Body Image: What’s Really Eating at You?

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man at sunset nice

You want to tackle your body image issues, but you fall off the wagon.  What causes this?  How can you fight the Body Image Bandit and win?

The first thing is to learn to identify what’s really eating at you.  Whether you’re battling an eating disorder or compulsive overeating (now called “Binge Eating Disorder”), if you can learn to figure out what’s bothering you at any given time, you will be much more successful. If you’re eating and you’re not hungry, something is going on in your heart, most likely.  You’re stuffing your feelings.

Stuffing is for teddy bears and turkeys.

When we stuff our feelings, it makes us much more prone to an addiction or eating disorder.

Many of us don’t even know what our feelings are if we grew up in a dysfunctional household in which the three rules are: 1) Don’t tell 2) Don’t trust, and 3) Don’t feel. 

So we lost touch with our feelings and are unable on most occasions to explain how we really feel.  And remember, “fine,” “Okay,” or “good” are not feelings.  Feelings are divided into six main categories: 

Mad   Sad   Glad   Fear   Lonely   Shame

Since my menopausal memory is slim, I’m thankful that three of the the four main feeling words rhyme!  Google “feeling lists” and you will find a lifetime supply of feelings.

I don’t mean to oversimplify when I say to figure out what’s really eating at you.  Addictions, eating disroders, and body image issues are much, much more complex than simply figuring out what’s eating at you.

However, most people don’t deal with what’s eating at them all day, every day.  Me included.  I’m get much better, still need to work on it.

How do you deal with your feelings?

After you identify your true feelings using real feeling words(like the ones on the lists), then share them in a safe place.  David in the Psalms frequently told God his feelings.  He expressed all four categories of mad, sad, glad and fear.  So of course prayer is a great way to express your feelings.

Another safe place is a journal in which you spill your soul. It shouldn’t be a log about what you did on a particular day.  Rather, it should contain your true feeling words about your life in that moment.

If you aren’t seeing the mad, sad, glad, fear, lonely and shame feelings expressed in your journal, it is less effective.  Safe people like friends, counselors, and spouses (only if you feel safe with them, which many people don’t) are often other safe places.

The purging of feelings is often what we’re trying to do when we attempt to fill the holes in our hearts with food, alcohol, drugs, bingeing, over-shopping, purging, and other addictions.  This is why many addictions begin to take root when we experience hardships in our lives.

Believe it or not, getting your true feelings out will help immensely as you battle the Body Image Bandit.  The release will help you not to stuff your feelings and as a result, you will be much less likely to act out against your body.  Once again, I’m not saying it’s a magic cure in any way.  But if you don’t learn to identify your true feelings and get them out in healthy ways, you will continue to overeat, binge, purge, or starve yourself.  Remember, you’re not a turkey (although you may feel like one sometimes!) or a teddy bear, so don’t try to fill yourself by stuffing your feelings.

Then you can begin to fight the Body Image Bandit and win.

Time Line: Next week, learn how to identify the point when you really started to act out against your own body and what to do about it.

To learn more about how to tackle the roots of food addiction, read my book, Tooshue: Defeating the Body Image Bandit 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00KP2KMPQ/ref=mp_s_a_1_1_twi_kin_2?qid=1452294474&sr=8-1&keywords=body+image+bandit

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00KP2KMPQ/ref=mp_s_a_1_1_twi_kin_2?qid=1452294474&sr=8-1&keywords=body+image+bandit

  

Body Image and Humor: Woman vs. Kitty

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Meow.. by Motor-Head

Great news!  I just learned that chocolate has superb anti-aging properties.  I read a short article about this while waiting for my kitty’s appointment.  If I keep drinking mochas at the same rate, I should reclaim my 29th birthday by Labor Day!  I guess I will keep feeding the chocolate monster within.  Maybe I should get back into the habit of making chocolate chip cookie dough.  I used to mix it up every few weeks, but hardly any of it made it into the oven because it would take a detour and end up in my tummy.  Then it would immediately slide down due to gravity, but for some reason the gravity would stop kicking in when the cookie dough got to my rear end.  Weird, huh?

While I had this delectable news about chocolate on my mind, the vet assistant called us in.  Prissy, my kitty, had to get her booster shots.  It’s still hard to believe I have a cat because I thought of myself as a dog-only type of person.  But my husband kept wanting a kitty, so what could I say?  She is very loving most of the time, very low-maintenance, and makes an excellent heating pad.

So when Prissy and I got called for her appointment, they weighed her in.  The last time we did this, the vet scolded me because she had plumped up to eighteen pounds.  He said he was concerned about her health at that weight, so asked me to cut back on her food.  Let me tell you, Prissy got nasty and angry.  Even worse than me when I used to believe in diets and was irritable because I felt so deprived.  She spent a lot of time hanging out by the pantry door where the cat food is kept, making noises like she was in labor of birthing sixteen kittens.  So I cut her back very gradually, a little each week.  Today we got the good news that she has lost a little over two pounds.  The vet  now wants her to lose about two more pounds, then she will be at her so-called “ideal weight.”

The advantage that Prissy has over you and me is she has no psychological hang-ups about her weight.  She doesn’t compare herself with other kitties, thinking, “Is that cat’s butt bigger or smaller than mine?”  Or, “When I turn so you can see my profile, do I look like a pregnant mongoose?”  She has no concerns about her appearance because she is preoccupied with more important things like pouncing on our dog or looking for bugs on the ceiling. I have seen no evidence that she obsesses about her waist or the appearance of any other body parts.  She doesn’t care about her size or shape, but is more concerned about keeping herself clean.  Oh, to be a kitty!

What kind of freedom would you have if you were more like Prissy?  I don’t mean having claws and a mousie toy, but  what if you could be totally without knowledge or concern about your appearance? Maybe that gives you shudders, and you picture yourself as a sloth rolling out of bed with bad breath, putting on a little pit juice (deodorant), and going about your day.  Your hair is uncombed and your clothes are wrinkled, but you don’t really care. You’re on a mission to hunt down breakfast – and the bigger, the better.

If you are like the majority of teen girls and women, you frequently compare your body with other people.  Many – not all, but many – of those you compare yourself with – have eating disorders that you can’t see.  Other times women and girls compare themselves with the pictures they see in magazines and usually get depressed because they feel they don’t measure up.  We have already discussed the statistics on this, which reveals that females feel bad about themselves the more they look at magazines.  So why torture yourself with magazine-induced depression?

 by Chelsea3883I am Beautiful, by Chelsea Panos

And so I say it again – let’s have a beauty/fashion/celebrity magazine recycling party.  Imagine this:  You get together all of your friends and their friends as well.  Each person brings all of her beauty magazines, all of her fashion magazines, and all of her celebrity magazines.  Each person adds her magazines to the pile.  A microphone is provided where anyone can talk about what the magazines have done to their hearts.  You may want to have a cake to celebrate the day that you decided to give the Body Image Power a kick in the rear-end.  Maybe you could even find a speaker to discuss all the ways you can kick the Body Image Bandit out of your life.

I rarely look at such magazines.  I really don’t need that kind of negative influence in my thinking.  I am reminded of the passage in Philippians 4:8, although it was not written with body image issues in mind, Paul attests:  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, think about such things.”

It is not healthy to stuff our feelings, as I often tell my clients.  In fact I tell them that stuffing is for turkeys and teddy bears, and they are neither one!  Neither are you.  So it is important to get your feelings out in a safe venue, perhaps with a trusted friend who is not shaming or even on paper because paper doesn’t judge.  (If you are concerned about someone finding it, no worries because you can type it and then delete it.  Believe it or not, the act of the purging your feelings is what is important.)  King David called out to God again and again, and often expressed his feelings.  Had he been born today, he would have received just about every diagnosis in the Diagnostical and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders.

Even though it is healthy to express your feelings to safe people. That is why I like to express my feelings with friends or on paper and to God, and then focus on the positive :  …”whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.”

Focusing on other peoples’ bodies and shaming ourselves for our own looks is not true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or admirable.  In fact, it is false (when we look at magazines which are photoshopped and airbrushed), shaming, wrong, and despicable.  It brings us down and is another form of “stinkin’ thinkin’” as Al-Anon and the 12-step programs say.

You will notice that Scripture does not say, “Look at the woman (or teenager) in front of you in line at the store.  Notice if her thighs, waist, bust, ankles, and/or fanny is bigger or smaller than yours.  Then mope around for the next four months because you feel fat and ugly compared to her.”  Thank goodness it doesn’t say that!  We are not supposed to compare ourselves to the world’s standards, because we are actually citizens of heaven.  That is why Scripture emphasizes, “Man looks at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16:7b).  How I wish we could saturate the hearts and minds of girls and women with this profound truth.  You probably noticed the verse says nothing about evaluating ourselves on the basis of our body fat percentage, or on the shapeliness of our figures.  What a sigh of relief.  Since we’ve seen over 250,000 ads by the age of seventeen, we may not be able to completely erase their effects from our minds and be like a kitty.  But with practice of stopping negative thinking and focusing on more pleasant thoughts, we can reclaim the plunder of the Body Image Bandit.

Exercise of Cat 03 by J i J y

Body Image and Your Scale: Does it Own You, or Do You Own It?

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Scary Scale [ Explored:) ] by Chelsea3883

Photo by Chelsea Panos

How much power have you given your scale?

Many people let the numbers dictate whether they have a good day or bad day.  They feel like it owns them, and they give it a lot of power in their lives.

Over the past several years counseling women, I’ve encountered many who give their scales that much power.   Other women have sadly expressed their mothers did this, and it had a profound effect on their growing up years. 

If their mothers weighed in at a lower number, they displayed more of a fun, upbeat side.  But if the cloud of weight gain (even a pound or two) hung in the air, the house felt tense and their moms acted depressed.

Eating disorder programs often recommend that patients get rid of their scales.  Specialists in the field realize that many of their clients have an obsession with weighing themselves, often stepping on their scale many times each day.

Experts believe people can tell whether they are gaining or losing weight by the way their clothes fit.  Besides, weight varies throughout the day, week, and month anyway.

How long will you continue to let your scale cause you to have bad days, weeks, and months?  Can you honestly say that you never let the number on the scale  – the magic number– influence how you treat people?

You may want to discuss this with safe people whom you trust to give you honest feedback.

If you don’t have the courage to put your scale away long-term, consider a therapeutic separation. That means taking a break, putting it on a cruise to Tahiti or the attic for a while.

My hope and prayer is that you re-think your relationship with your scale and begin asking the tough question:  Do you own it, or does it own you?

TRY THIS:  Write a letter to your scale.  Tell it how you’ve given it too much power in your life (i.e. letting it dictate on many days whether you have a good day or a bad day).  Describe in detail how you are tired of the feeling that it owns you.  You may even want to give it a name, and suggest that it go away for a period of time.

© Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere and Fannies:  Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit, 2007 – 2047. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Body Image and Magazines:

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Sleek, skinny models staring at you on the pages of beauty and fashion magazines can play a starring role in how you feel about your body.  True or false?  Body image, magazines, and depression are somehow intertwined.  True or false?  You can improve your feelings about your body by limiting the time spent looking at beauty and fashion magazines.  True or false?

I’ve just pored over some of the scholarly research on this subject, and many researchers’ findings are that:

  • The American “ideal body type” for a woman has decreased significantly in weight since the 1940’s, with a drastic decrease after 1979.

Marilyn Monroe

                              TwiggyTwiggy

  • The measurements of the “ideal body type” have become much more straight.  A flatter bust and larger waist is much more prevalent than it was decades ago, with the most drastic shift after 1979.
  • We are flooded with these images.  Most Americans will see over 250,000 ads depicting the “ideal body type” by the age of seventeen.
  • Most researchers see a profound relationship between the degree of dissatisfaction with one’s body and the amount of time spent looking at beauty and fashion magazines.  However, some researchers don’t see a difference unless the person had a negative body image to begin with.

In the studies I read, I saw a variable which may have a significant impact but which was not measured.  I think it confounds the results.  That is, we are unable to measure the saturation with such media before the experiments.  So the researchers are assuming that it all would level out.  Obviously this type of research would be exceptionally difficult to conduct.

Some studies suggest that after women look at beauty and fashion magazines for ten minutes, they feel somewhat depressed.  Saturating ourselves with ultra-thin model images takes a toll on how we feel about ourselves.  Or do you disagree?

Body Image: Starring The Lips

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Some people are born with full, beautiful lips.  But not Rebecca.

She always had thin little lipettes until today.  They used to just sit on her face, but now they had their own reality show.

Every so often I had to force my eyes up to meet hers, as mine kept getting hung up on the big shiny blobs sitting where her lips used to reside.  They looked swollen and took up about a third of her face.  Two pink slugs trying to talk.


Cotton candy colored sparkly lip gloss gave The Lips a larger-than-life look.  I noticed people shielding their eyes from the glare.  Bubble-gum pink lip liner gave The Lips a multi-dimensional reality.   Apparently she had slapped on a jar of Vaseline to finish off the look.  I could not believe that she could talk with all the gunk on her lips.  It was a miracle.  I half expected The Lips to get stuck together, and then I would have to call 911.  I slipped into a daydream…
*          *          *         *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *
“Emergency Services.  How can I help you?”
Breathing heavily, I gasped for air.  “It’s my friend Rebecca,” I sputtered.
“What’s the problem, ma’am?”
“It’s her lips.”  There.  I managed to get it out.
“Her lips?”
“Yes, that’s right.  Her lips are stuck together, and …”
“Did she accidentally swallow Elmer’s glue?  That happens to a lot of first graders.”
“No, I think she wanted to have voluminous, movie-star lips, and had a lip job, then piled on truckloads of lip gloss, lip liner, and Vaseline to get the fullest look possible.  And now she can’t pry her lips apart.”
“Okay, this is obviously a prank call, and I’m gonna have to report you.”  Click.

“Cherrie, hello, are you listening?”  Rebecca rolled her eyes at me. “For a minute it looked like you were off in your own little world.”

Oops.  I guess I was off in my own head for a few minutes, thinking about the lengths we go to transform ourselves into our culture’s standard of beauty.  I was born with full lips, but I suppose if I could buy a pair of longer legs, I would consider it.🙂

Nowadays I have more positive feelings about my body.  Since I came down with ankylosing spondylitis and later lupus, I’ve learned to appreciate my body for its amazing ability to do what God designed to do.  Although I was an athlete and treated my body pretty well, I was shocked to develop such auto-immune disorders.  My focus is now much more about, “I’m so thankful I can walk and breathe with no pain,” than “Does my butt look big in these jeans?”I remember days when I couldn’t do those things without crying in pain, and there was a whole month that I couldn’t walk at all.  To use the restroom, I had to roll off the couch and crawl on my knees down the hall.  So nowadays I try to focus more on the good and less on the body parts I would have liked to trade in for a newer model. But over all, I am filled with gratitude that my body has the capability of moving in such amazing ways.  I try to stay out of Negative-ville in my head.  After all, it’s a jungle in there!

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9  (Philippians 4:8-9)

This is me kayaking on Lake Perryagin in Winthrop, WA.  Kayaking and chocolate are my drugs of choice!

(NOTE:  Rebecca is not her real name. )

Body Image and Skinny Jeans

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Last week I saw a woman in her late eighties wearing skinny jeans. But she didn’t look like the picture.

She had a bad case of lumpy, bumpy, muffin top-itis.  Oh Lord, stop me if I try to wear something like that when I’m in my 80s. But later I changed my mind. Good for her. She’s not all caught up in the drama of, ‘Do these jeans make my butt look big?’

This woman felt comfortable in her own skin. She wasn’t obsessed with her body and appearance.  On the other hand, I’ve heard stories of women who continued to obsess about their appearances until they died in their nineties.  They never lost their  food-fat-fanny mentality. Their self-talk consisted of such questions as:

Do these jeans make my tooshie look big?

Can I eat a cupcake, or will it land on my thighs?

Is the woman in front of me at Safeway fatter or thinner than me?

Obviously I don’t know if this lady suffered from dementia or poverty, which may have contributed to her wearing skinny jeans.  I didn’t get that impression, but who knows?  I hope that she was of sound mind, and that she thought:

I like these jeans.

I want to buy some ice cream.

I can enjoy food, enjoy life, and think about other things instead of obsessing about  food, fat, and my tooshie.

Driving a few blocks further, I celebrated the old woman who had the courage to live boldly. You go, girl!  Good for you for being free to wear what you like.  But oh Lord, please let me like looser clothes and not skinny jeans when I’m old!

Body Image and Sexual Abuse

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When did you first start substituting food for love?” I asked my client. (Note: names and
identifying information have been changed to protect confidentiality.)

“I don’t really know,” she answered as she reached for the Kleenex box. “I remember in high school when I’d lost a lot of weight, and this really popular guy gave me the eye, if you know what I mean.”

My nod encouraged her to continue. “What did you do right after he gave you the eye?” I asked, knowing what was probably coming.

“I went right home and raided the refrigerator.”

  
You’re terrified of your own beauty? “ I asked, although it was spoken softly and sounded more like a statement than a question.

“I guess so. His look made me realize at that second that if I didn’t put a layer of protection around myself—actually a layer of
fat—then I would probably be abused again, or turning back into my old promiscuous self, which is even worse. So yeah, I guess you’re right. I’m terrified of my own beauty.”

  
I encouraged her to continue therapy to get to the roots of the issues, which often display themselves through many secondary symptoms, including:

  • Depression
  • Eating
    disorders (including obesity, anorexia, and bulimia)
  • Other
    addictions
  • Promiscuity
    or lack of sexual intimacy
  • Difficulties
    in relationships

When did you first start to gain a lot of weight?” is a
crucial question.
Something happened to the person at that time in her life. It may have been the divorce
of her parents, sexual abuse, or another extremely painful situation. Until the pain is dealt with, the food addiction will probably not improve. 

Body image issues like bingeing are much more about our hearts and our stories than food and fat. 

  
The great news is that help is available! Professional counseling and sexual abuse groups, where you work through the pain, is the
road to change.

This client has now lost over 40 pounds, and is becoming increasingly comfortable with her beauty.

Does this mean that every woman who is significantly overweight was sexually abused? Of course not. However, many who have struggled with weight issues did experience major trauma in their lives. Usually they will continue to struggle with the weight until they work on the roots of their issues. Obviously our culture’s shift from an active to sedentary, computer-centered lifestyle plays a role.  So does the fact that we have more fatty, sugary foods available than ever before.  But if the major traumas of life aren’t dealt with, the person trying to lose weight will continually go up and down on the scale and probably have a poor body image.  Research shows that mostdieters lose weight, then eventually gain more than they lost in the firstplace.  (I’ve written many posts on this
throughout this blog.)

