Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Overeating [Interview][Transcript]

Dr_Michelle_Maidenberg_kids_overeatingGuest: Dr. Michelle Maidenberg
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Michelle P. Maidenberg, PhD, MPH, LCSW-R, is the president and clinical director of Westchester Group Works and cofounder and clinical director of Thru My Eyes Foundation. She also maintains a private psychotherapy practice and teaches at New York University.

Segment overview: Dr. Michelle Maidenberg, PhD, discusses her new book, “Free Your Child from Overeating: A Handbook for Helping Kids and Teens”, which gives 53 strategies rooted in mindfulness and cognitive-behavioral therapy that will help children and teens work to deal with overeating.

Health Professional Radio – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Overeating

Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to the program, I’m your host here on Health Professional Radio. Thank you so much for joining us today. Our guest in studio is Dr. Michelle Maidenberg, President and Clinical Director of Westchester Group Works and co-Founder and Clinical Director of the Thru My Eyes Foundation. She also maintains a private psychotherapy practice, in addition she’s the Author of her brand new book, Free Your Child from Overeating: A Handbook for Helping Kids and Teens and she’s here today to discuss this book and also some strategies that are rooted in mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy that’ll help kids and teens work to deal with overeating. Good afternoon and welcome to the program Doctor.

Dr. Michelle Maidenberg: Good afternoon, how are you?

N: I’m doing well. Thank you so much for asking me and thanks so much for joining us today.

M: Sure, sure. Glad to be here.

N: Now you’re the Author of a brand new book and in this book you give strategies that are rooted in mindfulness to help kids and teens deal with overeating. Alright kids are growing, when is a child overeating?

M: Yes, kids are definitely growing, it’s their development. Overeating specific behavior where they’re eating more than the average portion size. If they’re eating, they don’t have a variation between their thirst and hunger and they get that confused. If they’re eating for example the wrong types of food that are not necessarily nutritionally balanced. So there’s a whole host of different things you have to look out for. Also if a child’s overweight so if they’re again when they go to the doctor they usually let them know in terms of where they’re situated in regards to the average child their age, in terms of the percentages, so they look at height and weight, so they’ll be able to easily see if a child’s overweight as well. So a child could be overweight at any age and it’s best to start with healthy habits from the onset actually and to have family-based approached from the beginning.

N: So you’re talking starting the process as soon as they recognized that they’re hungry. I guess as soon as they’re able to confuse hunger and thirst, you start teaching them about good habits.

M: It’s getting for them to know their bodies, how their bodies work, the different cues so what’s the cues for eating, for hunger. What’s the cues for thirst, what’s the difference between for example hunger and an urge or craving? So for example a kid generally they’re not gonna be craving carrot sticks but they might be craving potato chips, right, so the difference between that. Another a little simple cues of the child is are you eating with your eyes or are you eating with your tummy? So there’s a little different things you could do for little, younger kids in terms of getting them aware of really how their body functions and how to tap into those cues. Even as adults we could sit down and have a meal and feel physically full but yet when the dessert menu comes out we’re all up for it.

N: You’re talking about some of these triggers, triggers being different for each kid. When it comes to these triggers, how much does an individual child or pre-teen attitude about eating and how they look and how the other kids think that they should look – how much of a part does that play and does your book Free Your Child From Overeating address those issues?

M: Yeah my book, what I did when I wrote this is I really thought of every single aspect of health and eating. So I talked about social media, I talked about school, I talked about physical education in schools, I really round the gamut of discussing all the issues because they all have an impact on the way we perceive food and eating in this culture so we have to really be conscious of everything. So it starts off by talking about mindfulness and understanding our minds because most of public health issues today really don’t address the psychological barriers. So there’s test and that’s why there’s mindfulness-based approach and to be considered of that, so it’s also very value-based. So for example what we do with kids is generally we’ll tell them “Oh you need to eat healthfully because you’ll live a long life, right, and your organs will function well.” And somebody who’s 12 years old is really not thinking about their mortality. As much as we want them to be thinking about their mortality, they’re just not developmentally where they at. So it doesn’t leave a lasting impression on a 12 year old when you talk to them about their mortality so I did really think about the over…values that are important to kids that really. So I’ll give you a really quick example, I had a mother and a child here, she was about 16 years old and I asked her as she was sitting here “Why do you think this is important to you? Why do you wanna gain…?” So she said to me “I want to be healthy and I want to feel good and I want to live a long life” the typical. So I said to her “Wow, that sounds really, really important and it also sounds like something maybe a 16 wouldn’t necessarily be thinking about but that be something that maybe your mom tells you is important or that you hear is important.” She said “yes.” I said “Why is it important to you? Why this is big to you?” and she stopped for a moment and she just started, she was so tearful and I said “What would you be doing differently if you acquired health? If you felt really confident about yourself?” And she said “I’d be playing softball. I’d be playing sports.” And I said “So you don’t play sports?” she said “No.” I said “Did you ever play sports?” and she said “No.” I said “How come?” so she said “Because I know I’m gonna be the slowest on the team. No one’s gonna want to pick me. I don’t feel like I you have to do a good job for my team.” And she was really tearful and when she left her mother emailed me and I checked up to see how she was doing and she said to me that was the first time in her 16 years of life that she heard that from her daughter. She didn’t even know that she wanted to play softball, she had no clue.

