The Anchor Program is an online program that offers a non-diet approach to treating binge eating, compulsive overeating, food addiction and emotional eating. This podcast is an interview with a graduate from the Anchor Program (1 year after she completed both the 12 week intensive and the 6 month Subscription program).  I wanted to do these interviews as a way to demonstrate the successes these amazing women have achieved in the program and to highlight what “success” means when you take a deeper approach to dealing with food and body image issues.


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Hi everyone. It’s Dr. Carolyn, I’m coming to you today with episode number 70. This is another interview with the graduate of the Anchor Program. This is a person who started the program back in 2018. And so, I think she has a really unique perspective. And the main reason I have mentioned that I wanted to do these interviews was just to give you some examples of what it takes to do an in-depth recovery, deeper recovery from binge eating disorder, compulsive over eating or food addiction. So stay tuned.

Dr. Ross: This is Dr. Carolyn Coker Ross show and as you know, I have another special guest who is a graduate of the anchor program. And I don’t know if she realized, but it’s been almost exactly two years since we started working together. I was just looking through some old notes and noticed it was 2018 end of October. And that’s something?

AP Graduate: That is.

Dr. Ross: so you now have a little bit different hats or the anchor program. If you want to just tell people kind of what your story was and. How you got started? Like what brought you to the anchor program first?

AP Graduate: Awesome. I was working with a nurse practitioner for weight management and in the process, we determined that I really needed a little bit more help than just nutritional insight. And so I had read one of your books and saw that the Anchor Program was a thing is as soon as I was done with the bucket was the emotional eating handbook or workbook. I knew that this was exactly what I needed, but I wanted more support and more engagement. And so I looked through and saw the anchor program was a thing and connected with you.

Dr. Ross: Yeah. And you did the anchor program once you went all the way through and back when you started, we didn’t have, we had the 12 week intensive but we didn’t have the six month subscription program. I don’t think at that time.

AP Graduate: I think so.

Dr. Ross: And then you did, so you did the anchor program another time. So you went through the Anchor Program to complete 12 week sessions, right?

AP Graduate: Correct.

Dr. Ross: And then you ended up going to the six months subscription program after that?

AP Graduate: Yes.

Dr. Ross: Yeah. So you were with me for a while. So just tell me what you noticed was different from other things that you’ve done to deal with food and body image issues?

AP Graduate: Probably it’s one of the, the most basic things, but one of the most insightful things that have come from working with you and the anchor program is really understanding on a deep level that it’s not about the food, that it’s about so much more than the food. You know, we hear that all the time and so we can cognitively kind of make that understanding, but to really understand it deep inside that the food isn’t the problem it’s my behaviors about the food that are the problem and food in of itself is not good or bad. It is, is just a huge game changer and very different than any other program I’ve worked on before, which is a lot of them.

Dr. Ross: Yeah and most of them do focus on the food. And we talk about getting to the root cause. So when did you learn about yourself that helped you really to understand why you were having food issues?

AP Graduate: Well, it’s, it’s kind of interesting because I, I thought I really understood my issues. I really did. And I saw the tip of the iceberg of my issues before the anchor program and the anchor program really opened up some significant areas in, in the timing that was right for me. I did not understand kind of the depth of the trauma I had experienced growing up and the impact it had on me. And I, I didn’t understand some of the flaws I was having that were holding me back as well. And so I think sometimes it’s very easy with eating disorder behavior and maybe it’s somewhat of a cultural thing that we are really hard on ourselves and see ourselves in a really negative way. And it’s interesting to change that lens from not positive, not negative, but just to honest, it’s just honestly looking at ourselves and that that’s okay. We can be that way with each other and, and be honest about who we really are and, and what we need and what we want and where we struggle. So that, that was significant.

Dr. Ross: Do you think because of the, some of the trauma and the core beliefs that are related to trauma, like I’m not good enough or I’m not worthy, et cetera. That, that then makes you afraid to be honest with yourself about your own, you know, flaws or character defects if they talked about in AA.

AP Graduate: Definitely. It’s really difficult that you feel like you have to be perfect to acknowledge your weaknesses and, you know, recognizing some of the things you asked early on in our group, to me specifically, we’re very pointed indirect and kind of took my breath away for a second in a good way, but it was still just like, Whoa, that’s hard to think about, but it was extremely healthy and necessary to realize I don’t have to be this shell of who I think I’m supposed to be. I can be authentic and be who I’m really meant to be.

Dr. Ross: Wow. That’s a powerful statement. You don’t have to be the shallow. Hopefully you think you should be, you be your authentic self where you really are. That’s beautiful. I love that. I may steal that from you.

