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...
Eating Disorders and Art Therapy: Separating from ED

Eating Disorders and Art Therapy: Separating from ED

When considering eating disorders and art therapy, how can clients enhance their recovery through the separation from “ED” (what they might call their eating disorder)? Common with clients suffering from disordered eating, is the assumption that the internal dilemma is truly about calories, weight and food (Johnston, 1996). In introducing art to the therapeutic process, we can begin to access that which hides behind the disordered eating pattern (Brooke, 2008). Though there are several effective eating disorder and art therapy interventions that can help access our deeper selves, the “Create an Image of the Eating Disorder” intervention is extremely powerful. Using clay or paper and oil pastels (or any other drawing material), the therapist invites the client to create and image of the eating disorder. They will then invite the client to give this disorder a name, a face, does he/she have a body? How big is this character? This eating disorder and art therapy intervention assists clients in recognizing that they have both an authentic self and a voice of their disordered eating pattern. By externalizing and characterizing the eating disorder, the client can begin to separate their true self from this false self; the disordered eating that developed as a coping strategy. Further, the client can begin to dialogue with the eating disorder, give it a name and express their true feelings about the influence that this character has had on their lives. Additionally, the individual can also thank the character of the eating disorder for the coping methods that were provided during the clients time of need. As the separation process begins, a lot of thoughts, feelings...
Eating Disorders and Valentine’s Day Sadness

Eating Disorders and Valentine’s Day Sadness

February 14th is St. Valentine’s Day – which has been celebrated as a day of romance for many years. Approximately 150 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, making this the second most popular card-sending day after Christmas (Source: History.com). And then there are all the flowers, jewelry and other gifts – and of course, chocolates in a heart-shaped box. If you are currently in a relationship with a “significant other,” then this time of year may be very special to you. However, if you have recently gone through a breakup – or, if you have been single for a while – then you might think of St. Valentine’s Day as “St. Sadness Day.” If your eating disorder (ED) seems like the only relationship you have, and you’re tempted to binge on those chocolates (or engage in other ED behaviors) – consider these strategies instead: Name Your Feelings: You may notice a sense of discomfort, or an awareness of low energy levels – see if you can get more specific, and identify the actual feelings you are experiencing. Sadness? Loneliness? Grief? Depression? Explore WHY You Have These Feelings: Perhaps you feel sad because you know that no one is going to buy you a romantic card or give you flowers. You might feel lonely, because you realize that you don’t have anyone to spend this “special day” with. Maybe you are thinking about previous years, when you were in a relationship – and you are grieving the loss of this relationship. You might even feel depressed, because you wonder if you will ever find that “special someone” to share your life with. Although these...
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...
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...

EDIT Principle #1: Love Your Self

How to Develop a Nurturing Body Image… no matter what you weigh! Having a positive body image has nothing to do with how you look and what you weigh.  It has everything to do with what you think about how you look and what you weigh.  How else can you explain a situation where you felt fine, and then suddenly felt fat?  Did you instantly gain 50 pounds?  No!  But you may think you have.  And perhaps you really are 50 pounds overweight (or more).  So, how can you create a positive body image, no matter what you weigh?  The key is to imagine feeling good in your body.  Size has nothing to do with this.  Try this visualization:  Read through it first, and then guide yourself through it.  Close your eyes and just breathe, relaxing into the moment.  Imagine the last glimpse you had of yourself in the mirror.  Now, get a deeper sense of your body, beyond the image in the mirror.  What physical sensations are you aware of in your body?  Notice the beating of your heart, the movement of your breath, and any other sensations amidst your body’s seeming stillness.  What are the various things that you can do with your body? Imagine all of the different ways your body can move – walking, bending, stretching, running, lifting, climbing, and so much more. How does your body serve you and others? Get a sense of what your body allows you to do and be, and you interact with people throughout a typical day. What is the purpose of your body, at its current size?  Move beyond any judgments about your body’s size, and notice the...