Body Image: Self-Acceptance (cont.)

Member Question: I have suffered from eating disorders for over 8 years. I am now 24 years old, eating healthy, exercising moderately, and learning to live a healthy lifestyle. I am proud to say I am recovering and feel wonderful. However, I still don't think I see what others see when I look in the mirror. I still have body dysmorphic disorder and it saddens me so much. Will I ever see "me" again?

Oliver-Pyatt: I don't know if you'll ever see "you" again. However, it sounds that you've made significant progress in your path to recovery, and in individuals with eating disorders body image distortion is the last symptom to go.

In your situation, I would urge you to read Step 3: Decide that you are good enough to love yourself today, as well as Step 10, regarding redefining your life, to help you on the path to self-acceptance.

Perhaps you could engage in therapy to continue to explore your perceptions about yourself. Oftentimes, individuals with eating disorders hold themselves to unrealistic standards in their pursuit and expectation of perfection. Unfortunately, we often forget that "perfection" is the enemy of good enough. Are you good enough today to love yourself today? I would urge you to continue to behave in a loving manner, regardless of whether loving feelings happen to be present.

As you make this commitment to self-love in the form of an action, the healing process can continue.

Moderator: The steps Dr. Oliver-Pyatt refer to are in her book, Fed Up!

Member Question: I am 5'2", 120 pounds. What I see is fat, stretch marks, and extra skin. How do I get rid of that? I work at a gym only a couple hours a day. I come home and eat. I hate diets and I work out but not a lot. I want a fast fix. I want something fast easy and manageable.

Oliver-Pyatt: We all want a fast fix, that's why we spend $30 to $50 billion a year in dieting and weight loss products. Rather than focusing on weight loss, why not focus on developing a healthy relationship with food and exploring your relationship with yourself.

Once again, it seems like much of your focus and inner thoughts are of a very condemning nature. Think about what it's like to live with these kinds of thoughts floating throughout your mind during the day. Becoming gentle with our thoughts is a part of the path to fitness of mind and body.

Let us remember that fitness of mind and body must go hand in hand. The focus on dieting and body size and shape causes us to believe there should be a separation. The "just do it" mentality denies the very complicated relationship between food, body and self, and has proven to be an ineffective tool for weight loss. Until we are ready to take very seriously our relationship with ourselves and with food, we cannot achieve fitness of mind and body.

If all you see are stretch marks, extra skin, and fat, I am certain that you are blinded to the most significant aspects of who you are. Try to focus on all the other parts of yourself that really matter.

Member Question: I'm finding attempting to attain a healthy body image for a reason different then most. I'm underweight and attempting to gain, but am surrounded by all the comments in our society about how to lose and achieve "health" through dieting. So when I try to congratulate myself for gaining a pound or two, I have an internal argument telling me it's bad because society says so, even though it's what my body actually needs.

Oliver-Pyatt: Your comments highlight the reality that we are individuals with diverse emotional and physical needs. We do live in a society where it's one body size fits all. In your situation, you'll have to work particularly hard to focus on your individual self and your individual needs.

We have a tendency to absorb what we are bombarded with on a daily basis. It will therefore require work and mental concentration to focus on yourself and what's helpful and important for you. I define work as mental or physical energy directed toward a goal. In this case, your work will be to maintain your focus on yourself with regard to your physical needs.

Member Question: Can you give suggestions about what helps to keep from eating? Are there tricks when you are not really hungry to tell yourself this food isn't what you need right now?

Oliver-Pyatt: I'm glad you asked this important question. In fact, I do have some tips that may be useful:

  • No. 1, sit at the kitchen or dining room table when eating, not in the living room, not in the car, not while standing. This allows you an opportunity to notice and experience the act of eating. When we watch television while we are eating, we are mentally disconnected which leads us to disassociated eating and we often eat far more than we are really hungry for. So it is very important to learn to sit while we're eating and turn off the television when we are eating.
  • I would also advise you not to eat out of bags, but to put your food on a plate or bowl, further enhancing the experience and pleasure of eating.
  • When we are stressed, tired, angry, sad, lonely, or afraid, we do want to be comforted. It is very reasonable that we want to be comforted when we are hurting, but let us notice that we often follow the path of least resistance when it comes to comforting ourselves. That path is often straight to the kitchen, and unless we begin to notice ourselves and to remain conscious of our inner state, we are likely to follow that path of least resistance into the kitchen.
  • I would also urge you to begin engaging in some sort of relaxing activity that you can actually enjoy and look forward to that integrates your mind and body on a regular basis. For example, a facial, massage, yoga, stretching, or meditation.
  • You may benefit from journaling. When you notice yourself stepping foot into the kitchen when you are emotionally, rather than physically, hungry you can make a choice to sit down and write about what's going on in your mind. Also, it can be useful to determine what I call our "trigger times" and "zone out zones." These are places and times where you may have a tendency to eat for nonhunger-based reasons. For many people this can be at the end of the day after they have worked very hard and they are tired and drained.
  • Also, many people who struggle with emotional eating are those who have a tendency to pay close attention to the needs of others and under attention to their own emotional needs. Learning how to set limits and say no is a part of taking your emotional self seriously, which is necessary for fitness of mind and body.

Moderator: We are out of time. Our thanks to Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, MD, author of Fed Up: The Breakthrough 10-Step No Diet Fitness Plan.

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