AAAAAAAAAAAA! That’s me screaming because I’m so frustrated at how much girls and women pick apart and loathe their bodies. We do amazing things with our lives, we take care of people, we accomplish, we grow, we make conscious decisions to live healthier and happier lives, and we still find ways to feel bad about ourselves. But often, body hate is not about our bodies or weight at all—that preoccupation is just a tangible thing on which to focus our deeper-seated anxiety, fear, or damaged self-esteem. And I, ladies, am not immune either.
HealthyGirl.org reader Megan sent me a note the other day because, although she’s come a long way in getting sane about food, she’s not feeling very sane about her body. I’m excited to say that nutrition therapist Amy Jaffe, R.D., who is an expert at working with disordered eaters (and who is a big part of my upcoming book!) has agreed to share some wisdom with Megan and all of us. Read on…
Q: I just graduated college and moved to a new city to start a new job that I hate. After going to counseling and Overeaters Anonymous meetings I was able to get rid of bingeing as a habit, and it typically isn’t where I turn for help anymore. I am so grateful that I am not bingeing regularly. But I hate how horrible my body image is.
These days, I could spend the whole day thinking about how I want to lose 15-20 pounds. I’ve been this same weight for almost a year and a half and I have spent that whole year and a half unhappy with it. Its exhausting. I don’t want to change the way I eat but I want to weigh less and I want to love my body and my appearance more. I’m feeling crazy. I don’t want to go to OA again because I can’t always relate. But I need help loving myself more. Any suggestions? —Megan
A: From Amy Jaffe…
“We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.” —Carl Jung
This may be the crux of Megan’s dilemma. She has spent the last year and a half unhappy with her weight and change is not happening. If you hate something, it is not very much motivated to work with you. Her constant self criticism obviously isn’t working!
Self acceptance about body image is so difficult in our society, as we are bombarded all day every day by messages that promote this. If she could do her best to focus on her health and well being instead of obsessing about her weight, I have found that very helpful for my clients. Health meaning energy, fitness level, stamina, adequate nourishment, lifestyle changes she undoubtedly has made already that promoted her ability to stop bingeing, etc. The paradox is that the less you care about your weight, the more weight you lose. I have seen it over and over again!
I would recommend Megan read the following to keep her otherwise engaged, hopefully on a daily basis!
• The Body Image Workbook: An Eight-Step Program for Learning to Like Your Looks by Thomas F. Cash (this comes in pdf form too)
• Women Food and God, by Geneen Roth
WE are not our looks; WE are not our weight; WE are not our bodies. Say it with me!
YES! I’m yelling it out loud with you, Amy! I wholeheartedly agree with Amy on these book recommendations—The Body Image Workbook is kind of amazing. Anyone with nagging nasty thoughts about themselves should pick it up. And Geneen Roth has a very special place in my heart. I’d like to add one more thing for Megan: I can’t help but notice that you’re in a really major transitional period in your life right now. It’s no surprise that you’re focusing on your looks at this time—for those of us with food and weight issues, body image becomes a convenient distraction, a way to regulate tough emotions we don’t know how else to deal with. Instead of fully processing negative feelings, we foist them onto our bodies. I know it’s something that has happened for me over and over. Now, of course, I can kind of see it coming and I know that when I’m feeling fat, it’s usually because something else (much more important) is going on.
Now, to the rest of you: Do you relate to where Megan’s at right now? What do you think of Amy’s advice? xo…Sunny