If I could work with any fictional client in the world, I would pick Betty Francis.
Betty, played by January Jones in this season’s Mad Men television series, is a housewife who has recently gained a lot of weight. We watch as Betty tries to “reduce” in a series of ways that make me squirm.
First, Betty tries to ignore it. It isn’t until her mother-in-law suggests that she could lose her husband if she doesn’t lose the weight that she goes to the doctor to ask for diet pills. Oh, if only a pill could solve what seems to be the trouble.
The doctor tells her, “When a housewife has a rapid weight gain the cause is usually psychological. Unhappiness, anxiety, boredom … things that cause us to lose our self-control.”
Things that diet pills will not fix.
In the latest episode of Mad Men, we see Betty in Weight Watchers meetings, weighing her food, and trying dutifully to lose weight until she sees lovely Megan, her ex-husband’s new wife, in their Manhattan apartment. That stirs up just enough anxiety for her to come home, open the fridge, and fill her mouth full of whipping cream.
If you watch the show, you immediately understand what’s going on. Betty’s husband married a beautiful, 25-year-old woman, and Betty is regretting letting him go. But instead of dealing with the source of her unhappiness, she turns to food to fill the void.
“Food is just a symbol of all the other things.”
“Food is just a symbol of all the other things,” a Weight Watchers counselor tells Betty. I loved that part. It’s so interesting. Here we are as a society trying to fix our weight gain with pills, calorie counting, the “right” diet, scale watching, and Thanksgiving plates with only a few bites of food, and yet the reason we overeat has very little to do with craving food. It has everything to do with what causes our unhappiness, our anxiety, and our fears.
From my own experience, I can tell you that weight gain was just a symptom of what was happening in my relationships, my career, and my life. When I shifted my focus to working on what was really bothering me, then my relationship to food and eating became so much easier. I wasn’t attracted to more food. I didn’t crave the foods my body could no longer handle (gluten, sugar, etc.). I learned how to get happy without eating my favorite foods.
How I would coach Betty Draper
1. Ask questions, and listen, listen, listen. I would be very curious why, over a Thanksgiving plate with just a few bites of food on it, she said, “I’m thankful that I have everything I want and that no one else has anything better.” What does it mean to her that “no one else has anything better?”
2. Help her uncover the emotions she doesn’t want to feel when she thinks about Don and Megan and actually feel them, instead of using food to numb them.
3. Teach her how to shift her emotional life, her eating, and her relationships by shifting her thinking about what’s bothering her.
4. Help her find the foods her body really wants to eat because it feels good after eating them and scrap the rest.
Do you just love whipped cream and it doesn’t love you? Find out how to ditch that craving forever, get in control of your eating, and start to love life again by scheduling a complimentary Get Acquainted Call with Janelle.