AP Graduate: Please do.

Dr. Ross: What was the, what was the most difficult part of the program for you?

AP Graduate: Well, one is just kind of the easy superficial thing was the time commitment because I have made a habit of staying busy to avoid dealing with things for my adult life, which was something I learned through the program. And that made it very difficult to give myself the time and space I needed to work on things. And you helped me identify that early on. So that was kind of more of a superficial difficulty, but deeper, some of these questions are hard and hard to accept and sometimes it almost, um, I think I hate the term tough love because I feel like that’s kind of can be something that I don’t like it to mean. It’s more negative, but honestly, sometimes there’s tough questions set in love and that can be really difficult as to, you know, why do you think you have to be this way or do you really think you’re that way? And yeah. Those questions can be pretty tough to, to tackle.

Dr. Ross: Yeah. I remember us talking a lot about your scheduling and how over-scheduled you work and, and I know that’s still something you struggle with. Right. But it seems like it’s. So if you break that down, just that one thing I know you mentioned as when we’re talking vehicle or the recording, that boundaries or something that needed to happen in order for you not to work so much. Or to over-schedule yourself so much. Are there any other insights that you gained about that issue of working too much?

AP Graduate: I think that in the process of learning that, you know, my work is a lot of where I have my identity and I feel like I have to do more than average just to be worthy at all. It just, all of those things kind of, as we dove into that, maybe understand that I wasn’t setting boundaries in a lot of areas in my life. And something that one of your Program faculty stated in one of our meetings was that even cells have boundary. Even our tiny cells, even cells have boundaries. And so we are made to have boundaries and we need to set the boundaries. And it’s interesting too develop that not only in the workplace, but at home and with family and friends and just life in general, it’s, it’s pretty impressive. It’s it takes time. It’s not an overnight thing. Nothing we’re doing is, but it is a big, big difference.

Dr. Ross: So you’ve been out of the program for over a year now.

AP Graduate: That’s correct.

Dr. Ross: Yeah. And so what kinds of things have you noticed yourself continuing to work on or continuing to see improvement in?

AP GraduateWhen I started the program, I didn’t even understand it until we kind of dove deep in one of our sessions. And I think that’s part of what makes the anchor program so special to me is that it’s so not about what you think it’s going to be about. And, well, I think there are some concepts that are universal to everyone. We are all different people and have unique aspects and you reach into that very, very well. And you can put your finger on things. That’s, that’s really a gift, um, with people that they don’t see themselves. And so. In the process.  I didn’t realize how much, I didn’t think I was worthy at all. That I was less than across the board and that I felt like I had to achieve perfection just to exist. That I felt like my worth was only by what I gave and not what I needed to do for myself. Like my needs were completely, not even second or third, but last, and that has been something that. I can honestly say isn’t. I mean, I still have to find a way to work with it, but it’s not like it was not at all. I mean, now my needs are, are forefront. The other thing is that really sticks in my brain a lot is the, I believe it was the behavioral chain analysis of kind of this circle of how we have a stimulus that bothers us and we feel bad. And then we have some kinds of physical response and then we over eat or do whatever that’s not so constructive to us for healing. And then we feel better maybe for a minute, but then we end up feeling worse. It kind of repeats itself. I can see that now in my life. And I can see where it’s like, okay, this is now the physical I’m feeling like my heart’s racing. So I know I’m getting anxious. I just need to take a deep breath and hold back. And you also taught me, that’s like 50 million things, but you also taught me to sometimes look at things like an experiment and I’m really science minded. So. Even the conversation that I was mentioning to you about last week, I remember just sitting back and thinking, this is, this is kind of your problem. That’s not, my problem. I’ll have empathy, but I don’t have to bend on this. That that’s not my problem to bear. And that’s a huge shift for me.

Dr. Ross: Yeah. But that’s like, if you’re in a conversation with someone and they try to put their stuff on you, by saying, there’s something wrong with you. You, if you don’t agree with me, you can now see what’s your stuff and what’s their stuff.

AP Graduate: Right. And I think what’s really special to me about it is it’s not even like I’m judging them for it. Like how could they be this way to me? Or do you think it’s not a victim mentality? It’s very much you know, that’s okay that’s where you’re at, but I don’t need to join into that. That’s not for me. And that’s really a beautiful place to me because it’s very easy when you’re in the black and white thinking of eating disorder to make things either good or bad, and even to make people good or bad, or how could they do this to me? Or how could they treat me this way? Don’t they understand? And it was really nice not to have that conflict. It’s more of just, this is you and where you’re at. And this is me and where I’m at and we can have this space and we can disagree and that’s okay. We’re okay.

