Is it possible to lose weight with Intuitive Eating?

I received another question about my book “Farewell to Binge Eating”:

Dear Ms. Wollinger:

I’ve just finished reading your book “Farewell to Binge Eating” and would like to thank you very much. Your book has been written with such loving, supportive care and without putting too much emphasis on the question of how much we eat and when we eat. My favorite sentence is: “I allow my body to choose its own weight”, because I’m still struggling a lot with this issue.

The topic is by no means new to me since I’ve been trying to find healing for my eating disorder for more than six years now. Hummers/beckoners, hunger/satiety, psychotherapy, also for six years, – the whole deal. I can also tell you that I was successful in the sense that I have not experienced any more binging episodes for the past several years, meaning that I no longer have been gorging myself with masses of food. Having said that, it would seem, however, that I’m still eating more than I need because I’ve still been overweight for the past 5 years, weighing 95 kilos with a height of 1.69 m. No use glossing over this. I reached this weight once I had stopped regulating my eating, and since then I’ve not budged from it, although I don’t feel that I’m overeating – maybe just once in a while, but only smaller amounts. Prior to my eating disorder therapy, I would have been ecstatic if I had been able to eat “normally” as I do now, and I imagined that I would also achieve a “normal” weight then. I did not imagine 95 kilos.
While you don’t mention any specific numbers in your book, I read that you did gain some weight, but did not become overweight. I, on the other hand, with a BMI of 33, am clearly overweight.

My question to you: Did you ever experience a case, for instance with one of your clients, that severely overweight people lost weight, even without regulating their eating? And do you have any ideas for me what I should pay closer attention to?

I’m not happy with this weight. And I will never, ever force myself again – I have long since abandoned all the harshness and violence. Still, I have been fat, ever since I stopped.
In order to help you understand my situation: In my younger years I was a classical dancer and very skinny (47 kilos) and, of course, subjected myself to harsh regimentation. After I stopped, I gained weight, and my binging episodes started. Still, my weight fluctuated between diets and binging phases from 50 – 70 kilos. After my first three pregnancies I managed to lose weight every time, up to 40 kilos per pregnancy. After my fourth pregnancy, this no longer worked so well. I didn’t want to diet and stopped. I experienced my fifth pregnancy without dieting, but gained weight. After giving birth, my weight dropped to 85 kilos, and I was happy, thinking I had been healed. I had learned how to deal with food urges, to listen to my feelings of hunger and satiety and to humming and beckoning foods. Much to my dismay, I started slowly gaining weight after about a year, until I reached my current weight which I’ve been holding for about three years now. No matter how carefully I pay attention to my hunger, satiety etc. I just doesn’t seem to work.
I am clearly fat. It cannot be that my body really wants to be this fat? What do you think?

Let me add that I’ve experienced two groups of women in my therapy groups: the “skinnies” who have managed to maintain their weight with a lot of regimentation, and the “fatties”. In all these years I found that many of the “skinnies” were able to roughly maintain their weight and stopped controlling and vomiting, meaning that they had left their disorder behind them.
However, I don’t know any “fatties” (me included) who reached their feel-well weight. Some of them lost weight in the beginning. Then it stopped for good. Some of them didn’t lose weight at all, or even gained some additional weight, although many of them, just like me, think that they are eating normally by now.

I would be most grateful for your response.
Kind regards,


Dear Ms. G.,

Many thanks for your kind words about my book which are much appreciated. As an author, it is always delightful to learn that one’s words have actually gotten through to and been appreciated by a reader.
I gather from your note that you’ve already mastered the most difficult part of the path to recovery from eating disorder: Accepting yourself the way you are, treating yourself with kindness and no longer being overcome by food craving attacks.

If I’ve understood you correctly, you are asking how you might be able to lose excess weight without imposing the strict controls that are so typical for eating disorder.
Your question is extremely interesting and important. Therefore, I consulted extensively with my colleague Claudia Münstermann (www.claudia-mü We put our heads and our combined knowledge together and ended up writing the following article about Intuitive Eating.

Claudia Münstermann practices in Aachen, Germany, and also offers Skype Coaching for individuals afflicted by eating disorder, both in English and in German. She is experienced in the care of overweight people. (www.claudia-mü Below you’ll see a picture of Claudia during a Skype Coaching session 🙂


During the work on this article, I (Olivia) was thinking that it would make sense to add another chapter to the book “Farewell to Binge Eating” instead of “only” writing an article. By adding a chapter one could ensure that there already is a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of addition. We think this is important so that this article may be understood in the way we intended. Since we assume that this text will also be read by people who don’t yet know the book “Farewell to Binge Eating”, we are going to address the topic of addiction in some detail. However, we are not going to explain again some other concepts, such as “hummers” and “beckoners” and the question how one can distinguish between physical and emotional hunger.

From a distance, it is difficult to judge what the roots of your excess weight might be. (I’m assuming that you already had your thyroid and hormone functions checked?) We hope that you will find a few helpful thoughts in the following article and look forward to hearing from you again.

Best regards,
Olivia Wollinger & Claudia Münstermann

(translated by Ulli Wiesner)

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First, the question:

Do overweight people suffer from eating disorder?

This question cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. First of all, we should consider what it means to be afflicted by eating disorder and to suffer from ravenous food cravings.
In our experience, the main criteria are as follows:

  • There are moments of powerlessness when we stuff ourselves in a trance-like condition.
  • Thoughts such as “I must lose weight”, “what am I allowed to eat?” and the like dominate major part of our thinking.
  • Our state of mind and sense of self-worth are determined by the number on the scale every morning and the question whether today was a “good” or a “bad” food day.
  • Many different types of feelings (boredom, stress, anxiety, loneliness etc.) are addressed by eating.
  • We experience a deep sense of self-hatred, especially regarding our looks (figure).
  • The perception of our own body is warped.
  • Some of our eating behaviors are suppressed or denied (“I only eat the healthy stuff!”)
  • We experience our eating behavior as a major burden.

Below follows a quote from “Farewell to Binge Eating”:

It is difficult to admit to oneself “Yes, I have an addictive eating disorder”. I know that from own experience. Who wants to admit being an addict? Maybe the word “addiction” evokes in you – like in me – the image of someone whose life has been irretrievably messed up, a lost soul leaning against the wall of a house, waiting for the next “fix”.

It was not quite as bad for me. On the contrary: I tried to perform my various roles perfectly in order to maintain the external impression that I was doing well. That can be pretty exhausting. But there were times when I actually did feel like a junkie, like when I would dress again in the evening in order to walk, zombie-like, to the nearest gas station where I could buy my “drugs” – sweets. My urge to do this was so strong that it actually put me into some kind of trance. “I need sweets, now, right away!” Nothing else mattered.

Although we never can get out of our own skin, it is amazingly possible to deceive oneself. For years on end I avoided facing the truth. I minimized my addiction by calling it “my little eating problem”. Each downfall was followed by a high, and I forgot completely what had happened before. I had convinced myself that I would tackle my problem with a new diet. Guaranteed! There is a game children play – maybe you know it, too: If I hold my hands up in front of my eyes and don’t see anything, nobody will find me. If I don’t “see” my food addiction, does that mean it does not exist?

I was living by myself at the time and could stock my fridge exclusively with “permitted” foods, such as cottage cheese, carrots, at least five different fat free yoghurts and Diet Cola. One of my girlfriends made the following comment: “If you only eat this stuff, you should be as thin as a rail”. For a moment, her remark brought me back to reality. I was deeply ashamed and quickly tried to change the subject. Whenever I was eating “forbidden” things, I would do so quickly, and often while I was doing something else. Eating – me? Never! During my binging episodes, the trancelike condition I found myself in helped me to repress things. Only after the episode had passed would I become painfully aware of my predicament. Still, I would begin another diet the following morning, being firmly convinced that I was going to follow a healthy one from now on. Surely, I of all people did not have a problem with food!

