beauty ideal

Food Psych #149: The Truth About Binge Eating with Amy Pershing


Anti-diet therapist and Binge Eating Disorder expert Amy Pershing joins us to discuss how our fatphobic culture hinders eating disorder recovery, how diet culture steals our personal power, the healing that can be found in getting angry, the role of restriction and trauma in binge eating, and so much more! Plus, Christy answers a listener question about quick ways for primary-care providers to talk to patients about intuitive eating and HAES.

Amy Pershing LMSW, ACSW is the Clinical Director of the Center for Eating Disorders (CED) in Ann Arbor. In 1993, she developed “Bodywise™,” a comprehensive treatment program to serve a growing population of clients coming to the center with binge eating disorder (BED). In 2008, Pershing and Chevese Turner, CEO and founder of Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), joined forces to found Pershing Turner Consulting LLC which offers training to clinicians treating BED nationwide.

Pershing has pioneered an integrated approach based on almost 30 years of clinical experience. Her approach is strengths-based, incorporating Internal Family Systems, mindfulness strategies, Self Compassion interventions, and a range of somatic trauma techniques. Her approach also integrates intuitive eating and movement and a “health at every size” philosophy. Pershing offers two- and three-day Intensives for those in recovery, as well as “Hungerwise™,” a 10-week program for ending chronic dieting and weight cycling offered jointly with with St. Joseph Mercy Health System in Michigan.

Pershing lectures internationally and writes extensively on the treatment of BED and her own recovery journey for both professional and lay communities. She has been featured on numerous radio and television programs speaking about BED treatment and recovery, relapse prevention, weight stigma, and mindful eating and movement. She is the winner of BEDA's Pioneer in Clinical Advocacy ward. Pershing has also served on a variety of professional boards and is the Past Chair of the Binge Eating Disorder Association. Her book, published by Taylor and Francis, will be out in late summer 2018. She maintains a clinical practice in Ann Arbor. Find her online at

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We Discuss:

  • Amy’s relationship with food growing up, including learning conflicting narratives related to food

  • The ways in which parents try to shield their children from fatphobia and weight stigma

  • The many different iterations of diet culture over the years

  • Amy’s experience with restriction and hunger, and internalizing the moralization of food and the virtue in being hungry

  • Amy’s discovery of intuitive eating, and why food preoccupation is an inevitable side effect of restriction

  • Why foods with quick energy are most desireable in times of deprivation, and the role of pleasure and joy and eating

  • Diet culture’s message of personal responsibility and blaming the victim

  • How body shame and the thin ideal feeds into diet culture

  • Diet culture’s shift from aesthetics and the beauty ideal to health and “clean eating”

  • The classism embedded within the moralization of food

  • The seduction of the thin ideal, including the messages around desirability and love

  • Amy’s experience with weight stigma

  • How our fatphobic culture hinders eating disorder recovery

  • The value in weight-inclusive communities and the Health at Every Size message

  • The intersection between body image and self-compassion

  • Amy’s experience with the restrict-binge cycle and Overeaters Anonymous, and how she eventually reached out for help and support in her path towards recovery

  • The soothing effect of food, and understanding that food behaviors are often more about coping than about willpower

  • Amy’s training in trauma, and learning that our body will push us towards survival

  • How feminism, gender studies, and learning about the trauma of weight stigma informed Amy’s professional path

  • The power of shame and trauma narratives

  • How we attach moral value to movement, and how Amy embraced joyful movement

  • The power in throwing food and movement rules out the window in the recovery process

  • How Amy’s clients and colleagues have taught her to appreciate beauty in new ways

  • The value, healing, and power that comes with getting angry at the systems that oppress us

  • How diet culture steals our personal power, and how moving away from diet culture allows us to take that power back and put it towards more beneficial pursuits

  • Amy’s process of finding organic structure around movement and food

  • Why we need to focus on self-care, not self-control

  • The other ways in which the beauty ideal oppresses those around us


Resources Mentioned

Some of the links below are affiliate links. Affiliates or not, we only recommend products and services that align with our values.


Listener Question of the Week

How do primary care providers give compassionate care around intuitive eating and Health at Every Size? What are some ways that physicians can promote an anti-diet perspective when they only have a short amount of time with each patient? How does weight stigma and chronic stress put individuals at risk for health conditions that are often blamed on a larger body size? How do referrals play a role in helping people break free from diet culture?

