Body Image Issues: How to Love Your Self

Body Image Issues: How to Love Your Self

Love Your Self – it might seem like a great concept, but how can you put it into practice, when you struggle with body image issues? You might think, “I will love myself when ___.” Fill in the blank: I lose xx pounds, my thighs don’t jiggle, I have flat abs, my arms are toned, I can fit into my skinny jeans… When I sculpt/mold/change my body into… what? The perfect body. What is this, anyway? Would your body ever be good enough? Or, despite the changes that you make to your body, would you continue to have body image issues? What if your body is already good enough, just the way it is? The body others love. Whose love are you really seeking? Is it worth it to become someone you are not in order to get others’ praise? If others love your body, would you love your body? Or, would you continue to have body image issues? What if your body is already lovable, just the way it is? The body that is fit. Who determines what fitness is? If you can run a mile, 6 miles, or 26 miles? What does fitness look like? Even if you’re a fitness model, would you still have body image issues? What if your body has its own powerful abilities, just the way it is? The body that fits in. Are you looking to fit into society’s standards of beauty? Do you really want to just blend in with the crowd? If you look just like everyone else, would you be happy? Or, would you still have body image issues? What if your...
Fitness Modeling and Eating Disorders

Fitness Modeling and Eating Disorders

There are many things about the world of fitness modeling that makes an eating disorders therapist cringe. Most notably, there’s the very strict dieting, and also the large amount of time spent on intensive workouts at the gym. Less obvious – but extremely concerning – are the body image issues that arise from quests for physical perfection, as well as comparisons with other fitness models, along with judgments during competitions and photo shoots. And then there are those who are not fitness models, but who compare themselves to the images of fitness models in magazines. Stacking yourself up against another person, who may or may not be healthy in their pursuit of perfection, is never helpful. As an eating disorder therapist, I’ve worked with many current, former, and prospective fitness models, and while I do believe that some people can navigate that world unscathed, for many it is a slippery slope into dangerous waters, and many don’t know how far down they’ve gone. So what makes the difference between a healthy approach to fitness modeling, and an eating-disordered approach to becoming a fitness model? The most important thing to consider is the motivation for fitness modeling. Is it the external validation? A desire to look like someone you saw on the internet or in a magazine? To make an ex-partner jealous? A desire for the “perfect” body? Or, for the enjoyment of challenging yourself? Another area to consider is eating. If you are a fitness model, ask yourself how you feel if or when you eat something not on your meal plan. Would you even dare let yourself? Do you shrug it off, or do you try harder the...
New Years Resolution: Don’t Diet!

New Years Resolution: Don’t Diet!

It’s the New Year – and according to Time Magazine, 39.6% of people surveyed set a resolution to lose weight this year. According to the Center for Disease Control, more than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese (BMI ≥ 30). Some of the health risks commonly associated with obesity include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. Many people who are overweight or obese want to lose weight as a means of reducing these risks. However – typical diets, exercise and weight loss programs address the symptom of excess weight through the control of caloric intake and expenditure. The Binge Eating Disorder Association reports that about one-third of people enrolled in commercial weight loss centers have Binge Eating Disorder (BED) – and dieting has been shown to cause binge eating, especially in people who already have BED. There is only so much “willpower” that can be used as a means of adhering to restrictive diets, and numerous studies have shown that 90-95% of dieters regain any weight they lose within 1-5 years. Diets don’t work – so what will work to lose weight (and keep it off)? Here is some “Don’t Diet” food for thought: Stop Trying to Lose Weight – instead, focus on health gains. According to Linda Bacon, the author of Health At Every Size and founder of the HAES™ community, overall health is more important than any number on a scale. In fact, many people who are a “normal weight” or “underweight” may not be healthy. Who is to say what BMI is truly healthy for each individual? With health as a goal, the achievement of a healthy weight...
Eating Disorders & Body Image Tips for Parents

Eating Disorders & Body Image Tips for Parents

How to Help Your Teenager: Eating Disorders and Body Image Issues Teenage girls who diet are often depicted as shallow and vain, and are made fun of in many movies and TV shows. However, dieting is a warning sign that an adolescent has a negative body image or is developing an eating disorder. One in three teenage girls engage in fad diets, fasting, or take diet pills or laxatives to lose weight – and nearly half of 1st-3rd grade girls say that they wish they were thinner (Source: National Eating Disorders Association). Other signs that your teenager may have negative body image or is developing an eating disorder are: Dramatic weight loss or drastic fluctuations A preoccupation with weight, food, food labels and dieting Excessive drinking of fluids or denial of hunger Avoidance of meal times or situations involving food Withdrawal from friends and activities Self-induced vomiting or abuse of laxatives Excessive, rigid exercise regimen A change in dress, such as oversized clothing to cover the body or revealing clothes to flaunt the weight loss (Source: Elizabeth Easton, PsyD) If you think your teenager has an eating disorder, there are ways that you can help: Intervene Early. The sooner you are able to talk to your teenager, the sooner you will be able to figure out the level of care your teenager needs whether that is changing up how your family talks about food and bodies or finding a therapist who can provide some treatment strategies for your child. Ask Questions and Listen. Avoid accusing your teenager of having an eating disorder or implying that there is something wrong with the way they are eating – this will...
Eating Disorders and Body Image: The Body Project

