Neurofeedback Brainwave Training
Rewire Your Brain to Support Healthy Eating Patterns, a Positive Body Concept, and Wellness
At Non-Dieting Health, we view disordered eating patterns and body image struggles as signs of chronic stress or trauma. Many people who struggle have experienced childhood adversities such as abuse, violation, or neglect, and/or community adversities such as being alienated, bullied, lack of opportunity, discrimination, and poverty. Another common activator for disordered eating is exposure to diet culture. When experienced, these stressors can lock a person into toxic shame about their bodies, appetite, even one's entire being. And it cause them to turn to dieting, food restriction, or overexercising in an attempt to transform into a version of one's self that feels more acceptable.
Dieting has been heavily promoted and normalized by the $72 billion diet industry as health. But it's not healthy. Dieting is actually risky behavior. When dieters push their bodies into nutritional and energetic deficits, they are likely to trigger the brain's survival responses. This can intensify the drive to eat, cause dependence on highly rewarding foods, metabolic adaptation, and malnutrition. As the dieter's brain defends itself from the threat of malnutrition, dieters find themselves in a tug-of-war between their desire to reduce weight and their body's powerful weight regulation system that defends its energy stores. As research reveals, this war on the body paradoxically makes many people heavier, hungrier, and sick. It can lead to weight gain, disordered eating patterns, eating disorders, health problems, and pervasive feelings of shame, failure, and worthlessness.
The diet mentality and lifestyle represent a trauma to those who internalize it. A trauma is an emotionally or physically overwhelming experience that a person cannot escape. When we perceive our natural bodies as a threat and lock into a fear-based effort to "fix" them, this dieting mindset becomes that emotionally overwhelming, inescapable experience. We cannot run away from our own bodies. Instead, many people find themselves trapped in a body that they experience as a threat.
Our nervous system adapts to this entrapment by locking into a fight-or-flight pattern. Dieters "fight" for inclusion in a body-prejudiced society by becoming obsessive about what they weigh and eat, often restricting their food only to trigger intensifying food-seeking behaviors and restricting-overeating cycles. And they "flight" by avoiding the people and experiences that mean the most to them. Many people in this trauma state tell themselves they will engage in life just as soon as they "fix" their bodies. But the "fix" never comes as the weight-losing strategy only intensifies eating, weight, and body image struggles. It is a devastating paradox that these efforts to conform to cultural standards cause many people to lose control over their eating while triggering weight, body image, and health struggles!
Neurofeedback Brainwave Training to the Rescue
When your relationship with food and your body becomes a source of pain, another diet or exercise strategy won't fix it. Indeed, those behaviors keep people stuck in the trauma. What is needed is a new perspective on health that unlocks the stressful, shame-based mindset at the root of the problem. At Non-Dieting Health, neurofeedback brainwave training is the tool we use, in addition to psychotherapy and group support, to unlock this trauma. It is a therapeutic technology that can release a nervous system from its fight-and-flight response and unlock the shame-based, fearful dieting mindset. A well-functioning nervous system is a foundation for healthy eating patterns and a positive sense of self and one's body to develop.
A Foundation for Healthy Eating Patterns to Develop
Research shows that neurofeedback training can bring the nervous system out of its chronic stress response, significantly improving a person's core self-regulating capabilities (1). Self-regulation is the ability to moderate the intensity of your emotions, impulses, reactions, and even eating behavior. When something stresses or excites you, good core self-makes it easier to delay gratification, consider consequences, and make thoughtful choices instead of acting in compulsion or impulsively. Good self-regulators find it easier to calm bad body feelings and unwanted eating urges instead of being flooded by shame or rushing into unwanted eating patterns. By strengthening core self-regulation abilities, we elicit a profound shift in the deep brain that empowers clients to navigate a culture abundant in rewarding food and body-shaming messages with a sense of agency over their food and feelings.
As the training settles and stabilizes a persons' overactive nervous system, we foster a sense of embodiment that sets the stage for body-attuned eating patterns to develop. Neurofeedback reduces disassociative states associated with trauma and disordered eating. It restores our clients' ability to perceive their body cues, enabling them to use hunger and fullness signals and the wisdom of their appetites to guide eating patterns that align with nutritional needs. Research shows that mindfulness-based approaches to eating reduce binge eating and emotional eating patterns, and eating in response to external cues (2). As the training reduces these disordered eating patterns and the stress associated with eating, our clients can settle into a more joyful and satisfying form of self-nourishment.
