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Spontaneous Transformation and Recovery From Problematic Eating: A Heuristic Inquiry

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Abstract

Health care professionals agree that there are countless individuals with problematic eating habits that detract from health and well-being but do not directly meet the criteria for diagnosis of disorder. Previous research identifies that problematic eating patterns are notoriously challenging to address and that positive changes in behavior are difficult to maintain. This qualitative study contributes to the literature identifying potential mechanisms for transformative and lasting change for individuals exhibiting problematic eating patterns. Utilizing heuristic methodology, the lived experience of spontaneous transformation as a mechanism of change in the development of, and recovery from, problematic eating habits was illuminated and explored by the primary researcher, SS, and six female coresearchers. The data for this study were obtained through in-depth, informal conversational interviews. Heuristic analysis of the data revealed six core themes relevant to the experience of the phenomenon of spontaneous transformation and the recovery from problematic eating habits: (a) early messaging in environment of origin, (b) moments of suffering as gateways to change, (c) perceived loss of control, (d) implicit awareness resulting in transformation, (e) physical expressions of expansion and constriction, (f) and the necessity for a new definition of recovery. The findings of this study point toward the experience of spontaneous transformation as a mechanism for enhanced self-awareness and potential for generating transformational change in patterns of problematic eating.

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... Applying heuristic self-search inquiry to study psychopathological conditions can provide a client-based perspective of a disorder and provide new avenues for therapeutic interventions. Further studies applied heuristic inquiry to investigate the experience of loneliness after a major crisis (Moustakas, 1961), the role of embodiment in body psychotherapists (Sultan, 2017) and the transformation of problematic eating habits (Shelburne et al., 2020). ...
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