N: Does your book address how to start the conversation when you are clueless as to what the attitudes of these child are?

M: Yeah, so there’s a whole chapter in communication and it’s not an easy task because a lot of parents and I’ve gotten this feedback across the board because of the book, parents are scared they’re goanna create an eating disorder. They’re fearful to talk about it because they’re fearful they’re not gonna be effective, they don’t know how to talk about it, their concerns, how their child’s goanna react that their child’s be angry at them and they’re also fearful that they’re going to put ideas on their child’s mind that they didn’t already think about or weren’t aware of. And if you think about that, if a child had diabetes or if a child, would you not talk to your child about internet safety, would you not talk to him about all these important issues that affect children, it just doesn’t even make sense because it has to do with wanting them to thrive and have awareness throughout their lives. So it really speaks that communication is really about speaking to them on a level that they’re gonna be open to talking and hearing you and having dialogue as opposed to cutting off communication and often what happens is parents sometimes will kind of talk at kids or they’re police them and tell them what they should be doing or nagging or preaching which kids say or talking about diets or talking about weight specifically which kids again, if you use those terms are not effective and it’s abusing with kids at all. There was a child who came in here who I spoke with and she was 14 and she was telling me this story about how they were sitting at dinner and her father basically pulls out a picture from Facebook of when she was I think a year before something like that and said “Look how you used to look and how you look now.” And she was in tears, she said “that was so hurtful and he didn’t have to say it but I know what he was thinking or how he was judging me.” So those are things that could readily hear and sometimes often parents don’t realize how it affects their own children but it is really important to have that dialogue and you don’t have to talk about weight, you don’t have to talk about body image, you don’t have to talk about diets because those are not effective. It’s more about really sticking to talking to them about using empowering terminologies like healthy, flexible, fit, strong, active, asking open-ended questions, understanding your child better, what are they interested in, what are they like to do, what’s keeping them from doing what they want to be doing and also directly communicating and respecting boundaries too, so that if you could say “I’m really interested in talking to you about this.” The child’s like “Absolutely not” and you could say “Well I know it’s something that you think about so if you want to talk about it I’m here to listen to you.” So at least even just opening the doorway for that type of communication is important too.

N: Does your practice specialize in juvenile issues or is it an all-inclusive practice and you simple have an interest or an additional interest in the issues of children obesity and overeating?

M: So it’s more about the treatment that I do which you mentioned some of I do cognitive behavioral therapy which is very well known because it’s evidence-based practice. I do something called acceptance and commitment therapy which is a more mindfulness-based sort of way of cognitive behavioral therapy. And then I also do something called EMDR which is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, all of those treatments that I do are really based on stockiness, so if there’s something getting in a way of us being our best selves, I mean that’s how I kind of put it. So it’s helping, so these skills in the book which are 53 skills they could apply to really any type of challenge whether it’s procrastination or anxiety and these are across the board so I use them. So the practice I really work with kids, with adolescents, teens, adults, I also work with families, I work with couples, I really my practice is pretty vast but it’s really using these skills. It’s allowing self-acceptance, getting to know yourself better, leaning into your challenges as opposed to denying them or distracting from them and it works, it helps kind of give a template of how to work through challenges. And health and weight I have also a degree in public health, it’s a particular area of interest of mine. I also do some work with Camp Shane, I consult with Diamond there 5 camps across nationally as well as Shane Diet and Fitness Resorts for Adults. So I guess my interest in the area expands and I also just conducted a research study and I met with 5 families and I ran 2 groups, 1 group for parents and 1 group for kids that really we followed the book which just ended last week to really test the effectiveness of the book and it was just a wonderfully powerful experience, I videotaped the whole thing and I actually have clips of the study. So it weaves into all the work that I do really.

N: And where can our listeners get more information about the work that you do and get a copy of your brand new book, Free Your Child From Overeating: A Handbook for Helping Kids and Teens?

M: Yeah and it’s some 53 mind-body strategies for lifelong health. So it is like you said mindfulness-based and it’s really working with psychological barriers to health. They could get it online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the online bookstore they have them. It’s also available in the kindle as well and in terms of contacting me and my practice it’s you go to my website which is my name

N: Great. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard and we’ve been in studio with Dr. Michelle Maidenber. She’s President and Clinical Director of Westchester Group Works, co-Founder and Clinical Director of Thru My Eyes Foundation and also the author of the brand new book, Free Your Child from Overeating: A Handbook for Helping Kids and Teens. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at, you can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes and you can also get transcripts and audio at


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