Body Image and Men:The Man on the Chicken Diet

 

man at sunset nice

(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.

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“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…

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

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.

 

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 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 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!

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 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 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.

 

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.