After 20+ years preoccupied with yo-yo dieting and disordered eating, a recovery journey and then training as a psychotherapist – in 2008 – I completed my Master’s thesis, Call off the Search: Eating disorders a symptom of psychospiritual crisis.
The context that I hold throughout my research is that eating disorders are a serious sickness of the soul – not a disease, mental illness or mental disorder – these are terms that are widely used within a disease and medical based model; a model that is seriously pathologising at times and failing many who suffer not only with eating disorders but those who struggle with other food and weight issues – such as yo-yo dieting, obesity and addiction to excessive, brutal and self-punishing exercise regimes.
Viewing eating problems in this way is not a new phenomenon – transpersonal and psycho-spiritual schools of thought have held this context since at least last century! The great news…there is an increasing base of evidence to support this way of healing and working with food, weight and body image issues.
As part of my own recovery and later research, I have read countless books on dieting, weight, body image and disordered eating. Although not limited to these, here are some of my favourite books because they consider the soul sickness as well as the emotional and spiritual hungers that underlie eating problems. The tips you will find in these books for recovery are based on self-exploration, care of the soul, intuition and mindfulness.
by Anita Johnston Ph.D.
Anita Johnston has helped millions of women around the globe through her eating disorder treatment programs, conferences, retreats, online women’s circles and her soulful book, Eating In the Light of the Moon. She weaves together multicultural myths, folktales and legends with depth of insight and practical, transformational exercises. Eating In the Light of the Moon will nourish your body, mind and spirit.
You can participate in the Light of the Moon Café online.
by Geneen Roth
Geneen Roth, one of my favourite authors on eating difficulties, writes that food, diet and weight related issues are an attempt to fix something that has never been broken. I couldn’t agree more – we are already good and whole; our journey is to realise this!
Women Food and God comes with guidelines to help you change your relationship with food for good. This book is a great resource regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs.
by Marion Woodman
I first heard of Jungian analyst, Marion Woodman throughout my psychotherapy training and have personally attended her BodySoul Rhythms® Intensives. Woodman’s work holds the context that a hunger for spiritual fulfilment is at the root of all addictions and eating disorders.
Addiction to perfection addresses the hidden causes of compulsion through case studies, dreams and myths. Woodman teaches that through discovering the wisdom and power of the feminine, it is possible to find freedom from addiction and eating disorders.
by Susie Orbach
Suggested to me by my therapist many years ago, Fat is a Feminist Issue is the first book that I read about fat that wasn’t a diet book! It will change the way you think about fat by challenging dominant mindsets about dieting, weight and body image. Susie Orbach discusses from a feminist perspective what it means to be feminine, nurturing, sexy and confident. Fat is a Feminist Issue will help you on your way to body acceptance as well as helping to calm your anxieties about food. I also love her other books: Hunger Strike and On Eating.
by Linda Bacon
‘Fat isn’t the problem. Dieting is the problem. A society that rejects anyone whose body shape or size doesn’t match an impossible ideal is the problem. A medical establishment that equates “thin” with “healthy” is the problem. The solution? Health at Every Size (Amazon).’
Based on scientific evidence, this book will show you how to give up the battle with fat, tune in to your body, boost health and self-esteem, find joy in movement and feel good in your body right now…regardless of your size.
Health at Every Size turns what you think you know about health and weight on its head.
by Margo Maine
Many books on eating disorders have largely focused on the relationship with the mother – this is only part of the story. In Father Hunger, Margo Maine explores the emptiness experienced by women whose fathers were physically or emotionally absent—a void that leads to unrealistic body image, yo-yo dieting, food fears and disordered eating patterns. I love this easy to read book!
by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
This book is full of feminine spirit; it is nurturing, compassionate and provides essential tips for overcoming your obsession with dieting, weight and food. Written by two nutritionists with over 30+ years of experience, Intuitive Eating will guide you towards rebuilding a healthy body image, making peace with food, honouring your hunger and coping with your emotions without using food.
by Susan Albers PsyD
50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, is jam packed with mindfulness skills, practices for relaxing the body in times of stress and ending your dependence on eating as a means of coping with difficult emotions. This book will help you to distinguish between emotion-driven hunger and physical hunger. The layout makes it a great book for snacking on!
by Carol Normandi & Laurelee Roark
If you are struggling with worries such as what to eat on a daily basis, dieting, loathing your body, looking outside of yourself to feel better – then this book is for you. It’s Not About the Food will help you to understand your relationship with food, your feelings and your thoughts. You will learn how to honour your physical body as well as your spiritual self.
For years eating disorder sufferers have heard that they are ‘difficult to work with’, ‘stubborn’ and that their ‘disease’ or ‘mental illness’ is for life. This is not my experience personally or professionally. Over the last fifteen years I have witnessed many women heal, blossom and grow. If you are suffering – it is imperative that you find a treatment program with soul and a psychotherapist who can work at depth with the underlying issues. For residential treatment, check out Nungkari Treatment Centre
For more resources on eating difficulties – you can follow my Eating Disorders page on Pinterest.
Sydney counsellor, soul-centred life-coach and Master’s qualified psychotherapist Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and wellbeing. She has a wealth of personal and professional experience and knowledge in the field of addiction and eating disorders. Jodie is the Disordered Eating Consultant at Nungkari Treatment Centre, former Assistant Clinical Director at Eatfed, an approved service provider for South Pacific Private Addiction and Mood Disorder Treatment Centre and works in private practice, treating eating disorders as well as other women’s issues in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia. Her experience includes a thesis on eating disorders titled ‘Call off the Search: Eating Disorders a Symptom of Psychospiritual Crisis’, (you can read an excerpt here); post graduate training in addiction and Indigenous ‘women’s business’; work experience in the ‘Eating Disorder Unit’ at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London; the Eating Disorders Foundation (now part of The Butterfly Foundation); Riverglen Mental Health Unit and Women’s Health NSW.
Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy and helping women to find value, meaning and purpose out of their suffering.