Eating Disorders

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Millions of men, women, boys and girls are struggling with eating issues. Many are struggling in private, secretly wishing for a way out of their situation, others have already expressed a desire to change and are supported by those around them. Regardless of your situation, whether you are dealing with anorexia, bulimia, a food addiction, comfort eating, binge eating or simply having a relationship with food that is regarded as less than healthy, we can provide you with assistance more powerful than you have probably ever imagined.

How Can Eating Issues Affect Our Lives?

Whether it is anorexia, bulimia, food addictions, or simply having a relationship with food that we regard as less than healthy, countless numbers of us struggle with eating issues.

The website – focusing on women’s issues, body image and dieting statistics-displays some very telling numbers. Seven million U.S. girls and women and 1 million U.S. boys and men have an eating disorder.

The greater prevalence in females mirrors societal messages. For instance, the website also points out that most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women, 80% of whom are unhappy with how they look.

What’s more, these trends start young. Forty-two percent of elementary school students between the first and third grades want to be thinner, and a full 80% of children who are 10 years old are afraid of being fat. Fifty-one percent of 9 and 10 year-old girls feel better about themselves if they are on a diet. It is important to note that 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting.

These disorders can have serious health consequences. In fact, 20% of those with eating disorders may die without treatment.

And this just outlines the most acute situations. Many more of us struggle with overeating and other challenging relationships with food that don’t technically fall under a specific disorder name.

Many times, the programs designed to help those of us with eating issues focus on changing behavior. Certainly changing behavior is important, but attempting to change behaviors without changing the beliefs that fuel them becomes an uphill battle fraught with backsliding.

We have found that, for a large number of people, their relationship to food is a microcosm of their relationship to their entire lives. When someone believes that their life is out of their control, for instance, they may seek to regain it by attempting to control their world; and one of the ways they might do this is by strictly limiting what and how much they eat. When someone feels that their life is empty, and they are a victim to the emptiness, they may endeavor to fill the void with food.

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How Can The Option Institute Help?

We can help you to uncover the beliefs you hold which fuel your relationship with food. We do this in a very nonjudgmental manner, and we don’t try to convince you to change how you eat. We simply give you the opportunity to decide what type of relationship you’d like to have with food, and then we give you tools and assistance with dropping the often undiscovered beliefs in your way. Then, we can help you learn to construct a new set of beliefs to set you on the long-term track you desire.

Indeed, we have had participants in the past who have moved beyond their overeating, anorexia or bulimia.

If you have decided that it’s finally time to leave your eating issue by the wayside and forge a new relationship with food, we can provide you with a kind of assistance you have probably never received before.

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What Eating Disorder Programs Are Available?

Weigh Happier

Do you stress about food? Do you judge things about your body? Do you imagine that other people are judging things about your body, as well? Do you criticize yourself for “sabotaging” yourself by eating certain foods?

Wouldn’t it be great to spend your mental energy enjoying your life, your friends, and your family – instead of spending it on self-criticism, eating issues, or concern about whether people are looking at you and judging what they see?

You can follow a regimen that focuses on changing the outside (diet, exercise, weight loss) in an effort to feel good on the inside. Or you can step off that never-ending physical and emotional treadmill and find out how to change the inside first.

Inner Strength

Welcome to the fitness program for your mind and soul. Our Inner Strength program will help you build up your internal sense of power, passion and freedom. This program enables you to access the tools that put you in complete charge of your emotions and behaviors, to effectively overcome your eating disorder regardless of what is happening around you. Over the course of the two week program, you will have the opportunity to put into practice the life-changing skills and perspectives that you learn.

Our quest to change how we feel inside often begins with attempts to change the outside. However, no matter how many changes we make to enhance our external features, it doesn’t reduce the struggle that continues within. Our Inner Strengthprogram provides you with strategies for developing a Herculean capacity for whatever comes your way.

Optimal Self-Trust

You are more powerful than you think. Your inner voice can guide you to better choices and a happier life. The Challenge Is to Listen.

Optimal Self-Trust shows you how to turn up the volume of your inner voice and listen—really listen! In five days of bold exploration and daring discussions, you’ll tear away the self-judgments and anxieties that contribute to your eating disorder. By hearing your real inner voice you will be able to live the life you want, love yourself and trust your choices with absolute self-confidence, even in the face opposition.


