“It takes no time to open your heart, but when will you do it? That is what takes the time.”
After working with women recovering from body hatred for the past decade and a half, I have noticed a few pitfalls that people get stuck in during the process of learning to love (and/or accept more on this soon) their bodies. One of them is:
“I don’t have TIME.”
In eating disorder recovery, it often shows up as “OK, I’ve stopped bingeing/purging/starving/overeating(insert disordered eating behavior here), so I should love my body now. When will that happen? 1 month? 2? Because I don’t have the patience for years. I’m ready to move on and be “normal.” What I say to this is Ummmm, sorry. There is no “normal,” and if there was (if “normal” means not having an eating disorder) then many of those people don’t like their bodies either. Leaning to love and accept yourself at a deep fundamental level (which is what body image issues are really about) takes time. Usually years. It cuts to the fundamental core of the self. (But don’t worry this project is 5 minutes PER WEEK for 8 weeks. You can do that. You can do this!)
In mommy hood, it often shows up as “I’m too busy taking care of everyone else! I don’t have time for that superficial body image stuff! I’m lucky if I get a pair of sweat pants on and a haircut once/year!” To which I would say first of all, you can’t afford to NOT have the time because your child is picking up on every single nonverbal cue you give them as to your relationship with your own body and you are passing it on. So if there’s any suffering there that you wish your child to NOT experience, you have to do your own work. And second of all, it doesn’t actually take that much time. It is more about quality rather than quantity.
The Power of Intention
This is a new project, but not a new idea. It is about the power of intention to shift your relationship with your body. The good news is It won’t require much from you except willingness. And, actually, it won’t take too much time. 5 minutes/week for 8 weeks. But let me tell you a bit about the premise. As a clinician assisting people cultivate a different relationship with their bodies and themselves, I work with willingness. I also work with assisting people identify and shift the ways they talk to themselves, including both the content and the tone. A large part of this is actually dis-identifyig enough from the parts of yourself, particularly the often overdeveloped Superego Critical part, to find and cultivate other parts. The other part(s) being kinder, more self-advocating, non-shaming loving parts.
There is a well-know study in which experimenters were told to observe rats in a maze, but one group of experimenters were told that their rats were “bright” and another group were told that their rats were “dull.” (Rosenthal, R. & Fode, K.L.1963) They were actually all from the same group of lab rats, but guess which rats performed better? Yep. The ones that were supposedly “bright.” When looking at why, it was found that the experimenters had an intention of them doing better and encouraged these rats more. I want to invite you to bring this “experimenter bias” back to yourself: loving kindness, attention, intention.
Which brings me back to the issue of how you talk to your body. How do you speak to your body? Do you say “You should be smaller/larger/less wrinkled/not have cellulite/be less flabby/stop being so disgusting”? Then this is an opportunity for you to practice treating your body more “bright” and less “dull.” Really- if you’ve been saying unkind things to yourself for decades, what do you have to lose by trying to say something different?
The Every Body Love your Body Project
5 minutes (or less) of writing an affirmative statement toward part of your body every Wednesday (You can write yours on whatever day you would like but I will pick an affirmation winner and post the next part on Wednesday). Write your statement in the comments, and I will randomly pick a winner every week. I invite you to write this statement on a note and post it on your mirror for the week.
Each week we will look at a different part of your body and say something kind to it. That is IT. The only “rules” are:
1) It must be authentic to you.
2) It has to be kind, accepting, or neutral in tone.
3) If it is negative, it must be directed toward your body image CRITIC, not your body.
Then every week, I will pick a winner from the comments and that person will receive a free affirmation from Dr. Linda!
This week’s body part: the FACE
I’ll get us started on some examples here. Since we are starting with the face, I could say (going with the three choices above):
1) I like my little wrinkles around my eyes. They show empathy, wisdom and kindness.
2) I have nice cheekbones.
3) Those furrows between my eyes and on my forehead are hard-won! If I were to Botox those wrinkles, my face would lose its character. Shut the F*ck up! (That is to my body image critic, which says “Maybe you should think about getting bangs because did you know that bangs are the new Botox?”)
You may notice, when you write something kind toward your body, part(s) of you roaring in protest “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?” That is good. That means you are on the right track with shifting from treating yourself as a “dull rat” to a “bright” one 🙂 Keep going!
See you next week!
Before recovery, everybody knows there is a problem except you. After recovery, no-one knows there is a problem except you, and it is your job to live in the solution. It is the challenge and opportunity of every recovering person to acknowledge the problem and live the solution.
It is Eating Disorder Awareness Week. In my mind, that means all the people still struggling with eating disorders or disordered eating are putting their heads in the sand and pretending everything is ok. They don’t want to talk about it, everything is “fine,” let’s get on with the business of being perfect, trying to be perfect, or at least look ok so nobody knows what’s really going on. And all the people who have recovered, are willingly trying to recover, or work assisting people to recover are running around like Chicken Little saying “Hey! Everything is NOT ok and that is ok! Let’s celebrate imperfection! Let’s talk about what’s really going on! Let’s raise awareness! Let’s get our heads out of the sand!”