Being overweight is usually a symptom of underlying issues, and more than likely the weight loss won’t stick
until these issues are dealt with. To work on the weight alone is somewhat like chopping off the top of a weed in your garden. The root will be hidden for a while, but sooner or later the weed will reappear.  Thankfully, the Lord has provided us with many different resources – including counselors –  to work on the heart of our issues so we can be set free from food addiction.  It’s
not easy, but with his help we can become the people we were meant to be.

  

Body Image and LeAnn Rimes: Worshiping the Art of Skinniness

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Does LeAnn Rimes have an eating disorder?  A few days ago, she posted a picture of herself in a bikini on Twitter.  This started a tsunami of tweets about whether or not LeAnn has an eating disorder, including one saying “@leannrimes “Whoa, you’re scary skinny! Sorry don’t mean to offend but that’s a lot of bones showing through skin…”

LeAnn replied “@AJPaterson1987 those are called abs not bones love.” Later, in an airport, she tweeted this:  “Boston Dog’s sliders and French fries in the Cabo airport are so good! Anyone coming here try them!!!”  LeAnn has tweeted previously on the subject
of her body.

While it is not my place to comment on LeAnn’s situation, I think our culture is deranged in that it worships the art of skinniness.  When a culture believes, “the skinnier the better,” to the point that many models look like concentration camp survivors, we certainly have tragedy on a monumental scale.  By the age of seventeen, Americans have been exposed to 250,000 ads featuring pencil thin models.  It’s no wonder we are ultra-obsessed with body image. Most of the models in the media are anorexically thin, and most are unable to menstruate due to exceptionally low levels of body fat.  That speaks volumes.  Barbie, the most popular doll in America, would have diarrhea 24/7 if she were real because her waistline is so incredibly tiny.  Is this what we want to portray to our girls?  Check out my goodbye letter to Barbie for more information:
https://cherriemac.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/bye-bye-barbie-body-image-and-barbie-dolls/

We live in a culture which screams, “To be thin is to be beautiful, and beauty is almost everything.” Sadly, the message sinks deeply into our souls until it chases people into a sea of despair.  We grab onto what appear to be life rafts, but are sharks in disguise.  This quickly lead us into the Ferocious Foursome:  Dieting, which leads to bingeing due to feeling extremely deprived.  At this point, the dieter wants to eat everything except the TV.  So the second step of the Ferocious Foursome is Bingeing, which leads to more shame and self-contempt.  After the Bingeing comes purging (for some) and then over-exercising (for some).  If the last two aren’t practiced, the lifelong dieter is stuck in the cycle of dieting, bingeing, dieting, bingeing, until they are dizzy.  Research shows that almost all diets lead to weight loss, but later on weight gain. The dieter eventually gains more weight than he or she lost to begin with!  It is exceptionally rare to lose weight and keep it off for decades.

The truth is, body image issues such as compulsive overeating, purging, bingeing, and negative thoughts about our bodies are much more about our stories and relationships than food.  People often try to work on the symptoms only, and don’t address their reasons behind food issues.  Until we address the underlying issues, we won’t fight the Body Image Bandit and win.  When did you first start to binge, purge, or have self-contempt about your body?  While the cultural current is certainly a key factor, addressing the pain in your story will help you fight back the Body Image Bandit – the Father of Lies, who tries to convince you that you are unworthy unless you’re stick thin.

So how can we avoid the Ferocious Foursome, and concentrate on what is truly important?  What if we could learn to embrace the bodies God gave us, and realize with every cell ofour beings that we are each unique masterpieces?  I hope you join me on the passionate voyage of discovering the real you and focusing more on your gifts, talents, and calling than your tooshie.  After all, “Man looks at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”

Body Image and Media: Dandelion Whine

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On my power walk today, I saw a golden clump of dandelions. I surprised myself as I noticed, for the first time, their unsurpassed beauty. Each flower looked straight up to heaven, perfectly formed and truly glorious. How could I have missed this splendor that makes my heart sing? Why have I called dandelions “weeds “my whole life?

After stopping to admire the dandelions, I thought about how their poor reputation reminds me of poor body image gnawing at the souls of women in developed countries. The rose is known for its beauty and is the gold standard for flowers. But the dandelion is considered a weed.

I wondered if the dandelion is considered a beautiful flower in some countries. I remember meeting a beautiful young woman who had recently moved from Uganda to Seattle.

She was shocked that she had been approached on three occasions for modeling work. In Uganda she was considered too thin, and often wore several layers of clothing to avoid getting teased.

She was a dandelion  a weed, in Uganda. But in America, she suddenly was elevated to rose status.

Are you a rose, a dandelion ,or a lilac? Do you have the courage to live life to its fullest, embracing the tasks God has created you to do? We are not all roses, dandelions, or lilacs. God has created too many varieties of flowers to count.

Instead of whining because you feel like a dandelion, what if you could remember your unsurpassed beauty and begin to discover your true gifts, talents, and passions? Only then can you tap into the reason you are here, and live out your true calling.

When we stop whining and begin singing, we can be content with our God-given bodies, and get on board with what he has planned for us. You are God’s creation – a masterpiece and it’s time to begin living instead of drowning in despair from a loud culture that says you are a weed if you aren’t a rose.

So turn off the whining and enter into the story for which you were created, whether you’re a rose, a dandelion, or some other glorious creation.

How to Develop a Healthy Body Image: Celebrating You, a Unique Masterpiece!

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What if you could embrace life as if you were a unique masterpiece – a beautiful piece of art, created to do specific things?  The Bible says that is exactly what you are, and your life has purpose and meaning. There is so much more to life than obsessing about your looks, wondering if your jeans make you look fat!  God didn’t create you to spend hour after hour, day after day thinking about how to make your cheekbones appear higher, your eyes look bigger, or your waist look smaller.  He has another vision for you, and he passionately desires you to get on board.

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Notice it does not say,
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to obsess about our rear ends, food, and how to get skinny.”  We were crafted for a much greater purpose. So hop off the scale, stop craning your neck to check out your tush, and get on with life!  Only then can you discover and embrace your calling.

To discover your true calling:  Ask God to reveal this to you.  Make a list of your passions, talents, gifts, and  – drum roll, please:  What breaks your heart?  It is no mistake that you were created with unique characteristics, and a story.  Continue on the voyage of exploring your gifts, talents, and story and the Lord will reveal your calling.  Because you are indeed a unique masterpiece!

Abercrombie and Body Image

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Eating breakfast yesterday, I watched The Today Show’s segment on Abercrombie’s marketing of padded,push-up swimsuit tops for seven-year-old girls.

As if the word “padded” wasn’t bad enough, I almost choked on my Cheerios when I heard the word “push-up.”

Maybe Abercrombie should change their name to SADbercrombie. A few hours later, Abercrombie removed the phrase “push-up” from their web site. 

Really, Abercrombie…do you think you can remove the phrase “push-up”, continue to sell padded swimsuit tops for children– and think it’s all good?

I’m deeply disturbed by this. 

The sexualization of children has plunged to a darker floor of the elevator of despair. Do we want to encourage children to think their value comes from looking sexy?

Our culture already teaches kids they can get more attention by looking sexy. Do we want to encourage pedophiles by dressing kids in sexy swimsuits?  Shouldn’t kids be playing and learning instead of pondering whether or not they are sexy?

I am sickened by dragging kids into the marketing carnival, all in the name of greed.
Although your marketing techniques have always disturbed me, this is over the top. You should be ashamed of yourself.

What are your thoughts?

“For the love of money is the root of many kinds of evil.” (Note:  Many times this is misquoted to “all evil.” There is a huge difference!  Sometimes people use money for good.)

I Tim. 6:10

Body Image and Barbie: Bye Bye, Barbie

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BARBIE™ A FASHION FAIRYTALE GLITTERIZER™ Wardrobe and BARBIE® Doll Playset - Shop.Mattel.com

Dear Barbie,

Today I’m officially saying goodbye.  I haven’t actually played with you in decades, but nevertheless I feel I need to write you a formal goodbye letter.  I know you’re wondering why I decided to take such a drastic measure.  I hope this letter explains my concerns. I used to love and admire you, but in the past several years I’ve realized our relationship isn’t healthy.

My main concern is that you’re completely unrealistic in your dimensions. Media Awareness Network says, “Researchers generating a computer model of a woman with Barbie-doll proportions, for example, found that her back would be too weak to support the weight of her upper body, and her body would be too narrow to contain more than half a liver and a few centimeters of bowel. A real woman built that way would suffer from chronic diarrhea and eventually die from malnutrition.” BARBIE™ IN A MERMAID TALE 2 MERLIAH™ Doll - Shop.Mattel.com

 

Barbie, I imagine you’re familiar with the problem of eating disorders in every advanced nation.  Americans, for example, see over 250,000 ads by the time they’re 17.  Most of them show ultra thin models, which tell girls and women, “To be thin is beautiful, and beauty is almost everything.”

The majority of American girls have played with Barbies fairly often , and this reinforces that thinness is next to godliness.  Yet your unrealistic body type pushes the envelope further, making girls feel less beautiful if they don’t have large chests.  This grieves my heart.  Frankly, Barbie, it makes me angry.  I know you’ve made some improvements over the years, and I’m thankful for your efforts.  For example, your wider waistline is a bit more realistic than the original.  Also I congratulate you on your addition of Barbies of color.  In fact, this architect Barbie helps girls to believe they can chase and pursue their passions.  I believe if we don’t pursue our passions, we wilt and die from the inside out.  So the architect Barbie offers them a great taste of hope.

BARBIE® I CAN BE...™ Architect Doll - Shop.Mattel.comThose are great steps in the right directions.  Even so, Barbie, you’ve had almost 52 years to get it right.  Enough is enough.

So I’m writing to say goodbye, and I’m going to encourage people to stop buying you.  I hope Mattel or another manufacturer designs and sells a doll that is similar, yet has realistic proportions.  I hope you’ll consider resigning if you continue to resist necessary changes.  I wish you the best.

Sincerely,

Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC

Barbie® Designable Hair Bundle - Shop.Mattel.com

“Man looks at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”  I Samuel 16:7

 

Body Image and the Perfect Size

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img_1771I finally began to understand that dieting becomes an undertow like the momentum of the ocean when it decides to roll out another glorious wave.  First it gets psyched up by gathering thousands of gallons of water.  Once it has collected bountiful rows of water, the wave curls upon itself and throws the water back to shore with magnificent power.

The same holds true with dieting.  You invest a great deal of time and energy into counting calories or carbohydrates and studying information about food.  On a Monday you start the diet that is going to make you “skinny” and have the perfect life.  So you pork out until you’ve almost outgrown all of your jeans because you’re a free woman or man until Monday.  Then on Monday your all-or-nothing thinking kicks into turbo mode and you have a “good” (perfect or close to perfect) dieting day.  You think you’re on your way to skinnihood, and you will have the perfect life because of your new skinny body.

But by Thursday or Friday, the cravings build up until you crave and eat everything not nailed down.  You pack your gut with all the foods you craved.  The binge is a violent experience in which you shove the food in like an abandoned dog that hasn’t eaten in a week.  You do this either alone or with one or more of your dieting buddies who have also bought into the cultural lie:  “If I am skinny, I will have the perfect life.”  Once again, you are scared that if you don’t stop this pattern, your weight will double and you will grow sad and lonely.

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And so you hop back on the diet train, but all you can think about is food and the tiny jeans you will buy.  Once again, your brain gets saturated with thoughts about food, fat, and rearends.   You go to stores, restaurants, your cupboards, and graze your way through Costco again and again until they figure out you’ve devoured all the samples and kick your rear end out.

Body Image and Dieting: Diet is a Four-Letter Word

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During my sophomore year of high school, I decided I needed to lose five to ten pounds.  Dieting was the only solution, or so I thought.  I was an athlete, so I felt the only other thing I needed to do was go on a diet.  Now that is an interesting phrase, because if you go on a diet, you imply you will eventually go off.

I mentioned to my dad that I was going on a diet, and he said it was a bad idea.  First, he didn’t think I was fat.  Secondly, he thought if I wanted to lose a few pounds I should just “cut back a little.”  I looked at him as if he had three heads.  “Dad, are you serious?!”  I asked.  I continued to educate him.  “Everyone knows that doesn’t work.”  I shook my head in disbelief, wondering how he could be so naive on such an important subject.  He certainly needed to spend more time reading Seventeen Magazine!

Mark Twain once said, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around.  But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he’d learned in seven years.”  I could certainly relate to Twain’s comment once I realized years later that my first diet had launched me onto the escalator of the Ferocious Foursome.  I don’t remember what kind of a diet I went on, but I do remember the intense cravings caused by the dieting.  So I went from the first floor of the Ferocious Foursome, dieting, to the second floor of the Ferocious Foursome, which is binging.

The cravings started a millisecond after I decided to diet. I hadn’t even began the official “diet” when the mammoth cravings began.  I decided mid-week to start the following Monday.  You know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you?  Apparently there is an unofficial eleventh commandment, “Thou shalt start dieting on Monday.”  Simply telling myself that I would begin dieting started to unleash craving monster within. Thinking I would never eat yummy foods again led to an all-out binge, which I had rarely (if ever) experienced before deciding to begin my first diet.

Even when I wasn’t bingeing, I began to eat more than my normal quantities of food.  First of all, I had no rules about eating before my diet started.   I ate what I wanted when I wanted, and since I loved to exercise, I’d never been overweight more than a few pounds.  But once I drowned myself in teen magazines promoting lookism, I began to think of myself as flawed because I was born with a muscular body type and loved sports.   It was clear that I was never meant to look like a catwalk model.  God had created me to be athletic and curvy.   Once I opened the golden door of Dieting, I realized it was actually made of plywood and covered with gold foil.  It led to another door called Bingeing, which led back to the golden tin foil door of Dieting.  Inside the drab room of nothingness called Dieting, I saw the Ferocious Foursome of Dieting, Bingeing, Overexercising, and Purging.  It was enough to make me dizzy.  Where would I turn next?

Body Image and Research: Stop Obsessing!

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How much time do women and teen girls obsess about body image?  “The average woman spends about an hour a day contemplating her size, her calorie intake, and her exercise regimen starting at the age of twelve.” (Research compiled by Courtney E. Martin for her book, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters:  How the Quest for Perfection Is Harming Young Women.)

Although I’ve worked with women for several years, an hour seemed hard to believe.   I’m sure I‘m not even close. So I’m trying to catch myself each time I think about body image, even for a millisecond.  At first I couldn’t catch myself.  But that evening I attended a meeting of about 100 people.  Many of us had pulled our chairs back about a foot to listen to the speaker more comfortably.  I caught myself comparing my thighs to the woman beside me, which surprised me.  It was very subtle but I have to admit that’s where my mind went.  Hmmm….interesting.

Right now I’m in the lobby of a restaurant waiting for a friend, who called to say she would be late. A woman walked in and I noticed myself subtly sizing up her legs.  Since I was seated next to the door, I saw each person walk in.  Another young woman arrived with a man who was about 5’2”.  It must be hard to be a short man. I hardly even noticed the woman.  Next, a pretty blonde woman walked in, and I saw her belly hanging over the top of her jeans.  As people walked toward their tables, I felt my eyes scanning their bodies from head to foot.  Another part of my brain was actively trying to decide what to eat for lunch, and whether I would indulge, deprive myself, or order something in between.

Am I unconsciously comparing myself to these people? If I was my therapist, I would take the conversation deeper to find out what this was about.  But since I live in a culture where people view 250,000 ads before the age of seventeen, I know what it’s about.  Most of the ads scream, “Beauty is almost everything, and to be thin, flawless, and young is beautiful.”  We are bombarded by a tsunami of such messages, and our natural instinct is to obsess about bodies, food, and working out (for some).  I reminded myself that thankfully, God is concerned much more about my heart than my body.  I will practice the stop sign technique from the last blog entry I wrote because it works well, and will continue to re-focus on positive thoughts.

“Man looks at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”  I Samuel 16:7

Body Image and Thoughts: Stop the Stinking Thinking!

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I had a professor who once said, “Trying to control your mind is like trying to control a room full of drunken monkeys.”  When it comes to your own body image, I bet you understand.  How often have you had negative thoughts  such as:

  • What size of clothes does that person wear?  She’s probably a size ____.
  • What have I eaten so far today?  What will I eat tomorrow?  (Obsessing about food.)
  • I hate my ______.  (Fill in the blank with waist, fanny, etc.)
  • Is that person skinnier than me?

First of all, it’s not a good idea to hang out in your head.  It’s a jungle in there!  Often it leads to envy, despair, and other types of stinkin’ thinking’, as the twelve step programs say.  But you are a unique masterpiece, created by a loving God.  He created you for other purposes besides obsessing about your fanny.  Who knew?

Try this:  The next time you have a negative body image thought, picture a huge stop sign.  Think of yelling, “STOP!”  Then ask the Lord to redirect your thinking.  If you force yourself to do this it will become a habit.  After all, you have a much greater calling than obsessing about food, fat, and your fanny.

Body Image and Diets: Rethinking Resolutions and Dieting

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Many Americans will begin another year with a resolution to lose weight.  Most will start out with a bang, but then fizzle out like New Year’s Eve fireworks.

The majority will lose weight, but only a small percentage will keep it off.  Most will gain it all back, plus more.  They will then jump again onto the merry-go-round of dieting, which always leads to the feeling of deprivation.  This usually leads to a binge, which causes shame and despair.  Then the cycle continues and the person hops back on the dieting bandwagon.

The cycle continues until they understand the truth:  Food and body image issues are much more about our hearts and stories than about calories and exercise.  Granted, a calorie is a calorie, and exercise is pivotal (unless it becomes an addiction, which happens to many people).

But food/body image issues (including eating disorders, although they are much more complex than this) are issues of the heart.

This trap of dieting, bingeing, dieting, and bingeing is a vicious cycle.  Sometimes it includes purging and/or over-exercising (which is a relatively common addiction in which people look great on the outside but feel like a 90-year-olds due to all the wear and tear on their bodies).

More recently, research has poured in showing a strong correlation between binge eating, purging, and binge drinking.  The cycle of dieting, bingeing, dieting, bingeing repeatedly is hard on the body, mind, and soul.  And considering that less than 1% of the people who lose weight will keep it off, why not deal with the roots of the problem?

If you are a professional dieter, you probably know so much about dieting you could write a book on it.  But the problem is you have missed the major piece of the puzzle.  I know I’ve already said it, but I want to shout it from the Space Needle:F

Food, weight, and body image issues are much more about our hearts and our stories than about calories, carbs, and exercise.  If you continue to concentrate on the symptoms instead of the causes, it is like putting gas in a car that has a hole in the gas tank.  You will be successful, but only for a while.  This blog (and book, which is almost complete) addresses the underlying issues so that you will have a greater chance of beating the Body Image Bandit. 

Make this the year to address the underlying issues so that you can become the person you were meant to be.

