Art Therapy and
Men and Weight Issues

When Words Alone Are Not Enough


Eating Disorders
Men & Weight Issues

Chemical Dependency

Alcohol Abuse
Drug Abuse

Mood Disorders


Contact Information

Paul left a message asking for an appointment saying "I don't know if you work with men-- I know that this is usually a women's issue-- but I didn't know where else to turn". At our first session he was filled with shame about being there at all, and with deep embarrassment told me about his history of compulsive eating and gradual weight gain, until now at the age of thirty five, he was forty pounds overweight, and no longer able to function easily at his job as a construction worker. He had failed at numerous dieting attempts, and even though his job provided physical exercise, he was unable to keep his weight down. Recently he had begun to purge after particularly intense eating binges and was terrified that if he kept this up, he wouldn't be able to work at all.

Paul was curious about art therapy, but anxious because he had no prior art experience. To help him ease into the art therapy process, I started with a three dimensional project that didn't involve drawing. I showed him how to create a self-box; a box portraying his inner and outer self, with representative objects attached to each part. He found himself placing a tiny padlock on the lid and said "I don't like anyone to get inside of me". It took about two months for him to feel comfortable showing me the inside of his box, and he was gradually able to relate his compulsive eating issues to the curled up plastic babies sucking tiny pacifiers that he had placed on a bed of cotton balls and covered with a piece of fur, for a soft blanket. In the course of our therapy, these babies came to represent the vulnerable parts of himself, that he protected with food binges whenever they threatened to get too close to the surface.

As the oldest of three children raised by a single mother, he gradually assumed the role of her protector against the numerous abusive boyfriends who came in and out of their lives. He recalled the terror he felt seeing his mother get pummeled, and remembered how despairing he would feel when she cried. At fourteen he began to physically attack the men who were hurting her, often getting himself beaten up in the process. He began to go on eating binges around that time, and over the years food came to provide a very special form of comfort, especially when he was feeling frightened, anxious, stressed out, or helpless.

Paul did many art therapy projects using the image of the locked away curled up babies. He began to get more comfortable getting to know these hidden aspects of himself, and gradually became less frightened of them. He discovered that the more he was able to expose the vulnerable parts of himself to those he trusted, the less he needed to turn to food to keep those parts of him locked away. He began to discover healthier means of soothing himself when he was feeling overwhelming emotions, and found that he had less need to defend against feelings that were difficult. The art therapy was an important part of his journey, in that it allowed him to experience what was initially too powerful for words alone.

Previous art experience is not necessary.