The term “eating disorder” doesn’t sound much better than “compulsive eating”. After all, who wants to have a “disorder”? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you call your behavior. What’s much more important is to determine whether your eating behavior and the thoughts that go along with it, are burdensome to you.
I was able to start my path of recovery from eating addiction by being honest with myself and admitting the following:

  • Yes, I do have a problem, and it is enormous.
  • I eat more than is good for me.
  • I experience regular binging episodes.
  • I am unable to stick to my diet plans.
  • I lead a double life: I count every single calorie, eat healthily AND gorge myself with masses of sugary and fatty stuff during my binge eating episodes.
  • The stricter the self-imposed discipline, the more severe the binging episodes.
  • I am unable to reach my ideal weight.
  • If I occasionally do reach my target weight by trying extremely hard, I am unable to maintain it over the long run and I keep putting on weight again.
  • I’m feeling miserable, no matter how often I pretend to be happy.
  • New Year’s resolutions, like “I’m going to change this once and for all at 00:00:01 h on January 1st” are meaningless.
  • It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to wait for the big key event that finally will throw a switch in my brain. I must start working on myself and do it now.

Sometime later I recognized:

  • I need help, because I won’t be able to do this on my own.

The dubious utility of diets

When people who are suffering from eating disorder start a diet program, it seldom works for them in the long term.
Our normal lives have tend to surprise us time and time again with stressful situations, like a family member’s surgery, a new work project and so on. Since such situations require a lot of energy and discipline, there is none left to stick to a diet. “How am I supposed to focus on a diet when I’m going through such a stressful time?” We stop dieting and gain weight again, faster and more than we want. As soon as the stress has abated, the old game starts anew, sometimes for years. This is the (in)-famous “yo-yo effect”.

Meanwhile, I (Claudia) know dozens of articles that maintain that diets don’t work, no matter whether we are afflicted by eating disorder or not. Just like Olivia writes in her book “Farewell to Binge Eating”: We cannot stick our entire lives to a regimen of strict self-castigation. When we control ourselves severely, put a number of foods on our forbidden lists and go without many things, inner rebellion oftentimes is the outcome. Animal tests have shown that when you starve mammals, they will react with feeding frenzies. When unanticipated stress situations occur – something that can happen often in our lives – all prohibitions are cast aside, and we catch up to all the things we so painfully deprived ourselves of. Since our metabolism, however, already may have switched to starvation mode, and the entire caloric need has been adjusted downwards, weight gain is almost unavoidable.

According to statistics that are not sponsored by the diet industry, only 1 % of dieters lose weight over the long run. The overwhelming majority are back to their old weight after five to six years, if they’re lucky. Most of them are even heavier afterwards. If they continue to diet, they may drive their weight up even more and possibly start to be confronted with binging attacks against their will.
You will find a very good lecture by an American neuroscientist at the following address:

Why is it that diet programs are only rarely consistently adhered to? We believe the reason to be that they do not address WHY we eat, but only focus on WHAT we eat, although the question of “why” – the motivation for eating – is of overriding importance.

Is it possible to be overweight without eating disorder? We believe it is because the borders of eating disorder sometimes fluctuate: All of us eat for emotional reasons. Equally, hardly anyone eats every bite of food while paying close attention.

Here’s the important question: How often does it happen and for what reason?

In order to achieve sustainable weight loss, we must first do our homework. We need to lessen our emotional hunger and learn how to satisfy it by means other than food. What’s therefore important is to eat mostly to satisfy our physical hunger. The necessary behavior patterns need to become internalized so that we don’t throw them overboard in stressful situations. Only after we’ve mastered this, dietary recommendations can be adopted, at least in our experience.

This is what I (Olivia) experienced:

After I had freed myself of my addictive behaviors, my weight began to stabilize. This felt like such a relief: during my time with eating disorder, I often felt that I was gaining weight by just looking at a cake. Moreover, I was afraid that my weight would continue to go up and that I would completely lose control. To me, it was like a holiday to see that I was allowed to have cake and that my weight still remained the same. Since my self-love also increased during my path to recovery from eating disorder, I was able to accept my body despite its slightly higher weight. Finally! My self-destructive hatred had left me. Life became simpler, more beautiful, easier and more worthwhile.

Still, I had a problem: the pants in my favorite store no longer fit me. I am tall at 1.83 cm, and it was difficult to find pants that fit me both length- and breadth-wise. Because I finally was able to love myself, I decided to drop down just one dress size, no more. There’s the big difference to addiction: This wasn’t an unrealistic desire.
I wanted to lose weight – while loving myself. How does that work?

After all these years of self-denial, prohibitions no longer worked. As soon as I tried, I immediately had a defiant reaction. (Cake! Cake! More cake!) Obviously, I wasn’t ready yet to have something taken away from me. Instead, I began adding things.

I consulted an expert on 5-elements nutrition who gave me some recommendations on the basis of my particular constitution. Here’s again the difference to addiction: I accepted it for what it was – a recommendation, without trying to adhere strictly to all points and changing everything right away. I began to experiment and to research.
The first step was porridge. Since my morning hummers are usually “sweet” and “soft” I mostly consumed baked sweets. How about trying porridge with fruits on the weekend? Naturally, my little child that’s throwing a tantrum on the floor (whom I introduced in my book) appeared immediately. I accepted it lovingly and reassured it that it did not have to forego the sweet baked stuff, but that it might be a good idea to try something new. Over time, I really started to like the porridge, and I no longer craved the baked goodies.

I also used to eat lots of ready-made products, such as sauces, soups and frozen dishes. My advisor suggested replacing them. This did not mean giving up things, but rather introducing new daily habits, slowly, and step by step. I got to know and love new kinds of vegetables, such as pumpkin. Yummy, delicious and even sweet! Baked potatoes, too, could be fixed in a jiffy, and they actually tasted way better than the French fries from the fast-food place. Over time, I became so used to freshly prepared foods that I no longer wanted to eat the ready-made stuff.

Then, another round of self-honesty was needed. Did I really only eat when I was physically hungry? Or maybe just because it was cozy or because I wanted to “sweeten” my work? Did I really have to eat several pieces of chocolate after every meal, because “sweet” was still humming, or would one small piece suffice? Were the quantities I ate still appropriate?
I did again establish a nutritional regimen which, however, was completely different from my approach during eating disorder. Control and calories no longer were the main focus. Instead, I tried to examine my eating habits. I asked myself the following questions:

How often did I eat?
Was I distracted when eating?
Where did I eat?
Did I pay attention to my satiety?
What did I drink?

This approach was instructive because it showed me that I did not eat as mindfully as I had thought. Physical exercise, too, again became important. Thanks to my fitness center excesses during my time with eating disorder, I completely refused exercising for some time. I now needed to find types of exercise that I really enjoyed and was able to integrate into my daily routines.
All these measures enabled me to drop down one dress size, which took me a few months to accomplish. In contrast to the time with eating disorder, this was not a short-term diet with the promise of quick results. Quite the opposite: I very slowly introduced a new lifestyle. Therefore, my behavior remained consistent even during stressful moments, since it had become the new normalcy. Thus, I was able to maintain my new weight over the long term.

The sentence my reader quotes in her mail is also my favorite: “I decided to learn to give my body what it needs and to accept the weight it chooses.” The reader’s mail, however, only cites the second part of the sentence, while I find the first part at least as important:

What does the body really need?

At some point, I had nourished my emotional hunger sufficiently to be ready to take another step: I wanted to reduce my sugar intake, since I often felt totally wiped out in the afternoon. With the help of my 5-elements nutritional advisor I knew that there might be a connection. I simply wanted to feel more vibrant.
I totally cut out sugar for a couple of weeks. This was only possible because I had allowed myself unlimited amounts of sweets during my path of recovery from eating disorder and therefore did not feel it as a great loss to have to go without sugar for a few weeks. Moreover, I learned on my path of recovery to satisfy my emotional hunger with things other than sweets. Still, my inner child and I had a few conversations during that time, and I explained repeatedly and lovingly, why I was doing this. After this phase, sugar re-entered my life, but in much smaller quantities than before. Mass-produced items with additives no longer tasted good to me. Instead, I developed a predilection for delicious home-made cakes. When choosing chocolates, I placed far greater emphasis on quality, which meant much less quantity.

I started out by replacing white sugar with maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, and the like, because I felt they were better for me. My taste buds, too, seemed to agree. My special “goodie drawer” which I used to keep at home, also disappeared, meaning that I no longer had easy access to sweets. (Since I had left my eating disorder behind, I no longer took night-time trips to gas stations or convenience stores). Whenever “sweet” was humming, I asked myself very carefully whether this actually was a hummer or just a beckoner, and how much of it I actually needed.
Altogether, I lost a two-digit kilo amount and achieved the weight I have today.