My hope and prayer is that you continue on the journey of changing your heart, working on the causes of your food issues instead

Body Image and Living Large, No Matter What your Size

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Last night a friend and I attended a church dessert musical.  The affair had an elegant feel with candlelight, a coffee bar, and high quality music blended with a humorous script.  The show highlighted different types of music from classical to rock, beat boxing and rap.

What especially touched my heart – besides the chocolate/raspberry dessert and excellent music – was one girl’s lively spirited performance.  She sang and danced in a team with ten to twelve other teenaged girls.  This girl had the courage to perform in front of over 2,000 people over a period of four days.  Why did she have such an impact on me?  Because she is a plus-sized girl, possibly size 18-20 or so.  Despite her not fitting our culture’s sick calling to be thin if you perform, she got up and sang and danced passionately.  Not only that – but she looked as though she enjoyed herself just as much as the others.  She definitely was not waiting for her skinny ship to come in before giving herself permission to enjoy life.

Why did this strike me so deeply?  Because many people are waiting until they are “skinny” (oh, how I hate that overused word!) to embrace life.  In my counseling practice, I’ve met many people who are waiting until their “skinny ship” comes in before they sing, dance, play, buy cute clothes, etc.  They wait and wait, dreaming of all the possibilities when their skinny ships come in.  During the counseling journey they realize that life is too short to wait for their skinny ship to come in to enjoy life.  So they begin to live the life they would if they lost weight.  The irony is that often, during the counseling process, they lose the weight anyway because the weight was never about food as much as it was about their hearts and their stories.

How long will you wait to enjoy life, to embrace it as if it were your last day on earth?  Or will you continue to wait until your skinny ship comes in?  Who would you be if you tapped into your God-given talents, gifts and personality traits – regardless of your size?

 “Man looks at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

Body Image and The Biggest Loser: Meet a Two Decade Loser!

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“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times,” Mark Twain said. And I know this applies to weight loss. How many people have lost pounds upon pounds of weight only to gain it all back again? Usually they gain back even more. Many of them are career dieters who continue dieting again and again, always expecting different results. But research shows that almost never happens.

Most “dieters” are not dealing with the underlying current. That is, the reasons they became addicted to food in the first place. Most weight loss programs are focused only on the symptoms, and so they will not work over the long haul. So show me something different. Rather, show me someone different – someone who has lost the weight and kept it off for almost two decades. Show me Michael Prager, author of Fat Boy, Thin Man. Prager describes his food addiction, his love affair with food, and his profound and real recovery for almost twenty years.

Now that is certainly a story worth reading – almost twenty years of success. That is worthy of sharing because it gives true hope rather than false hope. That is certainly a future filled not with malt balls and cookie dough and a mountain of chips, but of pure, real, true 100% hope. That is a beautiful, glorious story and one to shout about from the top of the Space Needle to the Statue of Liberty.

I am in the process of reading Michael’s book, and am looking forward to crossing the life-changing finish line. If you or anyone you know struggles with obesity or emotional eating, Michael’s book is certainly worth a million times its weight in gold. So turn off “The Biggest Loser”, kick up your feet and delight yourself in a true story of success in the arena of long-term weight loss. Although I am not finished with the book yet, I know it will help anyone who struggles with binge eating disorder, compulsive overeating, and/or food addiction. Check out Michael’s book and blog at http://www.fatboythinman.com. It click could be the click that changed your life.

Body Image and Addiction: Is Food Addiction Real?

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“Hey Cherrie, I just want you to know that you can’t use a picture of my tooshie for your book cover!”  my new friend, Sheila, said.  Waiting for our speaker at our writer’s group meeting to begin his message, we chatted about our writing goals.  The name of the book I am writing is, “Fannies:  Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit.”  Sheila’s comment gave me the giggles because it reflected the title so well.

She knows that I am a licensed mental health counselor and am writing a body image book which is a collage of humor, story, narration, research, and faith.  I asked her about her writing goals, and she said she discussed a few ideas, including a contemporary novel centered around an alcoholic woman and her daughter, and their journey of healing .

This led us our conversation through the dark doorway of alcoholism and other addictions.  I grabbed an unused napkin and drew a diagram representing the heart of an addiction – any addiction.  (Don’t tell me you thought I was going to say I wrote on the napkin I used to wipe the dark chocolate mini bar crumbs off my mouth!)  I drew a large circle in the middle, with the capital letter “T” inside.  Then I drew another circle surrounding the large circle so that it looked like a donut with an extra-large center.

I asked Sheila if she knew what the heart of an addiction was, and said she knew a little but wanted to know more.   The capital “T”, I said, is for trauma, and trauma is the center of addiction.  Usually it is a major event such as abuse, a significant loss, death, or divorce.  The abuse can be physical, emotional, or sexual.  Moving and/or other difficult circumstances can be considered trauma as well.  But that is not an exhaustive list.  Many very difficult experiences can be considered trauma.  We use a capital “T” because this represents a major trauma.  However, a significant number of smaller traumas (or small “t”s) can certainly add up to create the same effect.

The ring around the heart represents different types of recovery work, including 12-step programs, which are usually amazingly helpful to addicts.  However, if the roots of the addiction are not dealt with, most likely the person will relapse. I other words, if the effects of the trauma are not significantly healed, the person will be at a great risk of relapsing.

(Of course there is no guarantee that the person will not relapse because recovery – and life – is a one day at a time journey.  But if the person works on his or her trauma which contributed to the addiction, the probability of relapsing will be considerably lower.) Also, genetics plays a starring role in addictions, and more recent research suggests that brains can be hardwired for addictions can involve any type of addiction.  Check out the book, “Under the Influence” to understand more about the stages of addiction (for alcoholism).

My grandma taught me the best way to deal with weeds is to go out after a rain (which is about 360 days of the year in the Seattle area!) and work diligently to gently pull the roots out.  She stressed that each root must be extracted, or the weeds would come back.  Grandma was right, and the same principle applies to addictions – including food addictions.

Clients often come in and say that they had happy lives, for the most part.  Yet as we dig deeper and deeper and carefully look at the year they started to gain weight, we can see that life was not exactly a trip to Disneyland.  Sometimes they moved that year and left all of their friends.  If you have gained a significant amount of weight, make a timeline and try to figure out what was going on in your life when you started to gain weight.  You may think nothing happened that caused you pain.  But continue to think and pray about what happened, and over time and with a trained counselor you can see what some of the roots of your food addiction are.  After all, the truth will set you free.  This is not about being a victim, but about getting all the pieces of the puzzle so that you can work on the pain in your heart that causes you to turn to food as your drug of choice.

Is it any wonder, after pondering the heart of an addiction, why diets almost never work?  You may lose weight for a period of time, but over several months or years you will gain it back until you deal with the heart of your addiction.

How long will you continue to treat the symptoms only and not the heart of your addiction?  Today is a new day, and it is probably time that you dealt with the roots of your food (or other) addiction instead of dancing around the symptoms.  After all, you’re worth it!

Body Image, Perimenopause and Menopause

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Recently I entered the unknown realm of what the experts call perimenopause.  Peri, according to the Encarta dictionary, means “a graceful and beautiful girl or woman.”  Let me tell you, sister, this is quite the opposite of what this time in my life looks and feels like.  My hormones are absolutely whacko, and my doctor had some serious work on her hands to get me back in line.  For the first time in my life, I could not fall asleep well.   And once I counted the darn little sheep, they crept back over the fence and I woke up in the wee hours of the morning.

If that was not enough, my skin started to break out again.  That hasn’t happened since I was a teenager.  I had a zit farm on my face that I could have entered in the county fair.  My hormones were freaking out all over the place.   All I can say is please pray for my poor husband!  He has to put up with me and I’m sure it’s not exactly a trip to Disneyland since I’ve hit this bump in the road of life.

Some friends who have already travelled this road tell me that soon I will gain weight, and it only gets worse.  I have been eating a strict diet of humble pie the past seven months or so.  Recently I started quilting, and just bought what the fabric store calls, “fat quarters.”  What the heck?  Is that some sort of a cruel joke, or what?  Why does the fabric store have to get involved in my personal life and my body image issues?

Okay, so I decided not to take it personally.  But fortunately they have stocked the shelves by the cash register with loads of chocolate.  Ever since my doctor told me that dark chocolate is good for me (she did say small amounts, but what does she know?), I have embraced living life with more chocolate.  What the heck?  It looks like I’m gonna end up with more fat quarters anyway.  If I can’t beat them, I might as well be one.  Right?

As far as I can tell, after researching perimenopause, the following are common symptoms:  (Obviously I am not a physician and you should consult with a naturopath and/or physician if you are having these issues.)

  • Night sweats as well as day sweats.  You will sweat like a Hawaiian kalua pig over a fire pit.  (I lived on Maui for a few years, and attended lots of luaus with kalua pigs.  Check out my entry about living on Maui in my post called, “My Body Image Story, Part I.”
  • Ugly skin break-outs, which I think are caused by the sweating from the lovely hot flashes
  • Weight gain, which often ends up around your thighs and waist (Oh joy, oh joy!)
  • Moodiness
  • Anxiety and/or depression, which became an issue for me due to my hormonal imbalance and not getting enough sleep
  • Sleeping problems
  • Irritability
  • Dry skin and/or hair loss

Holy moly!  There are others too, but I have hit on the major ones.  As I ponder this, I am wondering why God designed us to go through this.  It is one of those situations in which I would much rather watch the DVD than experience the symptoms myself.  But the last time I checked, God is in control and not me.   Not that I don’t have choices or play a role, because I do.  The basic good habits of eating well, cutting out caffeine, sugar, and alcohol if you drink, can help a great deal.  Also regular exercise helps significantly, as well as taking a high-quality multi-vitamin.  Thankfully today we have naturopaths and physicians who are well versed in this area.

For me, entering into perimenopause has been a humbling experience.  I know that God hates pride, and that Satan is a fallen angel who fell because he wanted to be like God.  He originally was a beautiful, good looking stud of an angel, but wanted to be even better.  Going through perimenopause is humbling and pulls away pride.  I have noticed that perimenopause involves eating truckloads of humble pie because of the weight gain and the skin breakouts, particularly.  My dependence on the Lord has increased as I realize that I need help in dealing with the symptoms.  Thankfully, my physician and naturopath have experience in treating perimenopause issues, and I also play a role in my story as I choose how well I want to take care of myself.  Sometimes loving my neighbor as myself involves the assumption that I will choose to take care of myself and to look at my own needs and choose to love myself well.  So buckle up, put on your seatbelt, grab some dark chocolate, and get ready for the ride of perimenopause.

Body Image and Children: Five and Feeling Fat in a Normal Body

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“Mommy, do these jeans make my butt look big?” my friend’s daughter asked her.  After assuring her five year old that she was exactly the way God wanted her to be, Sandy (not her real name) called to tell me.  She knows I’m writing a book on body image, and thought I would be very interested in the comment although it certainly created a wave of guilt and confusion in Sandy’s heart.

“Where on earth did Cassandra (not her real name) get this kind of thinking?  I’ve tried so hard not to verbally bash my body in front of her, and I try to praise her on what she does instead of what she looks like.  What on earth is going on?”  I could tell Sandra strained to hold back a floodgate of tears.

After letting Sandy vent, we talked about the fallout of living in a culture in which we see over 250,000 ads before the age of 17.  The ads, for the most part, scream out to women, “To be thin is to be beautiful, and beauty is almost everything.”  That lie infiltrates our thinking and invades our souls to the point that we feel that a great deal of our value comes from how thin we are.  Due to this environment, women often talk about the triad of subjects that can easily lead to self-contempt.  Those are food, fat, and fannies.  Women are easily swept into the whirlpool of stinking thinking about their bodies.  If we are not careful, we can get pulled into the undercurrent of negativity.  Comparing ourselves with mannequins who appear to have such a low percentage of body fat that they would not menstruate if they were real people is certainly stinking thinking.

What would happen if women supported each other in stamping out stinking thinking concerning body image?  No more complaints about our fannies and other unassorted body parts.  No more talking about diets and fat and saggy, baggy eyes and breasts that hang to your knees.  No more stinking thinking, period!  (For more on this subject, check out my blog entitled, “7 Ways to Protect Your Daughter or Son from Eating Disorders.”Let us focus on the positive, and lightly sprinkle our conversations with a focus on health rather than obsessing about our various body parts that gravity is gobbling up.  After all, God knows our hearts and tells us to focus on the positive (Philippians 4:8).  So let us focus on using our gifts, talents and stories to help create beauty in the world instead of focusing on our so-called body imperfections. Be thankful you can walk and move and breathe without pain. I know what it’s like not to be able to do those things, even though I used to run six miles a day and swam competitively for years. (See “My Story “at the top.) The greatest beauty lies in giving thanks for what you have instead of focusing on our society’s insatiable hunger for the so-called perfect body. After all, the perfect body is the one God gave you.~

Want more? Read my book, Tooshie: Defeating the Body Image Bandit.

 

 

Body Image and Eating Disorders: My friend says she doesn’t have an eating disorder, but I think she does

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A few mornings ago it happened again.  While staring at the TV in my “I desperately need more coffee” stupor, another ultra thin, bony movie star denied that she has an eating disorder.  I almost flipped channels on her because I am very tired of all the denial in Eatingdisorderville.  I don’t keep up on celebrity tidbits, but my morning wake-up show interviewed this woman.

This is not an uncommon denial.  I know several people who deny that their thinness is the result of an eating disorder.  Yet I sense they are extremely uncomfortable around food and are hyper-critical of their bodies.  On the other hand, I have a beautiful friend in her fifties who is thin yet does not have an eating disorder.  People have been quick to accuse her, yet I have been with her on several long trips and could not help but notice her relationship with food.  She definitely does not have an eating disorder.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t sit around and observe what people are eating and not eating.  Yet at the same time, due to my training and experience, I have noticed how many thin women meet the criteria for anorexia yet deny having an eating disorder.

From Behavenet:

“Early signs may include withdrawal from family and friends, increased sensitivity to criticism, sudden increased interest in physical activity, anxiety or depressive symptoms.

  1. Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height (e.g., weight loss leading to maintenance of body weight less than 85% of that expected; or failure to make expected weight gain during period of growth, leading to body weight less than 85% of that expected).
  2. Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight.
  3. Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.
  4. In postmenarcheal females, amenorrhea, i.e., the absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles. (A woman is considered to have amenorrhea if her periods occur only following hormone, e.g., estrogen, administration.)

Specify if:

  • Restricting Type: during the current episode of Anorexia Nervosa, the person has not regularly engaged in binge-eating or purging behavior (i.e., self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas)
  • Binge-Eating/Purging Type: during the current episode of Anorexia Nervosa, the person has regularly engaged in binge-eating or purging behavior (i.e., self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas)”

If you think a friend or relative may have an eating disorder and is denying it, research the subject carefully and proceed with love.  In my experience, the majority of women who are excessively thin do have eating disorders.  Obviously this is a tough call because sometimes it is difficult to know.  Yet if you sense an extreme fear of fat, and/or a magnified fear of food, you may be on to something.  At that point, it is best to educate yourself and to proceed carefully in loving her and calling her (or him) to glory.  Normally the first place to start is to learn all you can about the eating disorder.  And then tread lightly, remembering that to engage her in a power struggle about her denial is generally not a good idea.  Sometimes interventions work well, but before you proceed, study the subject from good sources.  I recommend www.aplaceofhope.com.  Then you can begin the process of calling your friend or relative to glory.  After all, that’s what friends and family are for.   Because if you don’t, she may end up robbing herself in terms of life expectancy.  The prognosis for untreated eating disorders are dark, yet  the glimmer of hope abounds with experienced eating disorder specialists.

Statistics:

  • 5-10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease and 18-20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years.
  • Anorexia nervosa has the highest death rate of any psychiatric illness (including major depression).
  • The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15-24 years old.
  • Without treatment, up to 20% of people with serious eating disorders die. With treatment, the mortality rate falls to 2-3%

Body Image: Abuse, Drinking, and Eating Disorders

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As we discussed in the last blog entry, eating disorders, abuse, and drinking are often three sides of a dangerous triangle.  Candy’s story described the entanglement of these three issues.  Often an overly critical comment about a woman’s body propels her into a deeper layer of self-contempt.  Sometimes such comments stir the soul to the point that the woman vows to do whatever it takes to – drum roll, please – get skinny.

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Sadly, “getting skinny” is considered a magical cure in our culture.  “If only I was skinny, my life would be perfect,” is a common misconception.    (See my blog entries on Magical Thinking.) And so begins the woman’s road to supposed happiness, which turns out to be hollow and filled with pain.

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She uses whatever is available to help her achieve a desired numbness so she doesn’t have to feel the pain.   Alcohol, food, drugs, and a controlling/abusive male usually play starring roles in the drama.

Often a man who criticize women’s bodies are abusive.  He is controlling, which is almost always a precursor to abuse.  Most women are unaware of the warning signs of dangerous relationships, so here is a list of red flags to look for:

An abusive past, including a parent
that was physically abusive. Never fool
yourself into thinking he escaped the
scars of abuse, or that you can change
him.
• Harm of animals: Often abusers
harmed animals before abusing
other people
A whirlwind romance, leading to
cohabitation or marriage in a
relatively short period
Jealousy or possessiveness: the
abuser is jealous of time you
spend away from him
Blame: he says everything, or
most everything, is your fault, and
sometimes even suggests that
you are crazy
Cutting you down: He often
makes derogatory remarks about
you, sometimes in jest
Isolation: He tries to isolate you
from others, usually so gradually
that you don’t notice it at first.
This may include denying your
access to transportation, moving,
or getting upset when you talk to
friends and family
Control: He gradually takes control
of different facets of your life,
including how money is spent,
how time is spent, etc.
Pushing, shoving, slapping, or
restraining are usually the precursors
to other forms of abuse.

It’s easy to fake you’re Mr. or Ms.
Wonderful for a few weeks or months, or
even a year. But most people can’t keep up the lie
for two years. This is why it is important
to get to know the guy (or gal) well. When things
seem too good to be true, they probably are.

He always uses the same three-step pattern:

Tension (where something gets on his nerves),

Blowup (where he gets angry and lashes out verbally and/or physically

Apology “I’m sorry.  I will never do that again.”

(Of course that is a lie because it will continue to get worse if you don’t seek help.)

If you are involved in a controlling and/or abusive relationship, call 911 if you feel you are in immediate danger.  Contact a local counselor in your area to get professional help.

US National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-7233

 

Bulimia, Abuse, and Drinking: One Woman’s Story

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When my friend Candy and I went on a hike, she told me that she had struggled with bulimia from her late teens until her early thirties.  Now in her early fifties, I invited her to share her story.

She graciously told me she would be honored to share the story if it would help other people.  Knowing that many readers have been enticed by the beast of bulimia, I assured Candy that others would gain courage and strength from her story.  And most importantly, they would begin to understand that when darkness and despair envelop them, hope still prevails.