Eating Disorders and Body Image: The Body Project

Do you wish you could lose 5, 10, 20 or more pounds? Do you feel unhappy with your looks, no matter how thin you become? Do you use eating disorder behaviors (meal skipping, purging) as a quest for thinness? If you answered “YES” to any of the above questions, then The Body Project can help. The Body Project workshop, which is a described as a “dissonance-based body-acceptance program is designed to help high school girls and college-age women resist cultural pressures to conform to the thin-ideal standard of female beauty and reduce their pursuit of unhealthy thinness. The Body Project is supported by more research than any other body image program and has been found to reduce onset of eating disorders.” At Positive Pathways, two of our therapists are trained to deliver The Body Project workshop. Our therapists are available to provide this workshop at schools in the Denver area – at no charge! In addition, our therapists can provide the concepts form The Body Project on a 1-on-1 basis as part of individual therapy, to help heal eating disorders and body image issues. Why is a workshop like The Body Project necessary? While the average American woman is 5’4 tall and weighs 140 pounds, the average American model is 5’11 and weighs 117 pounds. In 1995, before television was first introduced to Fiji there were no cases of eating disorder. Sixty-five adolescent schoolgirls were followed over three years and after the introduction of British and American television, 12.7% of the girls had developed high eating disorder after one month and 29.2% after three years. Self-induced vomiting as weigh control went...
Men and Eating Disorders

Men and Eating Disorders

10 million males in the United States will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life. Source: National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Most of the attention about eating disorders and body image focus on women — however, there is a significant amount of men who also struggle with eating disorders or body image issues. Just as the media can set unrealistic standards of beauty for women, it has also been setting up the same ridiculous standards for men.  While women are encouraged to be skinny, men are encouraged to be “cut”, muscular, and lean (take a look at a recent Calvin Klein underwear ad). I’ve noticed a trend regarding actors in action movies – articles will mention how many pounds of muscle an actor put on to play a role, and his strict work out regimen to get a certain look (think Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, or Chris Hemsworth as Thor). Isn’t this just as damaging as focusing on how much weight an actress lost to get a role? Here are some additional statistics about males and eating disorders: STATISTICS FROM NEDA WEBSITE And while prevalence of eating disorders in men is significantly high, there is still a stigma for many men around seeking professional help. Some men may even feel like eating disorders are “women’s issues,” and feel shame in talking about their struggles.  The idea of how an eating disorder effects one’s masculinity is not to be overlooked. I hope that by talking about it more, and bringing this issue to light, more men will feel comfortable asking for the help they need. As...
Media Influences on Body Image and Eating Disorders

Media Influences on Body Image and Eating Disorders

How does the media influence your body image and the development of eating disorders? Specifically, how does society’s “ideal standard of beauty” affect your attitudes about your body image, weight, shape and size? How does the “pressure to look perfect” affect your behaviors with eating and exercise, possibly feeding your eating disorder? Based on the images that you see in magazines, on television, and in social media – how do you feel about your body, right now? Ugggh! I look so flabby. I need liposuction! My body is OK, but I’d look better with breast implants! Getting older is Hell. I hate the wrinkles on my face. Botox me! In the movie entitled, “America The Beautiful,” our beauty myths are revealed, so we can challenge them and discover our True Beauty beyond the mirror of society’s ideals. The movie follows the true story of a young model, as her career rises and falls. Her story helps us to examine the obsession with youth and beauty – and the damage that occurs when women try to live up to the impossible standards of physical perfection. The narrator of this movie is a middle-aged, balding, African-American male – who finds himself caught up in his own beauty myths as the story unfolds. His role shows us that everyone is vulnerable to the messages in the media about beauty – women, men, young, old, all races, all social classes. Take a moment to reflect about how the media has influenced you at different times in your life, as well as others you know. Imagine for a moment that you live on an island which has...
Love Your Self: Be Your Own Valentine

Love Your Self: Be Your Own Valentine

Love Your Self – it’s the first principle of Eating Disorder Intuitive Therapy (EDIT)™, and it’s the starting point for the journey of complete recovery from eating disorders. What does it really mean to Love Your Self – your whole Self – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually? On this Valentines Day, try these self love tips and be your own valentine! Love Your Body: Pause to notice the “lens” through which you currently view your body. Is it the lens of societies’ standards, through which you only see your body’s flaws? Or, is it the lens of compassion, through which you may still see your so-called flaws, but without any judgment, simply noticing them and appreciating them as a part of your True Beauty. Love Your Mind: Take a moment to gently notice the thoughts which float in and out of your mind. Notice if you are having any Eating Disorder (ED) thoughts, such as, “That love your body thing in the paragraph I just read is a bunch of crap. I’ll love my body when I’m thin enough. So how do I lose this weight?” Next, see if you can “rise above” your ED thoughts, to simply observe your mind from the perspective of your Intuitive Therapist (IT). This is a curious and compassionate part of your mind, which you can access with questions like these: “What are these ED thoughts really about? What is my quest for weight loss really about? What if it really is possible to Love My Self, regardless of my weight?” Love Your Heart: Bring your awareness to any emotions you are currently experiencing – is this easy or difficult for you...