Is this regimentation?
Yes, it is.
Do I experience it as self-denial and want?
No, I don’t.
To me, that’s the significant difference to addiction.

As you can tell, the process of losing weight did not happen overnight, and was not achieved with the help of some miracle diet. Losing weight, while loving oneself, requires lots of patience. This path has to be taken step by step, without the expectation of quick results.

Living free of addiction means: I love myself just the way I am. I am valuable the way I am. I examine my motivation. I decide for myself. I am allowed to choose what’s important to me at a given moment. Well-being counts, and not regimentation.

Addictive thoughts would be: I hate myself. I MUST change, RIGHT AWAY, otherwise I’ll never be happy. I MUST be stricter with myself. I MUST finally muster more discipline. I MUST prove to myself that I’m not the world’s greatest loser. Under no circumstances must I eat food X, otherwise I will have failed. Strict self-control is front and center, and not well-being.

We’ve summarized a few points and questions in order to reflect on that we believe to be important for losing weight when struggling with excess weight:

In order to achieve lasting success, we need to do our “homework”. That means becoming able not to respond to emotional hunger by eating. When asking yourself, how successful you already are, answering the following questions might be helpful:

  • How often do I let myself be seduced by “beckoners”?
  • Do I mostly eat in peace and quiet or do I rush?
  • How often do I compensate feelings with food (e.g. boredom or stress)?
  • In most instances, do I stop eating once I’ve reached satiety or do I often “clean my plate” like a “good person”?
  • How aware am I of my food consumption throughout the day?
  • Am I able to derive enjoyment from quality, or do I equate enjoyment with quantity?
  • Am I able to perceive what my body needs, or do I exclusively orient myself according to external units of measurement, such as what the scale tells me or calories?

Sometimes, overweight is caused by a number of emotional factors. I (Claudia) suggest to my clients to ask themselves some of the following questions:

  • Are there cases of overweight / obesity in my family? Is this some kind of tradition? Do I only truly belong to my family if I’m heavy?
  • Is my overweight some kind of protective layer? A shield against sexual assault? Every 7th woman has had to endure one or more instances of sexual assault. That’s powerful and may have an impact on eating behavior by producing the subconscious idea that weight guarantees safety.
  • Does my physical “expansion” allow me to claim the space I otherwise don’t claim?
  • Does food offer me the abundance, sweetness and the intense flavor I’m otherwise missing in my life?
  • We believe that some issues require professional support, for instance the following questions:
  • Am I prepared to have a closer look at my life, the way I shape it, and to look carefully at the stressors that make me eat?
  • Am I prepared to regularly take a good look at myself and to become more mindful in all areas of life?
  • Do I have the inner permission to be slender?
  • Am I ready to leave my comfort zone and change things? In my partnership, with my children, my parents, my work, my daily routing, my time management, my pace, and the breaks I afford myself (in order to be less emotionally driven when eating)?
  • Do I absolutely have to solve all my problems myself? Am I ready to accept that I may need competent help, which also may cost money?
  • Would I like to grow, – meaning not girth-wise 😉 but rather in the sense of become more of an adult and to develop more mature strategies for resolving stress and conflicts?

I (Claudia) remember from my practice the case of a highly successful professional woman whose eating behavior only changed after deciding, against her usual habits, not to work during a long weekend. She did not open her laptop even once. Initially, that felt pretty uncomfortable, strange and somewhat anxiety-provoking to her. Despite her inner reservations, however, she began to enjoy more and more well-deserved peace and quiet instead of eating uncontrollably. This means that this particular woman did her “homework” by changing the stress factors in her life and therefore was able to change her eating habits and her weight.

When we attempt to lose weight, our nutritional habits must be re-examined.

  • We believe that the artificial ingredients (for instance flavor enhancers, aromas, sweeteners, food colors or preservatives) that can be found in many foodstuff and drinks should be avoided as much as possible. We don’t like so-called “light “products and diet foods. Whenever possible, ready-made dishes should be replaced with freshly cooked ones. This does not mean depriving ourselves of enjoyment, but rather a change in our daily habits. (Here again the question: Am I ready to do this?)
  • We are of the view that certain foodstuffs should be categorized as luxury foods, meaning they should not be consumed as staples but for the mere enjoyment of their taste. Sausages, noodles, sugar, fruit juices and soft drinks are among them.
  • We think it is really important to address the issue of hidden sugar contained in e.g. potato chips, ketchup, sushi rice and many other ready meals. This requires taking the necessary time to read food labels. We also think it’s important to be mindful of the intake of meat, cheese and other fatty items (such as fried or breaded foods), meaning that it is particularly important to be aware of hunger and satiety, in addition to hummers and beckoners.
  •  Alcohol consumption also has a major impat on weight.
  •  We put a lot of emphasis on high-quality cooking oils and egional products.
  •  In our experience, addressing the body’s acid / alkaline balance is beneficial for our overall health and well-being.
  • We also think it’s important to cook and bake. Only then will we be able to truly judge the quality of foods.

It is, however, very important to be free of the addiction. Otherwise one will read the list and think: “Ah, that means I’m not allowed to have any sugar?”, and that would only be one more diet. However, this is not supposed to be yet another list of “I am allowed to have this” and “this is forbidden”. What’s important is to achieve a balance in life, to make deliberate choices and to find a suitable lifestyle that works in the long run.

I (Claudia) think that the metaphor of the explorer Olivia uses in her book is really wonderful in order to describe how it can work when the urge to eat for emotional reasons truly has been resolved. We’re allowed an entirely new eating experience and can look at many different concepts of healthy eating, try them out and test them for enjoyment, fun and the ability to be integrated into our daily routines. Healthy eating no longer is an annoying duty, but rather an important part of dealing kindly with ourselves. It is something that may take time and bring us enjoyment.
One of my (Claudia’s) clients started initially with short fasting periods in order to lose weight (16:8, a variation of intermittent fasting. There is an 8-hour window for eating, following by 16 hours of fasting) after she had recovered from eating disorder and learned to eat mindfully, in addition to integrating enjoyable exercise into her life. Although she no longer suffered from binging episodes, she did not lose weight. At this point she started again, after some years, to pay attention to her caloric intake and then to try out, step by step, another nutritional pattern. Thereby, she was able to reduce her weight slowly. At this juncture, watching her calories no longer was part of a strict self-control, but rather an appropriate helping guide.

Here’s another one of my (Olivia’s) examples: When I was suffering from eating disorder, I used to control my exercise units with the help of a heart rate monitor. I absolutely HAD to jog for so and so many miles and burn so and so many calories. Whenever I wasn’t able to do this, I would recriminate myself and thought I was the greatest loser on earth. To me, it was important to get rid of my heart rate monitor on my path of recovery in order to allow myself to truly sense whether I actually needed this and to figure out what does me good. It was essential to sense what was good for me and to stop controlling myself all the time. I’ve now been free of addiction for many years. A couple of days ago, someone gave me a pedometer (step counter), and I really wanted to try and see how much 10,000 steps actually amount to. I thought wow, this is fun to see if I already did physically move enough during a regular day. This is a positive incentive for me, and I enjoy it. Therefore, I’ve been carrying the pedometer with me for the past couple of days. But here’s the difference to addiction: I feel it is a positive incentive, and I think it is fun. Whenever I don’t manage to do the 10,000 steps, it’s not a big deal, no drama and no failure. It simply doesn’t matter. I could do without this gadget, but for the time being I think it’s neat, and therefore I’ll keep it for a while.

Again: While a similar measure may be a burden during times of addiction, it may otherwise have a completely different effect. It is often important to abandon control mechanisms in order to potentially use them later on as helpers.

If there actually was addiction, it is important on the path of recovery to be mindful regarding the question: Is the “tweaking” of my nutrition actually good for me or will it again drive me into addictive behaviors? Do the changes work for me or do I again expect too much, all at once? Even though our intentions may be truly wholesome, they should not again lead us to a life that’s governed by control.

We need to question our motivation: Losing weight without yo-yo effect needs patience, especially when we’re over 30. Many diets promise the ultimate success with little effort. We believe, however, that this cannot work in the long run without effort and without the deliberate decision to introduce changes into our lives.