“I totally get why another name for Satan is the Father of Lies.  Bulimia is the perfect example of this,”Candy said, as we hiked among the cedar trees and ferns.  ” After getting brainwashed by the media, you literally can’t think straight.  The lies saying you are not beautiful unless you are concentration camp thin invade every cell of your body.  And your brain gets re-programmed to think that your value comes from your packaging.”  I nodded in agreement as we stopped and listened to the sweet songs of birds.

“So the lie of bulimia, on the surface, seems like the perfect promise of satisfying your appetite while not paying the price for the calories.  A win-win situation. But actually purging only gets rid of about half the calories anyway, which many people don’t realize.  And once the cycle gets started, the bondage of bulimia casts a dark shadow over your life.  I used to think it was the magic cure, the great equalizer in the sense of calories.”  She took a deep breath as we gained elevation.

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As we walked up the path, Candy told me about her background.  “My parents argued a lot.  They had a lot of fights – not physically, but my brother and I huddled together when they yelled.”  When Candy’s life felt out of control due to the yelling, she felt extremely out of control.

People often deny this and say it wasn’t a big deal because other people hadit much worse.  While that may be true, it is minimizing the problem and helps to deny the depth of situation.  Living in a toxic environment is much more harmful than most people realize.”  I nodded my head in agreement.  It changes brain chemistry and causes damage to our immune systems.  And just as weighty is the fact that it teaches us yelling and screaming is ‘normal’ and that is what relationships are like.

Then she started to explain her first romantic relationship.  “It was never a good relationship,” she continued.  “I just didn’t have any good role models for relationships.”  Due to the rockiness of her parents’ relationship, her own dating relationships were rocky.  That’ss what she knew.  Candy started dating Brad in her later high school years, and eventually they married and moved to Germany because he was in the Air Force.  They moved to a remote village so Candy felt isolated. She and Brad began to drink a lot each evening.  (We now know that bulimia and heavy drinking, including pre-alcoholism and alcoholism, often go together.)  He picked on her and called her fat even though she was only a size 6.  He controlled her  and often told her not to laugh or behave in certain ways.  All this negativity squelched her and made her go deeper inside herself.

Candy started to gain some weight because she felt bored,depressed and isolated.  She often cried herself to sleep at night.  Although she was still a size 6, Brad said, “I will not tolerate an obese woman.”  He also often said, “Boy, you eat a lot.”  At some point, she started to throw up because she felt ashamed of what she had eaten.  She had a history of self-abuse, and looks at her bulimia, in some ways, as an extension of the abuse.   “All I could think about sometimes was throwing up, and threw up 3-4 times per day.”  The bulimia took over her thinking, and she was caught in a vortex of shame due to the bingeing and the purging.  A squirrel crossed our path as she continued.

You are a masterpiece

Brad’s control of Candy is very common to abusive relationships. (For more information on the warning signs of dangerous relationships, click here.  http://www.notjustsymptoms.com/clientimages/45365/newsletter%202_warning%20signs%20of%20dangerous%20relationships.html

Eventually she gave birth, and while Candy nursed little Connie, Brad tried to turn the mattress over on her.  Another time he said something about going to get a gun, and that’s when she left.  She came back home, and prayed a lot about her situation.  Candy learned about abuse and bulimia and learned how to deal with her feelings.  My bulimia was as much about purging feelings as purging food. “I can understand why you feel like that,”  I said.  “After all, stuffing is for turkeys

 and teddy bears – not for feelings.”

“Feelings have to be expressed in healthy ways.  If not, they stay inside us and lead to self-medication including workaholism, drug abuse, alcoholism, food addiction, or something else.”  We stopped to admire the glorious view of Mount Rainier.

It wasn’t easy, but Candy was able to crawl out of the black hole of bulimia.  She wishes she would have received professional help back then, and that she would advise anyone who struggles with bulimia to get good help.  God created us to be in community, and when we live lone ranger lives, we rob ourselves.  Candy is eternally grateful that God helped her out of Bulimiaville.  Every once in a while she still gets an urge to purge, but she doesn’t follow through on it because she figures out what is really eating at her.

Decades later, Candy is happily married to a kind man.  No, life isn’t perfect because there will always be struggles this side of heaven.  Her three kids are doing well and one will graduate from college this year.  Tears welled up in her eyes as she remembered the contrast of her old life and her new life.  Several years ago, she asked Jesus to take control of her life.  She told some people about her secret life of struggling with bulimia, and gradually she was released from its power.  Even so, Candy strongly encourages others suffering from bulimia to seek professional help. “The 12-step programs such as Overeaters Anonymous are great, too,”  she said.

I asked Candy if there is anything else she would like to say to other people who are struggling with bulimia.  She said, “Yes.  There is help!  Get professional help.  You don’t have to be this way forever.”  Well said, Candy.IMG_1221-0

Body Image: How to Develop a Healthy Body Image

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By now, if you have been following this blog for long, you understand that issues with food, weight, and body image are much more about your heart and your story than food and weight.  Let me say it again:  It is NOT about food!  It is about your heart and your story.  Until you work on these underlying issues, you will not fight the Body Image Bandit and win.  Geneen Roth, writer and body image specialist, recently addressed this on Oprah.  One of the women interviewed had been 100 pounds overweight.  But in working through her story, she realized the weight gain coincided with the divorce of her parents.  She had been dieting on and off for years, but until she addressed that pain in her heart and her story, she could not keep the weight off.  This did not surprise me at all because issues with food and body image are much more of a symptom than people realize.  If you treat the symptom only, it is like covering up an infected wound with a bandage.

What would it look like for you to finally work on the roots of your issues instead of treating your symptoms only?  And how can you re-learn a healthy relationship with food?  Since we have seen over 250,000 ads by the age of seventeen, and we are constantly bombarded with ads about delectable foods as well, our relationships with food are entangled in a web of confusion.  On the one hand, the images re-program our brains to think, “To be thin is beautiful, and beauty is almost everything.”  Of course we know deep down that our worth is in our hearts, but the media drowns us in toxic messages so we get confused.  At the same time, the media floods us with juicy, delectable images and messages about foods that are dripping with taste.  And of course most of these foods are high in fat and sugar.  So our relationship with food plummets to a deeper level of confusion.

We want to have it all, which is why so many fall into the arms of eating disorders.  Eating disorders – particularly bulimia – make us believe that we can have it all and get away with it.  But of course we know now from research that people actually die of bulimia.  It is another example of the enemy disguising himself as an angel of light.  Or perhaps we choose anorexia and it eats away at our hearts and our lives.  Whenever we deny ourselves, we develop an insatiable hunger which results in the sick cycle of dieting and bingeing (and for some, purging or over-exercising).  (For more information, check out my blog postings on The Sick Cycle of Dieting, Bingeing, Purging, and Over-exercising.)  So dieting and denial is a landmine that will completely distort our relationships with food until we feel completely hopeless and powerless.

About two months ago, I started to pray wholeheartedly for God to give me a healthy relationship with food.  I know dieting is a monster because it only leads to feeling deprived, which creates a binge mentality.  This is why research shows that almost everyone who diets loses weight, but later gains it all back- plus more!  But I also know that purging is not the answer and is in fact extremely dangerous.  Thankfully, by the grace of God I have never been chained to the beast of bulimia (see my blog posting, Confessions of a Purging Flunky).  I have also received a lot of counseling and the Lord has helped me to work through my own issues – yet at the same time I know that this side of Heaven, I will always have issues.

And so I finally put my relationship with food on my prayer list.  Several times a week, I prayed for God to give me a healthy relationship with food.  I think he has.  Please understand that I am not talking about cutting out everything, because that is what leads to a feeling of depravation.  Then all heck breaks loose and you eat everything that is not nailed down.  (You’ve been there, done, that, and got the tee shirt, haven’t you?)  So I have been eating better as far as more fiber and less fat, etc.  BUT I do not deprive myself!  I still have mochas, ice cream, etc. about once a day.  I have not concentrated on eating or not eating any certain way – I have simply prayed for God to give me a healthy relationship with food.  I have lost about ten pounds, which is significant since I’m under 5’3”.  More importantly, I feel released from the world’s messages about food and body image, for the most part.  I will keep praying and keep you posted.

And so I would like to ask you to take the 40-Day Challenge:  Pray every day, asking God to give you a healthy relationship with food.  He is faithful and he will answer you and take off the chains of despair about food and body image.  That is the only way to fight the body image bandit and win.  Ask God to set you free…And please keep us posted!

Body Image and Breast Reduction

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Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you were drop-dead gorgeous?  Perfect.  Or close to it, right?  Each day would wrap its arms around you and give you a grand gorilla hug.  The sun would shine on your back, but not to the point that your armpits would have big ugly pit stains.  “Ahhhh…if only I were exceptionally beautiful…” you think.  Then you look in the mirror and reality slaps you in the face.  You think, “Oh dear.  Is this really all I get to work with?”  And then you thank the good Lord for the invention of makeup. 

Many women deeply desire that they would have been born with a gorgeous face and/or that they had much larger breasts.  Some really believe – in their magical thinking – that if they had large breasts, their lives would have been perfect. 

Recently I had the opportunity to interview a friend who had breast reduction surgery at the age of 25.  Belinda told me that as a little girl growing up in a small town, she had lots of friends and remembers hanging out with other girls in the neighborhood.  Slumber parties, watching movies, and playing basketball with other kids in the neighborhood were some of her favorite activities.  She fit in well with the other girls and was a regular part of the group. 

Then she started to develop breasts – about two years earlier than the other girls.  “It really freaked out my mom and grandma,” she said.  Not only that, but the other girls started to avoid her.  When her menstrual cycle started shortly thereafter, she felt even more odd and isolated. 

The school system in Belinda’s town required the students to change schools in the sixth grade, which made her the target of even more crude comments from new school mates.  By the seventh grade, she was wearing a D cup size, which she tried to camouflage with baggy shirts.  In gym class, the other girls pointed and laughed, provoking Belinda’s mom wrote a note to get her PE class changed to last period so she could wait until she got home to shower. 

During the seventh through ninth grades, Belinda avoided almost everyone.  Boys flooded her with calls and attention, often trying to grab her breasts whenever they got the chance.  For this reason, Belinda often carried her books close to her chest.  But to no avail, the boys would grab them out of her arms. 

During high school, Belinda said, “they got rough.”  One day a group of guys cornered her in a stair well which was seldom used.  They horribly violated her by feeling her breasts, causing horrendous emotional and physical pain.  Eventually she began thinking about what it would be like to have normal sized breasts.  She greatly longed to be known for her heart and not her chest, and to be deeply cherished and loved because of who she was on the inside. 

Sadly, at one of her class reunions (which took place after the breast reduction surgery), nobody recognized her.  Although she stayed in the same school system for the entire twelve years, not one person knew who she was at the reunion.  “They never saw past the breasts,” she said.  While listening to this part of the story, I wanted to cry.  We all long to be known for who we really are and not our packaging, and I could not imagine the level of pain that would have caused.  We are created for relationship – with God and with other people – and when this desire is blocked, horrendous pain results. 

As far as dating was concerned, Belinda said that she dated about 6 guys all together at different times during high school.  “They always wanted my breasts,” she said.  However, some of her guy friends and neighbors were very respectful of her and treated her with great kindness.  One played basketball with her, and others treated her just like they treated other people.  Their eyes focused on her eyes, as opposed to her breasts.  She found this refreshing, as normally peoples’ eyes focused on her breasts.  So of course it is no wonder that she was not recognized by anyone at her high school reunion years later.  Most people had not looked past her chest. 

While in high school, Belinda started waiting tables.  As you can imagine, she got a lot of tips even though she always dressed modestly because all women in her family were encouraged to dress modestly.  During her waitressing years, Belinda was the target of numerous crude comments.  One time, her brother overheard one of these comments and jumped out of his booth across the restaurant to tell the guy, “This is my little sister.  If you ever do that again, I will kill you.”  He never bothered Belinda again.

At the age of 17, Belinda wore an EEE size bra cup.  “I hated my breasts.  They hung down and hurt.  I even had to wear a bra at night because of the pain.”  Not only that, but she expressed great sadness years later when her physician told her she could not breast feed her children.  Hearing the words, tears welled up in her eyes as her soul cried out in pain.  The doctor was afraid that if she fell asleep while breastfeeding, the newborn would suffocate.  This was decades ago, and at the time there was no medication to dry up the milk.  So one of her breasts developed an infection, which caused great pain. 

Other than these painful areas in her heart, another area of suffering caused by her large breasts was felt in her pocketbook.  Bras and clothes cost three times as much for Belinda. 

When she decided to get the reduction surgery, her physician interviewed her to find out whether or not she would be a good candidate.  She was sick of being treated as a sex object, and decided it was time to write a new chapter of her story.  The surgeon agreed that she was a good candidate because of the enormous stress her breasts caused her.  She lost fifteen pounds from the surgery.  If you think about carrying that much weight around your chest, you can begin to imagine some of the physical hardship and pain.   Backaches, headaches, pocket book aches, and heart aches. 

About a month after the surgery, Belinda ran into a friend who said, “What happened to your breasts?!” 

“I got ‘em whacked off!” she responded.  They both laughed, and in Belinda’s heart she felt a wave of thankfulness wash over her.  She was no longer treated as a sex object, and she no longer felt the pain in her back and shoulders.  When I asked her if there was anything else she would like to say to women who wish they had large chests, she responded, “It’s painful – physically painful and emotionally painful.” 

Belinda’s story shows the truth:  The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  But most of the time, it’s Astroturf.

Body Image: Getting Work Done to Meet the Standard

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I hadn’t seen my friend Rebecca in over a year, and as we sat sipping coffee, I prayed that I wouldn’t stare at her lips, which had quadrupled in size since the last time I saw her.  I could feel my gaze slipping from her eyes onto the pair of pink slugs.

Some people are born with full, beautiful lips.  But not Rebecca.  She always had thin little lipettes until today.  They used to just sit on her face, but now they had their own reality show.  Every so often I had to force my eyes up to meet hers, as mine kept getting hung up on the big shiny blobs that sat where her lips used to reside.  They looked swollen and took up about a third of her face.

Cotton candy colored sparkly lip gloss gave The Lips a larger-than-life look.  I noticed people shielding their eyes from the glare.  Bubble-gum pink lip liner gave The Lips a multi-dimensional reality.   Apparently she had slapped on a jar of Vaseline to finish off the look.  I could not believe that she could talk with all the gunk on her lips.  It was a miracle.  I half expected The Lips to get stuck together, and then I would have to call 911.  I slipped into a daydream…

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

“Emergency Services.  How can I help you?”

Breathing heavily, I gasped for air.  “It’s my friend Rebecca,” I sputtered.

“What’s the problem, ma’am?”

“It’s her lips.”  There.  I managed to get it out.

“Her lips?”

“Yes, that’s right.  Her lips are stuck together, and …”

“Did she accidentally swallow Elmer’s glue?  That happens to a lot of first graders.”

“No, I think she wanted to have voluminous, movie-star lips, and had a lip job, then piled on truckloads of lip gloss, lip liner, and Vaseline to get the fullest look possible.  And now she can’t pry her lips apart.”

“Okay, this is obviously a prank call, and I’m gonna have to report you.”  Click.

“Cherrie, hello, are you listening?”  Rebecca rolled her eyes at me. “For a minute it looked like you were off in your own little world.”

Oops.  I guess she could talk after all.  I could barely track with Rebecca, even though I’m usually present with people nowadays.  I used to be off in my own head during conversations – thinking about what to make for dinner, where to go kayaking, or what color to paint my bathroom.   All the while people thought I was really tracking with them.  Then I went to graduate school where I learned the importance of being present with all people as much as possible.  Actually it’s a great idea, as Jesus was always present.  He wasn’t thinking about what color to paint his bathroom (oh yeah, I just remembered he didn’t have one), or what to build next while he was interacting with people.  Bummer I had to spend $60,000 to find that out. But it was well worth it, and I wouldn’t trade what I learned for all the Sweet Caroline’s truffles in the world.

I figured Rebecca had her lips inflated with collagen or whatever people do to fluff them up.  I admit I have tried to get fuller lips on several occasions using various over-the-counter products.  They worked well and made my lips dazzle.  The problem is it is impossible to eat or drink anything without the globby lip goo getting all over the place.   I couldn’t talk very well either without having the goop slide out the corners of my mouth.  So I could wear the lip fattener as long as I was not going anywhere that I would need to eat, drink, or talk.  My lips would look movie starrish, but I wouldn’t be able to talk!

The other problem I encountered after wearing lip fattener was that the next day I always would wake up with a big zit on the line between my lip and skin.  Ugh.  I usually refer to it as a “cold sore,” but everyone knows it is a lip zit.

Driving home from the coffee shop, I thought about the hundreds of conversations about body image that came up while I counseled women.  No matter why they initially came in, almost all women eventually expressed dissatisfaction with their bodies.  Only a few had issues with their lips, as in Rebecca’s case.  Some of them told of dissatisfaction with their hips or waists.  But many believed that if they attained a certain size or weight, they would finally achieve happiness and most – if not all – of their problems would dissolve.   Some of them exercised until their joints ached every waking moment as well as when they tried to sleep.  They fit our society’s standard of beauty, but their joints ached like a hundred-year-old woman’s from working out hours upon hours for years on end.

Still others had gained lots of weight.  Usually the weight gain started when they endured difficult life situations, and they had been roller coaster dieting for years and never addressing the underlying issues in their hearts that led them to food addiction.  They continued to wonder why they could sometimes lose weight, but could never keep the weight off. They were often shocked as they slowly lost weight during the counseling process.  This often happened even though we hardly ever not talked about food, eating, or exercising.  Instead, we focused on the roots of their issues and why they always went to food as their drug of choice for self-medication.  Issues with weight are much more about the heart than food.  People often try diet after diet after diet, losing weight, then gaining weight, then losing and gaining again until they feel dizzy.  But of course the weight almost never stays off because they are treating the symptoms only and not the underlying issues.

Some of my clients have lost weight and kept it off due to working through the issues of the heart that I am talking about.  I ran into a former client a few years ago at a grocery store, and noticed she had lost a significant amount of weight.  We started talking about it, and she said she had lost about eighty pounds.  I asked her how she did it, and she told me that most of her weight loss came from working on her issues in our counseling sessions.  This happened even though we had rarely devoted counseling time to food or weight issues.  The weight just gradually melted away as she worked the underlying issues which had brought her through the door in the first place.

Some of you may be thinking, “Oh, that’s the answer.  I’ll just go into therapy and work on my issues, then I’ll lose the weight I need to lose.”  While I am glad that some of you are considering this, I would like to tell you this a great start, but at the same time tell you that it will be hard work – something like climbing a mountain.   Some days you will get exhausted and feel as though you are walking in circles, covering the same ground.  Other times the therapy sessions will be exhausting and you will want to call a helicopter to get you off of the blizzardy mountain because it is so grueling.  Those are the times you will drive to Dairy Queen and order a gigantic blizzard, then  pull over to a lonely spot in the parking lot.  You will gorge yourself, shoving in the food as though you had not eaten in a week.  When you finish your last bite, you will feel a flood of shame drowning you in despair.

