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“I’m Not Bingeing Anymore, But I Still Dislike My Body. Help!”

November 16, 2010

We are more than our bodies. Say it with me!

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

Related posts:
Exactly How to Stop a “Fat Day” in its Tracks

7 Steps To Appreciating Your Shape
A Top (Plus-Size) Model’s Thoughts On Airbrushing and Body Image

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Heather permalink
    November 17, 2010 12:10 pm

    Like Sunny said, it’s typically when other things are happening that we start to pick on our bodies or our relationship with food. If we’re having a tough time, it may be that issues with our bodies and food worsen or become more difficult.

    From what Megan says, she has just left University, has moved to a new city and is working in a job she hates. That’s three good reasons why she might feel excited, apprehensive, unhappy, afraid, anxious etc. I can relate to Megan because it’s not that long since I left University, and am now in a job I don’t like and am embarrassed to be in. It is hard.

    As a result, I struggle more with food and eating in the work day, I think about food and crave and hunger more than at any other time.

  2. LovesCatsinCA permalink
    November 17, 2010 11:04 pm

    Hi. I have found myself “hungrier” without being actually more physically hungry lately, and thinking more about food. I did a couple of mini-binges too. Having elderly parents, particularly when they have health challenges… having more worries about them and whether they can continue to live independently… peri-menopause…not sleeping well… Gee, could I be eating because I’m TIRED? Emotionally and physically exhausted? Worried? Just not wanting to deal???

    I’m not really in body image meltdown, more in food mode, but I can definitely say that it distracts from larger concerns, ones I’m not really ready to deal with, when I’m more worried about having eaten a couple ounces of chocolate. It’s a delaying dealing with life thing. And it’s OKAY on a temporary basis–but as you can see from how unhappy you are, it’s not a good place to stay there in body dissatisfaction.

    So since you’re a young woman in a different transitional period of life, I can see where your focus is coming from. It’s actually a good barometer. When I notice myself getting more into emotional eating it’s a chance to ask myself what’s going on. With your body, you can start to examine what else you’re dissatisfied with or uncomfortable with. It will probably be something bigger and more meaningful… and that means the body issue is “safer.”

    I wish you all the best with this.

  3. Kate @ Walking in the Rain permalink
    November 18, 2010 3:25 pm

    I really appreciate Amy’s advice. I’m in the same spot as Megan–not binging, but still feeling at war with my body.

    I know I’ve heard time and again I need to work on my health and the weight will go naturally, but its so hard and somehow I’m still at war with everything I’ve learned about how dieting is the only way to lose weight. I’m not going to diet–I know that is part of why I’m here and how my relationship with food is so messed up–but focusing on myself and my well being is so hard when I’ve ignored it for so long. (We’re talking over 15 years.)

    Kate

  4. Emily permalink
    November 19, 2010 9:56 pm

    I can totally attest to Amy’s advice. I am by no means completely happy with my body (except on some days, like when I go for a really strong run). But, I am a lot more comfortable and a lot less self-loathing than I used to be.

    The part that surprises me most about that is that I wasn’t trying. When I first started getting help, working on recovery, etc., I made a conscious choice not to do anything with the goal of loosing weight. I started eating properly and exercising because I wanted to get healthy and sane.

    I did loose weight, and sometimes its hard to remember that I’m not trying to. But I try instead to focus on health and strength. Of course, that is a really, really hard thing to do most days.

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