  • How important is it to me to lose weight and what am I prepared to do in order to achieve this goal?
  • Am I hoping for a miracle diet that will bring the solution by magic?
  • Do I believe that a skinnier “me” will be a better and happier human being?
  • For whom do I want to lose weight? Am I responding to external demands?
  • Am I prepared to accept changes to my lifestyle?
  • Am I prepared to have a closer look at the underlying causes, e.g. the question “what do I really need my excess weight for?”
  • Am I prepared to invest time?
  • Am I prepared to examine my own behavior honestly and to make the necessary changes?
  • Am I ready to change long-standing habits?
  • Do I realize that this is a life-long process and not a slap-dash quick turnaround exercise?
  • Do I understand that food and eating are always linked to other areas of life?

If we really want to lose weight, we won’t be able to do so without changing our life style. The question is: “Do I really want that?”
If our answer is: “I really don’t want to put myself through this, it’s simply too much trouble. I’m feeling reasonably healthy and like myself the way I am”, we are, alas, often met with a lack of understanding in our society. Here, a lot of self-confidence and a certain indifference vis-à-vis others’ comments are needed.
I (Claudia) read a few studies on this topic that clearly indicate that good health and longevity do not depend on body weight, but rather on the following 4 factors:

  1. Regular exercise
  2. plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
  3. moderation with alcohol and nicotine
  4. effective stress coping mechanisms

Maybe it is necessary to re-define the idea of “beauty” and “health” in our heads? Maybe we’re finally allowed to accept ourselves the way we are, simply because we feel well? Maybe we’ll reach the point where we stop following external demands and instead are able to feel what we really want?

What do YOU really want? It is your life, and you are allowed to make your own conscious decisions.

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Ms. G. responded as follows:

Dear Ms. Wollinger,

Wow – thanks a million for taking the time and trouble for your comprehensive response!

I read it while here on vacation, and immediately got in my car in order to have a good cry, the reason being that it was both shocking and beneficial to learn that there needs to be regimentation. Although I did get the message that this is loving regimentation, aimed at supporting my wellbeing. And this resonates and touches me.
After reading your book, I had already embarked on the path of trying to find out what my body really needs and whether I’m actually providing it.
To my surprise, I found out that there are two specific points that are different from what I thought. I quite often eat not what I need, not because I decide on a beckoner, but because with five children in my life it is an additional effort to prepare food separately for me. I can see that it’s important to do more for myself by taking my own nutritional needs more seriously.
For instance, I would rather have vegetables, preferably cooked or steamed, but the kids want potatoes, rice and meat etc. This means that I not only prepare what they like but also end up eating it.
Secondly, I found that I’m overeating somewhat every evening, not to the point where my tummy starts aching, but I ignore the quiet voice of the first satiety signal and tell myself: “Under no circumstances will I stop now.”

When reading the questions, my strongest hummers came were related to sweetness, abundance and intensity. It also fits the fact that I’m having lots of trouble filling in my butterfly. I’m only aware of two or three things that do me good and a couple of things I like and enjoy.
I can see that the path ahead will be a long one, but I’m very motivated to continue. I will start to tackle the points I’ve just discovered and I’m excited to see where that will lead me.
Many thanks to both of you and warmest regards,


Buchcover und Stephansdom 3

You will find more information about our work at the following internet address:

www.claudia-mü and here at

Both books “Farewell to Binge Eating” and “Essanfälle adé” (German Edition) are available via Amazon.

Fear of gaining weight

Dear Ms. Wollinger,

Your book is unbelievably great and like a gift from Heaven for me (I already provided a review on Amazon ;)).
I’m a young woman and a physician and have suffered from binging episodes since I was 16. Your book was the first one that really did help me!

For the first time, I found myself 1:1 (I really had to laugh about the Oreao cookies – they really are the best).

I stopped dieting this past February, in order to become acquainted with my healing process. Since then, I’ve gained quite a bit of weight. However, I haven’t had any binging episodes for the past two months and I’m confident that they won’t recur (at least not in their previous form), since I’ve learned so much about myself thanks to your book and thanks to the EBH method. I am truly glad and grateful!

With the help of your book, I’ve finally reached a good path out of my eating disorder, and I’m confident that this path will actually lead to my goal. Still, I am seriously struggling with the current transitional phase. Although the binging episodes no longer occur, I still succumb frequently to overeating (which is simply owed to the fact that I finally no longer deprive myself of anything, and that all the “forbidden” foods are available). I still do not have access to my feelings of satiety / hunger. Moreover, I no longer have a sense of an appropriate amount of food due to my many years of a troubled relationship with food and eating. I do not know where “healthy ends and where overeating begins”. I always have a slight tendency to overeat because “now I’m finally allowed to”.

Therefore, I feel very anxious these days, which keeps me awake at night. EBH (as described in your book) helps a lot (and also The Work by Byron Katie). I’m able to feel much greater love for my body than earlier on. I’m able to say “Thank you, my body, for having shielded me all these years from the feelings and the tumult, thank you for being here, thank you that I can feel how soft you’ve become”, and for a few moments I actually do feel “whole”.
Still, there is a feeling of tension inside me and the fear that it’ll never stop and that I’ll continue to overeat always. My current weight troubles me a lot, and I have to muster a lot a strength throughout the day in order to “accept” my feelings of shame regarding my weight gain.

You’re describing your own transitional phase as devoid of problems, even though you, too, gained weight. I admire you for the ability to find such a path and for what you’ve made of it for us. That does take a lot!
Today, I was actually supposed to meet some of my study colleagues, but I cancelled since my shame feelings regarding my current weight got the upper hand. I’m experiencing a point of great fear, a point of stagnation; I don’t want to gain even more weight, I’m afraid of falling back into the old patterns and I notice that my strength is dwindling somewhat at the moment. My current anxiety opens another cycle that leads to overeating.
Maybe you have some suggestions for me?
I would love to hear from you, but I imagine that you’re getting a lot of such requests.
With appreciation and thankfulness,

Dear Ms. L.:

Many thanks for our appreciative message. Thank you also for submitting a book review, this is truly helpful.
I am pleased that “Farewell to Binge Eating” provided you with some helpful suggestions, and it is great that you know that you’re on the right path. You’re to be congratulated for not having had any binging episodes during the past two months. This means a major change in your behavior! I am pleased for you that you’ve made peace with your body. It does make our everyday lives so much easier, doesn’t it!

I do understand that you’re worried about your weight. Sometimes, when we’re finally allowed to eat what we want, it means that there’s also a great urge to actually do it. In the beginning, this may indeed lead to a weight increase, although there are no more binging episodes, since we simply no longer can tolerate boundaries and control. Think of it like a pendulum that has to swing in the opposite direction before it finds its equilibrium in the middle.
In your mail you refer to my writing about my on transitional phase “without problems”, even though I gained weight. As I mentioned somewhere, the book actually represents the quintessence of my path. Maybe you recall the illustration about the “wishful path” and the “realistic path”.

The realistic path is more like a zigzag line. When writing a book, however, one tends to describe a straight line. If I had attempted to describe all the erroneous path and worries, all the exercises I went through that did not work, all the relapses and all the successes, I would have lost the red thread. Such are the compromises one has to engage in when writing a book. One needs to focus on the essential aspects, otherwise the readers might lose interest.


In response to your question, let me describe a few more things that happened to me along the way:
During the phase “I will only eat what a want to” I recall spending three weeks by myself in a house in a small town far away from home. I hardly knew anyone there, and there was practically no access to the internet. At the time, I thought it was terrible having to spend three weeks all alone. Looking back, however, I now recognize that this was exactly what would do me good. For three weeks, I only had to focus on myself and on my eating behavior. Coming back, my father met me at the airport. He remarked on my weight gain which was obvious. While this was quite unpleasant for me, I knew somehow that I was on the right path. Therefore, I tried to the best of my ability to suppress my feelings of shame (at the time I was not yet familiar with EBH).

I recall another happening: About six months after this trip I met a man whom I dated for a couple of months. His parents were living in South Tyrol, where I visited them for two weeks. They were great cooks and served three wonderful meals every day. I ate thrice a day to my heart’s delight. Being able to afford myself this felt like a veritable revolution. I remember very well realizing that the amounts were too much for me, but I was overjoyed by finally being able to eat without any control, so that I didn’t even want to pay attention to my satiety. I wanted to afford that, too. Finally!

