Body Image and the Fearless Foursome: Dieting and Bingeing

Dieting has become a rite of passage for teen girls.  I challenge you to find a teenaged girl who hasn’t tried dieting.  Sometimes the dieters lose weight, and other times they don’t.  Either way, they often 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’ve 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.  They crave  fatty foods and sweet foods and salty foods.  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’ve opened the floodgates of eternal hunger and will never be the same.  They crave foods 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.

Research shows the majority of people who lose weight by dieting usually gain it all back, plus more.  So what’s the answer?  Stay tuned for more.

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Stop Obsessing about Body Image Issues (and Get On with Life!)

Have you ever wondered how much time you waste per day by thinking about:

  • Do these jeans make my tooshie look big?
  • I need to lose weight!
  • Is that woman (in front of you at the grocery store) thinner or fatter than me?
  • Have I eaten “good” food or “bad” food today?
  • I wish my ____________looked better.

Research shows that when you add all the time together women think about such things, it adds up to  an hour a day.

What if you committed yourself to getting on with your life?  After all,

you weren’t created to obsess about your body!

You have a much higher calling.  So when you waste precious time obsessing about body image issues, you are robbing yourself and the world.

Phil 4:8 encourages us to think positive thoughts. “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.”  Phil 4;8 helps me to focus on the positive. 

For example, I’m planning to speak at churches about How to Defeat the Body Image Bandit, using lots of humor, research, and my own story.  I’ll have the churches take up an offering and donate it to organizations that help victims of human sex trafficking.  So instead of focusing on “Do these jeans make my tooshie look fat?” I’m spending my time planning and preparing the speech instead of combing through beauty and fashion magazines, comparing my body to those of photoshopped, concentration camp thin models.  Such a much better use of my time. 

Notice Phil 4:8  does not say:

“Finally, girlfriends, whatever can make your tooshie look sleek, trim, and keep cellulite off your thighs – think about such things.” 

Yet we often live as though we were created to obsess about our bodies.  After all, we’re so good at it!

What if you were to live out your gifts and talents, using your personality and story to become the person you were created to be?  It’s time to stop obsessing about our bodies and get on with our true callings.  You are a unique

masterpiece,

                                    a jewel,

and you were created for a much greater purpose.  So get on with it!

Body Image: Dieting, Bingeing, and Self-Contempt

 Food to Eat to Lose Weight

Dieting has become a rite of passage for teen girls.  I challenge you to find a teenaged girl who hasn’t tried dieting.  Sometimes the dieters lose weight, and other times they don’t. 

Either way, they often 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’ve 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.  They crave  fatty foods and sweet foods and salty foods.

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’ve opened the floodgates of eternal hunger and will never be the same.

They crave foods 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.

Research shows the majority of people who lose weight by dieting usually gain it all back, plus more.  So what’s the answer?  Stay tuned for more.

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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.

IMG_0921

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 Diets: Rethinking Resolutions and Dieting

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perfect blog picture 3-19-12 calling

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

Confessions of a Purging Flunky

I was a purging flunky.  I remember back in high school when I first got whirled onto the merry-go-round called the Ferocious Foursome.  I had been on a diet (even though looking back I didn’t need to lose weight) and of course the feelings of deprivation consumed me.  This led to an all-out binge, in which I ate everything except the TV.  (You’ve probably been there, done that, and got the tee-shirt.)  So I figured there was only one thing I could do –  throw up.  Of course!  The perfect cure-all.  I tried, but was unable able to accomplish the mighty feat.  So I tried again, and instantly remembered why I hated getting sick. 

At first I got mad at myself for not being able to hack the act of hacking up.  It seemed like quite a few people were doing it.  At the time I did not know that 18-20% of people with eating disorders would die within twenty years.  I thought purging was the new ‘magic weight-loss answer’. I had no idea that years later statistics would flood in about the life-threatening health concerns associated with bulimia.  Many would end up accidentally killing themselves due to the horrific damage on their bodies.  Bulimia would eat up the lives of many girls and women, leaving behind families who were drowning in their tears. 

As a purging flunky, I skipped level three of the Ferocious Foursome and went on to the final four.  I ended up getting addicted to exercise for a few years.   Maybe you are wondering how anyone could possibly get addicted to exercise.  The biggest reason is that endorphins are produced.  Endorphins are similar to opiates, and provide a natural high.  Another definition describes endorphins as morphine-like substances originating from within the body.  The endorphins, combined with the payoff of looking and feeling superb, attract people into exercising more and more.   If you think of over-exercising in those terms, you may begin to understand how people get addicted.  

Bulimia of the purging or over-exercising type often emerges after a young woman’s boyfriend breaks up with her. ( To be more precise, one form of bulimia does not involve throwing up, but is based on over-exercising.)  A young woman compares herself to other young women, and starts to believe it was all about the size of her hips.  Comparing and coveting is an ugly animal, so it is no wonder that God commanded us not to go there.  He  knows that comparing and coveting poisons our hearts.  Even so, we have all driven in the fast lane of Coveting Road, probably more often than we realize.  The type of coveting I am speaking about in this case is when you see a beautiful, thin woman and you really wish you had her body.  Part of you believes this would give you the perfect life.  The problem is that because we live in a fallen world, there is no perfect life this side of heaven.

The “stinking thinking” (this is a twelve-step phrase) that if only I were skinny, then my boyfriend would not have left me gets programmed into her heart.  So she kicks her dieting into high gear, but later on blows her diet and binges.  So she resorts to purging or over-exercising.  Either one of the two meet the criteria of bulimia if they are entrenched enough, according to the DSM-IV TR, which is the official manual of diagnoses. 

Once the stinking thinking takes root in her heart, she feels that if she were thinner, then she could have kept her boyfriend.  Sometimes the guys throw darts of violent words about their girlfriends’ bodies, but even if they don’t, the girls are often spurred into bulimia.  (By the way, that is called abuse.)  The hundreds of thousands of messages in the media that endlessly echo “to be thin is to be beautiful, and beauty is almost everything” shoot darts into her heart until it bleeds tears. 

Since they cannot stay on the diet wagon forever, girls and women (as well as a growing number of  boys and men) quickly grasp the idea that they can throw up their food and get away with it.  On the surface, it seems like the only solution, but decades of research shows that throwing up quickly morphs into an addiction.  Bulimia is profoundly more damaging than once thought.  Those of us who were “too sissy” to purge finally realized that it was a blessing in disguise.  My heart cries oceans of tears for those who are entangled with the beast of bulimia.  Bulimia is certainly a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as it seems so innocent in the beginning.

What if you could get off the dieting/bingeing merry-go-round forever?  What if you could celebrate the body that God has given you, and say goodbye to the Body Image Bandit?  Continue in this voyage of healing as we share in the celebration of kicking the Body Image Bandit out of our lives.

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.