Body Image: What’s Really Eating at You?


man at sunset nice

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

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

Stuffing is for teddy bears and turkeys.

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

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

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

Mad   Sad   Glad   Fear   Lonely   Shame

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

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

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

How do you deal with your feelings?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Body Image and Addiction: Is Food Addiction Real?



“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!