After returning to Vienna, I proudly told one of my girlfriends that I’d been eating thrice a day to my heart’s delight. She was unaware of my eating disorder, and I’ll never forget the look she gave me. I could tell she was thinking “Is she totally nuts? She’s gaining weight, and proud of it?!?!” I was not proud that I had gained weight, but I was really proud of the fact that I finally had broken out of the diet regimen and of the fact that I was on the right path, but I was not strong enough to explain this to the world. Everything was too new and fragile. Therefore, I let her examining glance pass me and tried to connect to my feeling “you’re doing the right thing”. At the same time, I recognized that it would be better for me to discuss the path I had chosen only with a few select people.

On one occasion, I was on the couch with my boyfriend. He put his hand on my tummy and said” “Your jeans are pretty tight, doesn’t it hurt? Why don’t you by them a little larger?” What a shock! Did he think I was too fat? Did he no longer find me attractive? Today, I recognize that my toxic shaming voices (which I describe in my book) were making their appearance. Luckily, however, I was able to check with my friend. He was the first person (after “E” whom I mentioned in my book) whom I told about my food obsession. He explained to me that he didn’t mean anything negative, that he found me very attractive, but that he just was concerned with my wellbeing. He simply didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable in my clothes. He only wanted what was good for me. Thereafter, I found the courage to afford myself a large pant size. It was really import to dress according to my actual figure instead of waiting for the moment when I would be slimmer. I didn’t know when that was going to happen. It was important to dress in a way that was appropriate for the respective phase of my development, instead of squeezing myself into ill-fitting clothes, feeling frustrated.

I’m not sure whether I would have attended a class reunion at that time. It would have been as difficult for me as it is for you right now. Here, one has to decide: What’s really good for me at this particular stage? While there is no need to “perfect” when you do go, there is also no need to go when you don’t feel like it. During class reunions, people often check each other out. There’s no need to go through that if one doesn’t feel like it. It doesn’t sound as though you’re isolating yourself completely socially? If that’s the case, it is really fine to skip the occasional meeting.

At that particular point in time, I was far from loving my body. I sensed that it would be different once I had gone through all of it. Still, I tried to make the best of it, rather than hating the status quo. I knew that I was on a good path, while realizing that I could not estimate the length of the path ahead of me. I trusted that my body would know what to do, as long as I cooperated with it. Every time I was overcome by self-hatred and doubt, I told myself: “I’m learning to give my body what it needs, and it is allowed to choose the weight it wants. I’m going to accept that weight.” I believe that this was the most important sentence throughout my entire journey.
On your question regarding hunger and feeling satiety: Once we no longer know how to feel our body, it is also difficult to perceive hunger and satiety. One way of re-learning this is to practice feeling our body. (My book contains a couple of suggestions). Moreover, we learn this by experimenting and comparing: How does it feel today after a meal? How was it yesterday? What happens if I don’t eat right now but only after 2-3 hours? What happens if I stop eating right now? How does it feel?

Sticking to set meal times was very helpful to me in the beginning – morning / noon / afternoon and evening. It took my body a long time to become confident: “There’ll be food again. You don’t have to worry that there’ll be another period of fasting. You don’t need to eat up everything right now.” Initially, I would eat more than I needed, but my binging episodes diminished. This meant that I, everything told, did not eat that much more than during the times when I vacillated between fasting and overeating every three days.

I believe that I, during that period, did not want to listen to my feeling of satiety, precisely because I was sick and tired of control. I sensed this acutely and allowed myself to continue. Deep down, I knew that it was important. This doesn’t mean, however, that I felt physically well. It was difficult, but I had to go through this process.
Once I had gained greater confidence in the regularity of meals, I was able to pay greater attention to hunger and satiety and to say “no” on occasion.

You are mentioning the “right amounts” in your mail. Whatever does you good and what you need to become sated, is “right”. To find this out does take time. The more you learn to take care of yourself and to listen to your body, the greater will become your ability to consume what you really need and what is good for your.
You are a young doctor. I can imagine that you in your professional capacity are particularly mindful of the fact that you are overweight. As a physician, one is supposed to know everything about health, right? Let me encourage you: If you manage to go through this process by yourself, you will be of even greater help and support to your patients because you know what it feels like to be in the throes of the problem. You’ll never advise your patients to “simply eat less!” And – who knows – maybe one day you will become specialized in the treatment of individuals who are plagued by overweight or binge eating.

I know the fear that one will never be able to stop. I only experienced it during the phase when I forbade myself to eat. Once I stopped doing that, I noticed quite naturally that the point would come when it was enough. In the beginning, this point was reached at 9-10 on the satiety scale I described in my book. Later on, it occurred at 7-8, and nowadays I enjoy being less than overly full and stop at 5-6. This process took years.
Maybe the word “years” is frightening. However, when we’re on the right path, it doesn’t feel like that because we continue to learn and our wellbeing continues to increase. Each improvement leads to an improvement in the quality of life, which, in turn improves life gradually and sustainably. I believe that sustainability is really important. Short-term improvements which are tossed overboard once we experience increased stress, for instance, are of little or no use. It is important to find a new way of life that is not forced upon us but suits us in all the different circumstances of life.

One more piece of advice: Please make sure to sit down when you eat and to arrange the place where you eat as nicely as possible. This will help you to retain overview and also make eating a more conscious process. Also try to slow down your meals, by putting down your cutlery, for instance, if you can. Try to listen to yourself, whenever possible, without necessarily expecting that you’ll be able to gauge your feeling of satiety precisely.
You are also talking about pronounced feelings of anxiety. Let me suggest turning to psychotherapy. Dealing with strong emotions on our own is very difficult. While EBH also is an excellent method of dealing with anxiety, it is advisable to enlist additional help from the outside in cases of major anxiety.
I’m also familiar with the tensions you mention. They will abate slowly and gradually. Don’t expect everything to go away suddenly, – the path is lengthy. Over time, it becomes more and more enjoyable to walk, – and sometimes it becomes downright exciting.
A couple of weeks ago I received an inquiry from a reader about the topic “Affording ourselves hummers”. Maybe you’ll find a few suggestions here: Should we indulge in the hummers?

Let me encourage you and wish you much success for your journey. I hope to have helped you with my mail and send you warm regards from Vienna,

Olivia Wollinger
(translated by Ulli Wiesner)

Ms. L replied:

Dear Ms. Wollinger,
Many thanks for your kind and soothing words. Your answer touched me deeply, and I now feel that I have the strength to continue my path
Thank you so much for taking the time and thank you for your openness and wonderful support in my own name and in the name of all your readers and clients!


P.S. I am actually interested in undergoing additional training (EBH, Rosen Method etc.) in order to help others to put binge eating behind them. 😉 Right now, I’m doing this by recommending your book warmly and by having open conversations about this topic. There are too few physicians who practice helping people with eating disorders. In my view, there is a major need for further action in this area, as you also said. Your book is a fantastic trigger.

Hummers and Beckoners in cases of food intolerance?

Hi, I’m reading your book and I’m surprised how often I find myself again in what you write. I’m at the chapter on Hummers and Beckoners, and I find this approach very interesting and logical. Unfortunately, I have to forego relatively many foodstuffs due to health reasons (for instance dairy products, sugar and flour). For health reasons, it is better if I stick to a type of “paleo diet”. Do you have any suggestions for me on how to escape the vicious cycle of eating disorder despite the fact that so many things are prohibited? Naturally, we always crave even more what we cannot have. Many thanks in advance, and many thanks for your great and helpful book!

Dear Ms.:

If you continue a little longer in the book, you’ll find a paragraph on the issue of food allergies and intolerances. And if you go on a bit further, you’ll learn that I, too, was lactose intolerant. Moreover, there is an entire page on the topic of sugar 🙂

During my time with eating disorder, I consumed every day at least a half-liter yoghurt (non-fat, naturally), at least one package cottage cheese (low-fat, of course), in addition to having at least one whey beverage (also low in fats). I would have died if they had taken all of this away from me, because I was thinking, how am I to eat a healthy and low-fat diet, if I can’t have these things?! At the same time, I frequently suffered from painful flatulence.
Nowadays, I have dairy products as a “treat”, meaning not as part of my diet, but in order to enjoy them. My digestion has improved markedly, and I no longer react to ice-cream with abdominal cramps. I believe that even long-standing intolerances may improve once we introduce regularity into our diet, and the digestive system has recovered.

