An Embodied Action-Oriented Approach to Binge Eating and Emotional Eating: Interoception

Because my way of working with clients who want to lose weight and struggle with binge eating/emotion eating is unique, I want to explain how it works and why it is so powerfully beneficial. I draw heavily on embodied action-oriented interventions, improv, drama therapy, CBT/DBT/ACT/CBS/exposure, and evidence-based principles more generally. One of my favorite quotes is by David Tolin, an Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine: “we can adjust our beliefs based on our behavior…Our behavior exerts a powerful influence (of which we are often unaware) on how we view ourselves, other people, and the world—for better or for worse” (p. 41). The healing is ultimately in the doing. Action shapes thought. Action shapes who we are.

My action-oriented embodied workshop progresses towards deconstructing your emotional eating into thoughts, behaviors, emotions, physical sensations (interoception!), and context. The process of my workshop stimulates divergent thinking, creativity, perspective taking, and new ways of relating to experience and yourself. My aim is to help you discover areas you had not considered in which to make changes to your habits and your eating and/or inspires you in a new direction of change.

One powerful element of my workshop is its incorporation of interoception. Interoception is essentially how we understand the internal sensations of our body— our hear beat, a headache, a full stomach, an empty stomach, a tingle in the leg. The way the mind interprets interoceptive signals is part of what gives rise to your emotional experience. There are many ways interoception can go awry. Some people don’t pay enough attention to their internal signals, some people avoid these signals, and others pay too much attention to their bodily sensations. How do you relate to the sensations in your body? The sensations underlying your experience of craving? What sensations accompany your experience of anxiety?

In my workshop we work with the body. One way of doing this is to have participants express how they are feeling as we begin the workshop. In this activity people are labeling what they are experiencing. Research shows that naming what is being felt/experienced has a profound effect on the nervous system. Another more distanced and perhaps more granular method is to ask participants to express how they feel with a sound and a movement; no verbal words necessary. There are not always words to describe what one feels. A sound and movement allows for a very granular, precise, and specific interoceptive express of what one feels using the entire body in physical 3 dimensional space. According to Annie Murphy Paul, an acclaimed science writer, “accurately distinguishing among interoceptive sensations is associated with making sounder decisions, acting less impulsively, and planning ahead more successfully—perhaps because it gives us a clearer sense of what we need and what we want.” (p. 29).

Throughout most of my workshop we use various embodied techniques primarily from improv. This embodied way of expression is driven by interoception and movement. Binge eating and emotional eating can feel very chaotic. Having a greater interoceptive awareness can help you more accurately label and identify what you are experiencing emotionally so you are not lost in an overwhelming haze of binge eating. By the end of this workshop, the interoceptive awareness you may have generated might lead to new insights when you go to deconstruct your emotional eating/binge eating. It is also a tool you can take with you. For example, when you feel a binge urge you can try expressing it with a sound/movement, or try attaching an emotional label to what’s going on for you.

In future blog posts I’ll discuss other unique elements of my workshop!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *