The Million-Dollar Question about Body Image


The sad part of the New Year’s resolution frenzy is that it will be over by Valentines Day. Most of the people will fizzle out on their resolutions of losing weight and working out. That is, unless they are willing to take off their masks and ask a heart-wrenching question. That question, you have probably already guessed (if you have been following this blog) has absolutely nothing to do with food, fat, or fannies. It is a question that has to do with your heart and your story. By now you have probably learned that food and body image issues are really not about food or your body, but about deeper issues of the heart. If you don’t address these deeper issues of the heart, you will continue to lose in your fight against the body image bandit. This is the reason why most winners on “The Biggest Loser” gain all of their weight back. It is also why others continue to lose the battle of the bulge, or anorexia, or purgeing, or obsessing about their bodies.

So what is the million dollar body image question? Here it is: What was happening in your life when you first started to have a bad relationship with food and/or your body image? But remember, “nothing” is not the answer. This requires a much deeper thought process. You have to have the courage to ponder and think about what really happened. Most people are tempted to say, “Oh nothing, really. ________happened, but it really was not that big of a deal. I’m soooooo over that!” But if you started your journey into a bad relationship with food during that time, it affected you more profoundly than you realized. If it brought you through the door of eating disorders (including bingeing, purging, over-exercising, or yo-yo dieting) and/or other addictions, the wound has gashed a larger part of your soul than you have begun to imagine.

Maybe you feel that you have already worked through this part of your story. You may have done a lot of work on it, which is to be celebrated. But if you are still on the sick cycle of bingeing, dieting, or obsessing about your body image, perhaps you have more work to do. If you are an American, you have seen 250,000 ads by the time you are 17, and most of the ads scream, “To be thin is to be beautiful, and beauty is everything.” Of course this is a gnawing monster in our culture that we need to beat. I have written several other posts discussing how we can do this, as well as how we can protect our kids from developing eating disorders.

Once you answer the first question, you can continue to draw a time line of your life and put marks next to the times when you most struggled with food/body image issues. Perhaps you have worked through the first issue, but our lives are complex. You probably fell back into into unhealthy relationship with food/body image at other points in your life, when your heart was sick because of what was happening in your life. So of course there is much more to work through. I hope that you will consider working on your real, underlying issues that caused you to develop an unhealthy relationship with food. Then – and only then- will you have the greatest chance of fighting the body image bandit and winning. After all, the truth will set you free, and the truth is that food/body image issues are much more about our hearts and our stories than anything else.

© Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Tooshie: Defeating the Body Image Bandit, (c) 2007-20014. 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 Tooshie: Defeating the Body Image Bandit with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.