When Patrick Jones checked into an Arizona facility for eating disorders in early 2016 for a 30-day treatment, he did not give the physical impression of someone who suffered from an abnormal relationship with food. In fact, Jones looked like the epitome of health and wellness — which is not surprising, considering that he has operated his own Stamford-based independent personal training business since 2003.
But while Jones’ appearance offered no outward clue of a problem, his internal condition had been suffering for 15 years from an endless binge-and-purge cycle.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, I was at a 10,” he said. “I would train a client in a gym and then I would go eat at a restaurant, binge and purge, and then go back to another client. And then repeat. All day long. Sometimes eight times in an hour.”
And the food that Jones consumed and then immediately expelled ran the gamut from nutritionally vital to unapologetically unhealthy. “It was any food,” he continued. “I binged on broccoli. Broccoli! It’s crazy. I have a vivid memory coming home and having a binge on whatever is available, whether it was the kids’ food or turkey breasts.”
Jones, who is also a reiki practitioner and yoga teacher and has consulted with businesses on setting up corporate wellness programs, saw his experience in addressing and gradually overcoming his eating disorder as a story that could inspire others. He launched the food disorder consultancy called Binge-Free Dad, where he works with adults stuck in a pattern that he dubbed “food sedation” — a state of eating purposely as a mechanism to avoid or dull a sense of pain. Turning off that internal switch is no mean feat, which Jones can affirm.
“I went to about 10 therapists and four or five eating centers,” he said. “I even saw a hypnotist. Ultimately, I had to stop running and become aware of what I was doing. You need to be aware that you have a problem and are not running from it. Those who struggle in any capacity with food are running — they isolate and eat in secret.”
Although Jones is a licensed nutritionist and certified eating psychology practitioner, he stressed that his consultancy is not designed as a Point A to Point B route, with clients ending their journey immediately cured. Instead, it is a gradual awakening to addressing the problems at the foundation of the disorder and the realization that a new and more positive environment is needed to maintain a healthier existence.
“There is no Point B,” he said, stating that his role is to pointing clients in the direction for solving their problems on their own terms rather than giving them specific steps to the desired results. “They have to experience it. It’s an awareness. I can only open them up to find the awareness. I’m not there to save them. I’m there to question their thinking and ask them if it’s true or not.”
During this past summer, Jones worked simultaneously with five clients through Binge-Free Dad on addressing the core issues surrounding their respective eating disorders. “I worked with people on a level that would be at a 3, 4 or 5,” he said. “I try to get them to think about a new perspective and a new way of living.”
From his experience, Jones recognized that he needed to focus on new challenges and seek goals that would offer more emotional fulfillment than food sedation. His route took on new physical endeavors, including CrossFit training and Muy Thai martial arts, and he began posting a series of Facebook videos detailing his efforts to shed additional weight — since February, he dropped from 244 pounds to 194 pounds. However, he stressed that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this matter. A key focus of his consulting involves gaining an understanding of his clients’ motives and what they need to achieve a sense of serenity in their lives.
“All of my clients have a degree of a similar challenge,” he explained. “The problem isn’t that people don’t know how to work out — they have access to a gym and know how to eat nutritionally. It’s the thinking that’s the problem. It’s not the food, it’s not the motivation. The real problem is mindset. The root of the struggle starts with mindset.”
Jones has fielded inquiries about his Binge-Free Dad consulting from outside of the Westchester and Fairfield County markets where he works and is planning to expand the consultancy with an online component.
“The old school method is that I see the client, but if someone is really good at what they do, they don’t need to see the person,” he said. “All they want is someone they could be accountable to as a coach.”