Weight Loss


Psychoeducational and Cognitive-Behavioral Group Therapy

We heard about many cognitive-behavioral techniques. The same principles can work in a group setting as well.

Groups provide a natural forum for patients to learn the facts about eating disorders. Food diaries can be looked at in groups. Another advantage of groups is that they give patients an opportunity to share strategies for improving unhealthy eating and reworking outmoded patterns of thinking and feeling.

Family Support Groups

Family groups, often led by a social worker, involve members of anywhere from five to ten families of eating disorder patients. Families learn how to be more supportive of their child, how to set limits, and how to handle problems that crop up. In sessions, people share experiences and trade advice, giving each other much-needed emotional support in the process. Many participants report feeling much less shame and guilt following a course of therapy.

Other Types of Groups

These include creative therapy, such as movement or dance therapy, to help patients get in touch with their bodies, and art therapy, where patients draw or sculpt to express their feelings about their bodies, their relationships with others in their family, and so on. In psychodrama groups, patients act out scenes, playing different roles to carry on conversations or demonstrate feelings. This strategy helps a patient uncover her feelings and bring them into the room, where they then take on a life of their own. Women’s issues groups focus on concerns relating to sexuality and the role of women in society. Finally, there are self-help groups that offer emotional support, socialization, and hope.




Phyllis Schmoyer wanted to be a telephone operator, just like her big sister. So shortly after graduating from high school in 1944, she applied for a job at the same company where her sister worked.

“At first, I was told that I couldn’t be hired because it was against company policy to employ more than one person from the same family,” recalls the 73-year-old Pottstown, Pennsylvania, woman. “But when I pressed the issue, I was told that I was too heavy.” At the time, she carried 168 pounds on her 5-foot-5 frame.

“Back then, telephone operators sat very close to one another,” she explains. “Because I was overweight, I would have taken up more than my share of space.”

Phyllis, who had never been too concerned about her weight, suddenly had a very compelling reason to slim down. “I really wanted that job, so I began doing things that I thought would help me get rid of the extra pounds,” she recalls. “I stopped sitting around like I had done all during high school, and I started walking everywhere.” She also tried to eat better, cutting back on both the candy bars that she loved and the rich food that was served in her home. “My parents were Pennsylvania Dutch, so I was accustomed to heavy meals with lots of fried foods,” she says.

Sure enough, the pounds came off—40 of them in all. Triumphant, Phyllis returned to the phone company to reapply for an operator position. This time, she got the job.

Though more than 50 years have passed, Phyllis has maintained her trim figure. “I stay active, and I watch what I eat,” she says. “I think that my weight got to where it was supposed to be in the first place, and it has pretty much stayed there.”

Looking back, Phyllis is convinced that taking off those 40 pounds made a world of difference for her. “If I hadn’t lost the weight, I probably wouldn’t be alive today,” she says. “Heart disease runs in my family, and as heavy as I was, I may have gotten it, too. I truly believe that slimming down saved my life.”


Make slimming down high stakes. If you have trouble sticking with your weight-loss program, maybe you need to up the ante a bit. Maybe you’ve been toying with the idea of changing jobs or going back to school or signing up for an African safari. Make that your incentive to slim down.