It is extremely difficult to do without dairy products, flour AND sugar when we suffer from eating disorder. The important question is how great the degree of suffering is: If you have a disease, such as rheumatism or Crohn’s disease, it is absolutely necessary to adjust your dietary habits accordingly. I would recommend looking for foods that resemble those you must forego in terms of consistency and taste. In cases of serious disease, nutritional habits must be changed in order to achieve improvement.

If, however, you “only” have a bloated abdomen, or “only” pimples on your back, or “only” skin blemishes in your face, you might think about whether you deliberately put up with these things and don’t eliminate everything strictly on account of the eating disorder, but try to find some form of compromise, in the knowledge that, as the disorder diminishes, you’ll gradually be able to adjust your eating behavior, lovingly and patiently. Whenever the need to act is not that great (meaning there is no acute serious illness), I find such a compromise to be better than leaving out everything for a couple of days, and subsequently wolfing down everything “forbidden” during a binging episode. The latter is a much greater shock to your body’s system, compared to consuming small amounts of the foodstuffs you don’t tolerate so well.

By the way, my tastes have changed completely over the years. If I today would have to consume half a liter of yoghurt and a pack of cottage cheese plus a whey beverage, I would scream and leave 🙂

Hopefully, my answer was of some help to you. Best regards from Vienna,
Olivia Wollinger

(translated by Ulli Wiesner)

Buchcover und Stephansdom 3


Aren’t “hummers” and “beckoners” another diet regimen?

Dear Ms. Wollinger,

I bought your book last week and am reading it for the second time. The Amazon book review jumped out at me, and I could only confirm the positive impression when I read the book. I was thinking all the time: “She ticks just like me!”

In any case, – I like the book a great deal and I’ve already highlighted many of the important passages. I bought the book although I’ve been dealing with eating disorder for the past eleven years. I’ve read and done lots of different things and made noticeable progress. I underwent two different therapies plus a stay in a rehab clinic. Still, the path ahead is a long one, also because I am severely overweight. According to your description, I’m probably in the phase “I can accept myself, but I’m still eating much too much.” Therefore, I bought the book in order to get a few suggestions and, perhaps, to have a few “aha” experiences. It worked for a total of three entire days. 😉 Maybe you’ve got a few more ideas for me.

By the way, I thought it was really great that you didn’t mention any weight specifics. I secretly hoped you would (the old diet mentality), but I also kind of feared it because I knew that when something concrete is in the book, I would only hope to lose weight quickly, according to your example.

And now my questions:

At the moment, I often perceive waiting for my hunger and stopping at the point of satiety just to be yet another diet rule which I dislike adhering to. I don’t have binging attacks, but I graze a lot, oftentimes by consuming high-calorie beverages, like juices, and, above all, ready-made ice-coffee.

Whenever I’m able to wait, I sometimes deliberately stay hungry 15 to 30 minutes, because I’m thinking that I’ve waited so long – why should I now erase this feeling by eating? I want to enjoy my success and reward myself.
Regardless of how hungry I was before I ate, when I become full, I’m thinking: “I’ve been waiting so long to be allowed to eat. That was supposed to have been it? I want more!” This means that I really see eating only as a reward for having been “good” and done without it for a couple of hours, because then it is “allowed”. Accordingly, I am full, but not satisfied.

Both things taken together are actually only shifting my problems (I call it the small circuit of eating disorder), and I don’t know what to do about it.

Often I eat because I think that I can’t stand something (boredom, work, but also waiting for the hunger, fatigue). I became aware of it in connection with the exercise from your book – when do I eat and what would I be doing if I could not eat. How can one learn that it is absolutely possible to endure it? I tried to deal with it by “surfing” on emotions, with diversions, with well-meaning promises (You’re going to be allowed in just a moment!), also by setting the watch alarm in order to at least interrupt the automaticity of the inability to endure and eating. All of this, however, only helped to a limited degree since it to me is connected with negative connotations. These are always moments and situations where there are no other alternatives.

Finally, I’m having trouble finding good solutions to my biggest problem: drawing boundaries. While I would not call myself highly sensitive (this sounds so fanciful), I am much more sensitive than other people. Therefore, I find it for instance extremely exhausting to spend 8.5 hours a day in a duplex office (secretariat) where people come in all the time. At home, too, I often feel stressed by my family (sometimes even by their sheer presence), although I love them dearly, but I can only really relax when my daughter is in bed and my husband has left for work. Moreover, I really detest the fact that most people are complaining all the time, instead of dealing proactively with their problems. This is always a great burden for me (earlier even more than nowadays). I have the sense that they’re talking about it because they want to be rescued by me. Then I feel automatically responsible for them. Especially, because these are always negative things. I get the feeling that everybody has the worst imagineable life and everything is just endless suffering, although I know that it is not so. I feel so powerless.

My answer to all of this: food and eating. I am fully aware that I want to place food and my weight as a puffer between myself and the world. I am trying to afford myself generous time-outs by long lunch breaks and a nice private corner in the bedroom with a cozy chair, and the like. In the office, too, I prefer to keep my door shut. Unfortunately, my colleague, with whom I share the space, feels otherwise. Strangely, however, here, too, it is never enough. The more I get, the more I want. It leads to my staying up much too late at night in order to fully savor the precious time by myself. Sometimes, I feel like disappearing to a deserted island without my mobile phone and without leaving an address. Simply so I no longer have to see or hear anybody. Obviously, that’s not possible. But I don’t know what else to do. I don’t dare to send my colleagues out of the office when they violate my boundaries or to tell my female colleague to shut up. Somehow, I think I’m not entitled to do this and that it probably would alienate others. (“Would you please only communicate with me in writing? I am so irritable today.” No, I can’t say that.)

I am afraid of being met with a lack of understanding and even anger, because that’s what my mother used to do: Punish me by remaining silent, sometimes for days, whenever I tried to impose my will. This is still a problem for me. I don’t know how to learn to articulate my needs and to bear the potentially negative consequences.
I look forward to your response. Meanwhile, I’ve become quite self-sufficient in this area, and a couple of suggestions are often enough.

Here is my reply:

Dear Ms. K.:

Many thanks for your feedback on my book. I am very pleased that it “jumped right out” at you 🙂

Regarding your first question:

There are different phases in overcoming eating disorder. When we are at the very beginning, we are overwhelmed by binging episodes (or by constant grazing). The binging episodes literally attack us from behind, without warning, and there’s no escaping them. They are simply stronger than we are.

Once we start working on ourselves, we understand that these binging episodes (or the permanent grazing) do perform a function and that there’s a reason for their being with us. Gradually, we learn to recognize the first signs, so that the binging episodes no longer surprise us (or, we recognize that we’re grazing, instead of never realizing that we’re actually eating at the moment). At the same time, we deal with emotional hunger on the path of recovery from eating disorder. The more we’re able to lessen our emotional hunger, the less the binging episodes (or the grazing) will become. Gradually, we learn to endure our feelings without abusing food to compensate for them.
If I understand you correctly, you’d like to eat without limitations and still not be overweight. Unfortunately, that won’t work. Once we’ve progressed on the path of recovery from eating disorder, the day will come when we need to decide how we want to continue. If you decide that you don’t want to limit your food intake and eat everything our surplus society has to offer, that’s okay. However, you will probably have to carry a few more pounds with you. I’m not making a value judgment, but stating a fact. When we eat more than the body needs, it will store up reserves.

(I have deliberately written “once we’ve progressed on the path…..” because, when we’re in middle of eating disorder, the addiction decides, and we often have the feeling of being powerless)

If, on the other hand, you decide that you don’t want these “reserves”, you will need to find a system in order to say “no” to the foodstuffs or dishes that are too much for you.

That’s where the body-oriented measurement units of hunger / satiety and hummers / beckoners come into play. To me, that’s not another diet, because these measurement units let us know what the body needs at that moment and when we need to take a break from eating. One aspect that’s comparable to a diet is the need for willpower and consistency in order to say “no” whenever a beckoner shows up. The inner voices you describe might be similar to the voices of my inner child which I describe in my book. Repeated and loving communication is needed, as described in the book.