Dr. Ross: So, and the things that was really different with you, how there was that after you had completed your program and also completed, I think this subscription program, you made a decision that was very different from many of the people who go through the program. Do you want to tell people about that?

AP Graduate: Absolutely. I found out in the summer that I was completing the subscription program in the process there, that I was having some significant health issues related to metabolic disease due to my obesity. And while I was feeling better about life in general, through the anchor program, I was concerned I didn’t really have the time for my body to eventually stabilize and that my health was at risk. And so, because as odd as it sounds, the strength that I found through the anchor program and the tools, I felt like I could have bariatric surgery and be successful.  While before that, I always felt like I would fail at it because it wouldn’t, again, the root issues wouldn’t have been dealt with. And so.

Dr. Ross: We supported that decision at the typical thing, but if you, if your health has gone too far down, certain paths, then obviously you have to take care of yourself. And that’s the whole point of not having a one size fits all program where everybody has to be on a diet or everybody has to do anything. It’s really more individualized. But when you, I know that you’ve shared with me. And if you don’t mind sharing with the listeners, what was the process of, you know, going into the surgery and then coming out of the surgery? I know you shared with me that there was a lot of differences you noticed. And the groups that they had for bariatric surgery and how those people were dealing with.

AP Graduate: That’s the group that I went to in particular seems to be a pretty healthy dynamic and to each their own, I mean, no disrespect to anyone on where they’re at, but, um, it’s pretty obvious based on some things people share that they are really still in the throws of eating disorder. Um, when they go to have bariatric surgery, thinking that the, the tool that will be the fix and while the surgical tool is outstanding at helping with hormonal issues and hunger and things like that. It doesn’t change anything going on in your mind or your heart and how you cope with life and your strategies for surviving all that we go through. And so that’s really painful to see sometimes that people are deeply still into binge eating disorder and even other patterns that are unhealthy and just desperate like if they lose the weight that they’re going to be fine and that’s really flawed thinking, it’s something we all have thought for sure. It’s very much prevalent in our culture that, you know, if we’re a certain size, we have a certain money, you have certain things that everything will be good. That is 100% not true. And while weight loss can help a lot of issues, it’s not the core issue. Not at all.

Dr. Ross: Yeah. If you negate that belief, I just did a whole blog and podcast on understanding that thought I feel fat and so on. And how thinking that being thin can change everything in your life. So you, you know, I know you’ve been successful with the surgery. What happens if you do regain your weight, if you do regain some or any of your way or that. You know those same negative thoughts come back to you.

AP Graduate: It’s it is definitely not like it is all healed. Some of those things are still there. Um, and under the surface, I think that, and speaking truly with honesty that a lot of the lessons learned through the anchor program made it okay to be who I was, period, regardless of what number was on my genes or what number was on the scale. And, there were times I had felt some shame because I had reached my highest weight that summer. But at the same time, I really felt okay with me and who I was. And I had never felt that in my entire life of over 40 years. And so that, you know, I, I would not want to gain back all the way because I had been able to go off medications and things like that, that weren’t so fun. Um, and I do feel better physically now. Um, I don’t think it would be the same again. I, I don’t want to, but it’s, it’s different now.

Dr. Ross: Okay. That’s good to get to know. So, what do you feel most proud about that you accomplished in the anchor program?

AP Graduate: Well, as much as I should have done more in my time in the anchor program, and again, that was limited due to my own habits. I’m grateful I stuck through, um, we had different groups and that’s, it was very awkward for me versus the thing about telling people about, yeah, I totally overeat and I binge and I eat. My emotions all the time, no matter what they are, whether they’re happy or sad or anything I eat, eat, eat.

Dr. Ross: I feel therefore I eat.

AP Graduate: Exactly, exactly. It’s so, that’s hard to tell people the truth of like, I’m scared, if I let that go, that I’m great to transfer to some kind of other addictive behavior. Um, I don’t know how to cope with life despite being a professional and what most people I think would stay as successful. I don’t know, to handle even the little things in life without, you know, peanut butter cups. And so it’s, it’s challenging to be that open with people and, and share that. I mean, they’re, they’re strangers at first and then you realize we’re all going through the same stuff. We all have different pieces to the story, but these, there are some aspects of this that are absolutely universal. And by being in essentially three different groups, I learned how to let people in and let them go in a way that I’d never have really had been able to before like welcome them in and be thankful for what they can, what I can contribute to them and vice versa and the time we have together, but then be able to release that and be okay with that. That’s not something I’ve ever thought because I, as we learned through the program have serious abandonment issues and that has always been frightening to me is being left behind or someone rejecting me. And so even as we had some transitions in our groups, because people had different needs and life events that changed their, their paths, it was okay. I was okay. And that was tremendously powerful to me.