(Resources Mentioned: Body Respect by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor, Intuitive Eating, 3rd ed. by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch)

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Food Psych #138: Body Peace, Fat Acceptance, and Yoga for All Bodies with Sarah Harry

Sarah Harry

Psychotherapist and yoga instructor Sarah Harry joins us to discuss how to handle fatphobia in the family, the most important step in her journey to body peace, how diet culture drives eating disorders, weight stigma in the fashion industry, the complications of weight-loss surgery, the role of yoga in diet-culture recovery, moving from body-positive activism to fat activism, avoiding burnout as a clinician, and lots more! Plus, Christy answers a listener question about how intuitive eating can help end the restrict-binge cycle.

Sarah Harry is one of Australia’s leading Body Image and Eating Disorder specialists. Her roles in this field are varied and she offers a unique perspective as an experienced Clinician, Lecturer, Researcher, Yoga Teacher and Author. She is the co-director of Body Positive Australia alongside the amazing Fiona Sutherland.

Sarah was the first yogi in Australia to offer yoga for bigger bodies. She has practised yoga for more than 20 years and has been running specialist classes and retreats for the last few years all over Australia.

Sarah has more than 15 years’ experience counselling individuals and groups with all kinds of eating and body image issues, she has worked in the public and private sectors, lectures at universities and has just published her first book Fat Yoga - Yoga for All Bodies. Find her online at or

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Grab Christy's free guide, 7 simple strategies for finding peace and freedom with food, to start your intuitive eating journey. You can also text "7STRATEGIES" to the phone number 44222 to get it on the go :)


We Discuss:

  • Sarah’s relationship with food growing up, including how the thin ideal contributes to a disordered relationship with food

  • Food and body policing, including Sarah’s first diet and the rules around what she was and wasn’t allowed to wear

  • Navigating diet culture in the family

  • How we as a culture connect lovability to body size

  • Sarah’s shame around her lap band surgery

  • How diet culture and a job in fashion contributed to her eating disorder

  • Confronting the myth that eating disorders have a certain body type

  • Sarah’s experience seeking out recovery, including the most important ingredient in getting started on the path to making peace with food and her body

  • How recovery led her to go back to school for counseling and become an eating disorder clinician, and her discovery of yoga

  • Sarah’s winding path to becoming a yoga teacher focused on liberating all bodies

  • Sarah’s work with Fiona Sutherland and her practice of body peace

  • Body image, body acceptance, body shame, and the ways in which body dissatisfaction transcends body size

  • The difference between body positivity and fat activism

  • The various levels of fatphobia, including the interpersonal, the intrapersonal, and the internalized

  • How therapy has helped Sarah to heal and maintain her recovery and mental health, and the importance of therapy in general

  • How to support people through mental health struggles, and navigating the care-taking role

  • The power of supervision in professional development and support

  • How often people who are attracted to helping professions are those who have grappled with these issues themselves, and how important it is to manage our own recovery before venturing into working in the field

  • The power in sharing your recovery story

  • Navigating body acceptance and body image work, and understanding that it’s not a perfect experience

  • The malleable nature of health, and why it’s more important to pursue self-care and health behaviors that work for you than the idea of “perfect health”

  • How chronic pain and chronic illness can fit into our personal definitions of health

  • The ways in which health has become a new manifestation of diet culture and privilege

  • The myth of the “golden ticket,” and how various industries attempt to sell us products that promise happiness and a perfect life

  • Respecting everyone’s journey to Health at Every Size

  • How Health at Every Size and anti-diet work is spreading in Australia and the US

  • Sarah’s experience with lap band surgery, how it affected her body image journey and her eating disorder recovery, the dangerous side effects, and the importance of doing body image work after folks have found recovery

  • Sarah’s process of learning to eat intuitively and letting go of weight loss

  • Sarah’s experience embracing the public persona of her fat-acceptance work

  • Why diet culture is The Life Thief and how it shape-shifts in this new age of wellness

  • Prioritizing self-care, and the embracing the right to do nothing


Resources Mentioned

Some of the links below are affiliate links. Affiliates or not, we only recommend products and services that align with our values.


Listener Question of the Week

How do we manage binges during the intuitive eating process? Can intuitive eating eliminate binges completely? How does self-compassion support our recovery journey? What’s the biological processes that contribute to binge behaviors (AKA The Restriction Pendulum)? How can working with an intuitive eating dietitian help us to heal our food behaviors?

(Resources Mentioned: Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor Directory)

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