(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.