Episode 14: Carmen Cool takes on the diet industry, traditional psychotherapy and disordered eating

Carmen is a psychotherapist, educator, speaker, and a cupcake connoisseur.  She has been a therapist for 18 years and works primarily with binge eating disorder. She has also started and run a nonprofit, created youth programs, and speaks internationally on Health At Every Size ®, feminism and eating disorders, and weight stigma.

Her work is focused on dismantling diet culture, being our body’s advocate, and supporting the next generation of body positive leaders.   Because she believes that the way people are treated in this society affects their health, she engages in activism whenever possible.She is the past Board President of the Association for Size Diversity and Health, was named “Most Inspiring Individual” in Boulder, Colorado and was the recipient of the Excellence in Eating Disorder Advocacy Award in Washington, DC.

Today we speak about disordered eating, diet culture and the field of therapy. We get juicy!

In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • How Carmen came to work in this area of psychotherapy
  • How fixing and controlling aren’t solutions to disordered eating
  • How we are taught to think that we will feel better in a smaller body
  • Carmen’s feminist awakening while in eating disorder treatment
  • The biggest factor in Carmen’s own recovery from disordered eating was not what you’d think: anger.
  • How our hopes and dreams can get subverted under what we’re told we need to do with our bodies
  • When women are pressured to focus on their bodies all the time, we lose out and the world loses out
  • How so many things don’t get to happen when our energy is being funneled into the idea that we’re not enough
  • How all of the “should” pursuits distract us from our internal wisdom
  • How the math of calories, points, etc., can be all-consuming
  • Carmen’s approach to this area is through a feminist, weight-inclusive lens
  • “Weight is something that needs to be treated, our relationship with food is what we need to heal”
  • Carmen teaches people how to take care of the bodies that they’re in and let the weight take care of itself
  • Our bodies know what to do if we just learn how to partner with them and listen to the information and wisdom we get
  • There are some similarities in underlying factors toward disordered eating –
    • Toxic beauty culture
    • Family pressure, peer pressure
    • Perfectionism (ethic of “I can do anything if I try hard enough”)
    • Rebellion as a commonality, not a cause
  • Rebellious streak as important and one of Carmen’s favorite energy to work with
  • It’s the part of us that says, “You’re not the boss, you can’t tell me what to do.” Carmen loves this because there’s so much wisdom in it.
  • Wisdom in, “I get to define myself, for myself.” It’s freedom.
  • The only “problem” with rebellion is that it’s often in reaction to this thing, which isn’t freedom. Carmen helps them find real freedom in agency – not in reaction to anything in any direction.
  • How this rebellious energy shows up in disordered eating
  • How highly sensitive people notice the subtle aspects of the world and don’t see that reflected back to us
  • Dr. Anita Johnson wrote “Eating Under the Light of the Moon” and noticed that most of her clients were highly sensitive and didn’t see their realities reflected back to them
  • Rules and restrictions don’t work for people recovering from binge eating disorders
  • Carmen’s clients often want a plan to follow, which is the opposite of freedom and internal wisdom
  • Our internal wisdom is where we need to orient, rather than an external plan or set of rules
  • When we limit something or try not to have it, it’s probably what we’ll want
  • Real freedom is a removal of all of the kinds of rules and restrictions
  • What’s the block from trusting this inner wisdom?
  • Carmen believes that people have learned not to trust their body, so listening to inner wisdom seems suspect, and a plan can feel easier
  • The process of healing from this is messy, and messy is hard. There’s no hard and fast rules, it just takes time and attention
  • How my recovery included a food plan, which was a good step, but that I didn’t actually start to really heal until I read the book “Intuitive Eating,” and started practicing yoga, changing the way I related to my body and food
  • Carmen uses Hakomi, which is a somatic-based psychotherapy practice
  • Hakomi recognizes the body as a sort of wisdom, and uses the body to access it
  • It can help people turn toward their discomfort and study their experience from the inside. It’s a beautiful way to find different levels of what’s happening.
  • How it can be a big challenge working with the body as an hsp
  • The body can recognize emotions before we might be aware of them
  • Follow Carmen on Facebook! She posts take downs of the diet industry and they’re brilliant!
  • How Carmen has been dissenting the diet and the psychotherapy industries. We are not the problem, the culture is. It’s not just about changing our ways of thinking and feeling, we need to change the power structures the surround all aspects of the body
  • We must also dismantle the systems that keep me in war with my body
  • Carmen has always been dissenting – not liking the status quo
  • She hasn’t ever really bought into the fact that she has to “buy in” to things in order to be accepted. She’s comfortable with oppositional contexts
  • Carmen’s journey to finding her voice
  • How Carmen recovers from making bold claims
  • How Carmen is working to change the norms around conduct between patients and therapists within the psychotherapy field
  • How Carmen chooses to show up with her clients
  • Carmen wants you to know that your body is not a problem, and that you are not a problem.


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