Body Image and Humor: Woman vs. Kitty

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. Like this story? There are many more funny stories in my book. Tooshie:Defeating the Body Image Bandit 

Exercise of Cat 03 by J i J y

Body Image, Perimenopause and Menopause

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 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 Comparison

Two teen-aged girls stood in front of me in the Costco snack bar line.  “Am I fatter or skinnier than the girl in front of the line with the True Religion jeans?”  the blonde asked the brunette. 

“Hmmm…I don’t really know.  It’s pretty hard to tell because you both look kind of about the same size,” the brunette answered. 

“Are you kidding me?  Am I really that chunky around the waist?  Maybe you need glasses.  There’s just no way you could be right!”  She rolled her eyes at the brunette and ordered a triple decker ice cream cone.  “I think you’re forgetting that I work out five days of the week!  What kind of friend are you, anyway?”  she asked, then bit into her ice cream, rolled her eyes at her friend, and walked off.

We’ve all done it, if not aloud then in our heads.  The sick little comparison game, where we envy another person or try to figure out if we are skinnier or fatter than another person.  By the age of 17, we have seen over 250,000 ads.  Most of them shout, “To be thin is to be beautiful, and beauty is almost everything.”  This leads to comparison and propels our heads into stinkin’ thinkin’ in which we compare our bodies with others.  Sometimes we come out better, and sometimes we come out worse.  But all-in-all, it is a lose-lose situation. 

First of all, it’s a bad idea to hang out in your head.   It’s a jungle in there!  Hanging out in your head usually leads to negativity, and you certainly can’t be present with people if you’re hanging out in your head.  Trying to figure out if your hips or ankles or other unassorted body parts are larger, smaller, fatter, or thinner than the woman ahead of you on the hiking trail is truly a waste of energy.  Not only that, but it will eventually lead to contempt – either self contempt or other-centered contempt. 

The run-down usually goes like this:

  1.  Comparison, which leads to
  2. Competition, which leads to
  3. Contempt, which leads to
  4. Stinking-thinking, depression, and despair

 

I love what the apostle Paul said about being content with what you have:  “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”    Phil 4:11  I know he wasn’t talking about body image, but even so,  it is not a far leap to use the same principle concerning how you feel about your body.   

So how can we stop the cycle that leads to despair?  First, recognize what you are doing.  You might try to wear a rubber bracelet or something similar so you can snap it whenever you realize you are comparing your body to someone else’s.  Then you can ask God to help you to re-focus your thoughts.  Replace the stinkin’ thinkin’ pattern of comparison, competition, and contempt with healthy thoughts:  “Finally, brothers, 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) You will note that Paul didn’t say, in this passage, to think about other peoples’ fannies and compare them to your own!  So get over it already, and stop the comparison trap before it gobbles you up.

Body Image and Addiction: Is Food Addiction Real?

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cupcake

“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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Copy (1) of IMG_0070

“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: 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 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

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.