Eating Issues, Hunger, and Needs

Self-Therapy, Vol. 3This is a short excerpt from Self-Therapy, Vol. 3. regarding eating issues, hunger and needs.

We can’t begin to talk about eating unless we talk about hunger. Hunger is one of our most primary needs and one of the earliest ways that we interact with our environment. It is what brings us back to our caretakers and how we learned about the nature of the world. Through our hunger we learn if we are safe, if our needs will be recognized and satisfied, if our caretakers will respond to us appropriately, and what love is.

Bonnie says:

“In my years of working with people, I have noticed that the psychological hallmark of eating issues is the conflicts people have around their needs. If you have a food addiction, you may not recognize when you are really hungry, what you are hungry for, and when you are full. You may not realize what other needs you have that are masked by your obsession with food. When you explore inside, you may find that your constant thinking about food has distracted you from feeling other unmet needs.”

Our issues about hunger come from conflicts about how we care for ourselves, leading to low self-esteem and people-pleasing behavior. This includes the following:

  • Taking care of others instead of yourself
  • Feeling like a martyr
  • Denying your needs in favor of others’ needs
  • Believing that you don’t have the permission, time, or resources to pay attention to your needs

Beyond Eating Audio Course

Beyond Eating Audio CourseI am very excited to announce the Beyond Eating Audio Course.

It lays out a three-pronged model for helping people with food-related issues. The course will help you with food addiction, weight-related anxiety, and the hopelessness that comes from managing one’s relationship with food.

The program focuses on:

  • Understanding hunger
  • Identifying the parts of you that arise around food and developing a healing relationship with them
  • Developing self-nurturing practices

The package consists of:

  • 2 introductory tracks
  • 8 lecture tracks
  • 11 meditation tracks
  • 4 therapy session demonstration tracks
  • 1 Word document with homework, articles, graphics and forms.

It is linked with our on-line community of other journeyers where you can find support and homework partners.

It is geared toward deepening your understanding of your relationship with food and eating, and in addition, it has the potential to affect your sense of yourself in profound ways.

My wish is that you come away with more compassion for yourself, the ability to stand more separately from your parts, a greater capacity for making healthy choices, and a deeper sense of your own preciousness.

Bonnie Weiss, LCSW ♥

C05-Beyond-Eating-Audio-Course-1Click here for more information or to purchase it.

Hunger and Eating Issues

We can’t begin to Women overcoming eating issuestalk about eating issues unless we talk about hunger.

Hunger is one of our most primary needs. It is one of the earliest ways that we interact with our environment. It is what brings us back to our caretakers and how we learned about the nature of the world we were born into. Through our hunger we learn if we are safe, if our needs will be recognized, if our caretakers will respond to us appropriately and in a timely manner, if our satisfaction will be respected, and what love is.

In my years of working with people, the hallmark of the psychological issues behind problematic eating is the conflict people have regarding their needs. Something is awry in the cycle of need recognition and satisfaction.

Most people with a food addiction don’t recognize when they are really hungry, what they are hungry for, when they are full, and what other needs they have that are masked by a desire for food. When people explore themselves, they often find that their constant thinking about food serves only to distract them from other unmet needs.

Exploring food issues unearths more extensive conflicts about how we care for ourselves. This may be related to feelings of low self-esteem and habitual selfless behavior, such as taking care of others instead of yourself, being a martyr, and denying yourself in favor of others. You may develop an elaborate belief system that says you don’t have the time, resources, or permission to adequately pay attention to what you need.

This is just one of the eating-related issues that I explore in my Beyond Eating teleseminar, webinar, and course and that Self-Therapy Journey will help you with.

Food Related Issues Monthly Support Group

Monthly Support Group on Food Related Issues By Phone

Bonnie Weiss, LCSW

Many of us have found the IFS model particularly helpful in working with eating and food related issues. People who have taken the Beyond Eating Classes or read our articles find that the idea of a cluster of parts that collaborate to maintain the status quo makes emotional sense. Naming and getting to know the usual list of characters: The Indulger, The Food Controller, The Rebel, The Foggy Part, the Inner Defender can soften the hold that they have on you. It makes possible to make contact with and nurture the younger parts, or exiles, that they have been protecting. A natural consequence of the healing IFS work is to enhance the capacities for pleasure and conscious consumption. These capacities support our ability to engage in self care.

This monthly group is for people who have had some experience with the IFS model and would like regular support in using these concepts to work with your food-related issues. There will be a short meditation, a didactic presentation, and opportunities for discussion and individual work.

Mondays or Wednesdays
4:30 – 6:30 PM Pacific
7:30 – 9:30 PM Eastern
Second Monday or Wednesday of the month.
$40 per session
To enroll, email Bonnie at

Beyond Eating: Dealing with Food Addiction

by: Bonnie Weiss, LCSW

Have you struggled with your relationship with food for years? Gone up and down? Thought you had an answer, only to find the yoyo happens again? IFS understands how parts are involved in this eating conundrum. It offers a unique portal into seeing what is going on from a new perspective. In the Beyond Eating class we will untangle the web of parts that are involved in eating problems and have us feeling like a hopeless failure. We will work with the Inner Controller, the Indulger, the Rebel, the Foggy Part, the Criticized Child and the Inner Defender. We will build an Inner Champion and Inner Mentor to support us and provide guidance on finding our way out of this dilemma.