At this point, instead of giving up, my hope is that you will consider telling your therapist exactly what happened, as well as the fact that you want to pull out of therapy.  Then the two of you can process through the obstacles so you can recalibrate, just like your GPS says.  Notice that when the computer lady from your GPS says, “Recalibrating…” she does not say, “Recalibrating, you idiot!  I can’t believe you loused up yet AGAIN!  What is wrong with you, jerk?!”  She is always firm, yet gentle.  She is never shaming.  What would happen if you could take a lesson from her and be gentle and kind to yourself?

Body Image: How Mothers Influence Body Image

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A great deal has been written on how fathers play strong roles in the development of their daughters’ eating disorders.  Negative relationships between fathers and daughters create holes in the hearts of their daughters which they believe can be filled by getting and staying thin.  Not surprisingly, girls and women have fallen prey to the jaws of anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder for many reasons we have already discussed.  But a massive amount of research has poured in to spell out in all caps, in bold, that fathers’ relationships with their daughters help to get them swallowed up into the mouths of eating disorders.

Since the topic of fathers’ roles in the development of their daughters’ body image issues has been covered, I have chosen not to include that in my book.  Throughout my years of working with women, I have heard perhaps hundreds of stories of how mothers have influenced the development of body image issues of women and girls.  Due to the powerful effect of our mothers’ own body image issues on our stories, I have decided to include a chapter on this subject in the book.

Sadly, I must warn you that most of the stories are overwhelmingly sad.  In fact, you may get overwhelmed reading this chapter, and I apologize in advance.  My hope and reason for writing the chapter is that women will gain great perspective about how their own words about their bodies and their daughters’ bodies blossom seeds of darkness or light in their hearts.  All in all, mothers’ words have great power to bless and great power to eat away at the hearts of their daughters, creating a wake of despair and depression as well as eating disorders.  And so my grandest hope is that after reading this chapter, you will be acutely aware of one of the most powerful lies: “sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me.”  In fact, words shatter our hearts and shoot bullets of shame and despair deep into our souls until we bleed from within.  And this pain plummets down the shaft of despair until we land in the city of Hopelessness.  But the flip side of this is that if we understand the impact of our words, we can encourage children and teens to feel good about their bodies.

When I asked my friends on Facebook to share their stories about how their mothers impacted their own body image, I received a variety of responses.  One of them came from a woman in her sixties whom I will call Sally.  Sally explained that her mother had a serious phobia of fat.  She was hypercritical of Sally’s body, and made her take diet pills when she was in junior high.  Once she grew up and married, Sally continued to navigate the line between enjoying eating with her husband and controlling her weight.  Women gain an average of 18 pounds during the first year of marriage, so women often find it discouraging to move from their pre-wedding weight to their rounder, settled in weight.

During the pregnancy of her second child, Sally was sick a lot and discovered that throwing up resulted in weight loss.  Eventually she became bulimic and stayed bulimic for over twenty years.  Finally, during her studies at nursing school, she came to the realization that bulimia was destroying her from within and decided to kiss it goodbye.

Sally’s mother recently died at age 95, and Sally wrote in her email that her mother was still overly concerned about her weight and how she looked, even though she was quite ill and suffered from dementia for several years.

The trenches of our body image issues certainly run deep, not even lightening up due to old age or illness.  Even with dementia, many womens’ love/hate relationships with their bodies and food cause great distress as they continue to obsess about how they look.  The desire to get and stay thin is a constant dose of poison that our culture feeds us day in and day out to the point that we lose touch with what it means to have a normal, natural, womanly body.

By writing about the power mothers have on their daughters’ self-esteem and body image issues, I hope that women begin to understand the power of words and decide to offer encouragement instead of despair.  The seeds of negativity create ugly weeds that lead to self-contempt.  But the beauty of seeds of encouragement offer great joy as we learn to look at our bodies in terms of the amazing things they can do.  Will you use your words to bless flowers of joy onto the next generation, or seeds of despair to heap loads of despair onto today’s children and teens?

Body Image and Humor: Woman vs. Kitty

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Meow.. by Motor-Head

Great news!  I just learned that chocolate has superb anti-aging properties.  I read a short article about this while waiting for my kitty’s appointment.  If I keep drinking mochas at the same rate, I should reclaim my 29th birthday by Labor Day!  I guess I will keep feeding the chocolate monster within.  Maybe I should get back into the habit of making chocolate chip cookie dough.  I used to mix it up every few weeks, but hardly any of it made it into the oven because it would take a detour and end up in my tummy.  Then it would immediately slide down due to gravity, but for some reason the gravity would stop kicking in when the cookie dough got to my rear end.  Weird, huh?

While I had this delectable news about chocolate on my mind, the vet assistant called us in.  Prissy, my kitty, had to get her booster shots.  It’s still hard to believe I have a cat because I thought of myself as a dog-only type of person.  But my husband kept wanting a kitty, so what could I say?  She is very loving most of the time, very low-maintenance, and makes an excellent heating pad.

So when Prissy and I got called for her appointment, they weighed her in.  The last time we did this, the vet scolded me because she had plumped up to eighteen pounds.  He said he was concerned about her health at that weight, so asked me to cut back on her food.  Let me tell you, Prissy got nasty and angry.  Even worse than me when I used to believe in diets and was irritable because I felt so deprived.  She spent a lot of time hanging out by the pantry door where the cat food is kept, making noises like she was in labor of birthing sixteen kittens.  So I cut her back very gradually, a little each week.  Today we got the good news that she has lost a little over two pounds.  The vet  now wants her to lose about two more pounds, then she will be at her so-called “ideal weight.”

The advantage that Prissy has over you and me is she has no psychological hang-ups about her weight.  She doesn’t compare herself with other kitties, thinking, “Is that cat’s butt bigger or smaller than mine?”  Or, “When I turn so you can see my profile, do I look like a pregnant mongoose?”  She has no concerns about her appearance because she is preoccupied with more important things like pouncing on our dog or looking for bugs on the ceiling. I have seen no evidence that she obsesses about her waist or the appearance of any other body parts.  She doesn’t care about her size or shape, but is more concerned about keeping herself clean.  Oh, to be a kitty!

What kind of freedom would you have if you were more like Prissy?  I don’t mean having claws and a mousie toy, but  what if you could be totally without knowledge or concern about your appearance? Maybe that gives you shudders, and you picture yourself as a sloth rolling out of bed with bad breath, putting on a little pit juice (deodorant), and going about your day.  Your hair is uncombed and your clothes are wrinkled, but you don’t really care. You’re on a mission to hunt down breakfast – and the bigger, the better.

If you are like the majority of teen girls and women, you frequently compare your body with other people.  Many – not all, but many – of those you compare yourself with – have eating disorders that you can’t see.  Other times women and girls compare themselves with the pictures they see in magazines and usually get depressed because they feel they don’t measure up.  We have already discussed the statistics on this, which reveals that females feel bad about themselves the more they look at magazines.  So why torture yourself with magazine-induced depression?

 

 by Chelsea3883I am Beautiful, by Chelsea Panos

And so I say it again – let’s have a beauty/fashion/celebrity magazine recycling party.  Imagine this:  You get together all of your friends and their friends as well.  Each person brings all of her beauty magazines, all of her fashion magazines, and all of her celebrity magazines.  Each person adds her magazines to the pile.  A microphone is provided where anyone can talk about what the magazines have done to their hearts.  You may want to have a cake to celebrate the day that you decided to give the Body Image Power a kick in the rear-end.  Maybe you could even find a speaker to discuss all the ways you can kick the Body Image Bandit out of your life.

I rarely look at such magazines.  I really don’t need that kind of negative influence in my thinking.  I am reminded of the passage in Philippians 4:8, although it was not written with body image issues in mind, Paul attests:  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, think about such things.”

It is not healthy to stuff our feelings, as I often tell my clients.  In fact I tell them that stuffing is for turkeys and teddy bears, and they are neither one!  Neither are you.  So it is important to get your feelings out in a safe venue, perhaps with a trusted friend who is not shaming or even on paper because paper doesn’t judge.  (If you are concerned about someone finding it, no worries because you can type it and then delete it.  Believe it or not, the act of the purging your feelings is what is important.)  King David called out to God again and again, and often expressed his feelings.  Had he been born today, he would have received just about every diagnosis in the Diagnostical and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders.

Even though it is healthy to express your feelings to safe people. That is why I like to express my feelings with friends or on paper and to God, and then focus on the positive :  …”whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.”

Focusing on other peoples’ bodies and shaming ourselves for our own looks is not true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or admirable.  In fact, it is false (when we look at magazines which are photoshopped and airbrushed), shaming, wrong, and despicable.  It brings us down and is another form of “stinkin’ thinkin’” as Al-Anon and the 12-step programs say.

You will notice that Scripture does not say, “Look at the woman (or teenager) in front of you in line at the store.  Notice if her thighs, waist, bust, ankles, and/or fanny is bigger or smaller than yours.  Then mope around for the next four months because you feel fat and ugly compared to her.”  Thank goodness it doesn’t say that!  We are not supposed to compare ourselves to the world’s standards, because we are actually citizens of heaven.  That is why Scripture emphasizes, “Man looks at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16:7b).  How I wish we could saturate the hearts and minds of girls and women with this profound truth.  You probably noticed the verse says nothing about evaluating ourselves on the basis of our body fat percentage, or on the shapeliness of our figures.  What a sigh of relief.  Since we’ve seen over 250,000 ads by the age of seventeen, we may not be able to completely erase their effects from our minds and be like a kitty.  But with practice of stopping negative thinking and focusing on more pleasant thoughts, we can reclaim the plunder of the Body Image Bandit.

Exercise of Cat 03 by J i J y

Male Body Image: The Man on the Chicken Diet, Part 2

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“When did you first start to gain weight?”  I asked.  The all-important question that most naturopaths, physicians, and nutritionists never ask.  (Note:  The same question must be asked if someone has issues with purging, bingeing, or over-exercising.)

“Hmmm…I think it was my second year of med school.  Before that I was pretty buff and worked out a lot.  I kept working out, but started packing on the pounds.

“So what happened in your life the second year of med school?”

“Oh, nothing really.  I mean it was brutal and agonizing, but nothing really happened that year.  I did well in all my classes, and had some good friends I hung out with.”

“So nothing else really happened that was significant?”  I wondered if maybe the stress had caused him to turn to food as his drug of choice, but my work is like detective work in that sometimes I have to dig hard for clues.  I got the feeling that something else of significance had happened during that time.

“Nope.  Everything stayed the same.  I mean, a girl dumped me for someone else, but we hadn’t really been together that long.”  People often drop bombs like this in therapy, not realizing the tremendous impact the bomb made on their lives.  Denial is definitely alive and well in America.

I sensed that he had cared deeply for her, even though the relationship had not lasted long.  “What was her name?”  I asked.

“Brenda,” he said, in a quiet voice that spoke volumes.

“What was she like?”  People often think that if they talk about painful situations, they will feel worse.  But usually the opposite is true.  Yet it is a tightrope because if they get overwhelmed, they may get flooded sort of like a car.  Then they can’t function.  But if they continue to stuff it, it is like trying to hold a beach ball underwater.  It’s only a matter of time before the pressure causes it to pop out of the water with a burst of power.  Stuffing, I tell my clients, is only for turkeys and teddy bears.  If we stuff our feelings, it leads to self-medication with excessive food, drugs, computer time, shopping, working out, alcohol, or even reading excessively as a form of escape.  (Not that books are bad, but using them – or TV or the computer – to avoid dealing with our feelings leads to trouble.)  We are created for relationship – with God and with people – and when our relationships crumble, our hearts radically shift into despair.  So living in community means that we share our stories of struggle and pain with safe people who will validate us and offer us hoope.

“She was really smart – another med student, actually.  And so pretty, but not in a model sort of way.   More of the natural, girl-next-door type.  She had this auburn hair that was curly, and she hated it.  But it’s one of the things that made her special.  And she had a laugh that you could hear from here to Singapore.”  He smiled quickly, then it vanished like a light switch that was flicked on for a millisecond.

“She sounds like an amazing woman,” I said.

He sighed, which I learned years ago usually means that something monumental is about to be said.  “Then she became lab partners with my roommate – the lab partners were assigned to us – and they gradually went from lab partners to life partners.”  He looked at the floor as though his eyes could bore a hole clear to China.

“Oh man, I am so sorry,” I said.  I could feel the tears welling up in my own heart and saw one of his flowing down his cheek.  We continued to talk gently about Brenda, and I acknowledged that it was very hard to do, but told him that he couldn’t get through it unless he was willing to go through the dark valley to get to the other side.

After a while I tried to lighten it up so he would not leave flooded and decide not  to come back.  “Hey, I have a question,”  I said.

“Oh brother – you always have a question, don’t you?”  We both laughed.

“What’s that?”  he asked.

“Well, you said you were pretty buff during that time in your life.  But even so, it didn’t get you the perfect life.  What’s that about?”

He laughed, this time a funny laugh.  “Sheesh – you always nail me, don’t you?  Okay, okay, I’ll admit that even though I was in great shape, it wasn’t the magic cure-all.”  We talked a bit more about some things in his life he was looking forward to because I wanted him to feel grounded before leaving.  If people leave when they are flooded with sadness, they can spiral downward, which can lead to more depression and/or self-medication.

Then next week, to my surprise, Ben said, “Hey, I brought you something.”  He handed me a brown paper bag.  I opened it up, and inside was a rubber chicken, about six inches long.  “That’s to show your clients that if they have magical thinking – with diets or anything else – it’s like putting their faith in a rubber chicken.”  He shared that he decided not to go on a chicken diet after all, but that he wanted to continue working through his issueswhich caused him to gain extra weight, even though it was hard and at times felt like throwing in the towel.  He knew it would not be easy, but he also knew that the price of not getting better would be much more costly.

Body Image and Men:The Man on the Chicken Diet

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(NOTE:  All characters in this blog and book are fictitious. )

I wasn’t sure I had heard him right.  A physician came into counseling to get help with anxiety and depression, and told me during one of our first sessions that he was going on a chicken diet.

“A chicken diet?”  I asked.

“Yeah.  I think chicken is the perfect food, in lots of ways.  If I eat mostly chicken and drink water, then I can lose some of this.”  He grabbed a glob of excess fat around his belly.  Although he could afford to lose a few pounds, Ben definitely was not obese.  He looked as though he had once been athletic, and wore a crisp blue shirt that brought attention to his blue eyes.  Crossing his legs, Ben  placed a few stray strands of his dark hair behind his ear.

I asked if he was kidding or not.  I had taken a number of nutrition classes in college, and this chicken and water diet did not sound balanced, especially for a physician.  Maybe there was more to it.

“Nope.  I’ve already done a lot of research on it, and I know I can get down to my goal in two months at the normal recommended 2 pounds a week pace.   I’ll have chicken for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and I’ll drop the weight like a woman with PMS drops her boyfriends.”  We both laughed.

“So you’ll have chicken shakes for breakfast, baked chicken nuggets for lunch, and a slab of chicken breast for dinner?”  I smiled, thankful it was not me that would be on the chicken diet.  I like chicken, but just can’t imagine eating it all by itself for even one day, let alone three months.  Chocolate – sure. But chicken?  Never.

Ben started to unknowingly pick up and set down his empty Starbucks cup repeatedly, so I could tell he was anxious.  Even though he probably felt nervous because he had never been to counseling before, he seemed especially anxious talking about his magical chicken diet because he knew I would have questions.  And of course he was right.

“It’s gonna be so great – I’ll drop that extra weight, and then I can wear cool, manly clothes.  Then the women will be really into me.”  He smiled and looked out the window as though he had found the answer to all of life’s problems. The Great Fix.  The Magical Cure.

“So then you’ll have the perfect life, huh?”  I asked.  I had heard different versions of this magical thinking many times before.  Countless women in their twenties and thirties – and sometimes women in their forties and fifties – told me that when they got “skinny,” they would start to buy cute clothes.

I usually asked them why they wouldn’t buy cute clothes until they were skinny, but they usually scrunched up their noses and thought it was absurd.  In fact, many people use the word “skinny” as a magical word.  They get so excited about their little pet word, their mouths automatically form into broad smiles when saying it. 

Once they are “skinny,” their lives will suddenly become supremely enjoyable, but not one minute before.   They realize cute clothes are available in larger sizes now, but they have no interest in spending money on them until they were – drum roll please – skinny.

The magical thinking never stops.  Once they get skinny, they can get a fun wardrobe.  Then guys will want to date them, and that will help them to get a boyfriend.  Not just any boyfriend, but a perfect- or almost perfect boyfriend, which would open the golden door to the Perfect Life.

Once the door opened, they got the successful and cute boyfriend, then had the perfect wedding, and then bought a beautiful home.  Finally they had children, and as long as they stay skinny, their lives will be flawless, dreamy, and perfect.  Because of course their marriages and children would be perfect!

Magical thinking comes in many different flavors:  Once I get a college degree, life will be perfect.  Or once I get married, life will be perfect.  Or once I have a house or a larger house, life will be perfect.

Or a very popular version:  Once I move to _______, life will be perfect.  The interesting part of the last one is that if the person lives in the Pacific Northwest, they want to move to Hawaii or somewhere warm.

(Yet the same people would often complain like men with their wives at the mall if the weather got too hot in the summer for them.)  If the person lives in Hawaii, he believes that moving to the Mainland will be the answer to life’s problems. 

When I lived in southern California and people found out I was originally from Washington state, they often said, “Why would you ever leave such a beautiful state?”

Because of the popularity of the statement, “If I move to ______, life will be perfect (or much improved),” many 12-step recovery programs call it “the geographical cure” as a sarcastic joke.   This kind of thinking is labeled as another type of “stinkin’ thinkin’ “.

Often people think that if they get their child or spouse to move to _____ to “get a fresh start,” they are going to be different and make better choices.  But it almost never works because everywhere you go, there you are. 

That means you will still have your personality, your likes, dislikes, and your style of relating (personality).  We will continue to attract the same kinds of people for friends and romantic interests unless we change.

So once again I found myself talking to a man with a mission to change his whole world – this time through the chicken diet.  That was definitely one I had not heard of.  “Will you eat anything besides chicken, or just chicken?”  I asked.

He bent his elbow, locked his hands, and placed them in back of his head, which often happens when men (and sometimes women) are feeling out of control. “Well, I’ll eat mostly chicken, and take a supplement liquid diet to get some more nutrients, with maybe a salad or piece of fruit once in a while.”