Fear can be an ever present, incapacitating emotion that prevents you from becoming the person you desire to be. Or it can be a rare occurrence out of nowhere catching you at just the wrong times. It can also be a background anxiety just below the surface. Fear of people’s judgments, opinions and rejections are often quoted as reasons for having started on the path to an eating disorder.

In Fearless, you’ll acquire tools and techniques that will not only let you stand courageous in the face of fear, but instead, will let you completely eliminate fear. You will learn how to overcome your eating disorder by putting an end to the fears and insecurities that fuel it.

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Personal Stories — Overcoming Eating Disorders

From the time I was 12, every time I looked in the mirror I hated my body. My reflection in the mirror only exposed garish imperfections: extra skin here, fat cells there . . . I scrutinized my face every morning, certain that I was developing a double chin. I felt isolated and awkward at school and with my family. I directed my uneasiness and distress towards my body, telling myself I only needed to lose another 10 pounds in order to feel good. Ashamed to admit my physical ‘flaws,’ I hid my misery from my friends and family, thoroughly convinced that my weight was the source of my unhappiness.

From middle school and into college, I experimented with anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and compulsive eating. One afternoon, in the spring of my freshman year in college, my therapist mentioned a place called The Option Institute, where people went to change their beliefs. I had never heard of the Institute or even thought of attending a personal growth program but, willing to try anything to overcome my obsession with food and weight, I logged online and found the website. By the next day, I had registered for the Happiness GPS™. When I arrived for the introductory weekend, I hadn’t told any of my friends and family that I had signed up for the program, and I had no idea what to expect. After 3 hours of class on Thursday night, I was blown away. For the first time in my life, I found myself in an environment where I felt safe bringing forth all of the ‘shameful’ eating disorder secrets that I so closely guarded. I felt incredibly supported by the teaching staff and the other participants. Whereas I had spent my entire life feeling disconnected from others, for the first time, I felt connected to an amazing group of open and accepting people. With the powerful group dynamics and the awareness I gained by questioning my beliefs, I learned to challenge the idea that there was something awful about my body or me.

I spent 8 weeks last summer at The Option Institute in Grand Summer Sequenceprogram. With each day, I grew more and more amazed by the dedicated teaching staff and the other incredible participants who became my extended family. Finally I began to put my doubts into perspective. I continued to examine my self-defeating beliefs and turn them around, which made a huge difference in enabling me to finally feel comfortable with my body.

As I learned to accept my body and love myself, I also discovered the wonder of loving and accepting others. What began as an attempt to ‘fix’ an eating disorder has developed into a radically different way of thinking and being. I have become confident, enthusiastic and easygoing. Even if I find myself overeating or judging my body, I know that I can choose to change, to be happy and trust that there is always something to learn from and to change any experience. The Option Institute programs have truly revolutionized the way I see myself, leading to new relationships with food, people and everything else. I look forward to each new adventure in my life, certain that no matter what happens, I will laugh a lot, learn a lot and love a lot of people.

Sandra G., Student, Illinois

I am thrilled to be able to pass on my story of personal transformation to all of you. Almost 2 years ago, I made the decision to stop being anorexic in an instant and I have been eating ever since. That transformation happened here at The Option Institute.

I started down the path to anorexia nervosa 8 years ago. My mother had a stroke and my father who is obese, had developed diabetes and was about to have triple bypass surgery. I saw this as my own future and it scared me. I decided to exercise and eat healthfully. Although I wasn’t dieting, I lost 12 pounds. I thought I was eating plenty, but I now know it wasn’t so. Over the next 6 years, I would periodically lose my appetite and drop a few pounds. Once the weight was gone, I didn’t want it back. I felt powerful for being able to lose weight-something most people want but never achieve.

It wasn’t until 3 summers ago, at a particularly low point in my life when I was feeling miserable and out of control, that I made an active decision to see how much weight I could lose. My body was the only area of my life where I felt completely in control. In the midst of enormous fear combined with a desperate attempt to feel good about myself, I turned to food restricting and exercise.

I appeared normal on the outside, but I retreated into my own world. Every thought during every minute of every day revolved around food. Despite nagging hunger, I hardly allowed anything to pass my lips. Instead, I planned around food, dreamed about food and prepared food for others. Eating alone became a necessity so that I could eat exactly what I wanted-how I wanted. I was so debilitated that just standing up or walking up stairs took all my energy. When I sat in chairs, it felt like my bones were being crushed.