When we still are in the throes of eating disorder, however, this inner communication is very difficult because we have not yet learned to distinguish between emotional and physical hunger. Once we know the difference, the next step is to learn how to endure feelings like boredom or over-stimulation, instead of swallowing them by eating.
If we don’t want to carry surplus weight, renunciation becomes necessary. In order to do this with as little pain as possible, it’s important to offset the void we may feel through other things. Here, I would recommend, for instance, doing some of the “butterfly exercises” from the book, learning that enjoyment doesn’t only come from eating. I use the word “learning” advisedly, because rewarding ourselves with food is often a habit that has been trained, and therefore is accustomed and simple. All new behaviors require practice and willpower.

On the topic of high sensitivity: The more we are aware who we are and where we stand, the more we dare to observe our own boundaries and to find clear words and, above all, a clear inner stance. Once we’ve reached that point, we’re able to respond to repeated complaints: “I feel with you, but I can’t help you with this. No matter what I’ve advised you so far, nothing has helped. This makes me unhappy, because I feel responsible that you aren’t doing well. What can we do about this?” or “I am sorry, but I am unable to concentrate right now. Could we talk about this later? At the moment, I need some peace and quiet. I hope you’ll understand.”

I hope to have helped you with my response. Warm regards from Vienna,
Olivia Wollinger

(translated by Ulli Wiesner)

P.S. If you’ve got the time, I would really appreciate your writing a book review on amazon. Nowadays, that’s what’s needed when you’re authoring a book 🙂


Finally, Ms. K. answered as follows:

Hello again,

Thank you so much for your comprehensive answer. At least, your response showed me how far I’ve already come. In the past, I knew nothing about myself, except that I wanted to eat all the time. Today, I realize from time to time: “I want to eat now because I really want to get out of this situation, and it isn’t possible. Right now I don’t know any other way out, so it’s okay. I’m doing my best.”

Once in a while I even reach the point when I try out an alternative or simply go without eating, but these times I can count on the fingers of one hand. I think I’ve got to learn first and foremost, no longer to impose rules on myself, because that’s what I resent the most. No wonder after 20 years of dieting. I want to become more spontaneous and more flexible. Then it would not be difficult to say “no” to a “beckoner”.

I found your response regarding high sensitivity interesting because you used to think you were not allowed to do well when others were doing less well. That’s exactly what I think. When, for instance, I visit my father and my sister whom I believe to be worse off than me, I eat beyond all reason. While the visits are always pleasant and we get along well, I always had a strange feeling for which I had no explanation and to which I reacted by eating. Only during a recent visit I realized that I wanted to tell them: “Look at me! I’m totally uncontrolled and fat. I’m as badly off as you are. We’re at the same level.” From a logical standpoint, this doesn’t make any sense, but that’s exactly the way I perceive it. During that visit, I ate significantly less because I no longer was ravenous due to having become conscious. Emotionally, I was going back and forth between feeling irate and compassionate, although there were no immediate triggers.

I suppose, only increased mindfulness, coupled with flexibility, is going to help me with this issue. Thus far, I’ve been clinging to the old diet “switch” – “From now on I’ll do everything differently, forever”. I expected that I immediately would start to eat only based on my hunger, and never more or less, but unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. My goal is now to let go, to slowly let go of deliberate control.

Thank you again. Our little exchange has again given me some useful ideas that have been very helpful.
With kind regards,

Minding HSP (high sensitivity persons’) boundaries

Hello, Ms. Wollinger!

Thank you so much for your book, it is very helpful to me, because you really understand what is going on inside of me.

I’m 28 years old and have been dealing for the past two years with my eating disorder. The contributions in your blog and your book gave me the feeling that I finally understand how all of this is connected, and I will continue my path to recovery along these lines.

I’m also enthusiastic about EBH (Emotional Body Healing), the method you describe in greater detail in your book. It helps me greatly to deal with my feelings. Since I am an HSP (highly sensitive person), this method is truly helpful to me.

My problem has to do with feelings that are not “mine”. When, for instance, friends share their problems with me, or when I sense tensions between people, I often feel badly afterwards. It is almost impossible for me to deal with these feelings with the help of EBH. Something in me resists, since the whole thing really has got nothing to do with me.

It takes me a very long time to recover from such “foreign impacts”. Oftentimes, my body reacts with a headcold, I get angry, and my inner driver shows up. Naturally, food cravings also appear, although my binging attacks have become less hefty and occur less often.

Is EBH also the right method for dealing with this type of feelings, or are there other possibilities for drawing effective boundaries and to remain grounded?
I look forward to your reply!
With thanks and kind regards,

My response:

Dear Ms. P.,
Thank you so much for the positive feed-back on the book, which made me really happy. Moreover, I am pleased that you’re enthusiastic about EBH (Emotional Body Healing), I, too, continue to be a fan 🙂

Your question shows that you have progressed on your path, because it sounds as though you’re already able to differentiate precisely between your feelings.

I am quite familiar with the situation you describe, because I’ve gone through it myself. Let me share my experiences with you:

The issue of great feeling sensitivity is connected with the HSP story, but also with one’s own stability. This means, when we don’t know where the “self” is, where our own center is, then we will notice much too late (and sometimes only when in the middle of a binging episode) where our own boundaries are. In my case, there was the additional issue of certain “dogmas”, such as: “I am only worthwhile when I’m helping”, “I may not say no”, “I’m not entitled to do well, especially when so many others are not well off”. Moreover, I allowed some people who weren’t good for me to get too close to me (“energy suckers”).

This is basic work (= longer term) which needs to be done with the help of psychotherapy or body-oriented methods, in addition to working on issues like self-worth and self-love.

As our sense of self-worth increases, it becomes easier to endure the feelings of others. Once we know who “we” are, where we begin and where we end, it happens less often that we are being steamrollered by feelings.
This can be a real challenge in partnership situations because of the great closeness involved. It may be helpful to talk about this in principle, meaning to say openly how you feel and then agree on how to communicate it when another such situation arises. This helps to avoid an escalation when the partner is pouring out is troubles and we tell him/her: “Okay, darling, that’s great, but your feelings don’t do me good right now”. This could be quite unpleasant. Therefore, it’s a good idea to discuss such things calmly, in a good moment when the relationship is sailing in smooth waters, meaning not in an acute crisis situation. Good partnerships resolve problems jointly, because each topic concerning one of the partners is also a concern to the other.

Nowadays, I’m able to sense tensions in a room and can decide what to do about it. The most important thing is not to take it personally (meaning I don’t have to save the planet at this party, and I can simply leave). With respect to others’ suffering which I can feel quite strongly (or, at least, I imagine that I can feel it strongly, since one can’t verify it by asking someone: “Excuse me, are you suffering right now?”) I deal with it by perceiving it, but refrain from attaching myself to it. This means that I deliberately do not ponder it, but rather attach myself to something nice, such as the sun or a smile. This has become easier for me, ever since I deliberately picked social projects I volunteer for during my spare time, by donating time or money. While we may not be able to save the entire world, we are indeed able to improve things by taking small steps, and I think it is really important not to run around with a guilty conscience all the time, but rather steer the “I want to help” energy in productive ways.

I think it is extremely important to connect to joyful and beautiful things, because there are so many good things despite suffering and problems. For HSPs it is particularly important to take in both aspects.
On your question regarding EBH: Yes, the method is well-suited also for this purpose. It would be important to find out what’s happening in your body when feelings arrive “that aren’t yours”. What happens? Do you become irritable? Irate? Does your throat become tight? Simply try to notice, perceive and welcome. At some point, you’ll develop an excellent alarm system, for which you may be really thankful, for instance: “Aha, my throat is tightening up, ALARM, ALARM. It could be that someone is overstepping a boundary. CAREFUL! Stop! Check out the situation!” Perceiving is always the first step. Action (setting boundaries) follows. Then you may consider in a quiet moment what you can do so you feel better (see above the example of partnership situations).

Personally, I don’t think it is good to set oneself apart as a matter of principle, because that can also make us dull. I think it’s good to remain flexible, just like a plant that may sway with the wind, while still remaining stably rooted.
If something inside you resists, if might be interesting to observe this feeling. “Hello, whatever it stirring inside of me, I welcome you.” Moreover, anger and inner drivers are excellent candidates to address. If you don’t manage, maybe you need an individual EBH session. Some things are difficult to approach on our own; for example: we don’t really like to see the anger or the drivers, and when we apply EBH ourselves, it is easier to disgress into thousands of other thoughts. If, however, another person is next to us and helps, then it is easier to stay the course and to deal more intensively and deeply with our feelings.