A Foundation for Positive Body Image to Develop
The sense of present-connectedness fostered by neurofeedback lays a foundation for a positive sense of self and one's body to develop. A well-functioning nervous system correlates with reduction in obsessive thinking. Neurofeedback quiets the obsessive, self-critical mind so common in people who struggle with disordered eating. It reduces the anxiety about one's appearance that contributes to negative and dysmorphic body perceptions. Our clients report an improvement in their body perception and an abiding sense of safety and comfort living in their bodies.
A Foundation for Whole-Person Health
Many people who struggle with disordered eating and body image also experience other stress-related health problems. As we support a healthy nervous system through neurofeedback training, our clients are likely to see improvements in areas of their life beyond eating and body image. Below is a list of conditions we can often improve with neurofeedback training:
The healing that happens in any specific condition during neurofeedback treatment mirrors the whole person's deeper healing. Neurofeedback teaches us how to sit in the driver's seat of our own selves--increasingly stable, strong, and connected to our body and mind as we learn to experience thoughts and feelings without being overwhelmed or rushing into unwanted behavior. As we reimagine ourselves and refocus our lives, we take a healthier kind of control -- one that comes with self-acceptance and self-care and works for our long-term health.
How does neurofeedback training work?
Your neurofeedback practitioner starts your training with a comprehensive assessment used to devise a treatment plan tailored to you. Your training protocol is regularly optimized based on progress reports taken at each session. For the client, neurofeedback training involves sitting in a comfy chair for about thirty minutes at a time while watching a pleasant scene like a rainforest hike or a moving mandala on the screen in front of you. Your neurofeedback practitioner will place sensors on your head in formations that correspond to the therapeutic effects being targeted. The sensors do not put anything into your head. Instead, they read your brainwave activity and feed it into the computer. The computer uses the data to render the scene you are watching. As your brainwave activity changes, so does the image in front of you. Changes in the scene such as volume, color, clarity, and speed, gently redirect brainwave activity into more functional patterns. Over time, with regular training, you shift into a new state that many clients experience as a quiet mind, a sense of inner peace, fewer food cravings, better sleep, improved focus, energy, and brain performance, and a sense of agency over food and feelings.
(1) van der Kolk BA, Hodgdon H, Gapen M, Musicaro R, Suvak MK, Hamlin E, Spinazzola J. A Randomized Controlled Study of Neurofeedback for Chronic PTSD. PLoS One. 2016 Dec 16;11(12):e0166752. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0166752. Erratum in: PLoS One. 2019 Apr 24;14(4):e0215940. PMID: 27992435; PMCID: PMC5161315.
(2) Warren JM, Smith N, Ashwell M. A structured literature review on the role of mindfulness, mindful eating and intuitive eating in changing eating behaviours: effectiveness and associated potential mechanisms. Nutr Res behaviorsDec;30(2):272-283. doi: 10.1017/S0954422417000154. Epub 2017 Jul 18. PMID: 28718396.
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find barriers within yourself that you have built against it."
Listen as Dawn Harris, forensic and clinical psychologist, talks with her client about her experience with neurofeedback.
This video is offered for educational purposes, Dr. Harris is not associated with Non-Dieting Health.
Listen as Dr. Sue Othmer discusses how neurofeedback can assist those who suffer from trauma and PTSD.
This video is offered for educational purposes, Dr. Othmer is not associated with Non-Dieting Health.
When our founder, Alison Ross, became a psychotherapist, she realized she couldn't just talk her clients out of eating and body image struggles. To foster recovery, she needed to calm their activated nervous systems. This knowledge came, in part, from her own experience of recovering from disordered eating and body image struggles. Her recovery involved a yoga and mindfulness practice that unlocked her nervous system from its fight-and-flight position and improved her ability to self-regulate emotional and cognitive states and her eating behavior. She became a neurofeedback practitioner when she realized that the therapeutic method offers similar benefits to an intensive mindfulness and yoga practice, but much faster and without much effort on the client's part. Alison became a neurofeedback provider working in the Othmer Method. And she quickly recognized that neurofeedback was the missing therapeutic piece for her clients. You can read about her recovery insights in her book, Non-Dieting: How to Love Your Body and Be Healthy in Diet Culture.