If I ever ate a few extra bites, I worried incessantly, only calming down when the scale confirmed that I hadn’t gained weight OR I had power walked a second time that day. I was so weak that I sprained my ankles easily, but I would rather have poked out my eyeballs than miss a day of exercise. I remember a single moment of regret — I had tried to pick up my new beautiful baby nephew, but I couldn’t because I didn’t have the arm strength.

At 95 pounds, I went into the hospital for a month. I then assembled an eating disorder treatment team, consisting of my primary care doctor, an eating disorder treatment therapist and a nutritionist, all of whom I saw once or twice a week. I also joined a weekly eating disorder support group.

Despite all this treatment, I wasn’t recovering. I quickly lost more than half the weight I had gained in the hospital and didn’t see an end in sight. Despite encouragement from others, I got the message over and over that change would be slow, difficult and fraught with challenges. I felt discouraged, but I had no idea what to do.

You must know that I was dying to get over being anorexia nervosa & ndash; no pun intended – and yet absolutely terrified to give it up at the same time. I knew all I had to do was put food in my mouth-hardly a challenge for most people – and yet I couldn’t fathom how that would become okay for me. It wasn’t even okay for me to chew a piece of gum, because I didn’t want the 5 calories. The turning point came for me when someone in my eating disorder support group recommended the book, Happiness Is A Choice. This book changed my life.

From the first page, I was hooked. The ideas in it seemed wondrous and earth shattering, yet obvious and attainable at the same time. I ate a small bag of M&Ms while reading-100 extra calories that I had not intended to eat that day-just because I was so inspired. I decided that taking a program at The Option Institute was my best and only hope for recovery.

Almost 2 years ago, in the summer of 2000, I took Living The Dream. During that time my decision to eat again came during an Option Process® Dialogue I had with Bears.

Previously, anorexia nervosa hadn’t felt like a choice. I was so obsessed and compulsive that it seemed to overtake me. But, at the Institute I latched onto the concept that anorexia was a choice, not an illness or chemical imbalance. It was liberating to view it this way, because it put me in the driver’s seat and meant that recovery was at my fingertips.

Another fundamental idea I embraced is that beliefs can be changed in an instant. What an inspiring and optimistic way to look at life! As long as I believed that recovery would be slow and painful I was creating that particular reality for myself. I am so grateful toThe Option Institute for presenting an alternative outlook. By holding the belief that immediate and profound change was possible, that became my self-fulfilling prophecy.

I also loved being seen as my own best expert. No one here presumed to know how I felt or why I was anorexic, and no advice was offered. Instead, I was offered questions in the dialogue that enabled me to decide what to do about my eating disorder.

Ultimately, the most significant piece that helped me recover was the attitude of acceptance. In the dialogue, Bears didn’t seem to see my anorexia nervosa as bad, wrong or even sad. I had never experienced anything like that before, and it blew me away. I know that so many of you have had the experience of a dialogue, of being totally accepted by another person, so you know how powerful it is to say something you were ashamed of and not be judged by your mentor.

Prior to coming to the Institute, my family was nagging me to eat. Because I was hell-bent on not eating, this only created further resistance. I was like a child who refuses to do what they’re told to do-until they stop being told. The landscape of utter acceptance made it possible for me to be the child who peeks out when no one’s looking to do the very thing I had refused to do one minute before.

Here I stand, living proof that you can change a belief in an instant, and that change, reinforced by further self-exploration, can result in the most dramatic and sustained transformations. I am forever grateful to The Option Institute for the love and nonjudgmental questions that helped me get here.

I’d like to tell you what has happened since that momentous day. In the last 21 months there has never been a question of going back to anorexia nervosa.

During Living The Dream I learned many other ways to feel good about myself and effective tools for handling challenges.

I haven’t been to a doctor, therapist or nutritionist since coming here. I finished gaining my 30-plus pounds one year ago; and I have stopped exercising compulsively, instead going on hikes, walks and bike rides for pleasure. I am healthy.

After my life-altering experience with the dialogue, I could think of no better thing to do on this planet than come train to be an Option Process Mentor/Counselor. If I could help somebody else the way that I was helped here, well . . . what more need I say? I was certified this past October, and at graduation, my father, who is a surgeon by training and skeptic by nature, told Bears, ‘I want to thank you and this place for saving my daughter’s life. Since becoming a mentor, I have been witness to others making wondrous changes for themselves. It is a most precious gift.

So, I want to thank this amazing place for saving my life, and for teaching me how to help others in such a profound and meaningful way. The Option Institute is a special, special place. Thank you!

Abigail L., Counselor, Massachusetts

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