He began to lightly bounce his leg, which told me he was quite anxious.  Ben felt uncomfortable talking about this because he probably was beginning to wonder if the chicken diet really would make his life a trip to Disneyland.

“I want to lose weight fast so I can lose it all before summer.  Then I can get a gorgeous girlfriend and we can enjoy ourselves kayaking and hiking and stuff.  I mean she has to be smart too and funny and all, but anyway then I can have an awesome summer.”

“Do you think people usually keep weight off when they lose it quickly on a diet?”

He laughed, but it was a nervous laugh and not a funny laugh.  “Well, usually diets don’t work anyway.  But research shows that the slower you lose weight, the longer you usually keep it off.”

We both laughed because we realized that he was about to contradict his own beliefs by going on a diet.  And not just any diet – a chicken diet.

“So are you telling me that you don’t really believe in what you are about to do?” I asked.

He started to rub the part of the couch where his hand had been resting, which is another sign of anxiety.

“Yeah, I guess so.”  He looked at the floor and then out the window.

“When did you first start to gain weight?”  I asked.  The all-important question that most naturopaths, physicians, and nutritionists never ask.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Body Image and Stinking Thinking: Stop Comparing Your Body

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Two weeks ago, I posted a blog about the “stinkin’ thinkin’ ” that happens when we get pulled into the undercurrent of comparing our bodies to other peoples’.  This leads to drudgery and despair because you drown in the pool of stinkin’ thinkin’.  It consumes you until you start the sick cycle of dieting that leads to bingeing, which leads to purging (for some) and over-exercising (for some).  See my posts about the sick cycle for more information.

What would it look like to beat the Body Image Bandit at this comparing game?  After all, coveting – and yes, that is exactly what it is – is a very unhealthy animal.  So let’s work together to stop coveting and comparing.  After all, what good comes out of it?   Here are some techniques to catch yourself at the comparing/coveting game and stopping it right then and there:

1.  Picture a large stop sign.  Picture yourself screaming at the top of your lungs, “STOP!!!!”  (Warning:  If you do this for real instead of inside your head, people will laugh and point.  So it is best to just picture it inside your head.)  This has really helped a lot of people.  Keep repeating this over and over until it becomes as natural as eating chocolate chip cookie dough when you are baking cookies.🙂

2.  Stop yourself and ask God to help you.  “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”  (Philippians 4:8)  Repeat that scripture to yourself, and your thoughts will be redirected.  Because after all, thinking about the size of your fanny – in relation to the size of other peoples’ fannies – is definitely not a noble thought.  It is a thought of coveting, which leads down to the dark road of depression.  So do yourself a favor, and stop that stinkin’ thinkin’ right in its tracks!

Be kind to yourself, and focus on your God-given talents, abilities, and get your focus off your fanny – and those of other people!

Olympic Ice Dancer Celebrates her Weight Gain! Body Image Buster

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There is no denying that American ice dancer Tanith Belbin is a beautiful woman. As she glides across the ice with partner Ben Agosto, it’s hard to take your eyes off of her. But the Belbin you’ll see take the ice Friday night is very different than the one who won silver at Turin in 2006.

This Belbin is 10 pounds heavier, and she couldn’t be happier about that.

According to the New York Times, Belbin and Agosto went to new coaches, including Natalia Linichuk, in 2008. One of Linichuk’s first suggestions was for Belbin to put on weight. Belbin was resistant, which brought to light Belbin’s problems with eating.

“I thought I was out of control and that the weight gain must be my fault,” she said. “I was like, I’m eating nothing and I’m still not losing weight. I swear, I’m not eating anything and I’m exhausted and cranky and stressed and all of those things that make you gain weight even more.”

With Linichuk’s help, Belbin changed her eating and training habits. She grew stronger, allowing curves and muscles to be a part of her body. Agosto said that their lifts have improved, as Belbin can hold herself up more easily. If you’ve ever held a sleeping child, you know that Agosto’s job became much easier as Belbin’s strength improved.

The difference in their skating is noticeable. Last season, they took silver in Skate America and the Cup of China. This season, they took gold in the same events, and they are contenders for gold in ice dancing. 

So when you watch Belbin compete for gold this weekend, realize that you’re not just looking at a beautiful woman. You’re looking at a beautiful, healthy woman. 

The Ferocious Foursome?Bingeing, Dieting, Purging, and Overexercising

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Women in developed nations tend to be brutally hard on themselves in regards to body image issues.  They battle a gnawing desire to be thin.   If you notice how often you hear women talking about food, fat, working out, sizes, diets, calories, and their bodies, you will begin to understand how deeply entrenched this desire to be thin is.  Make a note of each time you hear a woman talk about wanting to lose weight, or her size, or her dissatisfaction with her body.  You may not be able to get through a week – let alone a day or two – without hearing one talk of topics about food, fat, or fannies (especially in regards to how certain foods are “bad”).

This hyper-focus on thinness causes women to develop monumental amounts of shame and self-contempt for their bodies.  Usually this self-contempt starts when they experience some type of traumatic experience, such as the divorce of their parents, a breakup with a boyfriend, or moving.  This causes them to leap into the arms of their drug of choice for comfort.  Often, this is food.  This means that many children, teens, and adults go to food as their drug of choice.    This results in weight gain, which leads them to dislike their bodies at a deeper level since thin bodies are idolized in developed nations.

Many women (and more and more men) are addicted to beating themselves up with the message that they don’t measure up.  Some people are told this as children, whether it’s about school work, lack of athletic ability, looks, or other aspects of their lives.  Then it spills over to the point that if nobody expresses disdain, the thoughts and comments continue in her head.  This happens because she is so comfortable with the shame that she feels naked without it.

This shame and self-contempt leads girls and women into the contemptuous cycle I call the Ferocious Foursome.  The Ferocious Foursome includes the monsters of dieting, binging, purging, and excessive exercising.  The cycle generally starts with dieting, but can begin with any of the Ferocious Foursome.

Typically, the girl feels fat, even though she may be within the normal weight or body composition limits.  This is important because many of the girls do not actually qualify as overweight to begin with.  They have been brainwashed by the media into thinking that thinness is their ticket to a perfect life.  So they begin scrutinizing their bodies and find excess fat, or what they think is excess fat.  By the age of four or five, most girls already feel that any fat is bad.  Sadly, the media fails to mention that a certain percentage of fat is normal and will enable them to have babies much later, as well as nurse their children and carry them on their hips.  Without fat, all those activities would be impossible.  Another fact the media fails to mention is that breast tissue naturally contains a large percentage of fat.  Sometimes women express a desire to wear a tiny size and have relatively large breasts at the same time.  I explain to them that does not usually happen naturally because the breast tissue contains a great deal of fat.

The end result of the brainwashing – as well as photoshopping and airbrushing – of the media is that little girls end up feeling that all fat is bad, whether it is on their bodies or in food.  Many girls and young women fear getting fat more than almost anything else, including terrorism.  So of course they naturally fall prey to the first phase of the Ferocious Foursome, which is dieting.

Dieting has become a rite of passage for teen girls.  I challenge you to find a teenaged girl who has not tried to diet or lose weight.  It will be a difficult task, as few girls in our society have not tried to diet.  Sometimes they are successful, and other times they are not.  Either way, they tend to hurl themselves onto a path of life-long roller-coaster dieting.  Whether the first attempt ends in success or failure, it likely gives them a taste where they long for more.  If they lose weight, they become believers, and if not, they profess to try again and again until they get it “right”.

Just when they begin to feel sure-footed from the triumph of dieting, the ground shifts beneath them, bumping them onto the merry-go-round of self-contempt.   They feel completely deprived, and begin to crave what they have started to call bad foods.  This turns them into eating machines.  The hunger wells up within them like a hurricane ready to ravage everything in its path.  Suddenly they want tons of fatty foods and sweet foods and salty foods.  They cannot get enough and feel as though they must eat everything because hunger consumes them.  Food, food, food, is on their minds a great majority of their waking hours and sometimes in their dreams as well.  They have opened the floodgates of eternal hunger and will never be the same.  They crave foods that they love, as well as foods that they did not used to like before they felt deprived from dieting.

They now feel insatiably starved, which leads to the first all-out binge.  The binge fools their hearts into happiness, but only briefly.  This leads to a free-fall into the shaft of despair and depression, with waves of guilt and shame knocking them into the heart of hopelessness.  Around and around they spin on the merry-go-round of self-contempt, dizzy and depressed from a level of hopelessness they never knew possible.

Next:  Purging and Over-exercising, the other two stars of the Ferocious Foursome.

Body Image and Healthy Eating: The Good Food/Bad Food Trap

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Have you been pulled into the good food/bad food trap? Do you find yourself putting all foods into the categories of “good” or “bad”? This thinking is quicksand that pulls you into the sick cycle of dieting, bingeing, purging (for some) and over-exercising (for some).

I remember a woman in her late twenties explaining her list of bad foods. Due to her fear of eating foods with excessive fat or sugar, she suffered from stinkin’ thinkin’ (as the 12 step programs say) in regards to foods. The problem with this all-or-nothing thinking is that we live in a world of gray. Obviously, if we eat high amounts of sugar and fat on a regular basis, our health suffers and we are more likely to become obese.

But the dangers of this black and white (also called “all-or-nothing”) thinking is that it creates a monster within that wants to devour so-called “bad” foods. It starts with deprivation. The first step of the stinkin’ thinkin’ involves trying to avoid the food. The second step is that we begin to crave them like a pack of starving wolves craves meat. This leads to the third step, which is bingeing. Once we binge, we feel ashamed and we drown in shame and get pulled into the cycle of addiction. We feel so bad, we vow to change and therefore elevate to the next step, which is dieting. But once again dieting makes us develop horrendous cravings for “bad” foods. So we give in to our cravings again due to feeling deprived. The deprivation is the ugliest part of this beast. Due to this sick cycle, it is no wonder that dieters usually gain back every pound they lost – plus more.

Deprivation creates an insatiable hunger. Normal people sometimes overeat and eat “bad” foods. So in order to get back onto the train of normal eating instead of dieting and bingeing and feeling shame, we would be wise to stop the stinkin’ thinking’. That means to stop labeling foods as “bad” or “good.” Say no to deprivation, and hop off the dieting/bingeing train that eats away at your body image.

What if you could learn to enjoy foods you used to label as “bad” in moderation? If you could kiss the dieting/bingeing train goodbye forever, you could reclaim much of the plunder of the Body Image Bandit. So go ahead…kiss the train goodbye and let yourself enjoy the peace of thinking gray instead of stinkin’ thinkin’. This will give the Body Image Bandit much less power in your life.

Body Image: Stop the Negative Thinking (and heal your body image)

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You’re waiting in line at the grocery store, and can’t help but checking out the fannies of the gals in front of you.  You’re in the “12 items or less” line, but the guy at the front of the line seems to have 350 items.  Man, is his gut big, you think.  He really doesn’t need those chocolate covered raisins.  Oh, and look at the next girl.  She is skinny.  Probably a size 4.  But even so, she looks kind of disproportionate.  Oh, I wonder what the people behind me are thinking about my tooshie?

You can’t help it.  Since you live in a culture in which you were exposed to 250,000 ads by the time you were seventeen, you have been brainwashed.  This sick tsunami of messages that scream, “To be thin is to be beautiful, and beauty is almost everything,” has brainwashed you and caused you to be hypercritical of your own body as well as other peoples’ bodies.

All of this negativity and comparison puts you back into the sick merry-go-round of dieting, bingeing, purging (for some) and over-exercising (for some).  What would it look like to stop the sick cycle and get off the merry-go-round forever?  The first step is to stop the poisonous habit of comparing your body to other peoples’ bodies.

But how can you do this?  It has become such an ingrained habit, it is almost as natural as breathing.  The first step is to recognize that it is doing a great deal of harm.  Women who put up pictures of thin celebrities and/or models often binge after looking at them because they feel like a failure in comparison.  The same thing happens when you compare yourself with anyone else’s body.

The next step is to picture a big red stop sign, and to picture screaming, “STOP!” whenever you catch yourself comparing your body to someone else’s.  Keep doing this over and over again.  You may even want to think of something else, such as a peaceful place like a beach.  Or else you might say a prayer to ask God to help you with your body image, or even recite a verse.

Although this won’t be easy, you will begin to notice a change from this “stinkin’ thinkin’ ” pattern.  You will notice that your eyes avert from looking so intently and judging your own and other peoples’ bodies.  Instead of feeling depressed and like your body is not good enough, you will begin to feel the truth:  You are a masterpiece – a unique and beautiful person, and you will begin to celebrate your uniqueness and see your true underlying beauty.

The Million-Dollar Question about Body Image

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The sad part of the New Year’s resolution frenzy is that it will be over by Valentines Day. Most of the people will fizzle out on their resolutions of losing weight and working out. That is, unless they are willing to take off their masks and ask a heart-wrenching question. That question, you have probably already guessed (if you have been following this blog) has absolutely nothing to do with food, fat, or fannies. It is a question that has to do with your heart and your story. By now you have probably learned that food and body image issues are really not about food or your body, but about deeper issues of the heart. If you don’t address these deeper issues of the heart, you will continue to lose in your fight against the body image bandit. This is the reason why most winners on “The Biggest Loser” gain all of their weight back. It is also why others continue to lose the battle of the bulge, or anorexia, or purgeing, or obsessing about their bodies.

So what is the million dollar body image question? Here it is: What was happening in your life when you first started to have a bad relationship with food and/or your body image? But remember, “nothing” is not the answer. This requires a much deeper thought process. You have to have the courage to ponder and think about what really happened. Most people are tempted to say, “Oh nothing, really. ________happened, but it really was not that big of a deal. I’m soooooo over that!” But if you started your journey into a bad relationship with food during that time, it affected you more profoundly than you realized. If it brought you through the door of eating disorders (including bingeing, purging, over-exercising, or yo-yo dieting) and/or other addictions, the wound has gashed a larger part of your soul than you have begun to imagine.

Maybe you feel that you have already worked through this part of your story. You may have done a lot of work on it, which is to be celebrated. But if you are still on the sick cycle of bingeing, dieting, or obsessing about your body image, perhaps you have more work to do. If you are an American, you have seen 250,000 ads by the time you are 17, and most of the ads scream, “To be thin is to be beautiful, and beauty is everything.” Of course this is a gnawing monster in our culture that we need to beat. I have written several other posts discussing how we can do this, as well as how we can protect our kids from developing eating disorders.

Once you answer the first question, you can continue to draw a time line of your life and put marks next to the times when you most struggled with food/body image issues. Perhaps you have worked through the first issue, but our lives are complex. You probably fell back into into unhealthy relationship with food/body image at other points in your life, when your heart was sick because of what was happening in your life. So of course there is much more to work through. I hope that you will consider working on your real, underlying issues that caused you to develop an unhealthy relationship with food. Then – and only then- will you have the greatest chance of fighting the body image bandit and winning. After all, the truth will set you free, and the truth is that food/body image issues are much more about our hearts and our stories than anything else.

© Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Tooshie: Defeating the Body Image Bandit, (c) 2007-20014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Tooshie: Defeating the Body Image Bandit with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Real Roots of Food Addiction: Conquering Binge Eating Disorder

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“When did you first begin to substitute food for love?”  I asked my client.  (Note:  Names and identifying information have been changed to protect confidentiality.)

“I don’t really know,” she answered, reaching for the Kleenex box.  “I remember in high school when I’d lost a lot of weight, and this really popular guy gave me the eye, if you know what I mean,”

My nod encouraged her to continue.  “What did you do right after he gave you the eye?”  I asked, knowing what she would probably say.

“I went right home and raided the fridge.” 

“You’re terrified of your own beauty?”  I asked, althought it was spoken softly and sounded more like a statement than a question. 

“I guess so.  His look made me realize at that second that if I didn’t put a layer of protection around myself – actually a layer of fat – then I would probably be abused again, or turn back into my old promiscuous self, which is even worse.  So yeah, I guess you could say I am terrified of my own beauty.” 

She grabbed her long, sleek brown hair and began to twist, which I recognized as a sign of anxiety. conversation caused her to  ponder difficult issues – issues that are much more about the heart and her story than calories and fat grams.

I encouraged her to continue therapy to get to the roots of the issues, which often display themselves through many secondary symptoms, including:

  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Drug, alcohol, sex, gambling, shopping and other addictions
  • Promiscuity or lack of sexual intimacy
  • Difficulties in friendships and other relationships

When did you first start to gain weight? is a MILLION dollar question!  I cannot stress this enough.  Something happened to the person at that time in her life.  It may have been the divorce of her parents, sexual abuse, or another extremely painful situation.  Until the pain is dealt with, people trying to lose weight will continue to dance around the symptoms.  They will often lose weight, but then – just as research shows – most of them will gain all of it back, plus MORE! 

This client has now lost over 80 pounds and has kept it off for several years.  I ran into her a while ago, and asked her how she lost the weight.  “It was mostly the counseling,” she said.  “You helped me to process through the hardest parts of my story, and then I turned to food less and less.”  She is now much more comfortable with her own beauty, and refuses to substitute food for love. 

Does this mean everyone who is significantly overweight has experienced abuse? Of course not. However, many who have struggled with weight issues have experienced major trauma in their lives.  Usually they will continue to struggle with the weight until they have the courage to face the roots of their issues – the pain in their hearts that grew from seeds of sadness in their stories. 

Being overweight is usually a symptom of underlying issues, and more than likely the weight loss won’t stick until these issues are addressed. To work on the weight alone is somewhat like chopping off the top of a weed in your garden.  The root will be hidden for a whole, but sooner or later the weed will reappear.

Make 2010 the year that you work on your own life story with a licensed mental health counselor who addresses the causes of issues and not only symptoms.  Then you will fight the body image bandit and win because you will no longer substitute food for love.  You will become the person you were meant to be…

© Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere and Fannies:  Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit, 2007 – 2047. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and  Tooshie:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

http://healthygirl.org/ Normal People Sometimes Overeat

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I LOVED this post by Sunny, the writer of healthygirl.org.  She mentions a profound yet lost morsel of truth:  Sometimes normal people overeat.  Obviously, this happens quite a bit during the holidays.  Last night I made these delectable chocolate/peanut butter cookie bar things.  They keep calling me, so I am trying to eat them a little bit at a time.  ;) 

Be sure to check out Sunny’s article at healthygirl.org, posted above.  And be kind to yourself.  Don’t expect yourself to eat perfectly, or the next thing you know, you will get swallowed up into a massive binge, starting the whole sick cycle of dieting, bingeing, purging (some of you) and over-exercising.

Here is her article: 

Hi all!

Sorry I sort of—POOF— vanished last week. I had planned to post a little pre-Xmas body love stuff and some mid-Xmas Food-Sanity tips, but…well, it didn’t go as planned.

But that’s OK, because you know what? I had an epiphany over the holiday and I’m back to share it with you.

