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 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.

My Body Image Story, Part 2: The Magic Number

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About two years after moving to Maui, my family moved back to the Mainland. But the bubbly, outgoing teen that landed back at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport had changed forever. The new version had been ravaged by daily harassment until she grew into a shy, depressed young woman who had only a fraction of the confidence she had two years prior. Stepping out of the plane that blustery November day, we drove to Southcenter first to buy some warm coats. We no longer owned any. All we had were windbreakers, and the Pacific Northwest weather laughed at our flimsy attempts at warmth.

The first days of school are somewhat of a blur. All I wanted was to fit in. I was certain I would be able to find my place in the middle school, and greatly looked forward to belonging, just like in the days before moving to so-called “Paradise.” Belonging is something all people crave, but young teens crave more than other age groups. Our hearts long to be assured that we are connected and loved. I had always been very well-liked, and a leader. So I assumed I would pick up where I had left off.

But I had forgotten one important detail. That is, my skin now glowed with a deep golden bronze tan, and my hair had been painted white-blonde by the paintbrush of the Hawaiian sun. Just as I did not fit in living on Maui as a haole in a school with only a handful of white students, I now did not blend in because of my deep, dark tan and white-blonde hair. Since it was November and tanning salons had not been invented, most people were very pale – kind of like my legs right now, which almost glow in the dark! Also, my body had blossomed and now appeared athletic but full-figured. This sparked interest by the boys, and jealousy in the girls, even though I didn’t want a boyfriend. All I wanted was to fit in like I used to do so well, before we moved to Maui. Thankfully, another girl moved from southern California at about the same time, which took some of the pressure off.

Over time, the tan faded and my hair darkened until it reached “dish blonde” color. (That’s such a weird phrase. I think of after Thanksgiving, when the dish water looks grody and gross, with little food particles water-skiing on top of the muck!) Even so, my soul had been changed forever and now felt heavy and dark. But my entire Maui experience is another book for another time. I have several parts written, but for now it hangs out under my bed with the dust bunnies. Overall, I felt good about my body. I liked the fact that I was strong and able to swim and run. I didn’t worry too much about what to eat until I started looking at a lot of beauty and fashion magazines, such as Seventeen. How could I help but notice the tall, thin models? Not one of them had a curvy figure like mine, and not one was under 5’9. So I decided, for the first time, I needed to lose weight. I was fat, I thought, and baffled because I had never realized it.

I told my dad I was going to go “on a diet,” and he said he thought I didn’t need to. “If you want to lose 5 pounds or so, why don’t you just cut down a little each time you eat?” I could not believe how out-of-the loop he was. I looked at him as if he had three heads, and told him, ”Dad, I have to go on a diet. Nobody just cuts back a little – dieting is how everybody does it.” I sighed at his ignorance on the subject of beauty. He definitely needed to spend more time reading beauty and fashion magazines, and less time working, hunting, and fishing. I wondered if he would ever get a clue. How could he be in his late thirties and be ignorant to one of the best inventions of mankind – dieting?

I decided to start my diet on – drum roll please- Monday. Of course you already knew that, because after all, isn’t that the way the cookie always crumbles? I think there is an unwritten eleventh commandment, “You shall start all diets on Mondays.” But as soon as I began to even think about my first diet, I started to crave almost everything. Except Brussels sprouts. Food, food, food was on my mind what seemed like 24/7. I craved chocolate, chips, hamburgers, donuts, and even white cake. And the weird thing is that I had never really liked donuts or white cake much. So why was I craving it? Because as soon as I limited the foods and categorized them into “good” and “bad,” the cravings began. And that is how I started a cycle of going on and off diets, throwing my poor body into a tailspin. (Years later I realized that God doesn’t even categorize foods as good and bad. So if he doesn’t, why should I?)

During high school, my family moved once again (we moved about every two years, so I never had the chance to establish roots)and I became good friends with Diane. She had a lot of friends and had been elected ASB president. Diane was athletic and brilliant, but she continued to get gnawed on by the Body Image Bandit because her brother and sister were models. Not long after we met, she did some number crunching and informed me that I should weigh 105, based on a chart she had discovered in one of her beauty and fashion magazines. Because I had been brainwashed by the fashion and beauty magazines, I believed she was right. And so I hyper focused on food, fat, and my fanny. Day in and day out, I thought, read, and studied about food, calories, and how to look good. I started to believe that my value was mostly in my packaging, and based my value on whether or not I could weigh 105. I had a new formula for a perfect life- 105. The magic number.

© 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 Dieting: Why Diets Don’t Work

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Note:  This article is for people who need to lose weight for health reasons – not those who want to “get skinny” so they will have perfect lives.  We will address that later. 

Face it.  You are more likely to get run over by a truck full of PMSing women going on a Dairy Queen binge than losing weight – and keeping it off – on a diet.  Statistics show that when you go on a diet, you will most likely gain all the weight back – plus more. It may take months or a few years, but that is what almost always happens.
The reason for this is that food issues are about our hearts and stories. So whenever you go on a diet, you are treating the symptoms only. This is somewhat like having an injury and treating only the pain without finding out what is causing it.

A few years ago I ran into a former client at a grocery store.  I did a double-take because I didn’t recognize her.  She told me she had lost eighty pounds, and I asked how she did it (nobody was around, or else I would not have done so).  She said it was mostly from the counseling we did.  “I’m no longer self-medicating with food because you really helped me work through my issues.  And now whenever something is bothering me, I let myself feel it and then work through it instead of running to the fridge.”  We had worked on some difficult events in her life, and I had asked her when she first started to gain weight.  The last time she walked out the door of my office, she had a whole bag of tricks to help her deal with the difficulties in life.  Plus, she had worked through many of the important events that had caused her to use food to feel better.  (Of course, this side of heaven, we will all have issues to some extent.  But I imagine you’ve already figured that one out.  And if you think you have no issues, then we really need to talk!)

“When did you first start to gain weight?” is the million-dollar question that most people never address.  Usually something of significance happened at that time, such as a parent’s divorce, moving, the loss of a relationship, sexual abuse (defined as anything a child experiences which is inappropriate, even if no touching or penetration is involved), a death, the rejection of a good friend, etc.  In other words, just about anything that made you sad or changed your world.   If you can’t figure out what that is, look harder and get professional help.

After we worked through this particular issue, we continued to work on her other issues of the heart.  Essentially, many of the other bumps in the road of her life, from early childhood on throughout her life.  I had noticed that it looked as though she was losing weight at the time, but did not focus on it.  Then she finished her therapy, and I hadn’t seen her in a few years.

If you continue to go on and off diets, you will continue to treat the symptom and not the actual problem.  If you truly have a problem, you are facing an addiction.  Yes – a food addiction.  You are self-medicating with food, just as many people self-medicate with alcohol, drugs, pornography, shopping, reading (if you use reading to escape and to avoid your problems), computer addiction, exercise addiction, etc.

And the cherry on top is that the more diets you go on, the more weight you will gain in the long run unless you are one of the tiny percentage of people who actually lose weight and keep it off.  Hmmmm…I wonder how many of those people actually dealt with the issues that brought them through the door of food addiction?  I’ll bet you a hot fudge sundae that most of them did.

© 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: Making Peace with Your Body

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What if you and your fanny could finally make peace?  You have dieted, exercised, and poured your fanny into a pair of jeans three sizes too small.  Maybe you – like me – bought a pair of plastic bloomers designed to hook up to your vacuum cleaner and suck the fat off your hiney.  Unfortunately, the Girl Scouts showed up during the procedure, seeing you through the window.  They were traumatized for life, but you waddled to the door anyway in yellow plastic bloomers to buy a year’s supply of chocolate mint cookies.

Face it.  Many of us spend enormous amounts of time dwelling on our derierres.  On some level, we believe the world actually cares about them, but in reality most people don’t have time to ponder our plunder.

I imagine our love-hate relationship with food started in the Garden of Eden.  Eve’s hormones whacked out and she had a craving for chocolate that wouldn’t quit, even though she had never tasted it.  I don’t think it was an apple.  Most likely, it was a large handful of chocolate beans, coffee beans, or hybrid chocolate-coffee beans that tasted like a Starbucks mocha.  Now that would certainly be tempting.

And so began women’s preoccupation with the conceptual size of their fannies and other unassorted body parts.  Now don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about, because I know you do.  You’ve exercised, dieted, and some of you have binged, purged, and/or starved yourself – all in search of the perfect body, or a skinnier one or perhaps a less expansive model.

But if you actually succeeded in molding yourself into the dimensions you had always dreamed, bizarre men started clinging to you like chocolate on chocolate-covered raisins.  The fabulous fanny acted like a creep magnet, and wacky weirdos came from everywhere to meet you because they loved your packaging.  You resented this, which led you to drive through all the fast-food places in town and gorge yourself with sugary, fatty foods until you thought you would pop.  The bottom like is the more you obsessed about having the perfect packaging, the more you attracted guys who wanted you for your looks and not your heart.

Perhaps you have obsessed about other body parts, and how  they measure up to photoshopped standards of models and movie stars who are being eaten from within by the beasts of bulimia and anorexia.  Eating disorders create an imploding black hole that always ends in darkness and has swallowed up many lives due to heart failure and other complications.

Tooshie: Defeating the Body Image Bandit is for anyone who has been weighed down with feelings about food, fat, and fannies.  (The ebook will be out Summer of 2014, Lord willing). You will experience resounding joy when you completely grasp that God is much more concerned about your heart than your fanny.  Of course you know this in your head, but when you truly feel it in every cell of your body, you will wrestle with the Body Image Bandit and win.  Finally, you will be protected from the Body Image Bandit  – the Enemy, the Accuser, and the Father of Lies, who continually works to convince you that your value comes from outer beauty as opposed to inner beauty.  The answer to the cultural lie of, “To be thin is to be beautiful and beauty is everything,” is the truth:  “Man looks at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”

© 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.

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