The DBT Solution for Emotional Eating – Debra L. Safer, Sarah Adler & Philip C. Masson

So, I received notification of my ARC of this book mid chocolate binge. (Hello, universe? Was there something you wanted to tell me? 🤪)

This was an interesting first read for the year. While I don’t make New Year’s resolutions I am always ready to learn ways of doing life better. Eating disorders and I go way back. I’d tell you we’ve been acquainted for over 25 years, but that’s impossible because I’m not that old! Having managed fairly well in this aspect of my life for several years I fell fairly spectacularly into a vat of chocolate around March last year and I’m not sure if anyone’s seen me since. (Hello, Cadbury, my frenemy! 👋)

This book has a title that’s as much a mouthful as your last binge – The DBT® Solution for Emotional Eating: A Proven Program to Break the Cycle of Bingeing and Out-of-Control Eating, and for those unfamiliar with psych-speak, DBT is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. DBT helps people manage difficult emotions without hitting their own personal self-destruct button. How does it do this? It gives you tools, broken down into three categories:

  • Mindfulness
  • Emotion Regulation
  • Distress Tolerance.

The perfectionist in me initially freaked about the concept of dialectical thinking, whereby you can hold two opposing points of view at the same time, i.e., I can know I need to change a behaviour and I can also accept myself for who I am at the moment. What??? I don’t get to be all judgy-judgy about myself because I failed at something one of the times I attempted it? If I don’t punish myself enough, then how will I ever move on?! Scarier still, dialectical thinking “allows success and failure to coexist”, so there’s no need to beat yourself up. You can simply acknowledge your mistake, learn from it and continue moving towards your goal. 😱

If you are serious about making this change in your life, know that this program requires a commitment from you but let’s face it, it took a commitment for you to choose to self-destruct by [insert your food-drug of choice here] in the first place, and you deserve to set aside the time it will take to make a positive change in your life.

There are 13 chapters and it’s recommended that you work through these, by yourself or with a therapist or supportive friend, at a rate of a chapter a week. Along with the reading you are expected to complete homework related to the chapter you’ve just read and build gradually on the skills you learn throughout the program. You’ll have an opportunity to discover why you binge in the first place, what your triggers are, and which tools work best for you to manage the urge to binge.

As I received an ARC of this book I read it straight through but I plan to work through the book again at a slower pace with pen and paper in hand. Even though I haven’t completed all of the assignments and taken the time needed to give this program a fair go, there are already elements that I know I will be introducing into my life and others I’ll be building on. I can also envisage how useful DBT would be to help manage other behaviours such as overspending (but I need that book!).

Some of the tools I’ll be incorporating into my life include:

  • Diaphragmatic breathing – I already do this but need to do it more frequently
  • Observing – being in the moment without letting myself get all judgy-judgy about my feelings or trying to control what’s happening. This feels like it will take about … forever to accomplish, but you’ve got to start somewhere!
  • Urge surfing – “Research shows that intense urges not only do not last forever, but typically last about 20 minutes.” Just knowing that the feeling of forever has a time limit gives me more confidence.
  • Crisis Survival Skills – distraction skills and self-soothing (think grounding) skills.

I got caught up in the examples of homework answers given throughout the book, particularly Kat’s story as her responses feature more than the others. Like any good soap opera fan, I’m left ‘unfinished’ by Kat’s story. Did she and her husband Tom ever attend therapy together? Are they still together? Does Tom still bring home macaroons from his workplace? I wanted to hear Tom’s perspectives on the examples Kat gave as well. Guess I’m more of a busybody than I realised!

The PLEASE acronym didn’t work for me at all. Basically, there are six environmental/lifestyle factors discussed. The first five are:

  • “Treat PhysicaL illness
  • Balance your Eating
  • Avoid mood-altering substances
  • Balance your Sleep
  • Get Exercise.”

Number six is:

  • “Building Mastery.”

I have no problem with any of the lifestyle factors listed but to try to get people to remember them by listing five as a poor attempt at an acronym and then popping number six in at the end only added up to me remembering this was the section in the book where I shook my head and wondered about the editing process.

I personally found some of the repetition in this book frustrating. I personally found some of the repetition in this book frustrating and I understood why it was used. See? Dialectical thinking! 😊 If not for the repetition then the points wouldn’t have been reinforced and I most likely wouldn’t remember what I learned by about this time tomorrow. My brain just tends to glaze over when information is repeated, regardless of the intention. That’s my problem though, not this book’s.

Favourite sentence:

“Observing offers you a calming center into which you can step to watch and maintain awareness without getting caught up in the storm.”

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Guilford Publications, Inc. for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Eating can be a source of great pleasure – or deep distress. If you’ve picked up this book, chances are you’re looking for tools to transform your relationship with food. Grounded in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), this motivating guide offers a powerful pathway to change. Drs. Debra L. Safer, Sarah Adler, and Philip C. Masson have translated their proven, state-of-the-art treatment into a compassionate self-help resource for anyone struggling with bingeing and other types of “stress eating.” You will learn to:

  • Identify your emotional triggers.
  • Cope with painful or uncomfortable feelings in new and healthier ways.
  • Gain awareness of urges and cravings without acting on them.
  • Break free from self-judgement and other traps.
  • Practice specially tailored mindfulness techniques.
  • Make meaningful behaviour changes, one doable step at a time.

Vivid examples and stories help you build each DBT skill. Carefully crafted practical tools (you can download and print additional copies as needed) let you track your progress and fit the program to your own needs. Finally, freedom from out-of-control eating – and a happier future – are in sight.

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