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!

The Million Dollar Body Image Question

Copy (1) of IMG_0070

When did you first begin to obsess about your body?  Can you identify what event or events sprung you into yo-yo dieting, starving yourself, purging, binge eating, and/or excessive exercising?

Once you can do that, you’ve identified a major contributor that prevents you from developing healthy relationships with food and exercise.  Draw a time line of your life and place markers at the most eventful times.

Also other changes, such as getting married, divorced, moving, having a friend move, starting or ending jobs, etc.  Remember, any major change is stress, whether it’s experienced as positive or negative.  No wonder brides gain an average of 18 pounds during the first year of marriage!

During these difficult times of your time line, you probably began to obsess about your body.

 

You attempted to self-medicate by dieting, bingeing, purging away your true feelings, and/or overexercising.  This offered you what we call the illusion of control in the 12-step programs.

In other words, your life felt out of control by your parents’ divorce, a move to another city, a difficult break-up, etc. You knew that you were powerless over the situation, so you obsessed about your body and attempted to control it instead.

Body

Eventually your new, dysfunctional way of coping took on a life of its own.  Whether it’s obsessive overeating, bingeing, compulsive dieting, purging, or overexercising you’re struggling with, you’ve probably been looking for a solution for years. It became a beast in your life, and you have desperately tried to tackle it.  And now you’re wondering what really works in the long-term sense, not quick fixes that help you change for a small chunk of time.

“How do people recover?
We   believe an eating disorder is a mechanism for coping with stress. We binge,   purge and/or starve to feel better about our shame, anger, fear, loneliness,   tiredness and ordinary human needs. As we learn to address stress through other   mechanisms, the symptoms of the eating disorder tend to fade away. It is a   process, not an event. In EDA, we share our experience, strength and hope with   each other to help one another come to terms with and change how we deal with   life.

Recovery means living life on life’s terms, facing pains and fears   without obsessing on food, weight and body image. In our eating disorders, we   sometimes felt like helpless victims. Recovery means gaining or regaining the   power to see our options, to make careful choices in our lives. Recovery means rebuilding trust with ourselves, a gradual process that requires much motivation  and support. There are bound to be setbacks and moments of fear and frustration.   Support – professional, group and family – helps us get through such trials   safely, when we are honest about them. Support groups such as EDA provide   inspiration and opportunity for turning the most deeply painful and humbling   experiences to useful purpose. As we learn and practice careful self-honesty,   self-care, and self-expression, we gain authenticity, perspective, peace and   empowerment.”

That is an excerpt from Eating Disorders Anonymous, which provides great results for many people.  I truly believe in 12-step programs ,and have been in Al-Anon (a 12-step program for friends and families of alcoholics) on and off since 1999.

Next to my salvation, my husband, the gifts of attending Multnomah Seminary and Mars Hill Graduate School (now called Seattle School of Psychology and Theology), Al-Anon has been one of the most beautiful gifts God has provided.  (The 12 step programs are not affiliated with any religion.) A true life saver. 

They say to try 6 meetings of a 12-step before deciding if the program works for you.  (Like life itself, you can find groups like people.  Some of them you really click with, and others you think, “holy moly, I feel so sorry for their mothers!”  So don’t give up.  Try different meetings.  Also, find a good therapist who is knowledgeable about your issues.

 from www.Eatingdisordersanonymous.org

Another great resource, also a 12-step: www.oa.com (Overeaters Anonymous) (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!)

Also www.celebraterecovery.com (for Christians)

body image

Body Image and Size: My Life Will be Perfect when I’m a Size ___ (Yeah, right!)

Want to be Skinny

(Note:  All names and identifying information throughout my blog have been changed to protect individuals.)

I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right.  A physician came in for help with anxiety and depression, and told me during one of our sessions he was going on a chicken diet.

“A chicken diet?”  I asked.

“Yeah.  Chicken is the perfect food.

If I eat mostly chicken and drink water, I can lose some of this.”  He grabbed some excess fat around his middle.

“I’ve researched it, and I can hit my goal in three months at the normal recommended 2 pounds a week pace.   I’ll have chicken for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and I’ll drop the extra weight.  Then I can wear cool, manly clothes.  And the best part is women will be really into me.”

He smiled and looked out the window as though he’d discovered the answer to all life’s problems.

“So then you’ll have a perfect life?”  I asked.  I’ve heard this magical thinking from many people.  Countless women mentioned that when they became “skinny,” they would buy cute clothes.  I usually asked why they couldn’t buy them now, but they generally scrunched up their noses and thought that was crazy.  They insisted they had to wait until they were “skinny” to buy fun clothes.

In fact, many people use the word “skinny” as a magical word.  Once they are “skinny,” their lives will become enjoyable, but not one minute sooner.   They realized they can find attractive  clothes in larger sizes now, but had no interest until they were – drum roll please – skinny.

The magical thinking continues: Once they get skinny, they can dress better.  Then guys will want to date them, which will lead to a perfect  boyfriend, which will open the golden door to the perfect life.  Once the door opens, they get the successful, attractive boyfriend, the perfect wedding, and then buy a beautiful home.

Finally they have children, and as long as they stayed skinny, their lives will be flawless, dreamy, and perfect.  So goes the beast of

Magical thinking comes in many flavors:  Once I get a college degree, life will be perfect.  Or once I get married, life will be perfect.  Or once I have a house or a larger house, life will be perfect.  Or a very popular version:  Once I move to _______, life will be perfect.  But the truth is, once we rid ourselves of such magical thinking, we will be much more comfortable in our own skin. Life won’t be perfect this side of glory, but once we can rid ourselves of magical thinking, we will be much more at peace.

© Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit, 2007 – 2017. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA,  LMHC appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Your Body Image Time Line

When did you first begin to obsess about your body?  Can you identify what event or events sprung you into yo-yo dieting, starving yourself, purging, binge eating, and/or excessive exercising?  Once you can do that, you’ve identified a major contributor that prevents you from developing healthy relationships with food and exercise.  Draw a time line of your life and place markers at the most eventful times.  Also other changes, such as getting married, divorced, moving, having a friend move, starting or ending jobs, etc.  Remember, any major change is stress, whether it’s experienced as positive or negative.  No wonder brides gain an average of 18 pounds during the first year of marriage!

During these difficult times of your time line, you probably began to obsess about your body.

You attempted to self-medicate by dieting, bingeing, purging away your true feelings, and/or overexercising.  This offered you what we call the illusion of control in the 12-step programs.

In other words, your life felt out of control by your parents’ divorce, a move to another city, a difficult break-up, etc. You knew that you were powerless over the situation, so you obsessed about your body and attempted to control it instead.

Body

Eventually your new, dysfunctional way of coping took on a life of its own.  Whether it’s obsessive overeating, bingeing, compulsive dieting, purging, or overexercising you’re struggling with, you’ve probably been looking for a solution for years. It became a beast in your life, and you have desperately tried to tackle it.  And now you’re wondering what really works in the long-term sense, not quick fixes that help you change for a small chunk of time.

“How do people recover?
We   believe an eating disorder is a mechanism for coping with stress. We binge,   purge and/or starve to feel better about our shame, anger, fear, loneliness,   tiredness and ordinary human needs. As we learn to address stress through other   mechanisms, the symptoms of the eating disorder tend to fade away. It is a   process, not an event. In EDA, we share our experience, strength and hope with   each other to help one another come to terms with and change how we deal with   life.
Recovery means living life on life’s terms, facing pains and fears   without obsessing on food, weight and body image. In our eating disorders, we   sometimes felt like helpless victims. Recovery means gaining or regaining the   power to see our options, to make careful choices in our lives. Recovery means rebuilding trust with ourselves, a gradual process that requires much motivation  and support. There are bound to be setbacks and moments of fear and frustration.   Support – professional, group and family – helps us get through such trials   safely, when we are honest about them. Support groups such as EDA provide   inspiration and opportunity for turning the most deeply painful and humbling   experiences to useful purpose. As we learn and practice careful self-honesty,   self-care, and self-expression, we gain authenticity, perspective, peace and   empowerment.”

That is an excerpt from Eating Disorders Anonymous, which provides great results for many people.  I truly believe in 12- step programs ,and have been in Al-Anon (a 12-step program for friends and families of alcoholics) on and off since 1999.  Next to my salvation, my husband, the gifts of attending Multnomah Seminary and another graduate school, Al-Anon has been one of the most beautiful gifts God has provided.  (The 12 step programs are not affiliated with any religion.) A true life saver. 

They say to try 6 meetings of a 12-step before deciding if the program works for you.  (Like life itself, you can find groups like people.  Some of them you really click with, and others you think, “holy moly, I feel so sorry for their mothers!”  So don’t give up.  Try different meetings.  Also, find a good therapist who is knowledgeable about your issues.

 from www.Eatingdisordersanonymous.org

Another great resource, also a 12-step: www.oa.com (Overeaters Anonymous)

Also www.celebraterecovery.com (for Christians)

body image

Body Image and Size: My Life Will be Perfect when I’m a Size ___ (Yeah, right!)

Featured

Want to be Skinny

(Note:  all names and identifying information throughout my blog have been changed to protect individuals.)

I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right.  A physician came in for help with anxiety and depression, and told me during one of our sessions he was going on a chicken diet.

“A chicken diet?”  I asked.

“Yeah.  Chicken is the perfect food.

If I eat mostly chicken and drink water, I can lose some of this.”  He grabbed some excess fat around his middle.

“I’ve researched it, and I can hit my goal in three months at the normal recommended 2 pounds a week pace.   I’ll have chicken for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and I’ll drop the extra weight.  Then I can wear cool, manly clothes.  And the best part is women will be really into me.”

He smiled and looked out the window as though he’d discovered the answer to all life’s problems.

“So then you’ll have a perfect life?”  I asked.  I’ve heard this magical thinking from many people.  Countless women mentioned that when they became “skinny,” they would buy cute clothes.  I usually asked why they couldn’t buy them now, but they generally scrunched up their noses and thought that was crazy.  They insisted they had to wait until they were “skinny” to buy fun clothes.

In fact, many people use the word “skinny” as a magical word.  Once they are “skinny,” their lives will become enjoyable, but not one minute sooner.   They realized they can find attractive  clothes in larger sizes now, but had no interest until they were – drum roll please – skinny.

The magical thinking continues: Once they get skinny, they can dress better.  Then guys will want to date them, which will lead to a perfect  boyfriend, which will open the golden door to the perfect life.  Once the door opens, they get the successful, attractive boyfriend, the perfect wedding, and then buy a beautiful home.

Finally they have children, and as long as they stayed skinny, their lives will be flawless, dreamy, and perfect.  So goes the beast of

Magical thinking comes in many flavors:  Once I get a college degree, life will be perfect.  Or once I get married, life will be perfect.  Or once I have a house or a larger house, life will be perfect.  Or a very popular version:  Once I move to _______, life will be perfect.  But the truth is, once we rid ourselves of such magical thinking, we will be much more comfortable in our own skin. Life won’t be perfect this side of glory, but once we can rid ourselves of magical thinking, we will be much more at peace.

© Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC and Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit, 2007 – 2017. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA,  LMHC appropriate and specific direction to the original content.