Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Food and Loathing: A Life Measured out in Calories

Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Food and Loathing: A Life Measured out in Calories

Article excerpt

BETSY LERNER: Food and Loathing: A Life Measured Out in Calories. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2003, 304 pp., $22.00, ISBN: 0743221834.

Food and Loathing chronicles author Betsy Lerner's long, grueling battle with overeating and depression. Ms. Lerner takes the reader through her vast experiences with food, drugs, negative self and body image, and her experiences with therapy. Though written for a lay audience, her story can also be instructive for therapists interested in "the unspoken," i.e. what patients really think and feel about treatment. It provides us with clues about our own treatment failures and successes when dealing with the emotional worlds of binge eaters.

According to the author, an original diagnosis of bipolar disorder was made in her 20s by a psychotherapist she describes as an "insensitive shrink." What ensued were the wanderings of a lost young girl, drifting through life for 20 years, not being able to grasp what was going on. It was not until Lerner's last hospitalization that she accepted the true meaning and implications of that original, correct diagnosis.

She describes her psychotherapy as ineffective. What were the roadblocks to successful treatment? Were there missed connections? What would it have taken to turn her around? Was there anyone translating what she was doing to herself in a meaningful way, so she could make use of it? How was her resistance handled? Though she relates her struggle well, her sometimes wandering chronicle, never quite answers these questions.

It is not until the book is nearly over that we get to hear more about her therapy, which she describes as "work done in the laboratory. …

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