Dr. Ross: That’s awesome. I want to ask you another question about that whole issue of focusing on the number on the scale and defining how this being thin or thinner. And I did hear you say, you know, you decided on surgery because of some health problems that had just gotten out of control by the time we, we got you and that’s all good. Um, but do you feel that you’ve gotten to the place where you can really believe that no matter what, the number on the scale says that you can be healthy, if you are able to have that kind of healthy lifestyle, whether it be being active, not working too much, setting the boundaries, you know, eating the kind of food that you love to eat and so on.

AP Graduate: Definitely and that’s huge because I really have struggled and you’ve mentioned this in a lot of your work of about healthism and how it’s really, it’s just code for diet in a different language. It’s more acceptable right now. You know, nobody thinks that you can talk about the cabbage diary now, but you can absolutely talk about how carbs are the devil and whatever.

Dr. Ross: Talk about eating clean. That’s been.

AP Graduate: Yes, completely.

Dr. Ross: I’m not on a diet I’m just eating clean.

AP Graduate: Yeah, completely. And so, um, and that absolutely can lead to severe disordered behavior. And so I understand I’m going to so different level now of what healthy means and because my goal had always been to be a certain way to be a certain size or just to be smaller, not even necessarily specific. Movement and fitness always was just tied to negativity for me. And to understand that like we’re kind of mates move our joints feel better when we move and how much stress management goes into that. I mean, it just completely changed my paradigm of what health really means, and that it’s very little to do with the number on the scale and gravitational pull to the earth.

Dr. Ross: That’s correct. So, what if someone is, is struggling with binge eating, like you were struggling with health issues. Would you, what advice would you give them? And I’m not asking you to give an endorsement of the anchor?

AP Graduate: Well, that’s standing. Always, always, um, But not to give up that you’re worth it and that you’re not worth it because of a certain size or weight that food is not good or bad. Hunger is real, no matter what, that it is I don’t want to say something inappropriate. So much of what we had been told, um, even through academic settings is total BS about health and wellness and what it means to be healthy. And it is very possible to have a high BMI or a high weight or a high waist circumference, and still have good health. And you can also be someone who’s heavier who maybe doesn’t have as good of health and you can be thin and not have good health. Like it’s so much more it’s. I don’t know why it would have made sense to us ever to think that something so little as one or two numbers could mean so much in the complexity of humans. That that would actually mean so much, but I’m guilty of it as much as anyone else, maybe more so.

Dr. Ross: Well, if you’re in the health professionals, that’s, what’s been drummed into you and even now with COVID, we’re seeing that, well, you know, obesity is such a risk factor for COVID. I think if you look beneath the surface, if any of them, and I’ve read all these studies and the studies never asked the person, what are you active before you got COVID living in a larger body where you fit or you was your stress well manage, it’s all of those things. They never look at that. How was your. What was your socioeconomic status, et cetera. So nobody’s looking at the finer points of health. We just want to use weight as the number on the scale as a proxy for bad health, which really just makes me very angry. As you well know.

AP Graduate: Yes. That’s one thing I tell patients all the time, um, because I’m also a healthcare worker and the reality is, is that if we had an answer for this, if we had some cure, 70% of us would not be struggling and it would not be a 60 plus billion dollar industry every year in our country. It is profound how much we don’t understand it clearly. And we’re, we’re starting to learn more about the pathophysiology of obesity and different components, but there is a real struggle a, um, that would be my other advice is if you do not have a healthcare practitioner that believes in health at every size are supportive. Definitely try to find someone because that is the last place you should ever feel judged or less than as in your doctor’s office. That’s just, that’s not. Okay. So ultimately you are worthy and just because you may feel like your life has been pretty decent and good doesn’t mean you don’t have struggles too, and that doesn’t make you weak. It just is what it is. And trauma severely affects us and we can choose differently, but we’ve survived things. So we’re okay.

Dr. Ross: It’s just, as you know, I’m the general out talking with you and I’m so glad we were able to connect and thank you for sharing your wisdom and your experience in the anchor program with us. And I hope we see you again in the alumni group at starting. Yes, definitely. We’ll talk to you soon. All right. Thanks.