I never thought I would have an eating disorder. Eating Disorders were for models, popular girls, adolescents or athletes. I was none of these. I was a feminist. I was going to join the peace-corps and go to Africa and save the mountain gorillas from extinction. I was 20 years old and ready to save the world. Except I couldn’t pass the physical exam to apply to the peace-corps due to complications from my eating disorder.
I also never thought I would become a therapist. But life takes us in interesting directions, not always the places we plan. Ad here I am, 17 years recovered, 15 years working in recovery, still at it. I turned my passion for advocacy to helping all of the actual people suffering with eating disorders, not just the models and athletes, but the feminists, the environmentalists, the men secretly struggling with “a women’s disease,” and the middle aged moms. Because in the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) (Wade, Keski-Rahkonen, & Hudson, 2011). That means either you or someone you know.
People suffering with eating disorders come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Emaciated, overweight, “normal” weight, men, women, adolescents, people of all skin colors, children ALL suffer from eating disorders. Though it may seem like it, eating disorders are not about food or weight. Eating disorders are hidden diseases that are not “a superficial problem with dieting” but deadly and complex diseases that deserve to be treated and eradicated. I’m speaking up for those who are still hiding, who are still suffering, who are not yet ready to “be in the solution” of freedom from shame, but want to know that it is possible. It is possible. You are not alone. Come out when you are ready. We are here for you, in a long lineage of healing, those of us who have recovered, who are recovering, who assist others to recover.
For More information on National eating Disorders Awareness Week and how to get involved: http://nedawareness.org/social
Creativity is the original anti-depressant. -Andrew Brink, Creativity as repair: Bipolarity and Its Closure
It is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self. -D. W. Winnicott
Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. –Pablo Picasso
1. Art (re)connects with the authentic self.
The well-respected psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott coined the terms “True Self” and “False Self” that children develop as a result of their attachment to early caregivers.
As adults, the false self, the one that needed to be compliant as a child, can become maladaptive, stunting the power of the true self. One woman, recovering from an eating disorder that had her acting pleasing towards other people in her life while stuffing down her anger with food made the following images titled “The good girl” and “What’s underneath”:
To see full article, click here:
I remember when my Grandmother was in her 80’s. She would love having me put lotion on her hands and paint her nails. Her arthritis prevented her from being able to, and as a child, it was something I could do for her. Decades later I would become anorexic (then bingeing/bulimia), rejecting her homemade pies and breads, attempting to leave my body-skin entirely. I definitely wasn’t putting lotion on I hated my body too much. if I were to put on lotion, that would mean I acknowledged the body I was in, had some level of acceptance or even kindness towards it.
So guess what I got to do in recovery? That’s right. Put on lotion. I started with the easy parts: I felt neutral about my hands, so I put lotion on them. I had to work up to my stomach and thighs. But I did it. Every time I would come out of the shower, I would put lotion on and say to my thighs and stomach “I love and accept you the way you are.”
Fast forward many years when I worked in eating disorder treatment centers facilitating DBT groups: Guess what was on the list of self soothing tools? Yep. Lotion. I remember pulling out some lotion when a client was struggling with being blind weighed and wanting/not wanting to know her weight. She knew it would be distressing either way and knew it was not about the weight. I brought out some lovely scented lotion and together we noticed the color, the scent, the feel of it when she rubbed it into her hands. She held her hands while being weighed. It was a lovely metaphor and literal experience of “holding her own hands” while traveling through this challenge in her recovery.
I now am a mother and work with new moms. My hands are often dry from so much hand washing. (Any mom that has had a baby, toddler, preschooler knows how the first five years are like living in a petri dish! Hand washing becomes the constant to having a chance at least a few days a year with no-one coughing or sneezing!) I often forget to put on lotion. I get drawn out of my own self-care to caring for others again and again. But a colleague of mine recently offered me some pumpkin smelling lotion that she was carrying in her purse. It reminded me of the importance of self-care, no matter how small the act. It reminded me of my Grandmother and her beautiful 80-year-old hands.
It reminded me of how transformative small acts of kindness can be as a protection from hatred, as a reminder to take the time to care for and live in your own skin, as a healing balm. I often give new moms belly butter to rub on their pregnant and postpartum bellies. It is a loving act toward yourself and the baby you are growing/grew. And I often invite recovering women to carry lotion with them in their “recovery tool box.” As Mother Teresa has been quoted to say:
“There are no great acts. Only small acts done with Great Love.”
If you are recovering, if you are a new mom or an old mom, or simply reading this post, I invite you to take one small act of kindness toward your self or another. We never know the impact it can have.