The whole thing does indeed have something to do with you 🙂 You can’t help sensing other people’s feelings, but that is also a gift you have, and you can decide how you want to deal with it and at the same time strengthen your own center and your steadfastness.

I hope I’ve helped you with my reply.
Best regards from Vienna,
Olivia Wollinger


Ms. P. wrote back to me one more time:

Hello, Ms. Wollinger!

Many thanks for your prompt and comprehensive reply.
I’ m going to try to find my center and to attach myself to positive things …… to work on it.
Viewed from a distance, the following doesn’t seem fair: It sometimes happens that I’m angry with exactly the person I actually wanted to help. At a subconscious level, I’m holding the person responsible for my lack of energy and even expect that they understand why I’m not doing well. But that’s simply too much.
Many thanks for the valuable work you’re doing. Keep on going! I think that many women are extremely grateful to you.

P.S. Are you familiar with Les Fehmi’s “Open Focus Method”? In my view, this is a great exercise for helping us to feel ourselves. Maybe this could be helpful to some of your clients?
Many thanks again for your reply and kind regards, P.

Here’s my final reply:

Dear Ms. P.:

Another hypothesis just came to my mind: Maybe you are additionally expecting thanks or a strengthening of your self-worth? To exaggerate a bit, maybe you expect to be told: “Thanks a million for having sacrificed yourself for me, you are the best, I wouldn’t manage without you, I could only do it with your help. Thank you for being in this world. And, you’re not only the best but also the most beautiful, – which I’ve been wanting to tell you for a long time.”
Until now I was not familiar with the “Open Focus Method”. There are so many useful and meaningful methods, – and the idea is to choose one that seems to be right for the moment and where we have the feeling: Yes, this is helping me!

Let me wish you all the best,
Olivia Wollinger

(translated by Ulli Wiesner)

How to climb out of an “eating hole”?

Dear Ms. Wollinger,
Thank you again for your wonderful book which helped me greatly on my path. I sense that I’ve been suffering from eating disorder all my life and don’t recall a time when it was not with me. Last February, I finally started dealing with my problem (based on the fact that I now understood what the illness “eating disorder” looks like). I’m doing much, much better, but let me ask you the following question: While I suffer the occasional setbacks, they’re no longer as intensive as earlier on. Still, they drag me down. For instance: During Christmas, I was eating carelessly, meaning without listening to my feelings; I felt terrible and continued not paying attention to my hunger feelings according to the principle of having slipped up once and then gotten stuck. Do you have any suggestions on how to get out more quickly of such a “hole”?

My response:

Dear Ms. S.,
I’ m so pleased that my book proved helpful to you. To your question: Preparation is of the essence, so the hole won’t become quite as deep.
Throughout the year, there are a few critical time periods for which one can prepare in advance, such as various holidays and family celebrations. It’s a good idea to prepare mentally for these occasions and to treat ourselves with special care, meaning not to hope that it won’t be a problem this time around (repression), but to anticipate that it might become difficult (self-honesty).
Since food is readily available especially during the holidays, making things not exactly easier, it is essential that we treat ourselves with understanding. During such times it is especially important to do some of the “butterfly exercises” from the book, helping us to care for ourselves in order to balance our eating.
During such times, I also try to be especially discerning. For instance, during the Christmas holiday, I won’t eat any mass-produced cookies that don’t even taste good to me. Instead, I will only have especially crafted high quality cookies and chocolate – only the best of the best.
If, however, you’ve fallen into the hole again, self-consolation is very important. You’re allowed to confirm to yourself that you haven’t reached point zero, but simply are continuing on your path. Each new experience is important in order to leave eating disorder behind. Please remember everything you’ve already achieved. You described very beautifully that the quality of your binging episodes has improved significantly. Moreover, the way in which you ask your question shows that you’ve already understood a lot about eating disorder. Thus, you’ve got every reason to be proud of yourself!

Don’t’ be upset if you haven’t been careful for a day, a couple of days or a couple of weeks. We can’t always work on our self-development. Sometimes, we simply need a break until we again feel that we want to continue, as your mail to me shows, – and then we go on. Please forgive yourself for not walking your path to healing perfectly.
Herewith a nice card that fits the topic of our conversation.
I hope to have been of help to you as you go through this current phase of your journey.

Best regards,
Olivia Wollinger

(translated by Ulli Wiesner)


“Don’t worry – it will be alright again!”

A few days later, I received the following response from Ms. S.:

Dear Ms. Wollinger,
Many thanks for your kind and soothing words. Since last week, I managed for the first time after the big holidays to wait for my hunger and to sense myself more. I really liked your card and have posted it above my desk.
Let me wish you continued success in your efforts to help others to overcome their eating disorder. In any case, I shall follow your progress as an author with great interest.
Kindest regards,

Should we indulge in the hummers?

Hello, Ms. Wollinger
I’m taking the liberty to write you once again since I have another unanswered question. I’m in the process of reading the book the second time and try to implement some of the suggestions. I still find it difficult to hear my hummers and/or to indulge in them. This week, I reacted twice with a binging episode, because there was a vociferous struggle in my head between what I would like to eat and what I should be eating.
You wrote very movingly that you capitulated at some stage, and I now feel that I’ve reached a similar point. I no longer have the strength to fight, but am terrified of losing control completely and to become even heavier.
I know I probably simply should let go and trust, but that’s exactly what is so difficult for me. Were you simply able to make the switch? Didn’t your voices of reason catch up to you?
Many thanks for taking the time to respond to me.
Warmest regards,

Dear Ms. J.,
I’m so pleased and honored that you’re reading the book for the second time 🙂
First and foremost, it is really great how precisely you were able to perceive why you had the two binging episodes! Such events are often an indication that something is going against us instead of for us.
Therefore, I would like to encourage you to find your own pace.
As soon as you’re afraid, stop! There’s no need for you to force yourself, because that would go against your grain and be the exact opposite of self-love, which is at the heart of the path of recovery from eating disorder.
Just because something sounds sensible doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the exact right thing for you at that moment!
Fear per se is not a bad thing. Up to a certain, healthy extent, it keeps us from doing things that aren’t good for us. Maybe you could tell your fear: “Relaxing the entire control all at once?! That’s not possible. That’s too much for me!! Please take smaller steps.”
Maybe small steps would mean relaxing control within a clearly defined framework? Next time you’re at a restaurant you might try to have exactly the dish that appeals to you (hummer)? Or you could try to eat the food you think about first when having dinner, instead of starting with the “healthy stuff”?
It takes practice to recognize hummers. What’s needed is a genuine “hummer experience” to really feel what it means to eat a hummer.
Walking at one’s individual pace is very, very important and has a lot to do with strength, meaning the strength to stand up for our needs.
The process of letting go and trusting doesn’t work “simply”. Rather, it takes years. We can’t just decide in our minds to do it here and now. It takes time and experience. We need to actually EXPERIENCE that it is possible to trust.
Maybe it would help to think about a betrayal or a disappointment in a partnership. The head might decide “I forgive you” when the partner assures us that it will never happen again, while the heart still needs time. We have to EXPERIENCE to be able to trust again.

In order to learn to trust oneself, it may be important NOT to exceed one’s boundaries and to respect current boundaries – to find another, highly personal path.
The idea “from now on always” doesn’t work. What’s essential is to walk the path step by step. Self-love means, among other things, to demand of one self what is possible, instead of forcing ourselves to do things our ambition would strive for.
It is entirely possible that this is not the right moment for turning around your eating behavior. Maybe you’d prefer to progress in the “project self-love” instead?
Maybe it is enough right now that you’re aware of what you actually would like to eat and still decide on the “healthy stuff”. So be it! Throwing oneself completely into a risk may actually be too much all at once!
There are many different steps we may choose to take. We’re allowed to take it easy along the way and don’t always have to immediately pick out the most difficult thing, believing the only way of progressing is by doing the really tough stuff. Development may also progress with ease and bring joy!
Maybe there’s something in the book that also “jumps out” at you, but is easier to implement? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which steps we take. In the end, it’ll be the sum total of all steps that will lead to a life we’re comfortable with (which includes our weight).
I hope to have been of some help to you with my response and encouraged you on your path!

Warm regards from Vienna,
Olivia Wollinger
(translated by Ulli Wiesner)

P.S. Finally, a brief video about “hummers” that might make you smile 🙂