Issues


Examining Your Relationship with Food From a DBT Perspective


Upon learning about DBT’s effectiveness for compulsive eating and binge eating I have embraced this treatment.  Over the years I have seen my client’s difficulty in regulating their emotions and dealing effectively with distress. Often people turn to food to distract themselves or to self-soothe. They genuinely do not know any other way to soothe themselves or how to cope with negative feelings or distress. Food numbs the pain and then distracts from the initial discomfort.

Typically, a person may first experience something upsetting. They turn to food for comfort or as a distraction. Now their focus is on their out of control eating and their disgust with themselves for eating in this manner. They are distracted from the initial distress. People often report they are frequently out of touch with how they actually feel or when they are truly hungry and they find themselves eating in a frenzy-like manner as if they are possessed.

A substantial amount of research has produced strong evidence that binge eating is often motivated by a desire to reduce negative emotions.

DBT believes that self-destructive behaviors such as compulsive eating/binge eating are maladaptive attempts to avoid or reduce intolerable negative emotions. The DBT Skills Group focuses on teaching people how to better tolerate and regulate negative emotions and how to deal with distress in more effective ways so that they do not turn to food to self soothe or to distract.


The Four Modules of DBT for Compulsive Eating/ Binge Eating:

1. Mindfulness – Learn how to:

  • be mindful of the moment,
  • be aware of your own emotions,
  • to mindfully eat,
  • identify when you are hungry or when you’re eating for other reasons.

The process also helps you to learn how to fully experience thoughts, emotions and urges without attempting to suppress them or judge them, and without experiencing secondary emotions such as guilt or shame.

2. Emotion regulation – Identify what emotion you are experiencing and gain skills to regulate those emotions without turning to food.

3. Distress tolerance – Learn how to tolerate painful emotions and how to effectively deal with distress without using food to self-soothe, as well as learn when and how to accept current situations.

4. Interpersonal effectiveness – Improve interpersonal relationships by learning to how ask for what you want, and how to say no.

The DBT Skills Group will teach participants how to regulate their emotions and deal with distress without turning to food. The Group will also help you to:

  • Determine if you are using food to self-soothe and to regulate mood
  • Examine your past, present and future relationship with food
  • Explore your current body image and identify if it plays a role in keeping you stuck
  • Develop new skills to deal with intense feelings and life-stressors
  • Learn to eat mindfully