Wanna hear it? NORMAL PEOPLE SOMETIMES OVEREAT.

Seems obvious, I know, but to a recovered binge eater like me, it’s kind of a revolutionary concept. All over-indulgence is not necessarily pathological, compulsive or even negative. I totally over-indulged this holiday—but it felt…normal and temporary. The way it might feel to someone who has a pretty healthy relationship with food.

Did I feel puffy and sluggish after the cookies, ice cream, Hickory Farms and Doritos? Totally. Do my skinny jeans fit a little bit tighter today than they did a week ago? Yup. But, did I binge or freak out with the food? Nope! There’s no way I could’ve handled this type of eating three years ago, or even a year ago. It would’ve devolved into a binge- and guilt-fest. Why? Because I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t at that point in my recovery yet where I could stick my toe into “dangerous” food waters and be OK. How fabulous that if we continue to work on things, we continue to grow and heal and get more sane about food!

And, get this: I’m not craving sweets or junk today. Now that I’m home, and getting back into my routine, I feel my body craving clean, simple and healthy foods—and that’s what I’m going to give to it.

How did eating go for you guys this holiday season? Are you feeling any guilt or negative feelings you want to vent? Or did you have any epiphanies of your own?

xo…Sunny

http://www.healthygirl.org

Body Image and Size: My Life Will be Perfect when I’m a Size ___ (Yeah, right!)

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Want to be Skinny

(Note:  all names and identifying information throughout my blog have been changed to protect individuals.)

I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right.  A physician came in for help with anxiety and depression, and told me during one of our sessions he was going on a chicken diet.

“A chicken diet?”  I asked.

“Yeah.  Chicken is the perfect food.

If I eat mostly chicken and drink water, I can lose some of this.”  He grabbed some excess fat around his middle.

“I’ve researched it, and I can hit my goal in three months at the normal recommended 2 pounds a week pace.   I’ll have chicken for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and I’ll drop the extra weight.  Then I can wear cool, manly clothes.  And the best part is women will be really into me.”

He smiled and looked out the window as though he’d discovered the answer to all life’s problems.

“So then you’ll have a perfect life?”  I asked.  I’ve heard this magical thinking from many people.  Countless women mentioned that when they became “skinny,” they would buy cute clothes.  I usually asked why they couldn’t buy them now, but they generally scrunched up their noses and thought that was crazy.  They insisted they had to wait until they were “skinny” to buy fun clothes.

In fact, many people use the word “skinny” as a magical word.  Once they are “skinny,” their lives will become enjoyable, but not one minute sooner.   They realized they can find attractive  clothes in larger sizes now, but had no interest until they were – drum roll please – skinny.

The magical thinking continues: Once they get skinny, they can dress better.  Then guys will want to date them, which will lead to a perfect  boyfriend, which will open the golden door to the perfect life.  Once the door opens, they get the successful, attractive boyfriend, the perfect wedding, and then buy a beautiful home.

Finally they have children, and as long as they stayed skinny, their lives will be flawless, dreamy, and perfect.  So goes the beast of

Magical thinking comes in many flavors:  Once I get a college degree, life will be perfect.  Or once I get married, life will be perfect.  Or once I have a house or a larger house, life will be perfect.  Or a very popular version:  Once I move to _______, life will be perfect.  But the truth is, once we rid ourselves of such magical thinking, we will be much more comfortable in our own skin. Life won’t be perfect this side of glory, but once we can rid ourselves of magical thinking, we will be much more at peace.

© Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit, 2007 – 2017. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA,  LMHC appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

7 Ways to Protect Your Daughter (or Son) from Eating Disorders

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After her brother said she was fat, Karen (not her real name) vowed to do whatever it took to get into a pair of size 6 Calvin Klein jeans.  Most women who struggle with eating disorders remember this type of significant moment in their stories.  This vow included starving herself to the point that she passed out on a beach.

When she regained consciousness, the EMT asked her, “What can I do to prevent this from happening to my daughter?”  With tears in her eyes, she answered, “You can love her unconditionally.” 

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“Oh my gosh, I can’t believe these elephant thighs,” you remark in front of the mirror as you try on a new pair of jeans.

“Maybe I have elephantitis, and my doctor hasn’t diagnosed me yet.”  Your daughter hears this, and you both laugh.

But the problem with these types of negative body image statements is that they cut deeply into her soul, doing much more harm than you realize.  Such comments, even if said in jest, reinforce the belief in our culture which screams, “If you’re not toothpick thin, you are ugly.”

This spurs girls, sometimes starting before age five, into dieting.  Then they begin the roller coaster ride of dieting and later bingeing because they feel so starved.

This leads to shame, which leads back to dieting again.  Even if they get down to a normal size, they still feel fat.  If they have people-pleasing, perfectionistic personalities, they often get swallowed up with anorexia.

If they are not people-pleasers, they often flirt with throwing up until it develops into full-blown bulimia.  But when they throw up, they are actually trying to purge all the hurtful feelings stored in their hearts.

This is why learning to express true feelings is so important.  (I will write more about this in another blog.)

Here are some ways you can protect your daughter (or son, as more and more boys are developing eating disorders) from eating disorders:

  • Avoid talking about dieting, fat, or your fanny.  Whenever you do this, your daughter is getting the message that her value rests on how thin she is
  • Discourage dieting, as it usually leads to a lifelong obsession with black-and-white thinking in regards to food
  • Discourage your daughter from looking at beauty and fashion magazines.  Research shows this leads to depression
  • Stop praising girls for their beauty.  Instead, focus on their other strengths and accomplishments, When we praise girls for their appearance, we reinforce the cultural tsunami of lies that drown girls in feelings that they are only valued for their appearance.
  • Be aware that certain activities such as ballet, modeling, gymnastics, and wrestling often emphasize thinness, which puts your child more at risk for developing an eating disorder
  • Encourage your child find out which physical activities he or she enjoys, so they can have fun while getting exercise
  • Promote a healthy lifestyle.  Research shows that kids tend to pick up their parents’ lifestyle habits, whether they are smoking, exercising, obsessing about dieting, or eating lots of sweets.  Work toward moderation so that they don’t feel deprived, yet get the benefits of a well-rounded eating pattern

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Of course there are no guarantees, but these suggestions will help your child to feel good about himself or herself, appreciating the unique characteristics that God has given them.   Also keep in mind that many more boys and men are now falling prey to eating disorders.

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© Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere and Fannies:  Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit, 2007 – 2047. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

This article is taken from a newsletter on my web site:  www.notjustsymptoms.com.  Click on Newsletters on the right side of the home page.

Body Image and Scales: It Loves Me – It Loves Me Not

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            Do you step on your scale in the morning, and let the magic number it displays influence whether you have a good or bad day?  Over the past several years counseling women, I have encountered many who give their scales that much power.   Other women have sadly expressed that their mothers did this, and it had a profound effect on their growing up years.  If their mothers weighed in at a lower number, they displayed more of a fun, upbeat side.  But if the cloud of weight gain (even a pound or two) hung in the air, the house felt tense and their moms acted depressed and/or bitchy.

Eating disorder programs usually recommend that their patients get rid of their scales.  They realize that many of their clients have an obsession with weighing themselves, often stepping on their scales many times per day.  Experts believe people can tell whether they are gaining or losing weight by the way their clothes fit.  Besides, weight varies throughout the day, week, and month (according to the menstrual cycle) normally anyway.

How long will you continue to let your scale cause you to have bad days, weeks, and months?  Can you honestly say that you never let the number on the scale  – the magic number- influence how you treat people?  You may want to discuss this with safe people who you trust to give you feedback.

If you don’t have the courage to put your scale away long-term, consider giving it a vacation.  Put it in your attic, or send it on a cruise to Fiji if you want.

Try This:  Write a letter to your scale.  Tell it how you have given it too much power in your life (i.e. letting it dictate on many days whether you have a good day or a bad day).  Describe in detail how it has influenced your life.  You may even want to give it a name, and suggest that it go away for a period of time.

© Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere and Fannies:  Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit, 2007 – 2047. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Turkey Jitters: How to Save Face when your Turkey Bites the Dust

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(Note:  We are taking a Thanksgiving hiatus from body image in honor of Thanksgiving.  Enjoy your turkey!) 

Does the thought of preparing Thanksgiving dinner give you the shakes? Maybe as you’re reading this, your heart is beating so loudly the neighbors can hear. Images of undressed turkeys roll around in your head and make you wish you were from India, where no one would consider eating a turkey, let alone cooking one. Memories of yesteryear haunt you throughout November, and this time of year often brings nightmares. You’ve considered seeing a therapist about this. Last night it was the rerun of the time you didn’t have any turkey bags like Aunt Myrtle swore by. So you wrapped the turkey tightly in a role of plastic food wrap and secured it with duct tape. It took a two-week sabbatical from work to get the exploded turkey and plastic film off your self-cleaning oven.

The night before last, the nightmare that surfaced was the gizzard gravy with plastic incident. It was the first year you’d cooked a big bird. You plunged it into the oven, without removing its fine little hairs and gizzards. (Yes, in case you didn’t realize – poultry is supposed to be rinsed before cooking to remove the fine hairs!) “What’s this interesting texture on the skin?“ your cousin Sam asked as he pointed to a scorched turkey hair. “It’s so unique and delicious. I must get the recipe before I fly back to New Jersey.”

These are the symptoms of Turkey Preparation Anxiety, which I’m sure will soon turn up in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for mental disorders. The most severe type of the disorder involves the worst turkey nightmare, which my friend Sally had last year. She stood face-to-face with a human-sized raw turkey and repeatedly struck it with her fists. She began pounding on her husband, screaming, “Get in the bag or I’ll …“before he woke her up and suggested she get help. His black eye took a month to heal.

If you want to give it one more try, remember, take a deep breath and relax. (And don’t forget to exhale, or you won’t be around for another turkey dinner.) Now say your prayers and slip on your apron with confidence. Make sure you have plenty of leftover chili in the freezer, and thaw it out the day before. Most people like chili, and you can thaw it quickly on the defrost setting of your microwave, just in case your bird bites the dust. Carefully rinse the turkey and pat dry, talking nicely to it the whole time. Turkeys are like copy machines in that respect. If you’re in a hurry and don’t say kind words to them, they get attitudes and make you look bad.

Rub the bird with olive oil and salt only lightly. Turkey experts swear that too much salt dries it out. Do not pepper the turkey because this royally dries it out. Dry, rubbery, peppery turkey tastes like singed stinky shoes. Remember the one back in 1999? Even the dog didn’t like it. Spray your oven bag with cooking spray and the flour, just as per the instructions. (Don’t use hair spray or it will blow up your oven.) Resist the temptation to carve fancy designs for air vents. The six ½ inch slats in the top should be simple. I tried a Mickey Mouse design in the slats of the turkey bag one year, and it scorched the top of it. My family called that one the Cajun blackened turkey, and refused to eat it. That year we ate peanut butter sandwiches for dinner. Place the meat thermometer exactly like the picture shows in your Joy of Cooking book. Putting it in the rear end of the turkey is not an option. And never go without a meat thermometer, or you are asking for big turkey trouble.

Now slip the turkey into the bag, tie it with the provided tie, and place it in the pan. Before slipping it in the preheated oven, tell it again how beautiful it is and how much you love it. Take it out at exactly 170 degrees. As for the rest of the meal, delegate. And if that doesn’t work, bring on the chili, which of course you made in advance out of ground turkey. And the day after Thanksgiving, forget the mall sales. Make reservations for next year at your favorite restaurant, and you can relax the whole year without getting turkey jitters.

© Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere and Fannies:  Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit, 2007 – 2047. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

My Body Image Story, Part 2: The Magic Number

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About two years after moving to Maui, my family moved back to the Mainland. But the bubbly, outgoing teen that landed back at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport had changed forever. The new version had been ravaged by daily harassment until she grew into a shy, depressed young woman who had only a fraction of the confidence she had two years prior. Stepping out of the plane that blustery November day, we drove to Southcenter first to buy some warm coats. We no longer owned any. All we had were windbreakers, and the Pacific Northwest weather laughed at our flimsy attempts at warmth.

The first days of school are somewhat of a blur. All I wanted was to fit in. I was certain I would be able to find my place in the middle school, and greatly looked forward to belonging, just like in the days before moving to so-called “Paradise.” Belonging is something all people crave, but young teens crave more than other age groups. Our hearts long to be assured that we are connected and loved. I had always been very well-liked, and a leader. So I assumed I would pick up where I had left off.

But I had forgotten one important detail. That is, my skin now glowed with a deep golden bronze tan, and my hair had been painted white-blonde by the paintbrush of the Hawaiian sun. Just as I did not fit in living on Maui as a haole in a school with only a handful of white students, I now did not blend in because of my deep, dark tan and white-blonde hair. Since it was November and tanning salons had not been invented, most people were very pale – kind of like my legs right now, which almost glow in the dark! Also, my body had blossomed and now appeared athletic but full-figured. This sparked interest by the boys, and jealousy in the girls, even though I didn’t want a boyfriend. All I wanted was to fit in like I used to do so well, before we moved to Maui. Thankfully, another girl moved from southern California at about the same time, which took some of the pressure off.

Over time, the tan faded and my hair darkened until it reached “dish blonde” color. (That’s such a weird phrase. I think of after Thanksgiving, when the dish water looks grody and gross, with little food particles water-skiing on top of the muck!) Even so, my soul had been changed forever and now felt heavy and dark. But my entire Maui experience is another book for another time. I have several parts written, but for now it hangs out under my bed with the dust bunnies. Overall, I felt good about my body. I liked the fact that I was strong and able to swim and run. I didn’t worry too much about what to eat until I started looking at a lot of beauty and fashion magazines, such as Seventeen. How could I help but notice the tall, thin models? Not one of them had a curvy figure like mine, and not one was under 5’9. So I decided, for the first time, I needed to lose weight. I was fat, I thought, and baffled because I had never realized it.

I told my dad I was going to go “on a diet,” and he said he thought I didn’t need to. “If you want to lose 5 pounds or so, why don’t you just cut down a little each time you eat?” I could not believe how out-of-the loop he was. I looked at him as if he had three heads, and told him, ”Dad, I have to go on a diet. Nobody just cuts back a little – dieting is how everybody does it.” I sighed at his ignorance on the subject of beauty. He definitely needed to spend more time reading beauty and fashion magazines, and less time working, hunting, and fishing. I wondered if he would ever get a clue. How could he be in his late thirties and be ignorant to one of the best inventions of mankind – dieting?

I decided to start my diet on – drum roll please- Monday. Of course you already knew that, because after all, isn’t that the way the cookie always crumbles? I think there is an unwritten eleventh commandment, “You shall start all diets on Mondays.” But as soon as I began to even think about my first diet, I started to crave almost everything. Except Brussels sprouts. Food, food, food was on my mind what seemed like 24/7. I craved chocolate, chips, hamburgers, donuts, and even white cake. And the weird thing is that I had never really liked donuts or white cake much. So why was I craving it? Because as soon as I limited the foods and categorized them into “good” and “bad,” the cravings began. And that is how I started a cycle of going on and off diets, throwing my poor body into a tailspin. (Years later I realized that God doesn’t even categorize foods as good and bad. So if he doesn’t, why should I?)

During high school, my family moved once again (we moved about every two years, so I never had the chance to establish roots)and I became good friends with Diane. She had a lot of friends and had been elected ASB president. Diane was athletic and brilliant, but she continued to get gnawed on by the Body Image Bandit because her brother and sister were models. Not long after we met, she did some number crunching and informed me that I should weigh 105, based on a chart she had discovered in one of her beauty and fashion magazines. Because I had been brainwashed by the fashion and beauty magazines, I believed she was right. And so I hyper focused on food, fat, and my fanny. Day in and day out, I thought, read, and studied about food, calories, and how to look good. I started to believe that my value was mostly in my packaging, and based my value on whether or not I could weigh 105. I had a new formula for a perfect life- 105. The magic number.

© Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere and Fannies:  Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit, 2007 – 2047. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Body Image Stories: My Body Image Story, Part I: Moving to Maui

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My Body Image Story, Part I

Well, I knew this day would come.  Those of you who have never seen me are dying to know what I look like, with questions such as, “Is she tall?  Is she short?  Is she big?  Is she small?”  Of course by now you may have seen a headshot on my web site.  (Okay, I’ll admit it – the picture is about four years old.  Since then I got glasses, but they are so cute.   Thanks, Costco! )  On a very good day, if I stretch out my neck and think “tall,” I am 5’3.”  I’m praying that big hair and platform shoes come back because I’m 5’7” or 5’8” with those!  I have a muscular, full-figured type of body so some people still think of me as petite, even when I am carrying extra weight.  I am fairly solid because I have been exercising regularly for forty plus years.

I swam competitively for years, and love to kayak and hike, although my SLE lupus (an auto-immune disease which can affect any organ) and ankylosing spondylitis (a chronic form of arthritis) sometimes make me tired.  I’ve been from a size 6 to a 12 or 14, so obviously struggle with body image myself.    Who doesn’t?  In our culture, we see 250,000 advertisements before the age of 17.  Most of the images say, “To be thin is to be beautiful, and beauty is everything.”  So we all have been deeply impacted.   Fannies (the blog and the book, when it comes out) is an antidote to the tsunami of negative messages that shoot through our hearts every day.  (And by the way, you may want to do yourself a favor and recycle your fashion and beauty magazines.  Research shows that after you look at them, you feel more depressed.  Maybe we should have a big magazine recycling party!)

Before I tell you my story of wrestling with the Body Image Bandit, I would like to say that I don’t have all the answers, and I am not an eating disorders specialist.  But I have learned a lifetime of information about body image through helping women and men work process their own stories.    If you get anything out of my Fannies blog, I hope you grasp that body image issues are about the heart.  If you struggle with an eating disorder – including binge eating disorder – it is really about your life story.  Obviously calories are calories, and fat grams are fat grams, but why do we binge, purge, diet, over-exercise, and beat ourselves up because of figure flaws?  Because of our stories and because of living in a culture which teaches us that if we are not concentration camp thin, we are ugly.  In many ways, we have been brainwashed.

And so I bring you my own story, which is an unusual story about how my heart broke in a place that is often called Paradise.  In some ways I grew up everywhere, because my family moved so often.  But when I was in sixth grade my family moved from Fall City, WA to Kihei, Maui, Hawaii. Fall City was a small logging town back in the day, years before the richest man in the world opened up Microsoft down the road.  My dad supervised the updating of the sewer system in Kihei.  So whenever you vacation in Kihei, you can thank my dad each time you flush!

I could not wait to move to Maui!  My class threw a going-away party for me and collected $27.55 for me to buy a surfboard when I got there.  They had wrapped the cash in this tiny little box, which they had placed in several consecutively larger boxes.  The final box was about five feet by three feet, wrapped in sunny yellow paper.  I felt very loved, and my heart smiled.  And in the seventies, $27.55 was a lot of money for kids whose fathers logged for a living. Shortly after arriving on Maui, I wrote a thank you note directly on a coconut with a Sharpie marker, and mailed it back (without a box) to my teacher, Mr. Wright.