Intro Call
Monday, October 21
4:30 – 6:30 PM Pacific
7:30 – 9:30 PM Eastern
To register, click here

Phone Course  
Nov. 4, 11, 18, 25, Dec 2, 9
4:30 – 6:30 PM Pacific
7:30 – 9:30 PM Eastern
Cost $230
To enroll click here

Food Addiction: Typical Cluster of Parts

by: Bonnie Weiss, LCSW

We have studied the issue of food addiction and found that there are a number of regularly identifiable parts that make up the Eating Cluster. These parts also apply to other addictive issues. An important dynamic in any addiction is the relationship between the part that engages in the addiction and the Inner Critic part that tries to control the addiction. We call the addictive part the Indulger and the Inner Critic part the Inner Controller. These two parts are polarized, which is an IFS term that means they are in constant conflict with each other. In this case the conflict is about how much to indulge in the addiction.

The Inner Controller is concerned about the real-world consequences of your behavior (for example, becoming overweight, not being able to find a love relationship, health risks, etc.). It may also be afraid of other people’s judgments or rejection because of your behavior.

The Inner Controller tends to be rigid and punitive. It usually has fixed and precise standards for how you should live. It may have an opinion about exactly how much you should eat, what you should eat, when and with who you should eat etc. (This goes for any addiction: e.g. drinking, how you express your sexuality, spend money, etc..) It tries to control your behavior in these areas by telling you what to do and criticizing you whenever you overstep or ignore its rules. Following its dictates can generally keep it at bay, but if you get out of line, then it attacks furiously .

There are two problems with the Inner Controller. One is that its standards are often too extreme and rigid. The second is that it tries to enforce these standards by attacking and shaming you when you fail to measure up to them.

The Inner Controller is in conflict with the Indulger, which habitually overindulges, in this case with food. Both parts can be considered Protectors in IFS terms. This means that each is trying to protect and younger part, or exile, from coming to consciousness and flooding the system with its pain. The Controller is often protecting a part that feels rejected and wants to fit in and be accepted. The Controller may be trying to enforce societal standards of physical acceptability by controlling weight.

The Indulger may be protecting a younger or more primitive exile, one that needs to be soothed or nourished. It uses food or other substances to numb and quiet that exile so its pain won’t be felt.
The Rebel is also often polarized with the Food Controller. Here is another protector that is trying to assert itself and bring some autonomy or personal value into the system. It fights the rigid controls of the Controller with an attitude of, “You can’t tall me what to do.” Of “Oh you say I can’t eat that cookie, watch me eat the whole box!”

When dealing with people with addictions we also often notice a Foggy Part that makes it difficult to stay conscious to any aspect of the relationship with food, or efforts to bring focused attention to the issue. The Foggy Part causes you to zone out when you are eating so that you don’t keep track of how much you consume, or when you eat. We have all heard stories from people about waking up to candy wrappers or evidence of unconscious nighttime eating. It can make you unconscious at the grocery store when you are making purchases, or when ordering at a restaurant.

The Foggy part also makes tracking your inner work difficult by not letting you track yourself adequately. Have you ever not been able to remember why you thought you were interested in exploring yourself anyway?

The Inner Defender is another part that usually appears in the cluster of parts around eating issues. It is a protector part tries to fight with the Critic to prove you are worthwhile. Though its motivations are noble, it is often imagined as an adolescent, or even young child who is ultimately powerless in the face of authority.

Using the IFS model, we know that each of the above parts are protectors. This means that they are each acting in a protective way to keep an exiled part that holds more privative pain from surfacing and flooding the system. In order to heal the cluster of parts evoked by this issue and establish healthy behavior it is necessary to get to know and appreciate each of these protectors, gain access to the exiled parts, get to know them and bring some healing to them which will help them relax. IFS is a wonderful therapeutic technology for addressing this issue.

IFS brings to us the concept of Self, that core aspect of our nature that is our spiritual center. The Self is relaxed, open, curious and accepting of ourselves and others. In the IFS therapy model, the Self is the healer in the system.

We have introduced the concept of The Inner Champion as an aspect of the Self that supports us and helps us to feel good about who we are. The Champion is based on the energy of the Inner Defender. As we have work with the Defender we can bring it out of the past and into the present and we can heal the exile that it protects. As we do this there is a natural arising of Inner Champion.

This Champion is the perfect magic bullet for the Inner Controller Inner Critic – Indulger polarization that is at the core of eating, and other addictive issues. It encourages us to be who we truly are rather than fitting into the box our Inner Critic creates for us. It helps us as we deal with the negative impacts of our Inner Critic. One way to think about your Inner Champion is that it is the ideal supportive parent that you always wished you had. It can help us stand up to the Controller in a mature way and if necessary get it to back off. It nurtures our Criticized Child and the exiles we discover are being protected by the Controller and the Indulger; it provides inspiration and guidance is gaining perspective about who we are and where we are on our personal life journey; and it supports us in making realistic plans in terms of taking action to care for ourselves in healthy ways.