The first day of school on that rainy Monday in Kihei, I couldn’t wait to meet all my new friends.  At the time I had a vivacious, bubbly personality and had been on student council and had other leadership positions.  But that all changed when I first set foot in Kihei School. I watched whales breaching across the street in the Pacific as I walked to my first class, and could not believe I was living in Paradise.  I knew the sun would always shine on my back, and that life would be perfect.  Or so I thought.  What I didn’t know was that I had just entered a shark zone, but it was inside Kihei School and not in the deep blue Pacific.

I walked through the door of my first class and everyone stared.  It was as though an alien had landed in the classroom.  Silence reverberated off the walls.  Everyone was playing cards.  I noticed I was the only white person in the room, but I was thrilled to learn about new cultures and make friends.  I pictured myself surfing with my new friends and hanging out on the beach between catching waves.  Dad had told me that there were only about 400 true Hawaiians still living, so I knew that most of the people would not be Hawaiian, but various Polynesian people.

After what seemed like twenty years later, the bell rang.  I walked out, and a gang of girls approached me.  “Get da hell offa dis island, haole.  Go back to da mainland whea you belong,”  the leader said.  (Translation:  Get the hell off of this island, white girl.  Go back to the Mainland where you belong.) This was my first encounter with Pidgin English, and I had not realized that the language was so much different.  The base of Pidgin is English, but many words from various other languages are mixed in.  In the midst of dealing with a horrendous level of discrimination, I had to navigate myself through a new language because they had many different words and phrases.  When Gwen and her pack cornered me on the playground that day, I started to think it was going to be a long two years.  A cloud of fear and confusion grew within me, and began to take root in my heart.  I was used to being popular and making friends easily.  So what was the big deal?  I just didn’t get it.  After all, we were all people, but just wore different colors of skin.

Day after day, week after week I was told I was worthless and shameful because of my white skin.  I felt like an apple in a pile of papayas.  They threw rocks at me, called me names, spit on me, and despised me before I even uttered a sound.  All because I was white.    One day, a native girl handed me a new, unsharpened white pencil.  She said, “Hea.  Take dis.  It’s white like your &*#%  haole face.”  (Translation:  Here.  Take this.  It’s white like your %^&* white face.)  The pencil dropped to the old wooden floor of the beat-up classroom, and my heart dropped to another level on the elevator of despair.   It felt like it was bleeding.  I began to wonder how long I could take the pain, the loneliness, and the fact that almost everyone hated me because of my white skin.  On the weekends all of the workers’ families hung out at the beach together, and we all had similar experiences at different schools in the area because we had all come from Washington state.  A friend of mine who survived an even worse fate has a blog you may want to check out:  http://bowlingjoe.blogspot.com/

The depression became unbearable.  I despised my white skin, and wanted to have beautiful brown skin and dark hair.  But each day I swam, surfed,  or played tennis after school, and the tropical Hawaiian sun kissed my hair again and again until it turned white-blonde.  My skin was a beautiful bronze, but I still paid the price for my light blonde hair and blue eyes.  If I would have been even a little darker complected, it wouldn’t have been quite as bad.  I could have looked half Polynesian and blended in.  But with the blue eyes and white-blonde hair,  I just didn’t fit in.  I cried myself to sleep many nights.  Sleep was my drug of choice.

One morning I noticed almost everyone wearing white bands on their upper arms.  I didn’t know until it was too late that it was Kill Haole Day.   They would be “choosing” one of the handful of white kids that attended the K-8 school to beat up.  That was it.   I needed to move back, so I told mom and dad that I had to move back to Washington, or go to a Catholic school where most people were not prejudiced.   If not, I would drop out of school, although I was a great student.  I knew that would never fly with my parents.  The problem was that we didn’t have the money, as St. Anthony’s was very expensive.  I had heard from kids on the swim team that the student at St. Anthony’s actually treated people based on their personalities and not their skin color.  Finally my parents agreed to enroll my sister and I in St. Anthony’s.  They weren’t excited about it because of the expense and the fact that we were not Catholic.  (We weren’t anything, as far as religion was concerned.) But I am thankful that they decided to let me attend St. Anthony’s because the truth is that I had a date picked out.  If mom and dad did not let me return to the Mainland or go to St. Anthony’s, I had planned to end my life by a certain date.  (And thankfully, I was not “chosen” on Kill Haole Day.  But someone else was.)

Years later, I am awed by the fact that God used my Maui experience in so many ways.  Several years ago, I did an internship at Union Gospel Mission Women and Family Shelter in Seattle.  I had the honor of working with many women of color, and sometimes they came in for counseling with stories involving race.  They would sigh and tell me I would not understand because I just didn’t know what it was like.  And I would say, “I have never experienced your story, but let me tell you a bit about my story.”  Their eyes got big, and they looked confused.  How could a blonde, blue-eyed, pale woman know anything about being a minority, they wondered.  Once I told them about moving to Maui, we began to enter into their stories with truth and grace.

After getting my teaching degree, I taught public school in several places in which most of the population consisted of Mexican Americans.  One time I asked the students to write about three things they would like to change about themselves.  I cried after school as I read the papers and many had written,” I would like to be white.”  So of course I shared about my years on Maui, and continued to tell them that they were beautiful just as they were.  One time a girl was going to buy blue contacts, and I was able to convince her that her brown eyes were beautiful and encouraged her to embrace her heritage.  Now I understand how it is that God can create beauty from ashes.  I have lived it.

I imagine this is not what you were expecting on a blog about body image.  After all, what does skin color have to do with body image?  And my response is “everything,”  I understand through and through what it is like to live in a body in which you are immensely uncomfortable.  Although I am sorry if I disappointed you, stay tuned as I reveal my deepest moments of struggle as I fought (and still fight) the Body Image Bandit.  I will also address eating disorders,  weight issues, whether or not there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, and how to get off of  the sick cycle of bingeing, dieting, over-exercising, and/or purging.  More importantly, I will offer a set of tools you can use to fight the Body Image Bandit and win.  And above all else – how to be comfortable in your own skin, embracing the body God gave you.   Although I must admit – to fight the Bandit is to enter into the zone of struggling with your own story, because body image and food issues are more about the heart than they are about food.  And please feel free to tell of your own struggle with the Body Image Bandit.  After all, we’re all in this together.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

 

Body Image and Dieting: Why Diets Don’t Work

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Note:  This article is for people who need to lose weight for health reasons – not those who want to “get skinny” so they will have perfect lives.  We will address that later. 

Face it.  You are more likely to get run over by a truck full of PMSing women going on a Dairy Queen binge than losing weight – and keeping it off – on a diet.  Statistics show that when you go on a diet, you will most likely gain all the weight back – plus more. It may take months or a few years, but that is what almost always happens.
The reason for this is that food issues are about our hearts and stories. So whenever you go on a diet, you are treating the symptoms only. This is somewhat like having an injury and treating only the pain without finding out what is causing it.

A few years ago I ran into a former client at a grocery store.  I did a double-take because I didn’t recognize her.  She told me she had lost eighty pounds, and I asked how she did it (nobody was around, or else I would not have done so).  She said it was mostly from the counseling we did.  “I’m no longer self-medicating with food because you really helped me work through my issues.  And now whenever something is bothering me, I let myself feel it and then work through it instead of running to the fridge.”  We had worked on some difficult events in her life, and I had asked her when she first started to gain weight.  The last time she walked out the door of my office, she had a whole bag of tricks to help her deal with the difficulties in life.  Plus, she had worked through many of the important events that had caused her to use food to feel better.  (Of course, this side of heaven, we will all have issues to some extent.  But I imagine you’ve already figured that one out.  And if you think you have no issues, then we really need to talk!)

“When did you first start to gain weight?” is the million-dollar question that most people never address.  Usually something of significance happened at that time, such as a parent’s divorce, moving, the loss of a relationship, sexual abuse (defined as anything a child experiences which is inappropriate, even if no touching or penetration is involved), a death, the rejection of a good friend, etc.  In other words, just about anything that made you sad or changed your world.   If you can’t figure out what that is, look harder and get professional help.

After we worked through this particular issue, we continued to work on her other issues of the heart.  Essentially, many of the other bumps in the road of her life, from early childhood on throughout her life.  I had noticed that it looked as though she was losing weight at the time, but did not focus on it.  Then she finished her therapy, and I hadn’t seen her in a few years.

If you continue to go on and off diets, you will continue to treat the symptom and not the actual problem.  If you truly have a problem, you are facing an addiction.  Yes – a food addiction.  You are self-medicating with food, just as many people self-medicate with alcohol, drugs, pornography, shopping, reading (if you use reading to escape and to avoid your problems), computer addiction, exercise addiction, etc.

And the cherry on top is that the more diets you go on, the more weight you will gain in the long run unless you are one of the tiny percentage of people who actually lose weight and keep it off.  Hmmmm…I wonder how many of those people actually dealt with the issues that brought them through the door of food addiction?  I’ll bet you a hot fudge sundae that most of them did.

© Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere and Fannies:  Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit, 2007 – 2047. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Body Image: Making Peace with Your Body

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What if you and your fanny could finally make peace?  You have dieted, exercised, and poured your fanny into a pair of jeans three sizes too small.  Maybe you – like me – bought a pair of plastic bloomers designed to hook up to your vacuum cleaner and suck the fat off your hiney.  Unfortunately, the Girl Scouts showed up during the procedure, seeing you through the window.  They were traumatized for life, but you waddled to the door anyway in yellow plastic bloomers to buy a year’s supply of chocolate mint cookies.

Face it.  Many of us spend enormous amounts of time dwelling on our derierres.  On some level, we believe the world actually cares about them, but in reality most people don’t have time to ponder our plunder.

I imagine our love-hate relationship with food started in the Garden of Eden.  Eve’s hormones whacked out and she had a craving for chocolate that wouldn’t quit, even though she had never tasted it.  I don’t think it was an apple.  Most likely, it was a large handful of chocolate beans, coffee beans, or hybrid chocolate-coffee beans that tasted like a Starbucks mocha.  Now that would certainly be tempting.

And so began women’s preoccupation with the conceptual size of their fannies and other unassorted body parts.  Now don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about, because I know you do.  You’ve exercised, dieted, and some of you have binged, purged, and/or starved yourself – all in search of the perfect body, or a skinnier one or perhaps a less expansive model.

But if you actually succeeded in molding yourself into the dimensions you had always dreamed, bizarre men started clinging to you like chocolate on chocolate-covered raisins.  The fabulous fanny acted like a creep magnet, and wacky weirdos came from everywhere to meet you because they loved your packaging.  You resented this, which led you to drive through all the fast-food places in town and gorge yourself with sugary, fatty foods until you thought you would pop.  The bottom like is the more you obsessed about having the perfect packaging, the more you attracted guys who wanted you for your looks and not your heart.

Perhaps you have obsessed about other body parts, and how  they measure up to photoshopped standards of models and movie stars who are being eaten from within by the beasts of bulimia and anorexia.  Eating disorders create an imploding black hole that always ends in darkness and has swallowed up many lives due to heart failure and other complications.

Tooshie: Defeating the Body Image Bandit is for anyone who has been weighed down with feelings about food, fat, and fannies.  (The ebook will be out Summer of 2014, Lord willing). You will experience resounding joy when you completely grasp that God is much more concerned about your heart than your fanny.  Of course you know this in your head, but when you truly feel it in every cell of your body, you will wrestle with the Body Image Bandit and win.  Finally, you will be protected from the Body Image Bandit  – the Enemy, the Accuser, and the Father of Lies, who continually works to convince you that your value comes from outer beauty as opposed to inner beauty.  The answer to the cultural lie of, “To be thin is to be beautiful and beauty is everything,” is the truth:  “Man looks at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”

© Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere and Fannies:  Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit, 2007 – 2047. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Fannies:  Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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More Realistic Barbie 

The new Barbie features: 

  • Ethnicities 
  • A variety of sizes and shapes 
  • More realistic sizes 

Read more: 

Mattel Debuts a NEW and Updated Barbie! Check out the Curvy, Petite, and Tall Barbie!

  http://thecurvyfashionista.com/2016/01/mattel-barbie-curvy-petite-tall/

Swimming in the Sea of What-Ifs

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You swim against the current, grasping for air as you turn your head to scan the horizon. Dizzy and out of breath, you feel the ebb and flow of the water spraying against your limbs.

You’ve summersaulted your way into oblivion many times before, spiraling against the current, knowing not when the tides of life will slow into a stream of serenity.

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The sharks in the Sea of What-Ifs swirl around you, encroaching into the small space surrounding you.

Oh. No. What will you do? What’s next, and later, and far into the glimmer of the future?

But….

Hold. On.

Remember,

All the sharks in the Sea of What-Ifs are toys.

Plastic teeth line their mouths, and you can dent their tiny bellies with your thumb.

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So relax. Smile. Surf’s up –  in a good way. God’s got this.

Climb into your kayak, paddle into the wind, and breathe in the

Salty streams of this sandy summer day.

And no matter what – stay out of the Sea of What-Ifs.~

How I Hokey Pokey

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In my other life, I swam competitively or ran 6 miles most days.

Then, due to lupus and ankylosing spondylitis, I couldn’t breathe or walk for periods of time. Dressing myself seemed like running a marathon. So did using the restroom. I told God, at age 28, “Please take me if this is a preview of my future.”

One month I spent on the couch. I rolled off the floor and crawled down the hall to use the restroom. Every last thread of energy I used to complete the tasks involved in using the bathroom.

My future dreams included a triathlon. Not using every ounce of stamina to relieve myself.

Physicians and naturopaths tried many different approaches to treat the inflammation that ravaged my body, mind and soul.

I changed my diet as well.

After years of battling the beasts, sometimes I saw glimmers of hope. But often the darkness enveloped my life story.

Yes, I learned volumes from this journey. I’m a prayer warrior, and I learned to stop and breathe in the beauty of jasmine fragrance. I also divorced my drivenness. This go, go, go mentality of many Americans creates chaos of the soul. The drive shoots cortisol throughout our bodies, and stress pumps through our veins. And of course, that was me.

But nowadays – thanks to an injectable medication called Humira – I have part of my life back. I can sleep through the nights without waking all night long in pain. I can walk. I can dress myself. And I can breathe without having a frozen iced venti cup of water on my chest. (This works better than an ice pack, for some reason.)

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Nowadays, every other Tuesday I inject myself. That’s my hokey pokey. As in, I poke myself with a needle that offers me two more weeks of a semi-normal life. (Sometimes I’m still exhausted, feeling as though I’ve been drugged. But that’s another story, and this happens on the sunny days. A part of lupus.)

And yes, I am quite aware of the side effects of this TNF blocker medication. I’m willing to take the risks. Because deep down, I’m an athlete. I love the wind caressing my hair on my pink kayak. (Below: pic with Werner kayak paddle.)

That. Is. Life. I feel the gratitude engulf my soul as I paddle among the seals and salmon.

And this is a piece of my heart that you may learn from:

Don’t share about your friend who died of lupus. Please don’t dance that song in front of anyone fighting any disease.

 

Oh, and also don’t share an approach you know will fix it. Because chances are – I’ve tried it. If you absolutely must share, please ask graciously first. To offer false hope is like piercing me with a broken piece of my life story.

Parking in a handicapped space when you don’t need to? I’m going to TP your house.

Why am I sharing this story?

So ribbons of gratitude weave their way through your own body image story.  Can you breathe today? Jump in gratitude. Can you walk? Rejoice.

Dance like a diva or dude to the music of gratitude.~

 

 

 ____________

Do you have a hokey pokey body image story? Please share.

(*happy feet picture at the top shows my toes separated due to injections of cortisone from years ago. But who cares, right?😉

The full story is in my book, Tooshie: Defeating the Body Image Bandit

We Broke Up: My Year without Sugar

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Wow. I made it! Today marks exactly a year without sugar. To clarify, I’m talking about sweet nothings such as candy, cookies, and chocolate. I ate primarily protein, veggies and fruit. Most days I eat no grains.

How and why did I do this? Glad you asked.🙂 Most Americans are addicted to sugar. I love chocolate, and although dark chocolate is healthy in small amounts, I craved it daily. I read about the connection between inflammation and sugar, and thought my body would feel better if I ate healthier food.

A few years ago, I discovered a recovery group called Overeaters Anonymous. The meetings are for anyone with compulsive food behaviors, including compulsive overeating, bulimia and anorexia.

I went to my first meeting and met people of all body weights, shapes and sizes. Many appeared to be at healthy body weights. Later, of course, I learned some had lost 20 to 130 pounds and kept the weight off more than a decade. Since research shows diets don’t work, I was impressed. Like other addictions, dieters end up gaining more weight than they initially lose, statistically.

I continued to attend the meetings, and read the newcomer’s packet the members gave me. I learned that OA is a spiritual program. Each person is free to choose their Higher Power, and for me this is God.

“Well, this works for them, but I know it won’t work for me.” I thought. Why? You ask. Mostly because I had a love affair with dark chocolate. I heard countless stories about how their higher power did for them what they couldn’t do for themselves.

I didn’t plan to break up with sugar, but continued to hear stories of OA members who had been off sugar for months or years.  Everyone chooses his or her own food plan, which gives people freedom.

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I met with a lovely woman who has attended OA for 15 years, and she shared her experience, strength and hope. (Note: advice giving is not allowed in the program, just personal stories.) With OA, she hasn’t eaten sugar in 13 years, and has dropped 55 pounds.

On the drive home, I thought I could try – with God’s help – giving up sugar “just for today.” Not forever, but only one day.

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I read the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, replacing the word “alcohol” with food. I called and texted other people in the program, and read the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous. I prayed each time I craved sugar. I talked to my sponsor, and texted ’til the cows came home. (They’re home now aren’t they?😉

Just one day at a time, God did for me what I couldn’t do for myself.

Before you think you’re going to do this yourself, OA is a “we” program, not a “me” program.  The power of community creates an ocean full of support. I’ve lost 7 pounds, but keep in mind I’m 5’2 1/2″ tall, so it’s about a size and a half. I really have only another 5 pounds to lose. I’m an athlete, even though I struggle with two chronic illnesses – lupus and ankylosing spondylitis. So I’ve never really been more than 15-20 pounds overweight.  I’d like to report I’ve experienced a great healing of all issues related to Lupus and ankylosing spondylitis. I’m gradually improving, and hope this continues.

God has done for me what I couldn’t do for myself. And for that, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.~

UPDATE: It’s now been almost a year and a half! I’m going to stop taking my Humira injection because I think I can control the inflammation eating mostly paleo. I’m so excited and basking in gratitude! I’ll keep you posted.

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